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Success Story: Fair Food Drive-Thru Fundraiser

Success Story: Fair Food Drive-Thru Fundraiser

School and Concession Vendor Team Up

In the face of COVID-19, many nonprofits and schools were left scrambling to determine how they could find effective fundraising ideas. Likewise, concessionaires were missing out on their busiest time of year, fair season. With innovation and ingenuity, the two combined efforts and the result is an event that is not only mutually beneficial but also adds a sense of fun and community that everyone can appreciate.

Two Challenges, One Solution

As PTO President at Pennsylvania’s Waterford Elementary, Shelly Keil was up against a real challenge. She and her team of PTO officers needed to come up with a fundraiser that could be conducted in the midst of COVID-19. Most of the options they considered either weren’t feasible given the current circumstances or seemed minimal in terms of what the school could earn.

At the same time, COVID-19 struck Preston Devenney’s concession stand business hard. While he would normally be on the road at fairs and festivals from March through October, he was now faced with deciding how he would respond to the conditions of the pandemic. Working the concession stand since the age of 15, Preston had a lifelong career he was determined to see succeed. He heard the industry news that many fairs were opting to offer drive-thru events and he went to work determining how he could do the same in his local area. But he wanted to do more than just sell fair foods, he wanted to help others in need. Preston decided to make a plan to work with nonprofits to host Fair Food Drive-Thru Fundraisers.


A Plan Materializes

The concept was that groups could partner with his company, Signature Concessions. They would be responsible for securing a site and volunteers, plus advertising the event. Preston would manage the menu and food operations and donate a percentage of the gross sales. Events would run for three days – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Setup would occur on Tuesday to create additional buzz.

Coincidentally, Shelly Keil’s husband attended one of the first Fair Food Drive-Thru Fundraisers. Intrigued by the idea, Shelly then reached out to Preston to help organize their event. First, they needed to secure a site. As a volunteer at her local fairgrounds, she presented the idea to them and was overwhelmed by the positive response. She proceeded to recruit volunteers utilizing parents, teachers, and high school honor society students. Probably one of the most important tasks she had was to get the word out to the community and promote the event. She invested in two large four-foot signs, plus several smaller signs and flyers. They used Facebook and the event was also listed on community calendars online. She also stresses the importance of utilizing volunteers for getting the word out, especially in the two weeks leading up to the fundraiser.

To compound the fundraising efforts and the excitement about the event, Shelly added in a gift basket raffle. With donated items, they created six baskets valued at $200 each, including one TV Roku package and another that had a Coach bag. Selling tickets for the raffle gave them another avenue for raising funds.

For menu planning, they sought out a variety of classic fair foods. It included: sausage sandwiches, Philly steak sandwiches, fries, popcorn, pretzels, nachos, cotton candy, funnel cakes, candy apples, and deep-fried Oreos®, among others.

To execute the event, it required about 10 – 12 volunteers per four-hour shift. Volunteers were needed to direct cars into lanes. Then, the cars would receive a clipboard with a menu and pen to make their selections. Clipboards and pens were also sanitized between uses. Then cars would proceed to a station to make payment via cash or card. Food was prepared then a runner would distribute it to the customer.

Mutually Beneficial Results

Community support was outstanding. Shelly recalls that there were lots of repeat customers who would return over the three-day event. Preston estimates that at their busiest they would go through about eight cars every six minutes. From Shelly’s account, the fundraiser was a success, making the PTO over $3,800 on the raffle baskets and food combined.

Through the Fair Food Drive-Thru Fundraisers, Preston has had the opportunity to partner with schools, veteran’s groups, baseball teams, animal shelters, and other charitable efforts. The events have been held at a variety of locations including fairgrounds, city parks, school grounds, and shopping plaza parking lots.

Although nothing compares to fair life, Preston said that he is happy with the success these events have had. He was booked nearly every weekend and even had to turn down some opportunities simply because there wasn’t enough time. Given the chance, he said it is definitely something he would do again.

If you’d like to do a creative event with concession foods, Gold Medal can be your trusted resource. Browse our product categories to see all the fun foods we have to offer. (Remember, we have Prepackaged Concession Food Solutions too!) Reach out to your nearest Gold Medal branch or distributor to get the conversation started.