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Fundraising Idea of the Month:
Beer Tent

by Doug Nash

This can be a very profitable fundraiser, however it must be done right and some very important details must be attended to in a proper and timely manner. If you don't attend to these details properly ,the ramifications will be significant so if you choose to run this fundraiser then make sure your planning and attention to detail is spot on. Please remember this is a general overview, not a detailed plan. The responsibility is on you to get it right!

Before you do anything else in regards to this fundraiser, make sure you completely understand the liquor laws in your part of the world. This includes obtaining the relevant licenses and knowing the tax laws. Getting to know the law in regards to serving alcohol is a very wise move. You have to make sure that the alcohol is sold in the right containers, that the containers are not dangerous, are not carried outside of the legal area and is not sold to either underage individuals or individuals already intoxicated. Getting it wrong on any of these points and your fundraiser could turn into a nightmare of legal proportions. You have been warned. An excellent method to help your planning is to write down all the points that need to be addressed, who is to address them and the deadline for all the information to be handed in. Keep all information on hand for reference at any time. Tick off or record the information as it comes to hand, this way you reduce the likelihood of missing any vital issues.

Once you have attended to the legalities, now you can turn your attention the question: is the a suitable fundraiser for your organisation and area? It must suit both or it won't be profitable. Also research if there are any groups in your area that might protest your fundraiser. You don't need to have protesters wandering about near your fundraiser nor do you want vision of them doing so on the nightly news. Ask around to see if any other beer tent has been run in the past, do your market research. It may have been tried and if so you may be able to profit by avoiding any mistakes they may have made. Checking with your membership is also a very good idea to see if there is any resistance to this type of fundraiser within your ranks.

Once you have made sure that you have a handle on the legalities and there is no significant objection to a beer tent, then you have to find the right location, event and staff. A beer tent is what I refer to as a secondary fundraiser like food stalls. You are less likely to make a large profit if you run it by itself. What you need is a reason for a large number of people to gather in a social event where it is accepted that beer or wine will be served. Events like sporting matches or fetes are examples where a beer tent would prosper and not cause any fuss. The main cause for concern in some areas is the closeness to children. So launching a beer tent at an underage sports carnival would probably not get an enthusiastic reception. Making a beer tent or bar available to where a sports event is being televised on cable television or at adult sport meetings would probably be better.

When you find an event you should put some thought into where at the event the tent is located. You want it next to a lot of pedestrian traffic, away from children's view and large enough that you have shade, seating and room for the level of people you expect to participate. This is specific to each event. It is an excellent idea to liaise with the local law enforcement agency to make sure that as many factors are considered as possible and their experience in relation to alcohol is vastly superior to most fundraisers and could help make your beer tent more successful.

With most fundraisers you don't need specialised staff, however in this case I would strongly recommend that you do have at least one experienced bar staff during the operation of this fundraiser. Serving drinks and handling beer kegs is a skill that takes time to develop, not having experienced staff can be terminal to the success of a beer tent. Having experienced or professional crowd control agents present is also a great way of insuring that the behaviour of one does not adversely affect the enjoyment of others. Keeping underage children away from your beer tent should be of the highest concern and you should avail yourself of any assistance you can in this respect. We have all watched some newsreports about large sporting venues to understand the possible outcomes you want to avoid.

To improve your attendance and therefore your success, consider running a bus or shuttle service to and from your location. Police all over the world are making extra efforts to reduce the incidence to people driving while under the influence of alcohol. By providing a shuttle service, not only are you performing a public service, you are also reducing your legal liability if someone is stupid enough to indulge in alcohol and then drive away.

Of course, alcohol is not the only liquid refreshment you can offer. You should also include food as part of the service. Not only does it make sense to offer non-alcoholic beverages and food, it can also add to your profit. You want to cater for the widest possible range of patrons.

As you can see, a beer tent is not like most other fundraisers. There are many more specific considerations that must be dealt with before and during such an event. Most of these you have to get totally right or you may be liable for outcomes you would rather avoid. Do your homework and research, be very diligent in all you do and you should enjoy a successful fundraiser.


    About the Author: Doug Nash lives in Logan City in Queensland, Australia. He has graciously consented to share a fundraising idea with us every month. Although many of the ideas aren't new, each of them has a unique flair that comes from being developed and refined half a world away from ours. Visit his web site at for more fundraising ideas.

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