Serving Alcohol at Fundraising Events

Serving alcohol is a common way to enhance your guests’ enjoyment at a fundraising event. It can create a more festive atmosphere, encourage more participation and even amplify donor generosity.

If you do decide to serve “adult beverages”, take careful steps to protect your organization and ensure all your guests can enjoy the event responsibly. Here are five best practices should you decide to serve alcohol at your next fundraiser.

Keep the focus on your event

Whether you have an open bar or host your fundraiser auction items event in a place that already serves alcohol, make sure that drinking takes a backseat to the event itself. For example, a pub crawl might be fun, but it can quickly turn into a party that overshadows your cause, preventing you from raising much money and maintaining your organization’s integrity. Keep the focus of your event on activities like dancing, golfing, music and the live and silent auction.

Always serve food

You don’t necessarily need a formal five-course meal when serving alcohol, but you should offer guests some type of food to munch on. Whether you offer a buffet, sit-down dinner or simple appetizers, food will not only enhance your guests’ experience, it will ensure they aren’t drinking on empty stomachs. You should always offer a variety of non-alcoholic drinks, as well.

Get the right permits and insurance

More and more, organizations are being held accountable for the actions of their guests after they leave an event where alcohol is served, so it’s crucial to obtain the correct permits from the local government. Check with your organization’s insurance carrier to see if they cover any injuries or incidences during or after events.

Some event locations include permits and insurance as part of their rental fee. Other times, particularly if you’re running the event yourself (like hosting an outdoor barbecue), you’ll need to get permits and licensing on your own. In most cases you will also need to register your event with the local Liquor Control Board and Police Department. Don’t bypass this critical step!

Hire professional bartenders

It can be tempting, especially for smaller fundraising events, to have volunteers serve alcohol. Keep in mind it’s almost always best to hire professional bartenders to do this job. Not only are they trained the right way to prepare, mix and serve drinks, but they also know the signs of intoxication and how to handle it properly. This way, if someone has a few too many drinks, you aren’t put it the position of cutting them off; the bartender will gracefully do so for you.

Offer ride alternative

Many big fundraising events plan to provide rides home for guests who may have overindulged. This could be a partnership with a taxi company or simply a few dedicated volunteers who will take people home if need be. Usually this happens behind the scenes so as not to embarrass anybody. This helps protect the Nonprofit from liability and keeps all guests safe.


Do you have any other tips or recommendations about serving alcohol at event fundraisers? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below!


Get a Free Event Consultation!

Talk to one of our professional Event Consultants for more advice on how to throw a successful fundraising event and strengthen your donor relationships.


Winspire Communications Director
About Ian Lauth

With an extensive background in marketing and design, Ian’s role at Winspire is to develop external communications, brand expansion and product delivery processes to help Nonprofits maximize their fundraising revenue.

Ian serves as the Editor-in-Chief for Winspire News, creating and managing blog content,  newsletters, eBooks and other resources for Nonprofit fundraising professionals. You can also find Ian on Google+.

Follow Me:FacebookTwitterLinkedIn