How to plan a charity fundraiser

Charity fundraising events

Today we hear from Jennifer, who works for a homelessness charity, based in Hertfordshire, on how to plan a charity fundraiser.  She held a charity fundraiser at Micklefield Hall back in December 2019 and in this blog post we hear about the planning and just how well Micklefield worked as a venue for this event.

I first met Jamie Rankin, on a chance encounter through a mutual friend, back in January 2019. During our conversation, I grasped the opportunity to give him an elevator pitch;  thirty brief but concise seconds on our charity and their mission to help the homeless in Hertfordshire.  A few weeks later, and after a visit to our charity, Jamie and Anna offered us the opportunity to hold a fundraiser at the stunningly beautiful, Great Barn.  What an opportunity! I’d had a seed of an idea in my head for a fundraiser for ages but never found the perfect venue.

Jennifer, charity fundraiser

Scroll on a few more weeks, I arranged to meet Abby, one of the event managers at Micklefield and she took me on a guided tour of the venue.  Just the drive up the sweeping driveway had me sold on the venue but when I stood in the magnificent restored Tithe Barn, with the heavy oak floors and the towering original beams, I knew I had found the right place. 

Pick the date for your charity fundraiser

Our charity team decided on a December date for our event, just before Christmas and the day after an international homelessness date. That gave us just nine months to get everything organised!  Abby was brilliant, she provided us with barn layout maps, advice on how to schedule the evening’s events, lists of suppliers that she knew could deliver our plans and the reassurance that she would be our event planner present on the evening.  I think I must have emailed her a thousand times (and called as many times and visited maybe half as many times) but never did I feel like I was bothering her.  She knew the answers to all my questions, which demonstrated her experience and knowledge of running top notch events at Micklefield.

Our primary aim was to offer an exclusive, luxury event which would hopefully attract the VIPs of Hertfordshire, get them in one room and get them hooked on supporting our charity.  We were about to embark on a huge fundraising mission and needed lots of skilled, powerful and well-connected people to help us achieve a huge expansion for our charity.  So, we picked an auction as the entertainment and of course Kalm Kitchen as our caterers.  We set a target of 100 tickets to be sold, 100 exclusive auction lots to be sourced and £10,000 to be raised.

Find the perfect caterer for your event

Abby promptly put me in touch with Kalm Kitchen, our event caterers, and it wasn’t long before I had a telephone consultation with them, where we went through menu options, a rough schedule of the evening and approximate guest numbers. I was totally shocked at just how much information they took and how many times they said, “no don’t worry, we take care of that bit” or “sure we can sort that out”. It was a massive weight off my mind, I think I was used to sorting everything out myself and wasn’t used to this sort of high-end catering company.  It was brilliant, and the best, best part was, that we got to have a tasting event at their headquarters!

I starved myself for the day (on the expert advice of Abby) and made my journey round the M25, onto the A3, promptly off at Puttenham and along a narrow farm track in a tiny village.  Definitely felt like I had gone the wrong way but before I had a chance to do a U turn, I found myself in front of Kalm HQ.  It was the day of Halloween and a rather spookily, the village had had a power cut.  Without a fluster or a flap, Lara guided me into the candle lit tasting room where I found myself surrounded by beautifully coloured glass wear and mottled, miniature pumpkins, laid in front of a huge interior window, allowing me a brilliant view of the chefs at work.

After gorging my way through seven different canapés, two starters, two mains and two phenomenal puddings I took a deep breath and had to decide on which ones I would take through to the finals. It was great to have the opportunity, after my almighty binge, to meet the chef and discuss any dietary requirements.  I was totally shocked by the vegetarian option (as I am a huge meat lover) which was a totally delicious bowl of gnocchi with fresh asparagus and peas, along with the tomato soup starter, which I had unfairly written off as the ‘boring option’ before trying it and falling in love.  The soup was sensational!

Choose your seating plan and layout carefully

So, venue sorted, menu chosen, auctioneers booked, compare prepped, technicians briefed, videos shot but now we had totally sold out of tickets and there were still three months to go.  After a jolly chat with Jamie, we had a look at the barn’s layout, juggled around a few tables and moved the drinks reception to another room and decided we could easily accommodate at least another 50 people.  Oh, and by the way, he had a table of twelve ready to buy tickets! Jamie and Anna were so accommodating and calm despite my flustered and panicked phone call asking for their advice.

On the day

The day of the auction arrived.  I arrived far to early, despite Abby’s advice, and found myself pacing by the calm pond, glistening with frost, in front of the temple. Having done all that I could in terms of unloading and prep, I was now eagerly waiting for the suppliers to arrive.  They all, of course, arrived on time, had everything in hand and swiftly settled my nerves. Within a few hours, the already stunning barn was dressed in its finest. The flowers by Andrew Flemming were draped elegantly from the chandeliers, the glass and silverware were polished and gleaming from the 14 huge tables, the exclusive auction items were laden across side tables and being dutifully guarded by Superstars the auctioneers, and wafts of delicate tomato soup were teasing us from the kitchen.

Abby, and her entourage of staff, eagerly greeted guests as they arrived in the car park and tottered across the freshly raked gravel, into the warm marque. Kalm Kitchen waiters served them a glass of fizz and graceful circulated the neatly huddled groups of well-dressed guests with stunning cages and trays laden with canapés.  Before I knew it, it was time to get the guests into The Great Barn, but not before they had walked past the open lit fire of the garden room and circled around the French fountain as it poured dark, icy water into the pond on the terrace.

After my emotive opening speech and Oscar worthy video by Pearl Drop Productions, Josh from Kalm Kitchen orchestrated what I can only describe as a ballet of a dinner service.  Professionally led by him as the conductor, every guest on each table was served their meal with military precision and a warm smile. No rushing or panic, just swans dressed in black, gliding around the barn with huge plates containing the stunning meals that I had picked at the tasting. Warming tomato soup with fresh crusty bread, followed by the hearty steak and vintage ale pie or gorgeous gnocchi, and finished off with the devilish chocolate brownie with honeycomb ice cream.

Now the VIP guests that attended our event were used to dining in fine restaurants and tasting fine foods.  There were so many comments on how good the food was, and we even utilised the late night munchies (included in the inclusive menu that we chose) to feed the volunteers, technicians and auctioneers.  After Kalm Kitchen had lined the guests bellies, the bottles of wine had livened their spirits and The Great Barn had settled them into a feeling of exclusivity and excitement, the great auction began. I’ll cut right to the chase, it raised £26,000 in matter of minutes. A fantastic result.

Everyone had such a wonderful evening, and after all the guests had gone, the Great Barn had been cleared and most of the staff had headed home, I found myself sat by the wrought iron, open fireplace on the terrace.  A moment of calm and silence in the dark, to fully enjoy the peace and beauty of Micklefield Hall, the merriment that had taken place here this evening and the orange flicker of the real wood fire.