Dining Right in Georgia

  • January 26, 2011

Dining Right in Georgia

The Quota club of Valdosta, Georgia, U.S.A., has cooked up a recipe for fund-raising success. A Taste of Valdosta is a tremendous—and tremendously popular—undertaking in which the club invites local restaurants to share their wares to help the needy and cook up a heaping serving of community spirit.

The club is currently planning the sixth annual Taste event in which local eateries vie for space to show off their specialties among local diners. Each restaurant pays U.S.$150 for a booth, then donates the food that is served.

Patrons can dine in one of two tasting sessions during the event—11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch; or 5-9 p.m. for dinner, which is slightly more formal with candlelight and live music. Each taster over 12 years old is asked to donate $3 at the door, which gets them a free drink ticket. Tasters then purchase food tokens to buy items from the restaurants.

In addition to monies raised from tickets, tokens and booth fees, this GREAT IDEA also solicits sponsorship from local businesses. Donor levels include: Gold at $500 or more; Silver at $250-499; and Bronze at any amount up to $249. Each donor is offered a number of complimentary admissions passes based on their level of contribution as well as mention in event advertisement. Gold Level sponsors are videotaped for televised presentations of their businesses during the event.

And it adds up beautifully: the 2000 Taste of Valdosta netted $20,000!

Taste also fosters community spirit. Besides bringing residents together for fun, fellowship, and good eating, the event allows patrons to vote on awards that give the winning restaurants bragging rights for the year. Token totals determine the first and second place in the People’s Choice Awards for the most popular restaurants of the event. Three local judges, chosen from the community, decide two award winners for best booth decorations.

The club builds excitement for the event through newspaper, radio, and television advertisements, yard signs, and advance ticket sales. Word of mouth is a particularly good advertiser, the club says.

Valdosta residents are eager to participate in the event for one more reason: the tasty proceeds go back into the community through the club’s donation to a worthy local cause. Last year’s recipients of the proceeds, for example, were Hospice of South Georgia and Lowndes County Children’s Advocacy Center.

Even the selection of the charity stirs excitement in this great fund raiser as non-profits work to convince the Quotarians of their need for the proceeds. The club sends letters to each charitable organization in Valdosta, offering an opportunity to compete for the money by explaining how the money would be used. After reviewing the letters, the club invites the organizations to give a five-minute talk to the club at the next program meeting. Then, at the following business meeting, club members vote on charities to be included. The organizations chosen are asked to participate in ticket sales and in generating excitement.

Club president Jane Shelton says the secret to the success of the fundraiser is committees: “We divide our club into committees headed by co-chairs. The co-chairs meet every other week to plan and discuss progress. This prevents any surprises on Taste day and allows everything to run smoothly.”

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