Maximize the money you raise during a chili cook-off by adding creative extras that draw crowds ready to part with their cash. Making the event a family experience rather than a simple chili tasting encourages more competitors to sign up to cook and more people to attend. The competitors supply dinner for the guests, but you make the time before, during and after they eat enjoyable so the guests look forward to your next chili cook-off.
People enjoy meeting celebrities, and getting celebrities involved in your chili cook-off helps bring in the crowds. These don't have to be out-of-reach movie stars. Instead, look for chefs who are well known in your area, professional ball players or local news anchors. These people can make their own chili as part of the competition or serve as judges.
Politicians aren't necessarily celebrities, but having the mayor or a legislator participate helps introduce them to your organization while giving their constituents a chance to meet them in person.
Chili is the main draw, but people like to liven it up. Make extra money for your organization by selling items to accompany the chili. Toppings might include shredded cheese and sour cream, or offer sides such as cornbread and rice. The spicy chili makes guests thirsty quickly, making drinks an ideal choice to sell. Provide kid-friendly foods as well, such as hot dogs and fries, and provide several dessert options.
Many chili cook-offs sell guests a wristband or tasting tickets, but these only provide guests with tiny cups of each chili in most cases. For another revenue option for the fundraiser, offer guests the ability to buy bowls of their favorite chili. This can be as a set amount per bowl, or each table can have a donation jar. For donations over a certain amount, such as $5, the guest gets a large bowl of the chili. This enables the attendees to eat their fill when they find their favorite chili.
Making It a Festival
The chili is likely to draw quite a crowd on its own, but making the event have more of a festival feel can bring in more people. Ask several local bands to donate their time and provide live music throughout the evening. Also, work with nearby schools to feature performances by the students. This has the added benefit of bringing their parents to the event when they might not ordinarily attend. Providing bounce houses and other kid-friendly options such as face-painting and balloon animals -- for a small fee, of course -- creates an event that's fun for the whole family, even those who don't like chili.
- Warren Price Photography/iStock/Getty Images