How to Plan a Mystery Dinner Event for Fundraising

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Whether you are appointed the fundraising chairperson for an organization or decide to act on your own, planning a successful fundraising event requires extensive preparation. A mystery dinner event is an exciting alternative to a traditional black-tie dinner fundraiser. An acting troupe performs a mystery play while guests enjoy a catered meal. Usually, the actors interact with the audience, inviting them to try solving the mystery. As the organizer, you will have the satisfaction of not only raising money for your organization but also hosting a memorable event for your guests.

Enlist the help of other people in the organization. For a medium-to-large event, you will probably need to delegate some tasks to accomplish all your goals. You will need people who can help organize catering, entertainment and the financial aspects of the event. If you have enough volunteers, you may wish to form committees assigned to various tasks.

Set fundraising goals. Calculate how much money you wish to raise for the organization, and add the cost of hosting the event. Your budget should include the price of the venue, advertising, decorations, catering services, acting troupe and cleanup. Keep records of all financial aspects of the event for tax purposes.

Set a date for the event, and schedule meetings with other volunteers or committees. These meetings will serve as progress checks and can help prevent problems and conflict during the planning process. Discuss backup plans in the event of potential problems, such as actors not showing up.

Reserve a venue. The space needs to accommodate a dining area, staging area and kitchen facilities for the caterers. Many community venues fill up quickly, so book a venue as soon as you set a date for your mystery dinner.

Hire an acting troupe and catering company. You will need a troupe that specializes in mystery plays or has experience performing for mystery dinner events. When hiring a caterer, look for one that specializes in fundraiser dinners and offers options within your budget.

Set ticket prices based on the cost of hosting the event. You will need to calculate a per-head cost. For example, if the cost of catering is $10 per person and the cost of the acting troupe averages $10 per person, your per-head cost is about $20. Most organizations set the ticket price at double the per-head cost, so in this example, tickets to the event would be $40.

Advertise your event. Set up a website, and direct people to the site for more information on all advertising materials. The website should contain information about date, time, location and ticket cost as well as information about your organization and how the raised funds will be used.


  • Inexpensive advertising ideas include social networking sites, fliers and posters. Some newspapers and radio stations allow nonprofit organizations to advertise their events for free.