Afternoon tea is a great theme for a fundraiser. Some people experience afternoon tea for the first time at a fundraiser and seasoned afternoon tea goers are eager to invite their tea-minded friends to join in the fundraising efforts! It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.
I helped organize a holiday (Christmas) afternoon tea fundraiser for 115 persons. It was an event that was 6 months in the making, involving an event planner, food tasting, floor and space planning, entertainment planning, and overseeing a team of 15 busy
Unlike most boys and girls around Christmas time, the fundraiser event was unfortunately more naughty than nice and therefore, made Santa’s bad list. 😦 However, to keep holiday spirits high, I will start by telling you about how it was nice! 🙂
Nice: The day of the fundraiser was beautiful, sunny, and crisp. A wall of windows bathed the banquet hall with a bright winter light.
Nice: The simple white table settings gave us many options for decorating. Guests were seated at tables for 8, 9 or 10.
Quite nice: The miniature cloisonne teapot ornament tea favors were a big hit.
Very nice: The Tea Committee came up with many creative ways to raise funds for our selected charities, including silent auction, boutique sale, bake sale, and raffle for gift baskets full of tea related goodies.
Extremely nice: Each member of the Tea Committee also created a holiday centerpiece for each table. Since all the centerpieces were for sale, guests had an incentive to visit every table, so they could get a chance to bid on their favorite centerpiece. This was also a great way to encourage guest mingling and social interaction.
And now for the naughty … 😦
Naughty: Our event planner promised us tea caddies even though we offered to bring our own. Imagine our horror when we saw their idea of a tea caddy: 3 stacked glass cake pedestals! They were so heavy and unwieldy that the manager asked all 115 guests to vacate the tables while they were being plated to avoid any accidents! I think it’s perfectly acceptable to do this at home in an intimate setting but dangerous in a restaurant or banquet type setting.
More naughty: The tea service was disorganized and untimely. Guests received their sandwiches before their tea. Many were still waiting for their first cup of tea while others were already getting seconds. Though 2 types of tea were served, some guests only got to sample one of the teas. Tea should have been served first! What is afternoon tea without tea?
Very naughty: Lack of quality and quantity of food! One of my co-chairs, T., and I attended a food tasting at the country club to organize the menu. The sandwiches at the tasting were fresh, delicious, and some of the best tea sandwiches I’d ever had. The actual sandwiches served at the fundraiser were an embarrassment. Not only were they much lower in quality than what we sampled but they did not provide enough of each type of sandwich for each guest. Some guests ended up eating 3 ham and cheese sandwiches!
There was also a passed hors d’oeuvres on the menu (mushroom caps with goat cheese) but again, there was a quantity issue. The wait staff did not pass out the hors d’eouvres individually to the guests as specified in our contract. Instead, they walked around offering them to guests which means that some guests took more than one, so others got none.
Naughtier still: Buffet style dessert. Though we agreed to this arrangement, we realized in hindsight that it was a mistake. Buffet style is not a good idea for afternoon tea anyway because it is unrealistic to expect guests to take just one item. Additionally, given the placement of the tables and the number of guests, the buffet made the event feel very chaotic and disorganized.
Unforgivably naughty: Store-bought cookies and missing scones! The scones were supposed to be served tableside but apparently, there was “some kind of fiasco in the kitchen” and there were not enough scones for everyone. The manager didn’t notify us and the surviving scones were surreptitiously added to the buffet tables, perhaps with the hope that guests would not notice their absence. What is afternoon tea without a scone?
Santa’s bad list: Don’t plan your events at the Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club! Following our event, we contacted the manager in good faith by phone, letter, and email to thank him and his team. We even offered to hold our event there again next year, if improvements could be made. All our attempts at contact were ignored. Though the planning committee made sure all the details would be in place prior to the event, the execution of the actual tea was out of our control and did not live up to our expectations or to our contract. There were many disappointed guests and I was unhappy with the quality and quantity of the food as well as the service. It is times like these when I wish I ran my own catering company.
Santa’s good list: Our first holiday tea was the most successful holiday fundraiser in the 31 year history of our organization! The proceeds from the fundraiser benefited 3 local charities assisting needy families during the holidays. Despite Santa’s bad list, guests were still able to see the quality work of Santa’s elves. Several guests remarked that we should become professional event planners or that they would hire our committee to organize their weddings! I couldn’t ask for higher praise. Congratulations to all the busy elves of the Tea Committee who made this fundraiser such a successful one!
“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
― Mother Teresa