6 Most Profitable Fundraising Dinners and Events

Fundraising is a key source of funds not only for charitable institutions but also for pushing social activism, from animal welfare, energy conservation, planet protection to political campaigns. Implementing fundraising strategies do not only entail hard work, they also require money to carry out strategic plans especially if there is a target amount to be raised. This is why fundraising dinners (or dinners for a cause) is among the most popular charitable events, since its costs can be planned better with early guest responses, and since donors expect modesty in meals served because of the fundraising nature, there is a potential for huge proceeds.

Often, fundraising dinners are organized by fundraising groups, carefully planning and budgeting the event. For the fortunate ones who are blessed with influential patrons, they can just be named as beneficiary and need not worry about details and costs. Depending on the profile level of the event, these dinners can draw not just hordes of donors, but huge value of fresh funds as well. In the last US presidential campaigns for instance, high-profile fundraising dinners delivered anywhere from $1 million to $6 million per event.

While there may be controversies involved in spending funds raised by some institutions, the philanthropic atmosphere is nevertheless rosy as far as American giving is concerned, as shown by the success of various fundraising dinners with per-meal or per-table passes amounting to thousands of dollars. The appeal of fundraising dinners lie in its extreme – the glamorous side and the charity aspect, a fascination which also explains why fundraising dinners have high margins of success for generating money for a good cause or a publicly announced endeavor.

One can only wonder what happens inside a high profile or exclusive dinner-for-a-cause? What are the most successful of these fundraising dinners to date and how much did they bring in to the lucky beneficiaries? Here’s our half-a-dozen list of the most expensive and profitable fundraising dinners to date.

1. Philly Union League’s Ritzy Paul Ryan Dinner

How much: $50,000 per plate

Earnings: about $600,000 to $1 million


In August 21, 2012, then vice presidential candidate (and Wisconsin congressman) Paul Ryan also went his rounds of high-priced receptions and donor engagements to boost his political bid in the 2012 US Elections. His most expensive fundraising dinner was the $50,000 per plate meal at the Union League in Philadelphia.

The visit drew flak among Democrats, criticizing Ryan’s ritzy dinner and rounded up protesters and police in the area. It turned out that the dinner was actually a private cocktail party hosted by a Union League member who heads a big New Jersey chemical plant. Tension-filled as it was, Ryan was said to stay for only an hour and did not even made it to the hors d’oeuvres. As for the dozen or so guests, they indeed paid $50,000 apiece for the time to dine with Ryan on a rush.

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 2. Australian Prime Minister’s Olympic Dinner

How much: $25,000 per table

Earnings: $2 million


The Prime Minister’s Olympic Dinner (PMOD) is held every four years beginning in 1984 in Australia to generate financial support for the country’s 400-strong athletes participating in the Olympics. The 2012 dinner was held on June 24, 2012 and was dubbed “Australian Dinner of the Quadrennium,” attended by who’s who in Australian politics, social scenes, sports, arts and entertainment.

The highlight was the introduction of the 2012 Olympians by 150 Scottish bagpipers. Although then PM Julia Gillard was unable to be present due to a UN commitment, the dinner turned out to be a major success with Melbourne playing the perfect host city for the 124 corporate patrons and 1,400 guests.

3. Businessman Marc Leder’s Fundraising Dinner for Mitt Romney

How much: $50,000 per plate

Earnings: $2.5 to $3 million


Not to be outdone by celebrity democratic supporters, private equity mogul and Republican supporter Marc Leder hosted a $50,000 per plate dinner on May 17, 2012 for presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Leder co-founded Sun Capital Partners of which Romney was a pioneering investor. The exclusive meal was served in Leder’s $3-million residence in Boca Raton, Florida.

As customary for republicans not to disclose happenings in exclusive events, not much detail was said about the dinner except that it was elegantly catered and the uniformed crew passed around red wine from decanters to about three dozen guests who were seated in gilt chairs.

(It was this fundraising dinner, the supposed private affair, which was the subject of a video leak where Romney made controversial comments about Obama’s supporters dubbed as the “47 percent.”)

4. Princess Diana’s Reception Dinners for Christie’s Gown Auction

How much: $41,000 average bid pledges

Earnings: $3.25 million


In June 1997, Princess Diana made the rounds of special dinner receptions in London and in New York to raise interest and bids for selected gowns set for by Christie’s in New York City. It was Prince William who thought of the idea of selling her mother’s many gowns to raise funds for their favorite worthy causes. The wardrobe was previewed during these receptions, which consisted of 79 gowns, dresses and suits the princess wore during official functions.

These reception and awareness events were dubbed “Sequins Save lives” by the princess herself, with proceeds donated to her numerous cancer and AIDS charities. The highest bid went to the off-the-shoulder blue velvet gown that Diana wore to a White House dinner. The resulting bids and pledges reached $3.25 million, the most profitable charity event in the history of Christie’s auction house.

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5. George Clooney’s Fundraising Dinner for Barack Obama

How much: $40,000 per plate

Earnings: $6 million of the total $15 million proceeds


Celebrity fundraisers are the way to go if one wants to give a typical dinner for a cause a glamorous hook. On May 10, 2012, the most successful dinner fundraiser in the history of American presidential campaign was pulled off by actor and social activist George Clooney for then presidential re-electionist Barack Obama. The ritzy 150-guest event was held in Clooney’s sprawling Tudor-style home in Los Angeles, California.

Among those who forked in $40,000 for supper with the President included Hollywood’s biggest celebrities like Robert Downey Jr., Barbra Streisand, James Brolin, Salma Hayek, Billy Crystal, Jack Black, Tobey Maguire and Billy Crystal, among others. Unlike other charitable dinners, Clooney’s fundraiser meant to give value to the 5-digit per plate price of the invite. Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck manned the kitchen and the meal was served under a looming pitched tent.

6. The Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner

How much: $8,500 to $100,000 tables (10 tickets)

Earnings: $18 million


In the world of sports, the Great Sports Legends Dinner founded by NFL Hall of Famer Nick Buoniconti serves as the counterpart of swanky socialite and political campaign dinners. This event is an annual dinner fundraiser that pays tribute to athletes and sports legends who are active in the field of fundraising, and is also graced by notable celebrities in the field of entertainment, music and arts. The charity dinner toasts athletes who shares their mega-million contracts to help victims of spinal cord injuries. This injury is among the leading causes of impairment for athletes and budding sports players.

The 2012 dinner welcomed 1,400 guests and honored philanthropic athletes Shaquille O’Neal, Joe Torre,  Mark Martin, Lorena Ochoa, Lisa Leslie, Marshall Faulk, Tony Perez and Jake LaMotta and was held in New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel. The highlight of the event was a live auction offering sports memorabilia, jewelry, services from the event’s sponsors and a game of golf with Jack Nicklaus. Some $18 million was raised during the 2012 event, while $93 million have been generated already since the dinner event was started in 1985. Proceeds go to The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis and The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis Research Center.

What is your thoughts on expensive fundraising dinners?
Are you willing to pay much for a worthy cause you support?


Category: Financial News

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