! © 2018 V
How to Pull Off a Successful Roast
Does your community have a great sense of humor? If so, swapping out a formal
gala for a roast-style event can help you raise awareness for your nonprofit’s efforts
in a playful way that’s appealing to both new audiences and longtime supporters.
The Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) of the Carolinas
(Greenville, SC) have punched up fundraising efforts by throwing local celebrities
“to the wolves” at the Greenville Roast, an event inspired by the Dean Martin
“Our roasts are popular because we select a corporate or community leader and
showcase their life in a lighthearted way, through humorous stories told by friends
and colleagues,” says CEO and Executive Director Marti Spencer. “No one can
resist the opportunity to poke fun at some of Greenville’s biggest names, especially
when it’s for a good cause!”
The fourth annual Greenville Roast took place in March 2017 and attracted
more than 200 guests to the Poinsett Club, an upscale, downtown venue. The event
raised more than $10,000, with proceeds going to benefit families in need at the
RMHC, as well as the Greenville Tech Foundation, a charity for which last year’s
roastee, Bob Howard, formerly served as president.
Spencer offers tips for pulling off a successful roast:
1. Select a strong roastee. “Our roasts are incredibly well-received, but we’ll skip a
year if we can’t find the right candidate,” Spencer says. “Roastees should be
committed to selecting an entertaining panel of roasters, creating fun
presentations, soliciting their own followers and offering insight to the overall
design of the event.”
2. Partner with a second charity. “We ask the roastee to select a charity of choice
with whom we share 25 percent of proceeds,” Spencer says. “We partner two
nonprofits together to showcase collaboration and demonstrate our impact on
the community. This is a great awareness piece that exposes us to new
supporters every year.”
3. Plan a full evening. The Greenville Roast kicks off at 6 p.m. with a cocktail hour
before guests sit down for the 90-minute dinner program. The ongoing open bar
ensures a lively and relaxed atmosphere for the duration of the event.
4. Keep it affordable. In addition to offering high-level sponsorships ranging from
$500 to $5,000, individuals can also purchase tickets that include dinner and
open bar for $100, or $60 for young professionals.
5. Focus on the roastee. “When we roasted a real estate developer, we placed hard
hats and mini shovels throughout the venue to help our guests understand their
role in Greenville,” Spencer says. “Each table features a nostalgic framed picture
of the roastee so everyone recognizes our guest of honor.”
Source: Marti Spencer, CEO and Executive Director, Ronald McDonald House Charities of the
Carolinas, Greenville, SC. Phone (864) 235-1622. E-mail: email@example.com.
Tell Your Organization’s Story Throughout Your Event
During your special event, be sure to include various methods that convey how
attendees’ contributions will be used. Some examples of how to get that message out:
1. Computers with multimedia presentations that attendees can click through.
2. A continually running video located in a quiet area that shows how last year’s
event funds were used to impact people’s lives.
3. A display area of your agency’s photos and literature for those wanting to learn
4. Public mention during the program that summarizes the importance of the
event and how the funds raised will be used.
Use Children to Draw
Attention to Your Ground
Ground breaking ceremonies provide a
natural opportunity for press coverage,
but many look very similar to one
another. This is particularly true of the
personnel involved: major donors, board
members, VIPs, etc.
To distinguish your event, consider
focusing attention on a group of
children, particularly if the new facility
will serve young people in some way. To
make the most of the opportunity, use
visually childlike equipment (e.g.,
brightly-colored shovels, decorated
hard hats), and try to plan as many
different photo opportunities for the
children as possible during the ground
Properly executed and promoted,
this approach can draw significant
media interest and attention.
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