Archives For Fellowship Dinner

I think Fund Raising Dinners are by far the best way to fund your ministry.


We do one thing all year to raise money for our ministry – a Vision Dinner (also called Fellowship Dinners). And every year we see God provide abundantly ($50-$150k).
Why a Dinner? Because it easily has the best ROI. I have not heard of much success from golf tournaments, etc (seems like they typically raise around $10k and are a lot of work; I’m sure there are exceptions – leave a comment if you’ve found it to be successful!)


And I personally don’t think it’s a good use of your leaders and staff to have them pick up trash after football games or other money-making deals. Those are typically high investment/low return endeavors. A donor at a dinner will gladly write a check for $5,000 so your student leaders can be sharing their faith instead of working 7 weekends in the fall.
[Edit: I should have written that more clearly. I’m saying it’s better to ask for money directly from donors (a $5,000 check) than have them invest 7 weekends cleaning up after football games, et al, and make them earn $5,000. A worker is worthy of his wages. And we want students working on ministry not having to help us raise money].


A great side bonus – Vision Dinners are incredible for building relationships and vision within the community.


My hope is that more and more college ministries around the country begin to have Dinners so that they are abundantly funded and more college students will be reached with the gospel.


Cru Staff: for more info on how to put on a Dinner, check out the website: (step by step instructions on how to plan a Dinner, PLUS graphic design templates for invitations, etc). Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, its login only lets Cru staff use it.
(to access the site, enter your Cru email address and pick a password. After your email address is approved, you will have full access)



I recently got an email from a BCM director asking for help – he’s new completely new to Dinners and had lots of questions.

Sharing is caring, so I thought I’d post my email that I sent back to him so everyone can benefit:

  • Do you have a particular structure for how the evening goes? 
    • Here’s a timeline of our dinner – the structure for how the evening goes.
    • We have one “live testimony” from a student and then have several student life change stories via video. We save the video for the very end before we ask people to give because it’s usually the most moving part of the night. Here’s those videos from 2016 and 2015.
    • Here’s a script of what our MC’s say
  • How do you go about inviting people? 
    • We have our students send invitations to their parents (this is a HUGE win if parents come- they walk away loving Cru instead of suspecting that we are a cult; so when their son/daughter wants to go on summer mission or intern with us, they are for us instead of against us!) .
    • But other than that we almost exclusively invite people via table hosts (here’s a link to that strategy). We’ve pretty much stopped printing paper invitations (we only printed 100 this year – we used to do 1,500!) and almost exclusively do digital invites via email and Ministry Sync (an online dinner management tool – not cheap, but worth it for bigger dinners)

  • Do you ask for financial commitments there, or do you pay the groundwork and then follow-up with individual meetings? Do you primarily ask for/receive one-time gifts or ongoing monthly gifts?
    • We definitely ask for financial commitments. I don’t do any follow up after the dinner. Here’s my talk from last year – so you can see how I ask for money.
    • As you can see in my talk – I really push for monthly gifts. That way, even if they don’t come to your dinner next year, they will still be giving to your ministry. But we mostly get one time gifts. But we’ve grown our monthly giving from $100/mo to $2,000/mo over the years.
  • Do you do them on campus or somewhere else?
  • We do our dinner off campus at our Fayetteville Town Center (a big ballroom where they hold conventions or wedding receptions). But on campus would be great if there’s a good room.
  • What else should I consider or know?
    • Really, the main thing to know is what I say in this post –  that getting table hosts is by FAR the most important goal.
    • You can expect to make $20-25,000 for every 100 people you have at the dinner. Or to put it in different terms, for every table host you get, you will make about $2,000.
    • We do a silent auction at the dinner. It’s grown over the years:
      • 2016 – $12,400
      • 2015 – $10,475
      • 2014 – $8,345
      • 2013 – $5,800


Leave a comment if you have more questions, and I’ll do my best to answer questions and share resources.

As I’ve written elsewhere (A One Step Plan to Fully Fund your Campus Ministry), I think that Fellowship Dinners are THE best way to raise money for your college ministry.

But it can be incredibly overwhelming to get the ball rolling on putting on a Dinner.

So where do you start?

The battle is won and lost on getting Table Hosts.

In my first few years I would spend most of my time dreaming, hoping that a few high-capacity donors would come to the dinner.

But in reality, the success of your dinner is really pretty predictable.

2013fd1It’s just like raising personal support. You calculate how much you need to raise and work backwards to figure out how many appointments you need to have and, consequently, how many phone calls you need to make this week.

From what I’ve seen, for every 100 people you have at your dinner, you will raise around $20-25k.

So let’s say your goal is to raise $50k. You’ll need 200 people there.

To get 200 people there, you’ll need 25 table hosts (8 people to a table). To get 25 table hosts you’ll need to ask at least 50 people to be table hosts. On our team, this year we’re asking 150 people to host tables. Our hope is that 60-70 will say yes.

We don’t ask Table Hosts to “buy” a table. We are just asking them to take a step of faith to invite their friends to a visionary evening.


A few practical thoughts on getting table hosts:

  • Convince your team that recruiting new table hosts is a HUGE win for them. Because it is. Our staff LOVE inviting their supporters and friends to the dinner (and to be table hosts) because they walk away passionate fans of Cru.
    • At our dinner I say something like: “All of our staff raise their own funding. I would encourage you to generously give, beyond what you give to the campus tonight, to help fund these very gifted, hard working staff. Please seek out one of these staff tonight if you are interested in giving on a monthly basis to them to make it possible for them to do ministry full time.”
  • On our team, we ask every staff to recruit 3 new table hosts every year.
    • We pay for our staff to take a potential table host to lunch. Each new table results in about $2,000 being raised. So a lunch is not a bad investment.
  • Click here to see some talking points we use when we sit down to ask new Table Hosts.

We do one thing all year to raise money for our ministry – a Fellowship Dinner. And every year we see God provide abundantly ($50-$75k).

It is a lot of work but I am a firm believer that it is THE best way to fund your ministry (read how one ministry raises over $400k/year).

My hope is that more and more Cru movements around the country begin to have Fellowship Dinners so that they are abundantly funded.

Cru Staff: for more info on how to put on a Dinner email Jim Dempsey who is THE expert (or for details on what we do, leave a comment).


We’ve been blessed by professional Graphic Designers who have produced high quality materials for our last few Dinners and I wanted to share those with anyone that wants to use them:

  Designs are by an Arkansas Cru alum- Kelsea Walkley of

@petit4prints on Twitter

Kelsea has generously donated her talents and design for our Fellowship Dinner and allowed me to share them with you!

From Kelsea:

“If a CRU movement interested in using these designs, they can email me and I will send them a link to download the editable files free of charge (they would have to have someone who knows how to navigate a design software such as illustrator).

If they would prefer that I customize these designs for them (edit text, colors, send them files for printing, etc.), they can contact me for a design estimate.

I am always interested in custom design projects!  Please contact me for a design estimate.”

If you use one of these designs, let me know and I can send you more content if it’s helpful – magnets, powerpoint templates, Silent Auction, name tags, and other assorted signage.

Other assorted Fellowship Dinner items:

A nice looking Powerpoint template and magnet from 2010 made by John Robinson who works for Saatchi X (using a stock image originally from Penn State Cru).

PDF of magnet         Powerpoint Template

Below are my talks from the past few years.

You might be able glean some good quotes, illustrations or ways of structuring vision or “the ask”:




Our Magnet from 2012

“9 years ago we had our first fund raising dinner and raised $24,000.

Last year we raised $230,000”

Like it or not, as a leader one of your chief jobs is to raise money to fund your mission (for more on this read my post Money to Fund the Mission).


And I know of no better way for a para-church ministry to raise money than putting on an annual fund raising dinner.


This upcoming Friday will be our 11th annual Fellowship Dinner.


Most years we have 150 guests and raise $50,000 at the dinner. It’s the only fund raising we do all year. (I don’t share that amount to brag. I share it because by doing so I hope to encourage many  more Cur movements to do Fellowship Dinners).


A few days ago Ryan Sather, the co-director of Here’s Life Inner City (a ministry of Cru) in Minneapolis, tweeted this:

109 tables & counting for the @hlictwincities Fellowship Dinner on April 28th! Join us and bring some friends!

(which makes me wonder – I’ve benefited tremendously from other leaders’ tweets about ministry success (knowing who I can learn from). But I never share numbers/success story for fear of bragging/pride. So I’m merely a consumer. How can people learn from what you’re good at if you don’t share where God is blessing you? Haven’t figured it out yet.)

I DM’d him and asked if I could get his phone number and pick his brain for a few minutes.

I’m confident our 14 minute phone call will result in a huge increase in funding for our ministry (isn’t Twitter great?).


Here’s what I learned:

  • 9 years ago HLIC Minneapolis had their first dinner with 100 attendees. They raised $24,000
  • Last year they raised $230,000
  • This year they anticipate 1300 attendees when they hold their Dinner at the end of April
  • Ryan estimates that every 100 attendees will produce $25-30,000 given


Ryan listed four things as keys to their growth:

1) Growing the number of table hosts by challenging every staff and key donors/volunteers to each get 10 table hosts

  • Table hosts agree to fill a table by inviting all their friends to the dinner

2) Connecting the Dinner to Staff’s personal MPD (Cru lingo for “support”)

  • “At the dinner we communicate that each of our staff raises their own financial support and we’d love for you to give to them in addition to what you give to us as a city ministry”
  • “After the dinner, we give our staff the contact info of everyone that came from one of their 10 table hosts (usually around 20-30 contacts).”
  • “Our staff see an average of $200-300 in new monthly support”
  • “It’s help our staff understand: Your donors are giving to 6 other ministries. If you can get them to a dinner, it won’t decrease their support of you, it will actually increase their vision.”

3) Having a Matching Gift

  • 2 years ago they received 28 gifts of $1000 or more
  • Last year they offered a $35,000 matching gift – with a stipulation that they would match any gift of $1000 or more
  • The result? They had 58 gifts of $1000 or more given!
  • This year they hope to get $60k or $70k as a matching gift
  • Ryan said that even $10,000 is a good start (get 4 people to commit to giving $2,500 each)
  • “Anytime there is a match, people are extra motivated to give” (especially when it asks them to increase their gift amount – saying that last year, many who traditionally give $500 upped their gift to $1000)

4) Hosting volunteer events throughout the year where people can join with them in serving those in the inner city

  • At those events they cast vision for their ministry and ask people to join them (they gained 12 new table hosts from the last event in March)


  • Ryan called me today and mentioned that a fifth crucial element that has been key to their growth is: they do all of their thank you calls and letters the very next day after the dinner.
  • “It has been HUGE. It’s a long weekend and a long day but it has been unbelievably key in showing gratitude – for donors to get a thank you on Monday right after the dinner”
  • Calling all their table hosts the very next day and everyone who gave a substantial gift
  • And writing everyone a thank you

Ryan is a huge believer in having an annual Fellowship Dinner – both for the money it raises and the relationship it builds with the community (which I heartily echo!).

“One of the things that’s missing in fund development is the relational piece. The Dinner is very relational – breaking bread together. The money spent on the dinner is worth it on it’s own. It is great PR for the ministry.”


I asked Ryan if I could share this and he agreed and added a few things:

  • The last thing we want is people to think we’re bragging but I’d love to help others raise more money
  • Ryan works nationally with 17 HLIC ministries to put on Fellowship Dinners and he was quick to point out that they definitely are not all huge successes (some have even lost money!)
  • Jim Dempsey (former national director of Fund Development for Cru) played a crucial role in helping them grow


Would love to hear from you – what do you do to raise money for your ministry?

If you have a fund raising dinner, what has helped you grow your dinner?


 photo courtesy of Tracy Hunter