Host A Charity Dinner Party at Home

DIY Ornament Napkin Rings
This is such a great idea and the perfect way to step back into another time... the past eras filled with chic little dinner parties held at peoples homes benefiting good causes. It was second nature and done so well. So for day 2 of our Classic Remastered series here is how to hold your own charity fête with tips gleaned from antique books and the wisdom of the gram dames who did it best.

Tips On Holding A Stellar Charity Dinner At Home

Plan It Out: Most home charity dinners are much the same as any dinner party although making it feel worth your guests time and support will be even more pronounced and important. Planning ahead for issues such as if this will be a formal sit down (with place cards and so on) or a looser cocktail party will be key. This also needs to be expressed on your invitation cards along with any minimum donation. This way gusts can decide if they want to (or can) participate. The last thing anyone should feel is sprung upon once at the party because they were not clear it was a benefit type gathering.

Plan Your Menu &/or Drinks: Pull together what you're going to serve. This is where keeping things intimate and confined to close friends and relatives can pay off. Knowing what people like (or are restricted to eating) will help you create a spread delectable enough for everyone (or mixed drinks for cocktail parties suitable to everyone's tastes... for drink ideas visit our Mixology section).

For added inspiration grab a cookbook. On the Gilt Groupe blog Tory Burch mentioned she has been working through her advance copy of "Park Avenue Potluck Celebrations" with proceeds benefiting The Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, $35. (ships starting October 2009) for her dinner parties. There are a whole host of other new cookbooks that give back as well including "Thursdays With Mom & Michael" a daughter's (Anita Rosenberg) loving tribute to her mother's weekly dinner parties with 100% of proceeds going to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For additional tips and recipes Martha Stewart has lent her dinner party advice and recipes for free over at the Come + Together site. [for more great charity cookbooks I found click here for my guide, Cooking for A Cause.] Here at this blog our favorite recipes for entertaining are frequently shared, find them all in the recipe box area here.

Be Personal When Inviting Gusts: Call your gusts to invite them over the phone or send handwritten invitations being sure to use their name. Try to be as personal as possible so that people feel more motivated and connected in following through and coming to support your efforts. Places like Facebook are too easy to click away and say no to... people need to feel you're intimately involved so go that extra mile to reach out. Also make sure to tell potential gusts that this is a private benefit dinner and what your donation expectations are, if any. Leave no unpleasant surprises for people. Have people RSVP (or ask for "regrets only") and let them know if your party is a formal sit down or something more informal like a Bar-B-Q on the deck. See more on mailing invitations here.

Brush Up On Your Hosting Skills: As mentioned above charity parties carry a tad more weight for giving people a good time so be sure to brush up on your host/hostess skills. A great book for this is, Town & Country Handbook for Hosts: A Practical Guide to Party Planning and Gracious Entertaining by Adam Bluestein. A lot will depend on who you have invited, how well and if they know one another and so on so you can facilitate mingling, gabbing, laughs and just plain fun. Make sure you're personally not too busy running around and getting things put together to talk and mingle with your own gusts. Especially those who might have come alone or are slightly shy.

Add In Some Extras: Consider giving out favor bags to gusts or create some games so that people can win a favor (this has often been a major highlight for parties... give it a try). Amy Vanderbilt wrote in her etiquette book that favors were an important part of charity functions. One quick way to do this is with little pre-made boxes filled with curated goodies such as chocolate, teas and candles. Orange Glad for instance makes some of the best for dinner parties and Healthy Surprise is the perfect vegan version. See more about them here.

Have board games for people to play or screen movies if you have a home theater system set up. All night Hitchcock or campy films from the 60s are great. Just keep it light and non-depressing so people have a good time—not focusing on even more dire problems in life. Hire a DJ or get a friend to do it (you wouldn't believe the number of kids out there that can do this from their laptops or iPods!), have dancing or keep it low key (think swank NYC eateries... what do they play?) with Latin Jazz and World Beats. Just a little in the background for ambiance but not too much that it prevents people from talking to one another.

Tell Your Guests Thank You: In most dinner parties it's the host that gets all of the thank you cards but in this case each gusts should receive a grateful card of thanks for their support. Write it out and pop a stamp on it. This is also a good time to let them know once again where their donations went, more about the cause and who you hope will benefit from your collective kindness.

Do You Have To Hold It At Home? Not everyone lives in a home ready to host guests (especially if you live with a bunch of roommates)... but this shouldn't keep you from having your own dinner party. Consider having a bonfire picnic party on the beach, hold it at a restaurant or club (remember in these cases you will be expected, as the host, to cover everyone's tab) or look for another suitable venue (house of worship, friends home, rent a penthouse hotel room and have the Concierge send you up a bartender, etc.). Think outside of the box and make it happen.

Some extra party tidbits...
Our favorite recipes
Putting out the perfect cheese plate
How to set a coffee (
demitasses) tray
How to set a cocktail tray 
& how to set a tea tray.

Making a signature drink such as coloring book cocktails
Playing little salon games such as 32 Q. on Love


Image: mam for Gave That

Comments

Anonymous said…
This is a real inspiration. As was said, it need not be a huge affair like the "rubber chicken" benefit dinners of yore.
I would add to this comprehensive list, inviting a guitarist or setting up a Karaoke Machine for some live music. People love to participate in singing as more than a few guests may find board game rules and multiple rounds a bit tedious. The point is to jump in which with these fantastic pointers, makes it a simple affair.
Marie Anakee: said…
Thank you, thank you--Karaoke Machine, yes!!! Especially with the lights down low, a little disco ball... who cares if you can sing or not and you can make a game of it with favors for best song and so on. Fab! Had major laugh over rubber chicken, oh well.
stevenjared0853 said…
Wonderful post!! Thanks for sharing these tips to arrange dinner party at home. Will surely implement them. Recently my friend invited me for a dinner party at one of venue New York. It was so good to be there and enjoy the delicious food. I really enjoyed a lot.

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