Advocates Share Tips on Successful Restaurant Fundraisers

Over the last few years, some of our advocates have been successfully raising money for PAN through restaurant fundraisers. Restaurant fundraisers often involve minimal preparation on the advocate’s part and many community restaurants are willing to donate a portion of their proceeds to nonprofit organizations, such as PAN.

PAN is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and all donations are tax deductible. PAN and its community of volunteer advocates rely on the generosity of people to fund our important work in Washington, DC and around the country.

Below are examples from four of our advocates and tips on how you could start your own restaurant fundraiser.

Advocate: Myra Hirschhorn

Restaurant: Ruby Tuesday in Willingboro, Mt. Laurel, and Deptford, NJ | More info:

Amount Donated: $400 in 2014

New Jersey State Director Myra Hirschhorn has worked with Ruby Tuesday over the last three years and has been pleased with the ease in organizing the events. She contacted her local Ruby Tuesday restaurants and worked directly with their staff to organize the dates for the fundraisers and then used flyers to promote them to her support groups. PAN helped by sending an email to contacts in the community.

Myra said that the experience was a great way to bring people together and spread awareness about Parkinson’s disease. She hopes to use the lessons she learned through the restaurant fundraisers to organize a larger pancake breakfast that would include an auction, sponsors, and hopefully attract more people.

Myra also said donating back to PAN is important. “PAN’s dedication to the Parkinson’s community is exemplary,” she said. “The organization educates those with Parkinson’s, their care partners, the communities. and our national leaders.  I have no idea where some of our issues would be without PAN’s efforts. To keep doing this important work, they need the financial backing.”

Advocate: Roger Halleen

Restaurant: Chili’s in Peoria and East Peoria, IL | More info: Contact your local Chili’s franchise

Amount Donated: $250 in 2014

Illinois State Director Roger Halleen said he first learned he could do restaurant fundraisers when he saw a flyer advertising a Chili’s fundraiser for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Being a regular customer of Chili’s himself, he decided to bring the flyer into the restaurant and ask how he could do the same for PAN.

In addition to creating flyers and asking PAN to send an email, Roger said he’s used social media, local newspapers, and support groups to get the word out. He also mails about 50 flyers to different doctor’s offices and asks them to distribute the information to their patients.

Roger has now done three fundraisers with Chili’s, as well as one with Dairy Queen. When asked what advice he has for others considering organizing a restaurant fundraiser, he said “Do it! This is really an easy thing to do. It might not raise a lot of money but I believe that every little bit will help, and this is also a good way to get started or break the ice if you are new to fundraising.”

He also encouraged PAN advocates to fundraise as another way to give back to the organization and support important events like the PAN Forum. “I believe first and foremost that if you believe in the organization enough to volunteer for it that you should want to see it become the best it can be,” he said.

Advocate: Cheri Mansfield

Restaurant: Sweet Tomatoes in Clackamas, OR | More info:

Amount Donated: In progress…

Oregon Assistant State Director Cheri Mansfield first found out about Sweet Tomatoes’ “funraising” opportunity when she noticed a sign at the table while there for dinner. She and husband, Oregon State Director Kevin Mansfield, are regular customers and she said she immediately thought of PAN when she saw the sign.

Like Myra and Roger, Cheri enlisted PAN’s help to get the word out in her local community, but she also used Facebook, word of mouth, and personal emails to people she knew to encourage them to go out to eat and support PAN.

For this fundraiser, Sweet Tomatoes agreed to donate a portion of the proceeds for three nights. In hindsight, Cheri said that it would have been more effective to focus on one night and hopes to do another one with that strategy in mind. Now that she has one fundraiser under her belt, Cheri is looking forward to thinking of new ways to promote future ones and continue to support PAN in her efforts.

“We were recipients of scholarships to go to Washington, DC for the PAN Forum in February,” she said. “It was wonderful, and I am very thankful that the funds were available for me to take advantage of the opportunity.  Now we want to give back!”

Advocate: Adrienne O’Neill

Restaurant: Saltus River Grill in Beaufort, SC

Amount Donated: $3,450 in 2012

In August 2012, South Carolina State Director Adrienne O’Neill was contacted by a public relations (PR) agency that wanted to organize a fundraiser at a local restaurant for Parkinson’s disease and wanted to enlist her help. With the assistance of the PR agency, Adrienne not only helped organize a successful restaurant fundraiser but also asked other local businesses to donate goods and services. Golf packages, jewelry, antiques, dance lessons and other items were then auctioned off, totaling $3,450 for PAN.

While Adrienne realizes that not everyone has access to a PR agency to help with their event, she encourages people to use their connections to help promote the fundraiser. For example, Adrienne asked a fellow support group member to print the flyers through her job. 

Adrienne said she’s eager to do the event again and is confident that she will get similar results. When asked if she had any tips for others, she said that people should think beyond restaurant proceeds and encourage restaurant staff and community members to be active in the planning process.

“Count on working hard and having to be very well organized,” she said. “But most of all enjoy yourself. It’s so much fun to earn money and give it away to a remarkable organization such as PAN.”

Please consider a restaurant fundraiser in your community! If you have any questions, contact Christopher Vance, director of development, at [email protected] or 202-638-4101 x108.

Date originally posted: July 3, 2014.