Who doesn’t love ice cream? I mean, come on! I Scream, You Scream…We All Scream, right? That’s the reason for this post. If you are looking for a fundraiser that is spirited, well attended, and outright delicious, this just might be one for you to put on the calendar.

Ice cream fundraisers work great in late spring, summer and early fall when the weather’s warm. Whether in your backyard, community center or local park, this fundraiser is intended for the outdoors. Additionally, if you are able to connect your fundraiser with another event that is expected to draw a big crowd, that could save you the hassle of marketing the event on your own. Attaching ice cream to another outdoor event will elevate the day to a whole new level of fun, so most event coordinators are not going to object to your participation! However, if you plan on organizing your ice cream social as a stand-alone fundraising event, we highly recommend Saturday or Sunday afternoon as your target days since most families are looking for fun things to do on the weekend with their children.

Select Your Venue

You need to decide where your event will be held. Whether it’s in your backyard, at a local park, or at a retail location, be sure to talk with local businesses in your community to see if anyone would be interested in partnering with you or sponsoring your event. For example, a local ice cream shop may be willing to sponsor your event by splitting the profits with you 50/50 or by providing free ice cream and/or supplies as long as you advertise for them during the event. Other stores may be willing to donate a time where all sales go toward your fundraiser as long as the event is held at their store. Don’t be afraid to make some phone calls…or better yet, go in person, to meet with store managers to see what your options are before you determine the ins and outs of your event. The fewer expenses you have upfront means more funds raised in the end!

Now, here’s where you have to get creative as you dive into your planning. Once you determine location, you need to make some decisions regarding type of ice cream, toppings, servings (cones vs. cups), and price.

Choose Your Ice Cream

First, decide what KIND of ice cream you will provide. Here are three options to consider:

  1. Good old-fashioned ice cream where you make it yourself using the rock salt and an ice cream maker. If you go this route, be sure to test your recipe in advance to make sure you have a good product to serve.
  2. Yummy soft serve ice cream from a local ice cream shop.
  3. Ready-made ice cream from the store.

If you plan on using the old fashioned kind or store-bought ice cream, you will need to put your ice cream in containers and store in dry or salted ice in large coolers to prevent it from melting. Be sure to store it in a way to provide easy transport to the event location. (If you choose to use dry ice, be VERY careful as proper handling of dry ice is important to prevent skin damage. Be sure to keep all kids away!) If you have a soft serve mix that you wish to use, you will need to locate a soft serve ice cream machine or freeze the ice cream in an ice cream freezer. You may be able to locate a vendor or store that will allow you to borrow one for the day in exchange for advertising or a small fee. For example, Dairy Queen may allow you to use their machine for free as long as you use their cups, napkins, and spoons during the event. This is a win-win because now you don’t have to purchase those supplies!

Pick Your Toppings

For your toppings, we suggest offering a nice variety for guests to mix and match their favorite items. Here are some to consider:

  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Rainbow sprinkles
  • Mini marshmallows
  • Fruits: bananas, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, blueberries, kiwis
  • Chocolate syrup
  • Caramel syrup
  • Butterscotch syrup
  • Whipped cream
  • Candies (crushed): Oreo, Butterfinger, Kit Kat, Heath Bar, Twix
  • Reeses pieces and M & M’s
  • Peanuts
  • Gummy bears
  • Vanilla wafers

How Much To Charge

When it comes to price, it’s totally up to you. Here are a few ways that we’ve seen people do this:

  1. Set a price per person (for one serving). You could charge different prices for adults and children. Also, you could provide an All-You-Can-Eat ticket option for people who wish to have the option to come back for seconds…or thirds.
  2. Set a price per scoop.
  3. Ala mode. If you can round up some friends and family to help bake some pies or cakes prior to your event, you could charge for the baked items and then a price per scoop of ice cream on top.
  4. Donation only.

Regardless of which option you choose, or if you come up with a different method, we recommend that you have some cute eye-catching donation jars on each table to allow people to drop in some extra dollars here or there for your cause. To add to the experience, consider having a 50/50 drawing every 30 minutes or hour and including a silent auction.

Recruit Volunteers

Now, when it comes to volunteers, be sure not to skimp on this! Line up your volunteers in advance, with at least a month’s notice, and remind them again about a week before the event. You should ensure that you have adequate volunteers to help with scooping and toppings. The fewer people you have to assist with scooping, the greater your chance of having melted ice cream….and no one wants that, right? So make sure you have 2-3 people per bucket of ice cream to have a constant flow of people moving through the line so that you get through a bucket of ice cream quickly before the sun takes its toll. Also, you might even consider having other volunteers to help with toppings and fruit preparation. Adding the gourmet-effect of slicing fresh fruit being on site will wow your crowd.

Promote Your Ice Cream Social

Promoting your ice cream social is key. Whether you do it yourself or are part of another event, you want to be sure to get as much exposure as possible. Create an event page on Facebook and ask guests to RSVP, create a listing on Craigslist, ask to be included in your neighborhood newsletter and church bulletin, ask your small group and co-workers to help you promote the event, and post flyers at your work, church, school, and at the local ice cream shop if that’s where the event is being held. Be sure to include important details such as  date, time, location, and cost.

Last but not least, don’t forget to decorate appropriately with balloons, streamers, table cloth and adoption-related items, i.e. a framed image of your adopted child on the table. Consider having music playing in the background (or perhaps even live music if you have a friend or group who would be willing to play) and, if you expect a lot of families, consider getting an inflatable bounce house, having games and/or face painting. Kids love ’em. You can even try to get these donated. Also, as we mentioned earlier, you could include other fundraising activities such as raffles and silent auctions. The more effort you put into your event, the more money people will give! Get creative, hop on Pinterest for decorating ideas, and make your ice cream social an unforgettable occasion!  This fundraiser is going to be a blast!

Have you hosted an ice cream social fundraiser? If so, tell us about it. We’d love to share your story!

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Lori Resmer

Child Advocate. Entrepreneur. Fitness Junkie. Mommy and Wife. Lori is an adoption fundraising coach that provides creative strategies and resources that empower families to adopt without debt.

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