Cocktails for a Cause
Kathy and Kelly Fish have a fantastic backyard. With a covered outdoor kitchen, spacious patio, cozy firepit, and refreshing swimming pool, it was made to be a place for friends and family to have a great time.
Because it’s just how they are, the Fishes have given summer entertaining meaning. Finishing up their fourth year of Cocktails for a Cause, they’ve developed a tried, true, and downright enjoyable way to raise funds for their favorite Memphis non-profits.
Operating with the more-the-merrier premise, they are graciously sharing their formula for supporting children, art, social justice endeavors, and our city.
- Find a place to have a party. Kathy and Kelly use their backyard to host the cocktail parties. Look for a space that will allow 75 to 125 people to comfortably mingle. Make sure there is an indoor option or shade and fans to fight the heat (or firepits and heaters to fight the cold). Though guests can be tenacious (the first 2015 event was held with snow on the ground), you’ll have better success if the guests are comfortable.
- Pick your dates. Kathy and Kelly host an event one Friday each month April through October.
- Choose some worthy organizations. Kathy and Kelly chose organizations across a multitude of disciplines, that are doing something important in the community. They rarely repeat a beneficiary, preferring to spread the love. The benefiting organization is expected to share the workload — providing promotion, food, volunteers, and bartenders. Though she is approached by many organizations, Kathy feels that those with a matching donor have the greatest impact with this type of event.
- Craft signature cocktails. Kathy usually chooses or concocts two cocktails and gives them fun names that tie in with the benefiting organization.
- Plan for food and drinks. Kathy and Kelly contribute the liquor and mixers as their donation. The benefiting organization obtains the food — sometimes donated, sometimes purchased. Finger food platters or a few appetizers fit the bill nicely.
- Recruit celebrity bartenders. It might be a supporter or board member of the benefiting organization or a friend with some name recognition. This year’s events have seen everyone from Grizzlie’s announcer Rick Trotter to investigative reporter Andy Wise.
- Wrap in the benefiting organization. The non-profit has to be invested and the event’s success rests on the benefiting organization promoting through their available channels using fliers, word-of-mouth, and social media. Kathy says they’ve had many people come because they support one organization, but return again and again because they like the format and meeting the other guests.
- Invite the world, or at least the city. These parties can be a starter event for anyone heading to other Friday evening activities or an occasion to go out all unto themselves. Kathy says she thinks they’re popular in part because “they’re not too long and not too fancy.” It’s easy to bring a friend or another couple and stop in for 30 minutes or stay the entire two hours.
- Collect donations (and contact information for future parties). A table is set out at the entrance of the backyard, manned by volunteers from the benefiting organization. Guests are asked to donate what they want. The organizations that have Square typically collect $500 to $700 more than those that don’t.
- Give the spotlight to the beneficiaries. Whether it’s a few minutes for the executive director to speak or a performance by the dancers who benefit from tonight’s donations, this is an excellence chance to put a face with the name.
- Repeat. Over the past four years, Kathy and Kelly’s Cocktails for a Cause events have raised nearly $190,000 and helped more than 20 organizations.