Getting the Most out of a Bull Roast
by Danielle Catalano
To raise money for its new irrigation system, a Maryland high school booster club reorganizes a popular bull roast fundraiser.
After years of improper maintenance, the irrigation system at the Carroll County School District's multi-purpose athletic field in Eldersburg, Md., was in such dire shape that by the end of the 2004-05 school year, crews were hosing the field by hand and hoping that laws of gravity would prevail in draining the field. The interim athletic director at Liberty High school took notice and started researching maintenance options. Unfortunately, the irrigation system was beyond repair, and to replace it would cost the school district close to $20,000.
The school district didn't have the money to spend, so the interim athletic director asked the Liberty Athletic Boosters, nicknamed the Lionbackers, if it would financially assist with the project. Since facility maintenance is a mission of the booster club, the group agreed. Approximately $6,000 was left over from the previous school year's concession sales, and similar profits were forecasted for the 2005-06 school year. To make up the difference, the club decided to host a bull roast. Similar roasts had been held in the community years ago, but as the methods of fundraising evolved, the bull roasts stopped.
This 27,000-resident suburb of Baltimore is close-knit, and the opportunity to restart the fundraiser with a newly organized group of 220 active members was a chance the Lionbackers did not want to pass up. The booster club spent five months preparing for the bull roast, which profited $5,600. In May, the Liberty Athletic Boosters gave the school district a total of $18,344 toward the irrigation project. Because of its success, the bull roast became one of the club's annual fundraisers. Here's how the Lionbackers brought back the bull.
First Things First
A bull roast is not a pig roast. There is no rotisserie-style cow spinning over an open flame on an extra-large spit. Instead, a bull roast is the term used to describe a formal, yet casual-attire community dinner where various cuts of meats are served as the main course, says Luanne Weaver, Vice President of the Liberty Athletic Boosters. Side dishes and hors d'oeuvres complement the meatthey can range from the simplest of salads to the most debauch of culinary cuisine.
Although food is the main feature of a bull roast, there are five additional components that make any type of roast successful: communication, location, entertainment, time, and raffles. Two of the booster club's eight committeesthe bull roast committee and silent auction committeeworked diligently preparing for this event. The bull roast committee was in charge of the location, entertainment, and food, while the silent auction committee was responsible for soliciting businesses for donations and running the silent auction and drawings that took place throughout the evening. "Everyone was in sync with each other, which was very helpful in planning this," says Weaver.
She advises that when preparing for any type of roast or dinner, the focus should be on location, entertainment, and foodin that order. "The very first thing is to find your location and book it immediately," Weaver states. "Your location has to be large enough to fit as many people as you want to attend, plus room for the tables, chairs, deejay or entertainment, and the food."
For boosters, that meant finding a place that could hold over 200 people, a number based on the previous bull roast. "Luckily for us, this was pretty quick," says Weaver. "A member of our booster club also belongs to the American Legion, so we were able to rent the Legion's hall at a discount."
The date of the roast should be discussed at this time. The Lionbackers' bull roast was held Wednesday, January 25, 2006. Weaver says the club wanted the event to be held after the holidays because they believed that between late January and mid-February, the holiday excitement is over and people start getting bored.
When the committee went to reserve the hall, all dates in that time frame were booked except the 25th. A $100 deposit reserved the hall, and the committee moved onto booking the entertainment. This, too, was easily accomplished as committee members wanted to hire one particular local deejay who specializes in large parties.
Deciding what to do about the food took the longest to research. Due to the size of the event, the fundraising committee chose to have its bull roast catered, but to keep costs down, Weaver says that club members provided desserts. The committee then talked about the menu, and agreed to serve two types of meat (sliced beef and turkey), one seafood item, vegetable side dishes, baked ziti, soup, cheese and fruit appetizers, and vegetables with dip.
Next, the group interviewed several catering companies to see who best met their needs and price range. The committee ultimately selected Kevin's Katering. "We chose Kevin because everyone loves his food, he's local, he worked the basketball banquet, and most importantly, he has a daughter who attends our school," says Weaver.
The committee then turned its focus to the decorations. An "Irrigation" theme was chosen in honor of the fundraising cause, and the hall was outfitted in blue and goldLiberty's school colors. Artistically designed hoses and shovels served as centerpieces, and an area floral store donated its time to help the committee.
Silent Auction Activities
The main festivities of the bull roast included a silent auction, raffles, and drawings. Items for these smaller fundraisers were gathered through business and team parents' donations. During the first week of December, the silent auction committee created a donation form that stated the purpose for the solicitations and tax-deduction information. Following the interim athletic director's approval of the form, the group visited companies primarily within a five-mile radius of the school, although a few were located as far as 20 miles away.
"We found out that it's better to approach managers face-to-face and talk about our cause, rather than just mailing a form, hoping they'd read it, and contribute something," says Weaver. Over a six-week period, more than 75 companies were solicited, leading to more than 100 contributions. Some of the items donated included gift certificates from a local bed and breakfast, Hippodrome movie tickets, and Hopz party rentals.
For their part, the Lionbackers' team parents were asked to coordinate gifts from the teams they represented. Some teams created wine-and-cheese gift baskets, while others offered team-autographed equipment, such as a volleyball signed by each player of the 2005 state runner-up girls' volleyball team. One parent even made a Liberty-theme blanket.
During this time, Weaver visited Great Moments in neighboring Westminster, a consignment store that specializes in sports memorabilia for non-profit fundraising. Per company policy, the booster club was allowed to purchase items, and anything that didn't sell could be returned. Ten items were purchased, including photographs signed by Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, Juan Dixon, as well as a signed Ray Lewis Super Bowl XXXV photograph.
In all, 35 items were auctioned, and 50 items went toward the raffle and door prizes. (Tickets for these drawings sold at two for $5.) The most popular items of the silent auction were the signed volleyball, an autographed soccer ball from Liberty's 2005 men's state championship team, and the bed and breakfast gift certificate. The silent auction lasted over three hours, bringing in over $3,500.
Get Your Tickets!
To attend the bull roast, an attendee needed two things: to be at least 18-years-old and to purchase a $30 ticket, which helped to cover the catering bill, hall rental, and deejay fee. The final ticket price was determined by estimating the amount of money the auction and drawings would raise, the fact that the American Legion's hall permitted a maximum of 230 patrons, and how much money was left to be raised for the irrigation system. A $5 profit was made per ticket.
Advertising for their bull roast began two months prior to the event. Although ads were placed in the local paper, flyers were handed out during all home basketball games, and posters adorned the high school gymnasium, Weaver feels that the best form of advertising for this particular fundraiser is personal communication.
"About a month before the bull roast, we started to get concerned with the small number of tickets sold," Weaver says. "So one Saturday, we made some A-frame posters and placed them by gas stations all over the area. The next day we had to take down all the signs because we sold out. I think people saw the signs and just talked to each other about coming. Word-of-mouth works well in a community like ours."
As mentioned earlier, the event was a success, and a new irrigation system is in the process of being installed. When the Liberty Athletic Boosters gathered in September this year to discuss plans for the 2007 bull roast, they discussed what could be done differently to make the roast even more successful. According to Weaver, changes include a new venue, more menu options, and a revamped silent auction.
Because of the sell-out crowd and the number of inquiries about next year's bull roast, the location for the fundraiser will be at a popular family restaurant called Michael John's, which can hold about 30 more people than the American Legion hall. The restaurant will also be catering the affair with a minor menu change. "The food was great last year, but some people wanted more seafood," Weaver says, "so, we're having a more 'surf-n-turf' style buffet next year."
As for the silent auction, Weaver says the committee is overhauling how it solicits businesses and coordinates the auction's schedule. "We really didn't know what to expect last year, and with almost 40 items being auctioned, that may have been too much," she says. "We can't keep hitting up businesses for donations, or they just won't want to give next time. Also, with that many items, it took longer to run. The auction was supposed to end at 10, not 10:30. By the time winners were announced, some people had left."
She says the committee's goal is to solicit no more than 25 items for the silent auction, and 20 items for the raffle and door prizes. The committee will also start asking for donations in October rather than December. "At times, it got to be a bit crazy doing this during the holidays."
The final topic discussed were the goals of the 2007 bull roast. The Lionbackers will focus their efforts on raising enough money for their four $500 scholarships to two male and female senior student-athletes, as well as adding more funds to its reserves for future facility needs, such as scoreboards and gymnasium seating.
Weaver is excited about next year's event because of how much buzz has been created about it from the club's new Web site, which officially launched this September. "I love it because parents can read updates about it at work or wherever they are and contact us immediately to learn how to help out," she says.
Her enthusiasm has been further heightened by a recent comment made when she went to reserve the restaurant. "When we went to book the bull roast for next year, the manager at Michael John's said that most businesses the weekend before the Super Bowl are pretty much dead," she says. "People just aren't doing anything and that they're resting until the gameso it's definitely a good time of the year to get people together."
For more information about the Liberty Athletic Boosters' and its bull roast, please visit: www.libertyathletics.com.