Guests at dinner

Sending more books through dinners

21st March 2018 | Blog

Supporters like Community Ambassador Jane Penson always amaze us with their passion to help us send more books to readers around the world. For the past three years, Jane has held a fundraising dinner for an increasingly large number of guests to mark World Book Day.

We caught up with her to find out about this year’s dinner – her biggest yet – and what keeps her doing it year on year.

Jane and Alan
Jane and her husband Alan

Can you tell us a bit about this year’s dinner?

The hall was bigger than before but with almost 60 guests it felt pleasantly full and the atmosphere was cheerful and full of chatter. The red table cloths and Book Aid International pictures on a huge screen made the hall very colourful.

There was a second hand book stall stocked with books brought by the attendees on the day. We sold 30 books in total for £5 each.

We had canapés before we sat down and a two-course buffet dinner including a delicious lamb tagine.

The evening always includes a literary quiz which tables complete over the course of the evening. It is very popular and encourages people to move around the room because they have to go looking for the next question sheet.


The hall
Jane used red tablecloths and a PowerPoint presentation of images to add colour to the hall


How do you go about preparing for such a multifaceted event?

I think about it on and off during the year. In March just after the last dinner, I book the hall for next year, debrief with people who came, send out thank yous and payments, count up the amount raised and so on.

Then the following January/February, I begin putting the quiz together, sending out invitations and collecting ticket payments, briefing the caterer, getting table cloths etc organised, doing table plans, hiring glasses.

You put in a lot of work. What motivates you to keep going?

I believe in the power of education and without books education is almost impossible. In my opinion the only way people, especially women, are going to change their lives and get out of poverty is by education. If I can help, I will.

Book stall
The evening included the chance to purchase second hand books

Tell us about your guests.

We had 57 guests in total and 12 of them were new. My brother in law came for the first time and brought some guests with him. Some returning attendees brought a few new people too. Two new guests also came from the local rotary club which I have recently joined.

So that means 75% were returnees. They come each year because they enjoy the meal, the quiz and the company – a lot of people are local and they know each other. I don’t do a raffle, which could be seen as a missed opportunity but I choose to let people donate extra money only if they wish to. There are certainly some people who appreciate that they have donated in the ticket price and that is all that is expected of them.

Tables of guests
57 guests attended this year’s dinner

How much did you raise in total?

£2,023 including the tax benefit of Gift Aid. That’s enough to send 1,011 brand new books – 17 per guest!

That’s amazing, thank you so much! Do you hope to continue the dinner in future years?

I plan to do it again in 2019 but I don’t intend to carry on growing it at the same rate. In 2016 we had 33 guests, in 2017 44 then then this year 57. I have been aiming for 60 so I am really pleased to have got to 57. I don’t want to go over 60 because it will become a different kind of event and it works really well as it is.


Huge thanks to Jane for her hard work and to all the guests who attended the dinner, what an amazing amount you raised!

If you’ve been inspired, take a look at the links below for more fundraising ideas and further information on becoming a Community Ambassador.

Start fundraising

Every £2 you raise will send another book

Find out more

You may also like

If you've been inspired by Jane, here are many more fundraising ideas. Together we can change lives through reading.
Read more >
Love what we do? Become a Community or Publisher Ambassador and help promote our work in your local community or work place!
Read more >
Meet some of the people who use the books you help to send and hear their stories, told in their own words.
Read more >