BlogFundraising What are the Most Profitable Fundraisers? 24 Ideas + 8 Top Tips! Fundraising What are the Most Profitable Fundraisers? 24 Ideas + 8 Top Tips! Author: Sonia Urlando June 13, 2023 Contents 🕑 17 min read Fundraising is one of the most exciting ways to bring in revenue for your organization. They bring together your community, raise awareness for your cause and leave plenty of room for creativity! But what are the most profitable fundraisers? And how do you turn your ideas into reality? Here’s a detailed list of the 24 most profitable fundraising ideas—and 8 key tips to simplify the fundraising experience! Looking for even MORE fundraising ideas? Check out: How to Fundraise in 13 Steps: Why it Matters + The Software You Need 25+ Cheap Fundraising Ideas For Nonprofits On A Budget 15 Quick & Easy Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits and Clubs 10+ Unique Fundraising Ideas to Boost Awareness—and Revenue! Club Fundraising Ideas: Engage Your Membership & Community 8 Tips for Running Fundraisers That Make a Lot of Money As you’ll quickly see when we get to the fundraising ideas section of this article, there are countless ways to raise money. But there are also many factors that determine if your event actually ends up being profitable! A huge part of this comes down to planning and execution. No matter what kind of event or campaign you’re running, the most profitable fundraisers are backed by careful and creative preparation. Here are 8 best practices in mind to set yourself up for success: 1. Build an ironclad fundraising team Starting a fundraiser is far easier when you’re working with a team! Before you even decide which fundraiser idea you want to go with, start recruiting. Invite people such as: Fellow staff members Passionate volunteers Board members Not only will the team be able to help you brainstorm ideas, but you’ll also get the chance to plan something that leverages their unique skills and talents. 2. Simplify your fundraising Fundraising isn’t a one and done activity—it’s something you’ll have to do on a regular basis to keep bringing in revenue. That’s why one of the best things you can do is create a fundraising strategy that’s: Straight-forward Repeatable Sustainable Not going to burn you out Instead of planning elaborate campaigns and causing stress for everyone involved, keep things simple—you can always adjust and make small improvements next time. Like we said, the most successful nonprofit fundraisers are ones that come with a sturdy plan! Set yourself up with a fundraising calendar that you can re-use and modify again and again. Plus, if it spans the full year, you’ve just saved yourself a bunch of organizing in the future. 3. Use the right tools Technology has made fundraising far easier and more convenient than it’s ever been. With the best fundraising software at your disposal, you can: Make donating simple as a few clicks Reach new supporters across the web Instantly process credit card payments Automate data entry Effortlessly analyze your results Fundraising tools can give you some serious return on investment. While you might need to put in an upfront cost, the time and manual work you save will earn you back some labor hours—and creative juice for those profitable fundraising ideas! 4. Create (and track against) a budget What are the most profitable fundraisers? Ones that don’t put you in the red! It’s true that you often need to spend money to raise money, but it’s also easy to go overboard with your spending if you don’t keep track of it. Even if you run fundraisers that make a lot of money day of, it won’t feel good to look at your expenses and see you barely broke even! Create a fundraising budget with details on: How much you have to spend What exactly you’ll spend it on How much you’re aiming to raise Following a set budget will help you stay within a reasonable CPDR (cost per dollar raised) and make sure you meet your fundraising goals. 5. Know your audience One key part of learning how to ask for donations is knowing exactly who it is that you’re talking to! You could choose any of the ideas we go through in this article or our ebooks, but the best ones will resonate with your community, and speak to their values, interests and lifestyles. That’s why it’s important to know your audience—who are they, what do they like,and what’s important to them? For example, if you know most of your donors are over the age of 60, perhaps a fully virtual fundraiser or a video game tournament is not your best choice! The most successful nonprofit fundraisers are ones that make your audience feel proud to support you. A fun and relevant event will show them they’re in the right place! 6. Communicate a clear goal Prospective donors will be much more likely to support your organization if you establish a specific goal (for example, to raise $10,000). Announcing a deadline will also create a sense of urgency and motivate people to help you reach the goal in time. Shout that goal loud and clear on your: Social media accounts Donate page Email campaigns Donor mail Making it a race to the finish line can inspire people to donate, donate, donate! 7. Build a multichannel approach to fundraising Wherever possible, use all the channels available to you. This includes both how you market your fundraiser (direct mail, email, social media, donation website, etc) and how people make the donation (via check, online, over the phone, etc). When someone sees your campaign multiple times across different platforms, they’ll be much more likely to remember it and take action. Plus, people can choose how they make the donation—no one will change their mind about donating because the process is inaccessible to them. Fundraisers that make a lot of money should be visible EVERYWHERE, and simple to give to! 8. Show impact Inspire people to donate by sharing the impact they’ll help your organization create. Include both your past accomplishments, as well as how you’re planning to spend the new funds when you reach your goal. 28 of the Most Profitable Fundraising Ideas If you’re hoping to raise a lot of money (and you’ve got a lot of volunteers on hand to help!) consider trying one of these profitable fundraising ideas: 1. Golf Tournament Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$$ Like a fun run, golf tournaments can be simple to coordinate with an experienced golf course manager, or as complicated as a PGA event. And, just like runners, golfers love to golf! Set up drink stations around the course and have the tips go to charity. Be sure to do longest-drive competitions, hole-in-one on the greens and even raffle off some golf swag. Go big or go simple, but golfing for a cause is always a good bet. Check out this charity golf tournament from the Nipissing First Nation as an example! All proceeds from the NFN Charity Golf Tournament helps support the Nipissing First Nation Food Bank and Fire Department Victim Relief Fund. After the tournament, golfers attend a dinner with gifts and prizes, as well as a 50/50 draw and silent auction. Challenges to Consider: Renting the course could be very expensive, so start inquiring early. Like we said—the most successful nonprofit fundraisers don’t pile up the expenses too high! The Best Time to Do This: Most outdoor golf courses open in the spring and stay open until early fall. Just try not to have it at the same time as another golf tournament, or your potential attendees will be too busy watching to play! 2. Beer / Wine / Food Festival Overhead Cost: $-$$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$$ Hook people with what they love: delicious food and drinks. Rent a large lot and sell space to local vendors (food trucks, anyone?) with an array of yummy offerings to give your attendees a taste of the community. Adding a stage and engaging musical guests encourages people to stay and keep eating and drinking throughout the day. Challenges to Consider: Space is key with festivals. Make sure you pick an area with ample room for all your vendors. Festivals also tend to get really messy, don’t skimp on the trash bin rentals. You always need more than you think you will. Having water readily available is also key, especially if you’re selling alcohol. The Best Time to Do This: People love to hang out at festivals whenever the weather is nice, so late spring, summer, and early fall are all solid options. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: You’ll need to secure lots of different vendors with diverse food or drink offerings. 3. Fashion Show Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ Give a platform to local, up-and-coming designers and also get the word out there about your cause. Be sure to have clothing for purchase where a portion goes to you, to fully leverage your social media channels to preview the event and to get your models out there selling tickets to the fashion show! The University of Toronto’s Charity Fashion Show is a student-run non-profit with intentions to drive action and create an inclusive space, ultimately breaking down stigmas attached to mental illness. Their creativity goes to a cause—and shines on social media! Challenges to Consider: You will need a runway, dressing room and audience area as well as concessions. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Local designers are your greatest resource! Your local theatre might also be willing to provide a venue. 4. House Party Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 2 Expected Return: $$$ Host a good old-fashioned party! For a slight fee, participants can get one free drink or snack and then can pay for more. For extra fun, it can be themed or done at a specific time of year. Challenges to Consider: Make sure volunteers are prepared to cut people off if it’s getting too rowdy, and get people to register in advance so you know how much food and alcohol to have on hand. Licensing laws might also apply. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Consider partnering with a local bar or brewery to get kegs at a discounted rate. 5. Concert Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$$ We’re not just talking a big name benefit concert here. Even small organizations can ask talented community members or local bands if they would donate some performance time. Be sure that these performers are suited to your target audience! Also consider asking a children’s performer, because kids love concerts and parents love getting their kiddos out of the house and moving. Challenges to Consider: The cost of a venue may be high, but try asking a local bar or restaurant if they’ll donate their stage for the evening. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Bars may be more willing to host in exchange for a drink minimum for attendees. 6. Carnival Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$$ Carnivals are one of the most fun events for the whole family. With great food, rides, games, contests and performances, a carnival’s got something for everyone. Ride, bounce house and other attraction rentals can be expensive, so consider asking local performers and community members to lead activities to lower some costs. Challenges to Consider: Depending on the activities you plan to offer, safety of the rides and games is a major concern. Make sure you are working with a reputable carnival attraction rental company with a solid insurance policy. The Best Time to Do This: Carnivals are typically best in late spring and throughout the summer. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: You’ll be working closely with local food vendors and performers. To make it easier on the organizational front, consider partnering with an extant carnival happening in your area. 7. Casino Night Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$$ A casino night provides a great reason for people to come and cut loose for a great cause. The possibility of winning a little cash won’t hurt ticket sales either. Challenges to Consider: Most people don’t just have casino games laying around, so you’ll likely need to use a party rental company. Some offer off-peak rental prices. You’ll also need to organize a large enough space, such as a community center, and figure out which food and drinks you’re offering. Local gambling laws in your area might also affect this event. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Consider partnering with a local restaurant to host. 8. Charity Theater Event Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$$ Join forces with a local theater to host an event surrounding a new show. You can build hype for the theater, the show and your charity all at once! This might sound odd, but the most profitable fundraisers should actually go beyond the cash—relationship-building is invaluable! Challenges to Consider: This is a slightly easier option than organizing your own play, but you’ll need to work closely with your partner organization. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Connect with a local theater to share your vision and cause. 9. Black Tie BBQ Gala Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ Instead of your average formal gala with fancy food, host an event with inexpensive food and decor. You can still have your attendees dress up for the evening, but the decorations and dishes will be low-end. You can tell your donors that you’re putting as much of the money as possible towards the cause—and take some fun photos of people sitting in plastic lounge chairs while wearing gowns! Challenges to Consider: Getting people to pay gala prices for low-end food isn’t easy, so make sure your messaging really sells the heart of your cause and impact the proceeds will have. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: You can save even more money, by asking a school, community center or religious institution to host for free. 10. Lip Sync Competition Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 2 Expected Return: $$ The time has come for you to lip sync… for a cause! A lip sync competition is bound to be silly fun. Give your community a chance to show off their performance skills for a group of local judges and provide a prize donated from a local business and you’ll be packing ’em in. Challenges to Consider: Remember you’ll have to host somewhere with a good sound system. Consider also including small prizes for categories like “Best Dancer”. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. 11. Poker Tournament Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ A little friendly competition can boost your event to a whole new level with cash buy-ins and a cash prize. You can take a portion of the ticket sales as well as sell concessions and if it comes down to a real nail-biter, your event could become the stuff of legends. Challenges to Consider: Check out the gambling laws in your state… you wouldn’t want to be surprised! The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. 12. Board Game Tournament Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 2 Expected Return: $$$ Get a great event host and make sure your rules are clear, and you’re sure to have a great time at your tabletop game tournament. Charge an entry fee, and you could even make a game library the grand prize! Challenges to Consider: Ask community members to donate board games to keep costs low. Make sure you’ve arranged for some fun judges to determine the winners at each station. Rather than hosting a tournament, you could also just have a casual board games night where community members can drop in to play whatever they want. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Consider connecting with a board game cafe or bar since they’ll already have everything you need for the event—and sweeten the pot with a food or drink minimum for attendees! 13. Video Game Tournament Overhead Cost: $-$$$ Complexity to Plan: 2 Expected Return: $$$ Get a variety of games and systems together and start playing! Make sure you have a good variety of games, including some new ones that your audience might not have tried (if anyone has a VR set, now’s the time to pull it out!). Challenges to Consider: Ask community members to donate video games and loan you some controllers to keep costs low. You’ll also need to make sure you have enough gaming systems to support attendance, which could also be loaned by community members. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Your community might already have some unwanted games to donate (or loan). 14. Celebrity Jeopardy Night Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ For a twist on the typical trivia night, get local celebrities to participate and charge admission to watch them struggle! As an added bonus, have one of the categories relate back to your mission so that the audience gets to know you a little better at the same time. Challenges to Consider: Consider arranging a partnership with a local bar to host it. You’ll also need to arrange it far in advance to compensate for your participants’ busy schedules. Newlywed Game Night Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ Separate couples at the beginning, and have half of each couple stay in the room while the other half leaves. Get their answers to a variety of questions, and then have their partner try to guess the same answer! Depending on how many questions and couples you have, this can go on all night. Challenges to Consider: A bar or restaurant might be your best bet for a venue. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. 15. Let’s Make a Deal Night Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ In this classic game show-inspired night, audience members are randomly selected to try and make a deal with the host—without knowing if the item they’re potentially trading for is of lower or higher value. Challenges to Consider: Make sure everyone who attends knows they have a chance of being selected as the trader…. and that you have a lot of wacky prize ideas! The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Ask local businesses to donate items in exchange for publicity. 16. Car Show Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ Set up a car show to raise money in a few different ways. Auto exhibitors will pay a fee to display their cars and you can add on raffles, prize drawings and concession stands. Consider charging participants a fee to vote for their favorite car(s), and then present “People’s Choice” awards to the exhibitors. Challenges to Consider: You’ll need a large venue conducive to showing lots of cars, and permits for selling food and alcohol. This event might also take a lot of volunteers to take tickets, sell food and coordinate with the car vendors. The Best Time to Do This: This event may be best at a large outdoor lot, so consider warmer months. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Auto exhibitors and owners are your key partners for this event! 17. Haunted House Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ It’s not difficult to transform even the most friendly of homes into spooky haunted houses with the right decorations and frightening actors. Ask community members to help you hang some spiders and then put on their creepiest costumes to help with your event. Challenges to Consider: Your volunteers will have to be well briefed on how to be scary (but not too scary!). You’ll also need to gather enough costumes and supplies to make the haunted house truly terrifying. The Best Time to Do This: Before Halloween, of course! 18. My Favorite Things Night Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$ Remember when Oprah gave away her favorite things and audience members went wild? Well, gather your local business community and have them donate 1-50 of their “favorite things.” Sell tickets to this special event where under every chair is a number. As the “things” are profiled (free advertising for the business!), you list the numbers of the folks who get to take home that particular thing! The best news–everyone can walk away with something. The better news—one or two lucky winners will end up with one of everything. Challenges to Consider: Securing donations can be a challenge, but start early and really sell businesses on your vision and cause. The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Local businesses are the MVPs for this event. 19. Hot Air Balloon Festival Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 4 Expected Return: $$ Who doesn’t love watching balloons soar up into the air? Events like the RiseUp! Festival provide a great spectacle and if you can somehow secure a balloon with your logo, it would be great airborne publicity! Challenges to Consider: Partner with a local hot air balloon festival to get donations for this one—unless you’re a large organization with the budget to match, organizing this yourself probably isn’t one of the most profitable fundraisers. The Best Time to Do This: Summer or late spring, so that it’s sunny out and the balloons can be seen by all. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: A hot air balloon festival in your area. 20. Lawn mower Races Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 3 Expected Return: $$$ There are several lawn mower racing clubs around the US, all centering around racing these machines against each other. Why not organize your own version? Depending on your region, there may be laws governing this kind of racing. Challenges to Consider: Confirm with local authorities that you’re allowed to organize it (or piggyback on another organization’s race). The Best Time to Do This: Whenever the weather is nice, so late spring to mid fall is ideal. 21. Regional Food Festival Overhead Cost: $$$ Complexity to Plan: 4 Expected Return: $$$$ Show your local pride with vendors offering the foods and drinks that your community members love. Add some local entertainment and you’re sure to have a huge success on your hands! Many of the most profitable fundraisers are ones that attendees leave with a full belly. Challenges to Consider: Space is key with festivals. Make sure you pick a space with ample room for all your vendors. Festivals also tend to get really messy, don’t skimp on the trash bin rentals. You always need more than you think you will. The Best Time to Do This: People love to hang out at festivals whenever the weather is nice, so spring/summer and early fall are all solid options. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: You’ll need to secure lots of different vendors with diverse food/drink offerings. Look to locals’ favorite offerings. 22. Talent Show Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 2 Expected Return: $$ Talent shows are not just for middle school (although kiddos definitely love them)! People of all ages love a chance to show off. Get yourself an engaging MC and your event is sure to be a hit. Challenges to Consider: Be sure to secure and check all the necessary equipment prior to the event. No one likes a screechy mic! The Best Time to Do This: Anytime. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Schools and religious institutions almost alway have stages and microphones already, so it’s worth asking them to donate their space for an evening for your event. 23. Pub Crawl Overhead Cost: $$ Complexity to Plan: 2 Expected Return: $$$ Plan a route with local breweries or bars, and get walking! You can also get participants to dress up in costume or follow a theme so that they all stick together. Challenges to Consider: Make partnerships with local bars or breweries beforehand in exchange for a drink minimum or part of the proceeds. The Best Time to Do This: Beer is great any time of year, but this event would probably be most successful over the summer when your patrons can hang out on patios! It could also be good around Oktoberfest, when there may already be promotions or events happening. Sponsoring or Partnering Organization: Partner with local bars or breweries beforehand in exchange for a drink minimum or part of the proceeds. 24. Flag Football Tournament Overhead Cost: $ Complexity to Plan: 2 Expected Return: $ This type of event can work equally well with Ultimate Frisbee or any other casual sport that doesn’t require a lot of training. Charge admission for teams or individuals to register, and get ready for a day of outdoor fun! Challenges to Consider: You’ll need to thoroughly promote your event (try talking to local leagues or your community center) to make sure you get enough people. Keep participants hydrated by having water on hand (and maybe snacks that can be purchased too). The Best Time to Do This: Late spring or early summer—you don’t want anyone to overheat! Having a Great Time With The Most Profitable Fundraisers What are the most profitable fundraisers? The ones where you gain a boost of revenue, great publicity and memories to last for years to come. At the heart of every nonprofit organization is a mission that truly matters, and your fundraisers are what make it possible to support your beneficiaries. With some careful planning, creativity and a foolproof budget, your fundraiser is sure to be a hit! 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