200+ Fundraising Ideas Proven to Raise More Donations For Your Cause

Tatiana Morand 17 August 2018 0 comments

fundraising ideas

Are you struggling to decide what to do for your next fundraiser?

Do you have a high target to hit, and just aren’t sure how to get there?

Whether you’re trying to raise funds for a nonprofit, club, or association, there’s a lot of pressure riding on you to find the best idea and to raise enough money to keep your organization going.

To help you out, I’ve created this comprehensive list of fundraising ideas that can suit any organization, no matter your type, time frame or budget.

These are all ideas I’ve heard of through working with thousands of other organizations over the years, proven to generate a positive return for your organization if they’re properly coordinated.

In this post, you can expect to see:

  1. The cost for each idea, with the lowest-cost fundraisers indicated by $ going all the way to $$$$ for the highest-cost fundraisers.
  2. The complexity for each idea, which is rated on a scale of 1 to 4. 1 indicates an easy fundraiser that’s quick to plan, and 4 indicates an event that takes a lot of coordination with different stakeholders to get up and running.
  3. The expected return for each idea, also indicated from $ to $$$$.
  4. Advice and practical tips from a variety of fundraising experts throughout the post to inspire you along your fundraising journey.

Finally, I’ve sorted the things to do for a fundraiser by type, so you can easily find the kind you’re looking for:


25 Contest Fundraising Ideas

Who doesn’t love a good contest? A little friendly competition is sure to get your supporters’ hearts racing and get them riled up to support your cause.

 

1. Grape Crushing Competition

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Two-person teams donate to have a space in this competition. The teams will compete against each other to see who can crush the most grapes. Crushing will take place in a half-barrel with points earned for the most creative stomping style. Heats take place hourly, and gold, silver, and bronze medals are given to winners of each heat. At the end of the day, a grand prize winner is chosen and awarded a trophy.

Challenges to Consider:

This is a tiring, messy activity — make sure registrants are prepared!

The Best Time to Do This:

This fundraiser is best during harvest season, which varies depending on which hemisphere you live in.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A winery near you might want the help or be willing to donate grapes.

 

2. Hockey Puck Shot

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

You could run this as a competition to hit a target from a set distance, or to score a set number of goals within a limited time. It can also be run with any other kind of sport, such as most baskets in basketball or the highest score in darts.

Challenges to Consider:

As long as you have a venue, you're good to go!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime works, but consider doing it around the time of playoffs for your chosen sport so that people are extra riled up!

 

3. Free-Throw Challenge fundraising ideas

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Put your skills to the test with a classic free-throw challenge. All you’ll need is some basketballs and hoops, but you may want to make it more interesting by having music, food and other games available. Winner could be awarded a prize or a trophy — or just pure, unadulterated community bragging rights.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure to coordinate a referee to monitor the challenge and declare a winner.

The Best Time to Do This:

This event could work anytime, but might be nice to do at an outdoor court during a warm weather month.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A local basketball team may let you host on their court in exchange for the support.


4. Pumpkin Carving Contest

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Invite people to pay a small fee to come carve a pumpkin and enter it into the competition. You could give them a limited time to challenge their skills, or take entries all day to encourage as many people as possible to take part. Set a selection of categories or awards for people to win, from Best Pumpkin Carved by a Child, to Scariest Pumpkin, or Most Original Design.  

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure you have enough pumpkins, and that children have adequate supervision.

The Best Time to Do This:

Before Halloween, of course!

 

5. Balloon Dart Toss

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Dart toss is a classic carnival game. Step it up by charging a small participation fee and offering a cool prize to the winners.

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to keep general dart safety in mind and ensure children are supervised.

The Best Time to Do This:

During a larger event.

 

6. Milk Jug Ring Toss

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

The milk jug ring toss is a classic carnival game. Paint your milk jugs with fancy colours to attract passers-by too!

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure you have enough rings in case a few get lost along the way.

The Best Time to Do This:

During a larger event.


7. Sharpshooter

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Run a shooting contest with prizes for the competitors who hit the most targets.

Challenges to Consider:

Look into your areas’ laws about the use of airguns before organizing or work with a local shooting range.

The Best Time to Do This:

If you’re planning on hosting it outside, spring or summer would be best. If you’re partnering with a shooting range, any time of year works.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Partner with a shooting range or set up a large field.

 

8. Pie in the Face Toss

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Charge students or office workers a fee to toss a pie at the face of their teacher or boss. Kids will get a real kick out of this one! People are sure to build up an appetite watching all that delicious “pie” get throw around. For extra donations, have some real pies ready for sale too.

Challenges to Consider:

Instead of wasting money and bakers’ time by tossing actual pies, just use aluminum pie tins filled with whipped cream.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, or if you’re part of a school, as an end-of-year celebration.

 

fundraising ideas9. Paper Airplane Toss

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Section off part of your parking lot (or other open space) into squares. Put donated prizes into each area and sell registration forms that can be turned into paper airplanes. Participants can toss their paper airplanes to win the prizes. For those who want another go, they can keep buying more forms, and keep making more planes!

Challenges to Consider:

Just make sure you have a wide open space available and you’ve picked a day with great weather. No one wants a field full of soggy planes.

The Best Time to Do This:

This event would work whenever the weather is nice.

 

10. Baby Photo Contest

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Have team members at your workplace display their baby pictures on a bristol board  and ask fellow employees (and perhaps even customers if you work in a store or restaurant) to pay $1 to vote for the cutest child. This is great for organizations who work with kids!

Challenges to Consider:

Remind everyone to bring in photos — it would be too bad if they forgot!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

11. Bedpan Water Race

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Have your employees or community members create teams and pay an admission fee. Each team will race around an obstacle course with a bedpan of water and the team with the most water still in the pan at the end wins a prize.

Challenges to Consider:

Just make sure you have a wide open space available and you’ve picked a day with great weather.

The Best Time to Do This:

Do this in the spring or fall when people are ready to run outside.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

This event would be great to raise money for a local hospital or nursing facility.

 

12. Buck-a-Pound Challenge

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Have members of your team join together for a weight loss challenge. Either have participants donate $5 for every pound lost and $10 for every pound gained in weekly weigh-ins, or find a sponsor to make a larger contribution (like $20) for every pound lost.

Challenges to Consider:

"Participants should have a place to weigh-in weekly. Alternatively, since some people find public weigh-ins stressful, you could appoint one person who is not participating in the challenge to record and report weigh-in progress. Finding a health-focused sponsor could also make this a more lucrative challenge.  

The Best Time to Do This:

Capitalize on #newyear #newme energy and start the challenge January 1st.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Reach out to local weight loss centers or gyms in your community that may be willing to support or sponsor your challenge.

 

13. Penny Wars

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Set up two teams with buckets, and challenge them to collect the most pennies. To sabotage the other team, they can encourage people to add other denominations to their bucket, which will count against their score. The team with the highest score wins, and your organization gets to keep the buckets of coins.

Challenges to Consider:

Set up a clear scoring system for how much each denomination is worth, and have a referee on hand to settle disputes.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

14. Cutest Pet Contest

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Everyone always thinks their own pet is the cutest, so why not give them a chance to show them off? Charge an entry fee for those participating, and you could also charge for tickets for those who just want to come by and watch some adorable animals.

Challenges to Consider:

Find an animal-friendly space, and perhaps a prize or rosettes for the winning pets. If getting animals to come to a particular space is too difficult, hold it online and have participants submit images of their pets instead!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

15. Photography Contest

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Invite the amateur and more skilled photographers in your networks to submit photos for a contest to take place during an event. Attendees can pay an entrance fee and then vote on their favorite piece. For a more low-impact version, hold it online and get users to submit using a hashtag!

Challenges to Consider:

Promote the contest well in advance so you get a lot of entries, and get permission from top entries to use them in your marketing materials.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Photography classes at a local college might be a good place to start promoting.

 

16. Diorama / Craft Contest

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

There are bound to be some creative members in your community, so give them a chance to show off their skills by advertising a diorama (or other craft) contest. Give participants a few weeks to prepare, and then have a day to show of their creations and judge the winner. You could charge for entries, and also a small entry fee for people wanting to come look at the finished results.

Challenges to Consider:

This is an activity that's great for kids, too... and if you make the theme of the contest something that relates back to your organization, you can potentially use the crafts created in publicity later.

The Best Time to Do This:

This is a good one for fall or winter, when people are likely to spend more time at home doing crafts.


17. Beer Pong / Quarters Tournament

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Invite participants to unleash their inner frat bro with a friendly pong tournament. All you need is a large table, ping pong balls and plenty of those those famously red cups. You can charge a small participation fee and offer a cash prize. Tossing those balls will naturally make people want to toss back a few cold ones, so make sure to have some beer and snacks for sale as well!

Challenges to Consider:

Depending on your location, you may need an alcohol permit.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

It would be worth connecting with local Greek organizations to see if they would support and volunteer at your event. Not only would their presence add some authenticity to the vibe, but you’d be helping them score those necessary community service credits for graduation!

 

18. Cornhole Tournament

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Cornhole is the perfect game for the no frills, no sweat summertime athlete. Determine the MVPs in your community with a laid-back tournament. You could charge a small entrance fee to the event with a cash or donated prize for the champion.  Cornhole also just wouldn’t make sense without a cold drink in your hand, so be sure to have lemonade and beers ready for sale!

Challenges to Consider:

Depending on your location and offerings, you may need an alcohol permit.

The Best Time to Do This:

Cornhole screams summer!

 

19. Dance-a-thon

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Participants collect donations from sponsors to take part in your dance-a-thon, with the last dancer standing (or anyone who makes it through the whole 24 hours) winning a prize. You'll need a large venue (maybe a school hall), refreshments, a team of volunteers, and maybe a DJ.

Challenges to Consider:

Because this is a long event, it takes several volunteers to keep it running smoothly, particularly since you'll need to ensure your dancers are sticking to the rules.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

20. Home Run Derby

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Players are given a time limit to hit as many homeruns as possible. The players with the most can then be put head to head for a grand final. You can charge people to enter the competition, and offer a prize for the winning hitter.

Challenges to Consider:

Just make sure you have a wide open space available and you’ve picked a day with great weather.

The Best Time to Do This:

Do this in the spring or fall when people are ready to relax outdoors.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Check with a baseball stadium near you, or even a local park, to see if you can book their space.

 

fundraising ideas21. Rubber Ducky Toss 

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Find a wide open space and get hold of a vast amount of rubber ducks. You could either set up a target, and award a prize to the person who manages to throw a duck to land the closest, or give an award for the duck that is thrown the furthest. Use sticky labels on the bottom of each duck to assign them a number, and note down each contestant's name and contact details against the number of their duck.

The Best Time to Do This:

Spring or summer, when participants will be happy to stand outside and chat as they throw ducks.


22. Guess the Jellybeans

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

People can pay $1 to guess how many jelly beans are in a large jar, but this baby shower classic can be taken up a notch by offering a cash or donated prize to the most astute guesser.

The Best Time to Do This:

Keep this one running for a few weeks to get the most entries, or hold it during a larger event.


23. Wacky Wagers

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

People donate to see wacky fundraising incentives that volunteers set. For example, people might donate $20 to see their boss dance through the centre of town in a tutu. This can be a fun way to bring your community together, and you can set competitions for who raises the most money with their incentive.

Challenges to Consider:

Take to social media to spread the word. This idea relies on people getting to hear about the hilarious incentives and be rewarded by seeing them fulfilled.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime!


24. Birthday Pool

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

If a member of your team is expecting, this contest builds on the excitement around a new baby whilst also raising money for your organization. Take bets on what date people think the baby will be born, with a cash prize for the winner. There are also websites where you can organize these contests, invite people to add their responses and calculate the winner - try babyhunch or Baby Bookie.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure the future mother is comfortable with this activity.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime someone is expecting.

 

25. Sandcastle Building Competition

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Do you live near a beach? Prove that sandcastles aren't just for kids anymore. You could also have different categories, such as a separate section for kids and one for adults, or 'Most Creative'. You can also sell cheap refreshments like freezies and pop so your competitors don't overheat.

Challenges to Consider:

If you live in a colder area, you could turn this into a snowman building contest instead! Or, for a winter twist, make it a gingerbread house contest, and sell the creations after for a sweet treat.

The Best Time to Do This:

Summer, of course!

fundraising ideasChris Baylis

President and CEO

The Sponsorship Collective

“Nonprofits spend too much time building sponsorship packages before reaching out to sponsors. The problem with this is that it requires the organization to make assumptions on behalf of sponsors (and those assumptions are always wrong). A related mistake is focusing those sponsorship packages on the cause or mission of the organisation, effectively turning the sponsorship package into a case for support…which simply does not work in the sponsorship space.

Instead, nonprofits should reach out to their sponsorship prospects, ask them for an advice visit (or discovery meeting) and use that information to build a sponsorship package. That’s right! The first time you meet your sponsor, you should NOT have a sponsorship package but you should be able to articulate clearly who your audience is and why a company might have interest in that audience.”



5 Ongoing Fundraising Ideas

Some fundraising ideas can be run as campaigns all year round, or can be integrated into larger campaigns. Check them out below!

 

1. Sponsorship Campaign

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 4

Expected Return: $$-$$$$

Although this isn't strictly an event, building a sponsorship package is a great ongoing fundraising idea to get businesses interested in any of your events is a key step when organizing any event. For more information, check out this guide on creating a sponsorship package.

Challenges to Consider:

Running a sponsorship drive can be complicated, but it's crucial to build support and recognition for all of your events, and to get recurring support.

The Best Time to Do This:

Prepare a sponsorship package before organizing your event.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Reach out to anyone that your organization thinks would be a good fit for a particular event or for your cause.

fundraising ideasChad Barger

Nonprofit Fundraising Consultant, Trainer & Coach

Productive Fundraising

“Too many nonprofits focus on finding event attendees, at the expense of finding more sponsors.  And their events suffer because of it.

Sponsors are more important than attendees. Sponsors allow you to generate more revenue than attendees.  And that’s why we’re holding this time consuming event in the first place. So often with events, we are focused on boosting and driving the number of attendees. "If we just sell 300 tickets, we'll be fine." "If we just can get these raffle tickets sold, we’ll be fine."  

But spending our time focusing on the sponsor side is really where we're going to be able to drive revenue and create more profitable events.  This gives us events that are actually worth the time that they take to pull off.

Yes, we need to work on attendees. We don't want it to be something that's well sponsored and only 20 people show up. Then we'd have sponsors that aren't thrilled, but it’s easy to fill a room with staff, volunteers and comps if needed.  So, let’s focus more on selling the $500 sponsorship than the $50 ticket. That’s how we drive revenue growth with events.”


2. Can by the Register

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

The can is another classic. All you’ll need is an engaging image that conveys a succinct message to catch customers’ eyes at the checkout counter. People are actually more generous with their loose change than you’d think.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to find a way to make your message stand out from the crowd.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Local grocery stores and small businesses are great places to ask about placing a can.

 

3. Grocery Store Registering

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$-$$$

Some grocery stores will partner with you to give a percentage of sales back. It depends on the place whether or not your supporters have to register with them, or if they can simply give you a percentage, but it's worth looking into.

Challenges to Consider:

This can be a great way to get a boost with donations in the short term, but it doesn't offer any opportunities for following up with the people who give.

The Best Time to Do This:

Shoppers tend to spend more around holiday seasons, so try to negotiate a partnership around Christmas or Thanksgiving. That way, the percentage you receive is likely to be higher too.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

This might work better with larger grocery store chains who already have a giving program in place.

 

4. Junk Donations

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Some items can't be resold, but can still bring a little profit in if you bring them to recyclers. Have community members drop off their used ink cartridges, dead electronic devices, scrap metal, and more, and you can then drop it off to get a few extra dollars.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll have to drop off the items yourself, and promote this ongoing fundraising idea well enough that your audience knows to bring stuff to you.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

5. Car Donation Program

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Organizations such as Car Donation Wizard or v-Dac make it easy for your supporters or you to donate unwanted used cars in exchange for a donation. This could be run as an annual event, or could simply be a program that you publicize every so often to remind your donors that it's  a possibility.

Challenges to Consider:

Most of these websites handle the donation for you, so once you've signed up with them they will arrange everything directly with the donor. Just be aware that the websites do take a cut out of the donation value, sometimes up to 50%.

The Best Time to Do This:

This can be run year round, with regular reminders to members so it’s at the top of their minds when they're looking to upgrade their car.

Sohini Baliga

Co-author of Steal Like a Fundraiser

“To keep volunteers engaged in your fundraisers, remember that it’s all about relationships. Who are they? What do they get out of being part of the cause? What part of it speaks to them? Get to know your volunteers. (Which helps in the “make it easy” part - if your volunteer is out in the ‘burbs, doing something in the heart of the city may not be feasible at 5 pm on a weekday or 8 am on a weekend, and vice versa.)

Finally, show them how they’re part of the impact. People volunteer to give back, to be of service, to make a difference. Whether they spend an hour answering phones or weeks helping with demo and reconstruction, thank them for their service — tell them how their time served a mission that is larger than us all. Sometimes that, more than anything else, is what makes people come back.”



70 Event Fundraising Ideas

Many of the classic fundraising ideas rely on big events. Here are all the ones we could find to help you out!

 

1. Open House

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$$

Collaborate with a local landmark or venue that isn't normally accessible to the public, and arrange a day when visitors can get a guided tour. You can sell tickets, and also offer a concession stand.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll have to work closely with the venue to meet any security requirements they might have, and keep in mind ways to make this event accessible to as many people as possible. You might also need to split proceeds with them, particularly if their staff are the ones giving tours.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, although if the venue requires any outdoor walking, the dead of winter might not be ideal.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You'll need to partner with the venue, such as a governmental building or museum.


2. Organize a Play

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 4

Expected Return: $$$

There are lots of scripts that are free to use, costumes can be sourced from thrift stores, and amateur dramatics societies are often looking for their next showcase. Sell tickets, programs, and concessions at the play you've put on, and give people a great evening out. You could even use it as a community project, or an opportunity for aspiring young actors to star on the stage for the first time (especially if your organization works with children or teenagers).

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to make sure you find enough actors and publicize it thoroughly to make the effort of organizing a play worth it.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You'll need a venue (as well as some theatrical advice) so partner with your local theater, drama society, or even an area school.

3. County Fair

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 4

Expected Return: $$$

Rather than organizing your own event, this is a chance to hop on someone else's bandwagon. Partner with the organizers of your local county fair to get a portion of the proceeds donated to your organization, or a portion of the earnings from one activity. You could even organize your own fair if you're feeling ambitious!

Challenges to Consider:

Of course, this event only works if there's a fair happening near you. You might also need to be a fairly (pardon the pun) well-recognized organization so that the fair is willing to partner with you, and be able to provide volunteers who can help with ticketing or running events.

The Best Time to Do This:

County fairs are generally held in the fall, so plan for that.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You'll need to partner with the city hall in your area or whatever local organization is arranging the fair.

 

Volunteer Recruitment Checklist

 

4. Relay

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Hold your organization's own version of the Relay for Life! It can be done though running, biking or even kayaking — whatever fits best with your demographic and your area.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to have a large enough space to host the relay (whether it's outdoors or a school gym). This might also mean you'll need to work with local authorities to block off a road if you want lots of visibility for your relay.

The Best Time to Do This:

Over the summer, when weather permits outdoor activities.

 

5. Treadmill Relay

Overhead Cost: $-$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

If you don't have the space to organize an outdoor relay, why not do it on treadmills instead? Get supporters to donate for each minute of running and get them to sign up for predetermined time slots. Or, turn it into a competition between teams by getting donors to sign up in groups. Assign them each a different treadmill and have small prizes for whoever goes for the longest (or the furthest!).

Challenges to Consider:

To get enough treadmills, partner with a local gym. To get them interested, offer to publicize their services as well.

The Best Time to Do This:

An ideal time for this event is in January, when people are already trying to get fit, but it could be held anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A local gym is your best bet. You could also ask them to have personal trainers on hand to offer advice (for a small extra donation!).

 

6. Reverse Raffle

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Instead of just selling tickets, make a party of it! In a reverse raffle, you set a fixed number of tickets to draw folks into a larger grand prize (for example, 200 tickets for $100 grosses a $10,000 prize and $10,000 for your org!) Then get some food, drink, music, and games and start drawing numbers. Instead of the FIRST number being the winner, the LAST number is! Watch the tensions rise as people's odds increase. But wait! Save out a special ticket and auction it off when there are just four numbers left...people might pay upwards of $500 to get that 1-5 chance of winning ten grand!

Challenges to Consider:

This isn't a raffle, it's an event! Make it a party, make it fun, and look for ideas to get people to donate more throughout the evening.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

7. Art Auction

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 4

Expected Return: $$$

Ask members of your community or their kids to donate art, coordinate with a local shop to have them framed, and then auction them off. Pump up the hype by adding a theme like "come dressed as your favorite art or artist" and make a little extra cash for your charity by selling concessions.

Challenges to Consider:

Getting art from local artists who already have some recognition in your community might help with sales.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You could also partner with an art gallery to get proceeds from sales at an opening.

 

8. Bake Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

The bake sale is a classic. It's something everyone knows how to do, and your audience knows what to expect from it. Also, since you're dealing in consumables, people will always have a need for more baked goods!

Challenges to Consider:

Ask your volunteers to write down what they're planning on making, so that you don't have any duplicates. You could also try to get some vegan or gluten-free options prepared so everyone can enjoy your tasty treats!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Consider holding your sale during a larger event, such as a farmer's market.

 

fundraising ideas9. Bowling for Bucks

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Coordinate with a bowling alley to rent a group of lanes — or the entire building if you know you'll have a lot of participants — and sign up teams. Participants can raise pledges per pin or just raise donations in general.

Challenges to Consider:

Renting lanes at a bowling alley can be costly. Reach out early to see if you can get a discounted rate for booking multiple lanes or the entire space.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

The bowling alley, of course!

 

10. Cakewalk

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

A cakewalk can be done on its own or organized in conjunction with a community, PTA, or city council meeting, a school open house, or other gathering.

Challenges to Consider:

Remember, the prizes don't need to be limited to cakes! Any fun item that people might want to win and that appeals to your audience can be used.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A larger event where there is ample foot traffic for your walk.

 

11. Car Wash

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

The community car wash is a classic! People love the idea of buckets and sponges for a worthy cause. This is also a great time to talk to participants about your cause, and potentially recruit some new volunteers!

Challenges to Consider:

You’ll need to pick a location with access to water source. Holding it in a busy parking lot can also help you get new supporters.

The Best Time to Do This:

Spring or summer is best for this event — you don't want your volunteers getting cold!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You may be able to partner with a local gas station to use a part of the lot. It’s a great place to rope in clientele and easy clean up for you!

 

12. Movie Night

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Everyone loves a good movie night! Hold it at your local community centre (or school gym) and charge admission. You can also have a concessions stand for a little added boost.

Challenges to Consider:

There are several factors you'll need to consider with this fundraiser, including movie licensing, renting a projector and/or a screen, and how you'll get sound. Choosing a comfortable location is also key.

The Best Time to Do This:

Since you'll be inside, you can do it anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Consider partnering with a local movie theatre to split proceeds — you might not get quite as many donations, but you also won't have to handle the challenges mentioned above.

 

13. Movie on the Lawn

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Stage your movie night with a summertime twist. Tell everyone to bring a blanket and you'll be able to accommodate a lot of people. For a more nostalgic feel, organize a drive-in in a local field or park. You could do free admission and just charge for concessions, or ask for voluntary donations. Make it extra fun and provide games for the kids to help pass the time until dark.

Challenges to Consider:

It’s important to consider the technology you’ll use to show the movie, like a a projector, large screen, etc., as well as making sure you have the proper  movie licensing for a larger audience. It’s also wise to have a rain date in case of nasty weather.

The Best Time to Do This:

Spring and summer are prime outdoor screening times.

 

14. Community Yard Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

One person's junk is another person's treasure... so why not raise money for something good with it, right? With even just a few neighbors clearing out those messy basements and clutter closets, you can turn a decent profit.

Challenges to Consider:

A few key logistics to consider are the location of sale (make sure you’ve got ample space for those larger items), as well as a convenient location where donations will be collected prior to the sale.

The Best Time to Do This:

Yard sales are best around April, when people are doing their spring cleaning and looking to get rid of things!

 

15. Craft Show

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

You may be surprised at the talent your community members have up their sleeves. From the secret woodworker to the prolific jewelry-maker, this kind of event is especially effective right before the holidays. Use your space and "sell" tables. Your profits will be fixed and you don't have to do much besides rent tables and chairs!

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure you have enough space to display all of the items that people bring in. You'll also want to know what people are bringing in beforehand, so you can arrange their stalls without competing products side by side.

The Best Time to Do This:

Hosting during the holiday season will surely boost the success of this event.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You could potentially partner with an organization that runs art classes (such as a pottery studio) to get their students involved.

 

16. Doggy Happy Hour

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Drinks and puppies — what more could anyone ask for? Ask your community members to bring out their cutest four-legged pals for an adorable doggy happy hour at a reasonable entrance fee. While this event is a great fit for animal-related organizations, puppies are really just a hit to raise money for any demographic.  

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure people understand the allergy risk, and that parents sign a consent form for children under 18 if your event is open to minors.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

This is a great event to invite your SPCA chapter to partner with you on!

 

17. Pup Walk

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

You need to walk your dog, so why not walk with everyone else in your community at the same time? A pup walk can be as simple as selling a ticket, providing a goodie bag, and arranging a meetup location, or as elaborate as closing down the streets, adding in contests, and making a parade and festival out of it. Go wild!

Challenges to Consider:

Same as above.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

This is a great event to invite your ASPCA chapter to partner with you on.


18. Dance Marathon

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

How many hours can you keep moving? A classic dance marathon means you get pledges, and every hour you're on your feet your sponsors shell out. Will you keep them up all night, or just do daytime jitterbugs? Either way, you can also livestream your marathon so people can tune in and check on their dancers.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure you're playing a variety of music so that everyone is satisfied. You'll also need to find an area large enough for all your dancers — consider an arena or community centre.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime

 

19. Dunk Tank

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Who doesn't love seeing someone humiliate themselves for a good cause? Rent a tank from a party supply company and get dunking! This event would go well with a larger summer fundraising day — consider having ice cream on hand for spectators to buy.

Challenges to Consider:

Try to think of community members that attendees would love to dunk (e.g. local elected officials, favorite teachers, board members, etc.) to generate some buzz, and don’t forget to plan your event with a water source in mind to fill that tank!

The Best Time to Do This:

This event is best during the summer, so your brave volunteers don’t freeze!


20. Educational Clinic

Overhead Cost: $-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

If your nonprofit is filled with experts, leverage their knowledge to host a clinic, conference, or workgroup. Paid registration required helps fill your coffers, but be sure to offer discounts for those who may not be able to afford to come.

Challenges to Consider:

If your nonprofit doesn't have any experts that people would pay to see, consider reaching out to someone else who's well-known in your community who can offer some skills to share.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A local bookstore might be a good location for hosting (particularly if your expert has written a book they can sell!).

 

21. Clothing Swap

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Most people have clothes that they want to get rid of. Why not have them give to a good cause? Either have people pay a donation fee to participate, or have them offer to pay a small donation for every piece of clothing they take.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need a large enough group of people to make the swap worthwhile for all participants, as well as enough tables to spread out all the clothes you're going to get. Consider getting participants to drop off the clothes the night before so you have time to organize them beforehand — and have a plan for the leftover clothes, such as dropping them off at your local shelter or thrift store.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, but spring cleaning time might give you the most donations!


fundraising ideas22. Garden and Plant Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Get started early to grow plants, or purchase them if you're short on time. If you're a garden club, have your members donate some of their favorite starts.

Challenges to Consider:

You’ll need either a nursery to make a donation or to  grow your own seedlings or flowers to sell. Either way, you’ll need to start planning early! Catch people in spring or early summer, when they’re beginning to really think about their gardens.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

To incentivize a nursery to donate, offer to give attendees applications to their loyalty or rewards programs.

 

23. Host a Discussion

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Every community has someone who has a great story and a high profile. Find that person and host a discussion with them, moderated by another notable figure in the community. Who knows, you might even be able to turn it into a whole lecture series…

Challenges to Consider:

You'd need to get a moderator, an expert, and a venue. Consider also selling refreshments for a little extra boost!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A local restaurant with a discussion space, a library, or a local bookstore — the latter two are particularly good if the expert also has a book for audiences to read.

 

24. Karaoke

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Karaoke can be a terrific icebreaker and community builder. You can have a general "open mic" or even do a full-on singing competition!

Challenges to Consider:

Getting the right location and equipment could be a challenge. Simply renting out a karaoke bar that already has all you need may be the best option.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

25. Pancake Breakfast

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

A pancake breakfast is relatively easy to pull together and it provides your community with a chance to mingle. Buy some mix, some toppings, and get cooking!

Challenges to Consider:

Hungry people don’t like to wait too long! Ask your community members to loan you their griddles and best spatulas to get as many hands moving as possible.

The Best Time to Do This:

Picking a day that's already associated with pancakes, such as Mardi Gras, is a great option.

 

26. Pool Party

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Kids and adults alike enjoy a chance to splash around with their pals in a pool and would pay a fair price to do so. Partnering with a public pool will keep your costs down and may encourage a wide range of community members to attend.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to pay lifeguards. You might also want a food and alcohol permit if you're going to aim for a hipper vibe for the event.

The Best Time to Do This:

This is the perfect "say hello" or "say goodbye" to summer event!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

The YMCA and local public pools are great resources. If you're including alcoholic drinks, consider reaching out to hotels.

 

27. Scavenger Hunt

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $

This one takes a little bit of organizing, but if you can pull it off, there's a lot of fun to be had. Social media can make scavenger hunts even easier - have your participants take photos of the items on their lists and use a hashtag to track them.

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to plan the hunt route ahead of time so that it's safe and fun for participants of all levels of ability. You'll also want to establish if participants can do it via car or on foot.

The Best Time to Do This:

Summer is probably best — consider having an alternate day in case of poor weather if your participants will be on foot.

 

28. Silent Auction

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

People love to win things, and it's fun to come to see what others are bidding on. Since it's a silent auction, it's a little more freeform than some other events and your participants can come and mingle while putting in their bids. You can also include a mix of services and items (or focus solely on one or the other) depending on the demographic you're trying to engage.

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:

Leverage local businesses who can donate items.

 

29. Murder Mystery Dinner Party

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Get your community members to pull out their acting skills for this one! There are board games you can purchase so that your participants know what to do, or you can come up with a script yourself.

Challenges to Consider:

Organizing this one might be a little more difficult than some of the others on this list because of the amount of players involved, so give yourself plenty of time to figure it out.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Partner with a local restaurant who has enough room for all of your participants and your actors. Alternatively, find a local murder mystery dinner theatre so that you don't have to organize quite as much yourself.

 

30. Dinner Party Auction

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Who doesn't love a dinner party? The excuse to get dressed up and eat delicious food will certainly attract an audience. Combine food and the excitement of bidding (as well as a little wine), and you're sure to have a winning night!

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:

Leverage local businesses who can donate items. You could potentially also partner with a local restaurant to host the night!

fundraising ideasCindy Wagman, CFRE, MBA

President and CEO

The Good Partnership

"Small nonprofits shouldn't look at big organizations and try to compare. Instead of approaching all the big companies who get a million asks, think of a creative way to engage small, local businesses in sponsorship and philanthropy. Find businesses that are a good fit with your mission and involve them in your organization beyond writing a cheque."


31. Trivia Night

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Tons of people already pay for trivia at bars and restaurants, so leverage this interest by inviting them to pay an entrance fee to play at your organization. Consider making the questions specific to your cause or community for added fun!

Challenges to Consider:

You can alway make your own questions and display them with a simple projector to cut costs, but there are also plenty of trivia rental companies that will come prepared with all you need to make your event a success.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Ask around for bars and restaurants that may be willing to host in exchange for a drink minimum for attendees.

 

32. Volunteer Auction

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Have members of your community volunteer their services, anything from handyman to web design, and then auction off those services and put the money toward the charity. Not only are people able to get some of their much-needed things done, but your community members can get to know each other better.

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to follow up with the volunteers to make sure the services go smoothly for the auction winners.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

fundraising ideas33. Hiking Day

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

We can all use more fresh air! Bring your donors on a hike or nature walk outside your town for a small fee.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to find a wildlife expert or guide who can lead the walk. Guests should also be made aware of any potential dangers such as bears or ticks. Depending on your area, coordinating transportation — such as a bus that will pick up and drop off registrants at an easy-to-reach location — should also be arranged.

The Best Time to Do This:

Hold it when it's warm outside (but not too hot!) especially if you live in an area that might have snow long into spring.

 

34. Applebee's Pancake Breakfast

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Partner with Applebee's and start flipping those pancakes! You can coordinate a day with them and start selling tickets to your breakfast.  https://www.flapjackfunds.com/program.php?id=1

Challenges to Consider:

Applebee's will do all the cooking, but you’ll need to have enough volunteers on hand to bus tables and serve pancakes.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

35. Chili Cook-Off

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

This event can take place in your office, in which case you'd have your employees bring their favorite dish or item, or in the wider community. Whichever it is, get participants to bring a dish centered around the chosen theme. At lunch, charge a small fee to sample the food then have everyone vote for the dish they liked best!

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to secure a space to serve food with burners ready to keep it all hot. You should also have people pay in advance so that you’ll know if you have enough food for all attendees.

The Best Time to Do This:

Consider a theme and time of year appropriate for the item. For example, a chili cook-off in winter around the Superbowl, a BBQ cook-off around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July, or pie baking around Thanksgiving.

 

36. Bake-Off

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

With the success of shows like The Great British Bake-Off, you should find it easy to get participants for this one! Get a panel of judges (or ask the public to vote) on a variety of baking categories. You can even sell the top performing entries off afterwards for some extra funds, and hold this in tandem with the craft fair or another similar event mentioned above to boost the attraction.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure the venue you're picking has enough room for all the cakes you're going to display, as well as facilities for tea and coffee (judging cakes can be thirsty work!).

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Ask your local cooking school to help promote the event to their students to boost registrations.

 

37. Walk for the Cause

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

A walk can be a great way to get people involved. Not only do the walkers have to spread the word about your cause in order to get sponsorships, but you can give away t-shirts that advertise what you're raising money for.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure to keep it safe — have water and medics available just in case.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Don’t forget to coordinate with local authorities to make sure the course is safe and closed.

 

38. Fun Run

Overhead Cost: $-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

From a city-spanning, timed marathon to a quick family one-miler, a fun run can be as easy as gathering on the local track or as complicated as you want to make it. The good news: runners like to run, and they're growing in numbers. Be creative and get people out moving!

Challenges to Consider:

See above.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

39. Themed Fun Run

Overhead Cost: $-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Pick a theme! Pick a season! Pick a location! Costume contest run through the cemetery at sunset? Ugly sweaters at the holidays? Red dress for Valentine's Day? Be creative, pull together some swag and a party at the end, and turn exercise into a festive experience.

Challenges to Consider:

See above.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

40. Ghost Tour

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Does your town have some haunted places? Organize a haunted walk to showcase them — or make the stories up yourself!  

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to get willing guides who will rehearse their stories beforehand (and dress up in a spooky costume).

The Best Time to Do This:

Ghost walks can be good anytime of year, but might perform even better around Halloween.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

If you're not familiar with the history of your area, consider partnering with a museum or historical society to help you out.

 

41. Themed Office Lunch Party

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Pick a cause, pick a theme, and get your co-workers or officemates to meet up for a charity lunch. Maybe it's the start of football season or the end of summer, charge for lunch and raffle off prizes to make a few dollars for a good cause.

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to secure a space to serve food with burners ready to keep it all hot. You should also have people pay in advance so that you’ll know if you have enough food for all attendees.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Try to secure donated or discounted food from local restaurants so no one has to worry about prep.

 

42. Beer Garden Night

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Coordinate with a local beer garden to co-host a happy hour or dinner where a portion of the evening's sales go to your cause. You can get also more creative with themes, specialty offerings, drink specials, and games like cornhole or horseshoes, depending on your location.

Challenges to Consider:

Beer gardens may be more willing to host in exchange for a drink minimum for attendees (which could potentially be included in your ticket cost).

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, but summer could be a good bet so attendees get to sit on the patio!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A local bar or restaurant is your best bet.

 

43. Eating for a Cause

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Coordinate with a bar or restaurant to co-host a regular or one-off happy hour or dinner where a portion of the evening's sales go to your cause.

Challenges to Consider:

Bars and restaurants may be more willing to host in exchange for a drink minimum for attendees.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A local bar or restaurant is your best bet.  

 

44. Armchair Olympics

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Sign up teams of four to compete in a series of off-the-wall "Olympic" events of your design. Teams pay to enter and spectators come to cheer them on (and purchase food and drink!). Tricycle races, inflatable raft paddle, hamster wheel run, sponge toss, frisbee throwing, and more can all be part of a fun, messy afternoon.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll have to come up with original and fun events for participants, especially when considering different ability levels. You'll also want to make sure you have a large enough space to host everyone, whether it's outside in a field or indoors in a larger event space.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime (although summer might be best if you're hosting it outdoors).

 

45. Breakfast In Bed

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Create your organization's version of UberEats — get people to order food and then deliver it to them, either for breakfast or for another special occasion.

Challenges to Consider:

First, decide whether you're going to be preparing the food yourself or partnering with a local restaurant to deliver their food. Either way, you'll need a lot of volunteers to help you deliver and/or prepare it (or get restaurants to help you deliver and share profits).

The Best Time to Do This:

This is a great activity to do in the winter when people are feeling lazy and don't want to leave the house!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Partner with local restaurants to increase the publicity around this event.

 

46. Bingo Night

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

It is what it says. BINGO!

Challenges to Consider:

Bingo sets are generally pretty affordable and worth buying if you plan to repeat the event, but if not, party rental suppliers are a good option. Consider selling refreshments as well — Bingo can be thirsty work!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Consider partnering with a local Bingo hall to have an ongoing event where part of the proceeds go to your organization.


fundraising ideas47. Pop-Up Picnic

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

People think of picnics as being in the park, but what if everyone brought blankets and ate under the stars in the center of Main Street? Pick a non-picnic location, be sure to coordinate with local authorities, and sell tickets in advance for a community dine-together experience. The good news: they bring their own food and seating! Your responsibilities: location, parking and transportation, bathrooms, trash, and entertainment. To make it even more fun, don't reveal the location until the same day!

Challenges to Consider:

Coordinate with local authorities to ensure the spot you’ve chosen is safe and closed to vehicle traffic. Don’t forget to obtain the right permits, if you’ll be allowing attendees to bring alcohol.

The Best Time to Do This:

Over the summer, when weather permits outdoor activities.

 

48. Color Al Fresco

Overhead Cost: $$-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Just like a pop-up picnic, color al fresco is a pop-up dining experience in a unique location - but the twist is that everyone wears the same color! Often done in white, these dinners are gaining in popularity. Consider renting tables and chairs so the colorful centerpieces, outfits, and decor can be on full display!

Challenges to Consider:

As above, you'll have to coordinate with local authorities to make sure everything goes smoothly. You'll also have to decide if you want to provide food to attendees or if they need to bring their own.

The Best Time to Do This:

Over the summer, when weather permits outdoor activities.

 

49. Hand-on-the-Prize

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

A throwback fundraiser! You've secured a big donation, and auctioning or raffling just won't cut it? Sell tickets and the "winners" get a chance to sit all together in a room with their hand-on-the-object. The last one to break contact wins!

Challenges to Consider:

Securing a donation item can be a challenge, but start early and really sell businesses on your vision and cause.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

50. Spa Day

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

How can you turn something everyone already loves into a fundraiser? Add-ons and markdowns. By partnering with a local spa, your event attendees will pay to enjoy the basic services — sauna, hot tubs, champagne, snacks — and a portion of any add-ons they schedule can go to your cause. Be sure to book in time slots so you can maximize your time at the spa (and make sure they understand that the service providers aren't working for free and still require a tip!).

Challenges to Consider:

Getting free services is always a challenge, but work on selling your mission and vision in a compelling way to engage donors.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You’ll need a spa to agree to partner with you.

 

51. Traveling Dinner

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Either at homes or at restaurants, groups gather to sample a multi-course meal at multiple (walking distance, ideally) locations. This could also take the form of a local food tour for your participants, or a cafe crawl. Make sure everyone comes hungry!

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure you reach out to restaurants early to begin mapping out a convenient route for your participants.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Think about which restaurants are community favorites — those are your greatest resource!

 

52. Inner Tube Water Polo

Overhead Cost: $-$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $

Two competitive teams are pitted against each other for an exciting game of water polo. The catch: the participants must wear ridiculous costumes and always be inside of their polka dot inner tubes! Sell tickets to this crazy game, pump the music, and be sure to stack the first row of seats with super soakers and water cannons and sell 5-minute slots in the "penalty box" so audience goers can torture their favorite players!

Challenges to Consider:

Location is everything for this event! You’ll want a pool that has seating for viewing, like those used to watch competitive athletes.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime works, but warm weather months will be better if you’re hosting at an outdoor pool.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

The YMCA and public pools used for school competitions are good options.

 

53. Living Room Social

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Everyone has something to offer, and most folks are excited to share. Whether it's a knack for Greek cuisine, a best friend who owns a bakery, overnight preparation of meat in the backyard smoker, or just a pool. Encourage a group of "donors" to each plan a party for 4-8 "strangers". Sell tickets to each party online or at your silent auction. You keep the proceeds, but don't have to actually host any guests!

Challenges to Consider:

Reach out to potential hosts early to make sure they have a plan and are comfortable talking to strangers.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

54. Singles Charity Night

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 4

Expected Return: $$$

You can choose to run this event as a typical speed dating night, or to run it in a way that directly benefits your organization (for example, asking singles to help make care packages for your shelter). Either way, sparks are sure to fly!

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need a decent volume of single people to sign up to make the event a success.

The Best Time to Do This:

Consider holding it around Valentine's Day.

 

55. Floating Lantern Night

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Get participants to make a wish, and send their lantern up into the sky (just like in Tangled!).

Challenges to Consider:

Decide whether you want participants to make the lanterns themselves, or you can purchase them beforehand. You'll also need to have a plan to dispose of them afterwards — you wouldn't want your fundraiser to turn into a polluter.

The Best Time to Do This:

The Spring Lantern Festival is a Chinese holiday celebrated specifically to celebrate a Chinese legend. It takes place on the fifteenth day of the first month in the lunisolar Chinese calendar, and you can easily look up when it's happening this year — or simply incorporate this idea into another event.

 

56. Pet Wash

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

You've heard of a car wash... now try the same thing, but for pets!

Challenges to Consider:

Some animals can be sensitive to new people. Make sure all your volunteers have some familiarity with animals, and that everyone has signed a liability form just in case.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Consider partnering with your local SPCA, pet store, or pet grooming store to get pet washing advice.

 

57. World Record Attempt Party

Overhead Cost: $-$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Make a list of world records you think your audience could break, and invite people to participate in doing so! Charge a small fee for the privilege.

Challenges to Consider:

It might take some combing through the Guinness World Record Book to find one you can actually break.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, depending on the record.

 

58. Treasure Hunt

Overhead Cost: $-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Post clues on social media leading up to the big day, and get teams to participate by following the clues. Apps like Actionbound can also help you create an experience that teams won't forget!

Challenges to Consider:

The main difficulty of this event lies in making sure your clues are hard enough to figure out that teams can't do it immediately, but not so hard that no one gets them. Consider having volunteers on hand to help answer questions if need be.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Try to get a local business to donate a prize, or have a couple of different ones set up for first, second and third prize.

 

59. Dish Smash

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Collect old and chipped dishes your community no longer uses and hold a dish smashing event. It's a wonderful way to let anger out!

Challenges to Consider:

Keep an eye on the health and safety — make sure no one is standing in the way of flying bits of broken crockery, and potentially provide safety goggles for your participants.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

60. Coffee House

Overhead Cost: $-$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

This event can take place at a coffee shop (if it's in your budget), at someone's home, or your venue of choice. It's a great opportunity to share some warm drinks and snacks with community members, and for people to showcase their talents (singing, dancing, poetry, etc).

Challenges to Consider:

Numbers will be limited to the size of the venue, and if you're holding your event at a cafe or arts space, you might have to book out the whole space.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, but it's an especially cozy event to host in the winter.

 

61. Cooking Class

Overhead Cost: $-$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Almost anyone can plan a cooking class (you don't have to be a chef!). If you have access to a kitchen or can rent a space with one, you can put on a cooking class fundraiser in a variety of ways: i.e learn the basics of cooking, learn to cook a specific dish, learn to make some staple holiday meals, or anything else you’d like to lead. Each student pays a small fee to be involved.

Challenges to Consider:

The amount of people able to participate would be limited to the size of the kitchen.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Cooking classes in your area might be willing to partner with you and donate part of the proceeds.

fundraising ideasSandy Rees

Chief Encouragement Officer

Get Fully Funded

“One of my clients is Illuminate India, a US-based nonprofit that helps vulnerable children in India have a brighter future. Because they're global in scope, a traditional local fundraising event wasn't going to work. So, we created a virtual event called Curry for a Child and launched it in 2017. The premise is that people sign up then gather a team together. As a team, they either cook a traditional Indian meal or go out for Indian food, then donate $360 to Illuminate India to feed a child in poverty in Calcutta or villages south of there where II works.

We weren't sure how it would be received and knew it might be small for its first year, but has TONS of potential. We threw it out there and watched as people got excited and started signing up, even when back-to-back hurricanes rocked the US just before the event date. The goal was $10,000 (which was pretty big for a small nonprofit with a small email list, small donor base, and small social media following) and they raised about $11,000. It was a fun way for people to participate and support the organization.

I think the real key to any fundraising event is to make it FUN and easy to participate, and tie the results to something meaningful. In this case, the money each team raises will feed and educate a child for the next year, changing that child's life forever.”


62. Museum After Dark

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Open up your local museum for a night of fun past normal opening hours. This could work just as well at a zoo or aquarium — any spot people are interested in attending.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to get catering and a liquor license, as well as potentially a DJ or other entertainment if you want to get really fancy.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

The museum you're partnering with is key.

 

63. Panera Fundraiser

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $-$$

Panera Bread cafes help you run fundraising events in their stores. Contact them to arrange the event and then distribute flyers amongst your supporters. Panera will then donate 20% of sales directly to your organization. 

Challenges to Consider:

You'll only get the donation back from sales that are made with a valid flyer, so be sure to distribute plenty of them, and remind people to bring them along.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

64. Color Run

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Set up coloured powder stations, get participants to wear white t-shirts, and let the colourful mayhem ensue! If you hold it in a populated area, you're bound to get intrigued passersby stopping to learn about your cause.

Challenges to Consider:

There's no getting around it — this will be messy. As well as considering the clean up, you may have to partner with your city to block off a road for your route, or find a large field available for use.

The Best Time to Do This:

Since this is an outdoor event, try to plan for a summer weekend when you're likely to get good weather.

 

65. Step Challenge

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$$

Get people to pledge to walk a certain amount per day in exchange for donations (or have people pledge a certain amount for every 1000 steps).

Challenges to Consider:

To keep track of people's steps, you could encourage them to download a free pedometer app, such as Apple Health and Google Fit, that allow you to count your steps. You could even make this an internal competition within your office to get more people to join in.

The Best Time to Do This:

Make the most of the January health kick when people are focusing on fitness after the holiday season.

 

fundraising ideas66. Silent Disco

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

If you haven't heard of a silent disco before, it's an opportunity for people to dance while listening to their own music through headphones (or for several DJs to play music at once). There are companies such as https://www.silentevents.com/ that rent everything you need to run a silent disco, so setting up doesn't need to be difficult. Because there's no noise, the disco can be held almost anywhere that there's enough space. Popular with teenagers particularly!

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to get enough participants interested to cover the costs of renting a space — and to make sure they don't feel silly dancing alone!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, but summer is best if you want to hold it outdoors.

 

67. Community Clean Up Day

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Participants can ask for pledges for each bag of trash they collect as they walk around the community. Prizes can be offered for the individual or team that collects the most bags of trash. All you'll need to prep is big, durable trash bags and some gloves.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure all participants wear gloves. If you are working with children, make sure they understand what sorts of things they should NOT pick up.

The Best Time to Do This:

The ideal time to do this is in spring, once snow has melted and you can see just how much garbage there really is! Earth Day might be the perfect date.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Check with the Sierra Club, WWFN or any ecological organization to see if they can provide any resources or programming to support your event.

 

68. Mini-Golf Tournament

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Everyone loves this relaxing, low-pressure "sport".  Ask donors and local businesses to sponsor players or to donate based on player scores.

Challenges to Consider:

Renting the course could be very expensive, so start inquiring early. You may also want to try slightly off-peak months to curb costs.

The Best Time to Do This:

Most outdoor mini-golf courses open in the spring and stay open until early fall.

 

69. Polar Bear Plunge

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

This is a chillingly good fundraiser for colder locales! Have donations based on whether or not your participants are brave enough to jump into the water, or charge a small entry fee that goes to support your organization.

Challenges to Consider:

Obviously, this event must be in a cold location or occur during a cold weather month. You’ll definitely need to have someone on site for safety emergencies just in case! You could also consider selling warm treats like hot chocolate or coffee for participants once they're out of the water.

The Best Time to Do This:

Depending on where you live, winter is your best, coldest bet!

 

70. History Walk

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

If there are buildings with an interesting history in your town, why not share the historical facts with the rest of your area?

Challenges to Consider:

This walk can work equally well as an architectural tour. You'll need knowledgeable guides, or at least people who are willing to follow a script!

The Best Time to Do This:

History is good any time of year!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A museum or historical society is your best bet. You could also consider partnering with an architectural society if you're interested in the way buildings were constructed or designed.

fundraising ideasElizabeth Engel

CEO & Chief Strategist

Spark Consulting

“If you’re hoping to get more volunteers engaged to help with your fundraisers, here are three main things you should be focusing on:

1. Make it fun. For this, you need to know your audience. What *would* be fun for your volunteers? Some people are competitive and might respond well to a contest with publicly available tracking and prizes. Some are cooperative and might enjoy working together as a team to "earn" something for the whole group. Some groups are more formal in tone and need to communicate that way, but some are less formal and might want to communicate using humor.

2. Make it easy. If you want people to help you fundraise, you have to provide them tools that are pretty much plug-and-play. Provide fully written out scripts, emails, and social media posts that they can just send to people in their spheres of influence, but also allow them to just provide contact information for people to you, and you send the messages for them.

3. Give them options. Different people are going to be comfortable doing different kinds of things and will have different amounts of time they can devote. Some volunteers might be comfortable making direct personal asks to people they know, but some might be more comfortable hosting a fundraiser cocktail party or brunch. Some will be able to afford to buy a table at your black-tie gala, but some might be more comfortable inviting some friends to come to a food truck event. Some volunteers might be more comfortable sharing your message through their social media platforms (and some of them may have a much greater reach that your organizational account). Let them choose their path of engagement with your fundraising campaign.”



11 Fundraising Ideas For Kids

Although many of the ideas on this list can be adapted for kids, or are well-suited for organizations that focus on serving youth, here are a few that are specifically designed to appeal to a younger audience.

 

1. Lego Night

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Charge a reasonable entrance fee and invite children of all ages to build their coolest creations in hopes of winning a prize. You could also sell baked goods and drinks at the event for a little extra revenue.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

2. Petting Zoo

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Organize a petting zoo in your community by partnering with the SPCA or local farms.

Challenges to Consider:

Finding an appropriate location could be a challenge if you're in a city. A field, large garden or sports ground could work, but there is likely to be mud and straw to clear up afterwards.

The Best Time to Do This:

Spring or summer is best for this outdoor event.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

As mentioned above, the SPCA or local farms are your best bet.

 

3. Carnation Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Pre-sell single carnations for kids to bring home to parents or give to best friends and teachers on a special day.

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to decide early whether you’ll be purchasing carnations from a nursery or growing them yourself.

The Best Time to Do This:

Carnations typically bloom in late spring.

 

4. Box Tops

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

If you're looking to raise funds for your school, collecting box tops is an easy way to do it. All you have to do is get children to collect them once parents have collected the products, and then set up an account with Box Tops for Education to mail them in.

The Best Time to Do This:

Cheques are mailed to schools in April and December, so you can make a bigger push around those times.

 

fundraising ideas5. Teeter Totter Marathon

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

This is a quick fundraiser that follows the idea of a dance marathon, but for kids. Get people to donate for each minute the child is on the seesaw (or the swings) and see how high they'll go!

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure you have a playground available to use, whether it's in your neighbourhood or at your school.

The Best Time to Do This:

This could be a good end-of-the-school-year fundraiser, since it'll be nice outside.

 

6. Breakfast with a Character

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Host a breakfast with the Easter Bunny or another cartoon character. Attendees pay a fee and receive breakfast and a picture of themselves with the character.

Challenges to Consider:

Don’t forget to secure some talented breakfast chefs for the day AND enough brave souls willing to don silly costumes. You can buy a quick photo printer, offer to send the pictures digitally to parents, or get a Polaroid to capture a more vintage feeling.

The Best Time to Do This:

Consider which characters you want to introduce and schedule accordingly.

 

7. Candy Grams

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

During holidays such as Valentine's Day, St Patrick's Day, Halloween, and winter holidays, students can pay to send a note and candy to another student.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure teachers and administrators are on board and let you know the best deliveries times that don’t disturb instruction.

The Best Time to Do This:

Holidays like Valentines Day, Christmas and graduation are great times to offer candy grams.

 

8. Read-a-Thon

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

This is an easy way to get kiddos engaged in reading and introduce them to the idea of philanthropy. Children can ask friends and families to sponsor them for each book they read. There's little planning or management besides providing students with the initial pledge forms. You could also offer small prizes for the child in each category who reads the most books or collects the most donations.

The Best Time to Do This:

March 2nd is Read Across America Day. Depending on your location, there might be other days that are related to literacy that would be good to highlight.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Reach out to organizations like Scholastic or First Book to see if they have any additional resources or programming to support your event.

 

9. Painted Lollipops

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Buy a box of inexpensive trinkets (and a few nice things) and another box of inexpensive lollipops. Paint or mark the ends of the lollipop sticks in different colors (blue for a trinket, red for a "grand prize), and stick them in a ball of floral foam to make a lollipop bouquet. Sell each pop for $1-2, and every kid wins a small prize in addition to their lollipop.

Challenges to Consider:

This wouldn't bring in many donations on its own, so it's worth adding it as an additional activity to a larger event you're running.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

10. Santa

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Posing with Santa is a classic childhood activity. You can also sell photos with Santa for an extra small fee.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to hold your photos somewhere that gets decent pedestrian traffic, as well as promoting it well beforehand (to compete with all the other Santas around!) Before Christmas, of course! Try to plan it for early December, before schedules are too hectic.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Consider partnering with your local mall Santa to get a part of the proceeds donated to your organization.

 

11. Sleepover Party

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Let parents have the night off! Rent a space, play movies, and organize games to keep kids busy until they fall asleep.

Challenges to Consider:

The complexity of this event and the number of volunteers you'll need depends on the number of kids who sign up, since you'll need enough volunteers to manage them overnight (and enough activities to tire them out).

The Best Time to Do This:

Holding it over the summer is a good way to let parents have a break while kids aren't in school.

fundraising ideasLori L. Jacobwith

Fundraising Culture Change Expert & Master Storyteller

Ignited Fundraising

“One of the very best ways to cause donors to give again is to share what I call "mission moments" before, during and after a fundraising event.  Our brains are wired to think in story. By sharing a mission moment story we help our donors see into the life of one person impacted by their contribution. And feel empathy. Causing a memorable connection that donors want to continue.“



28 Mega Fundraising Ideas

If you’re hoping to raise a lot of money (and have a lot of volunteers on hand to help!) consider organizing one of these massive 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.

Challenges to Consider:

Renting the course could be very expensive, so start inquiring early.

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 are great for festivals) 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!  

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 member or local band that your target demographic will be excited by and ask if they would donate some performance time. 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.

 

fundraising ideas6. 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 major concern. Make sure you are working with 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 centre, 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!

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.

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: $$

A lipsync 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 of 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.

 

15. 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.

 

16. Hollywood Squares Night

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Two contestants compete in a giant game of tic tac toe where each of the 9 squares is occupied by a local celebrity. One contestant is represented by X, the other by O. They take turns selecting a square, and the host asks the relevant celebrity a question. The contestant must then guess whether the answer they give is true or a bluff. If they get it right, they can claim the square; if they get it wrong, their opponent claims it instead.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to find enough local celebrities who are willing to participate — meaning you'll have to start planning far in advance. You'll also need to have contestants who aren't shy about speaking in front of an audience.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A hosting space with a lot of room such as an event space (or even a local theatre, so participants can be onstage) is your best bet for a location.

 

17. Dancing Stars

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Gather 10 of your town's "most famous" residents and pair them up with local dance and theater groups to learn a dance number (ballroom, group, musical theater, it doesn't matter). Sell tickets to the event and watch the mayor bust a move!

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to reach out to local celebs early to get yourself time in their busy schedules.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Partnering with a local dance or theatre organization on ticket sales might help you boost attendance (and give you an opening act before your celebrities come on stage!).

 

18. 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.

 

19. 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!

 

20. 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!

 

21. Rubber Duck Race

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Is there a river running through your town? Get permission to have a "rubber duck race" where you sell numbered ducks and dump them all in the river. The first one to the end is the grand prize winner!

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to get the proper authorization from your town and coordinate ducky-clean up after the event to make sure you are have good, clean eco-friendly fun!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime but winter.

 

22. 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.

 

fundraising ideas23. Hot Air Balloon Festival

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 4

Expected Return: $$

Who doesn't love watching balloons soar up into the air? This festival provides 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 feasible.

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.

 

24. Lawnmower Races

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

There are several lawnmower 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.

 

25. 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!  

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' favourite offerings.

 

26. 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.

 

27. 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 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.

 

28. 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 centre) 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!

fundraising ideasLarry C. Johnson

Founder

The Eight Principles

“Effective nonprofit storytelling is dependent upon but one thing.  Being ever mindful that neither you, your organization nor your good work is the hero.  Donors are the heroes—always.”



6 Online Fundraising Ideas

If you’re hoping to get more donations online, or want to set up a recurring campaign, here are a few fundraising ideas you can use.

 

1. Text-to-Give

Overhead Cost: $-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $-$$$

Websites like Txt2Give and Snowball arrange the text service for you, so you just need to decide on a memorable word or phrase for people to donate, and then encourage them to start texting in. Each text they send will trigger a donation, so it's an easy way to give that doesn't involve filling out forms.

Challenges to Consider:

Remember to factor in the cost of your text to give service. Some charge a monthly fee, others charge a small amount per donation, and with some you can pay a one-off fee for an event.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

Free Best Nonprofit Software

 

2. Facebook Ads

Overhead Cost: $-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $-$$$

You can use Facebook Ads to encourage people to donate, to direct them to your website, or to sign up for your event. These can cost as much or as little as your budget allows — the more money you put into the advert, the more people who will see it on their Facebook feed.

Challenges to Consider:

If your target audience don't spend much time on Facebook, they probably won't come across your adverts, so it might not be worth putting much money into this project.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

3. Crowdfunding Page

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $-$$$$

Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter or Indiegogo are great for times when you have a project you're working towards. They're a simple way for people to donate online, to follow your progress and see how their money made a difference. Just set up your campaign and share the link on your website, social media and email.

Challenges to Consider:

These websites work best when you provide regular updates for the people who have contributed, so factor in some time to keep everyone in the loop.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

4. Social Media Challenge

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

The Ice Bucket Challenge was just the beginning! Online challenges have become a big hit, inviting participation across all ages. People love posting and sharing funny videos, especially if there's an important message behind them.

Challenges to Consider:

Try to think of an engaging challenge that relates to your community or cause. The only real danger of a social media challenge is that people post or repost a video and don't actually donate money (make sure you link directly to an online fundraising platform) , but ultimately, it's still garnering attention for your cause!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Make sure the challenge is directly linked to an online campaign so that people actually give and don't just post a cool video.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

5. Social Media Blitz

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Have a day where your social media is focused exclusively on one donation campaign. You can prepare video testimonials in advance to post that day, have a giveaway to drive interest, and do shoutouts to people who donate over the day.

Challenges to Consider:

Doing a full day of social media takes some planning. Ask for volunteers to help you film videos, take photos, write posts, and respond to comments throughout the day.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

6. Amazon Smile Program

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $-$$$

If you can get your supporters to sign up for Amazon Smile, your organization will get 0,5% of each purchase they make. Although it's not a big amount, promoting it won't be a lot of work for your organization and even small amounts will eventually add up!

Challenges to Consider:

This fundraiser depends on your members. It's probably only worth setting up if you know that they're fairly tech savvy and shop online.

The Best Time to Do This:

Because this only gathers a small percentage of each sale, this is a campaign that needs to be run year-round to see donations accumulate.

fundraising ideasAmy Eisenstein

Development Professional and Fundraising Consultant

“You’ve probably heard the expression, “great minds think alike.” It rings true when looking for new donors for your organization. That’s because people who already support your organization are likely to know others who might be interested as well.

Start with your board members, volunteers, staff members, and clients. Find out who they know in their inner and outer circles. It won’t be easy, but that’s the most effective way to find new donors.

Remember – it’s not about the money. Don’t look for new “donors,” but for people who might be passionate about your mission. Once they are hooked, they are likely to turn into donors. The real key is getting the second and third donations. It could be time to stop looking for new donors and concentrate on keeping the ones you have.”



11 Quick Fundraising Ideas

Don’t have much time to raise donations? Try these quick fundraising ideas out for a little boost!

 

1. Phone-a-thon

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $-$$$$

This is less fun than many of the events listed here, but can still be effective. Grab your phone book, hand out a script, and get your volunteers calling!

Challenges to Consider:

Some people don't like being called on the phone, so ensure the script you have prepared respects that.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

2. Direct Mailing Campaign

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Even though most of us live on our smartphones these days, there’s nothing like the feeling of getting a real letter in the mail. Impress potential donors with some personalized snail mail with an honest to goodness stamp on it. Knowing you’d spend 49 cents to share your cause with them just might make all the difference.  

Challenges to Consider:

You can’t beat the thoughtful, quaint quality of snail mail, but it is undeniably more expensive and inconvenient than online communication. Ask volunteers to donate some time to stuff and seal envelopes to help the job go faster.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

3. Dress Down Day

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

When the laundry bin's full, most people would pay any amount of money to be able to throw on a comfy pair of jeans in the morning. Offer a dress down day for a small fee to benefit from your co-workers rough mornings!

Challenges to Consider:

This one takes practically zero planning and doesn't cost a dime. This can also be modified as a uniform-free day in a school setting.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Try to partner with local offices and expand the program past your own.

 

4. Envelope at a Restaurant

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $-$$$

Partner with a local restaurant to leave donation envelopes at their tables to get donors to leave a little extra change. This won't garner a ton of donations, but could still raise awareness for your cause (or for another fundraiser you're running).

Challenges to Consider:

Create a nice design for your envelope and a sign that clearly explains why you're looking for donations, so that patrons will feel more inclined to support you.

The Best Time to Do This:

Hold this anytime, or before running another event to raise awareness.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Local restaurants, particularly ones that you already have a connection with, are your best bet.

 

5. Family Ticket Fundraiser

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Take the guesswork about what to do with the kids this weekend away from mom and dad. Sell family tickets to a fun-filled sporting event at a local stadium or field, and raise money through a small refreshment or merchandise sale as well.

Challenges to Consider:

Depending on the league, sports tickets can sell out fast. Make sure you plan this event well in advance!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A local adult or kids sports league would probably love the support.

 

6. Gift Card Fundraiser

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $-$$

Partner with a website that specializes in fundraising through gift cards, such as Fundscrip or FlipGive. Through the website, you can buy a supply of gift cards that you then sell on to your supporters at face value. Whenever they use their gift card to pay, your charity automatically receives a donation of up to 10% depending on the retailer, without the person using the card having to pay any extra.

Challenges to Consider:

Spreading the word is key here. Use peer-to-peer fundraising, and make sure those in your network are reaching out to their networks in return. Consider offering a prize to the volunteer who sells the most gift cards as a little incentive.

The Best Time to Do This:

Holidays are great for gift cards. However, since they can be used for everyday expenses at grocery stores and restaurants too, they can work at any time of the year.

 

7. Shaving Time

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Get people to shave their hair for your cause, and others who aren't quite so brave can donate to support them. An added benefit to this event that you could also look into donating their hair if it's long enough.

Challenges to Consider:

This event will have to be well-publicized to raise enough funds.

The Best Time to Do This:

Jump on the Movember bandwagon and run this event at the beginning of December. People sick of their partners' beards are sure to donate to see them shaved off!

 

8. Bottle and Can Drive

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

An oldie but a goodie. Pick a central location like a school gymnasium or community center, and have people bring in their recyclables to exchange for money at collection site. It’s a lot easier for people to just pop them in the bins right outside their door, so consider sweetening the pot by offering to pick up donations or awarding an award or prize to the person who donates the most.

Challenges to Consider:

Storing and transporting bags and bags of recycling isn’t the easiest or most thrilling task.  Get some awesome volunteers to help make this task fly by!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You could also partner with your local bottle redemption company to get the funds directly from them.

 

9. Money Rolls

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Attach an empty coin roll to each team member's paycheck and ask everyone to fill them up then return them. The change can then be donated.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

10. Quarter Mile

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Work together to collect enough quarters to stretch them a quarter mile through a store or parking lot. If you hit this goal, try for a mile!

Challenges to Consider:

Obviously, you’ll need the space to stretch a quarter mile or more if you’re lucky!

The Best Time to Do This:

This is a great outdoor activity for any time the weather is nice.

 

11. Gift Wrapping Fundraiser

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Set up a gift-wrapping table in your office or in a mall and ask for a donation per package wrapped. Team members can donate extra wrapping paper they have at home to save on expenses.

Challenges to Consider:

People expect their gifts to be well-wrapped, so confirm that your volunteers have at least the minimum wrapping skills before starting.

The Best Time to Do This:

Grant some peace in the gift-buying rush by offering your services during the holidays.

fundraising ideasMazarine Treyz

CEO

Wild Woman Fundraising

“Lately I've been telling nonprofit folks about how to create new donors out of non-donors. To do that, you have to get creative. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • You cut costs and do more of what you’re good at. Getting people to take on tasks that you are not as good at frees you up to do more donor prospecting!
  • You create a new way for people to interact with you — an event, a news feature, a radio interview, or presentation — anything to help you get in front of more people.
  • You create earned income streams via a new service or product — nonprofits are doing this in a variety of ways.
  • You brainstorm about anyone who would have any reason to care about your cause.”

 


9 Raffle Fundraising Ideas

Running a raffle is a great way to add value to a larger event or to get donors excited. Check out our ideas below for a few variations on the theme.

 

1. 50/50 Raffle

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Host a raffle where the charity and the winner split the proceeds half and half. This one is especially easy because you don't have to get businesses to donate anything, you just have to collect money.

Challenges to Consider:

Dealing with a large amount of cash can be complicated. There may be rules against particular types of gaming involving money in your local area.

The Best Time to Do This:

During a sporting event or other larger event where participants are looking for fun ways to win prizes!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You need permission from the event host to ensure you can sell your 50/50 tickets as part of the larger event.


2. Spa Day Raffle

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Invite participants to enter a raffle (perhaps at another fundraising event) to win a relaxing day at the local spa. Often small businesses will donate these services for a good cause.

Challenges to Consider:

Getting free services is always a challenge, but work on selling your mission and vision in a compelling way to engage donors.

The Best Time to Do This:

Services like spa days are particularly popular around holidays like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, so you might want to try this if you're having another event around one of these occasions.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You’ll need a spa (or other service provider) to agree to partner with you.

 

3. Limited Ticket Vehicle Raffle

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Secure a large prize at cost, and then sell a limited number of expensive raffle tickets so each buyer has fixed odds of winning!

Challenges to Consider:

To sell expensive $100+ raffle tickets, you need the right type of donor. This means going to many events and selling tickets over a full season or year to make sure the raffle is sold out and cover costs. It might also not work with every audience.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

4. Vacation Raffle

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Ask your board to donate airline and hotel points to put together a free trip, or just buy an affordable cruise or driving-distance hotel stay on sale and raffle it off!

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to think through the logistics of securing the donation and coordinating the travel with the winner.

The Best Time to Do This:

This type of raffle might be best held in the winter, when people are dying for a tropical vacation away.

 

5. Willy Wonka Golden Ticket

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Does your organization have a special connection to the Chocolate Factory? No need. Just find an incredible prize - a tour, a vacation, VIP seats at a concert - and sell small chocolate bars or candies with a prizewinning "golden ticket" hidden inside one.

Challenges to Consider:

You need to sell and distribute the golden tickets strategically so people keep purchasing until all of the product is sold. Sell at a single event or pre-sell and do deliveries. You don't want the first box of chocolate to be the winner!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

fundraising ideas6. Hidden Diamond

Overhead Cost: $$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Partner with a local jeweler and either buy a precious jewel or have one donated. Then, purchase a bunch of cheap glass "jewels" in the same color and size, and pour them all into a bowl. For a bit of money, your guests can dip a pair of tweezers in the bowl and try to pull out the real gem (eyes closed, of course)!  

Challenges to Consider:

If you get good fakes, it will be difficult to tell when the real gem has been selected. Be sure to communicate that people should take their choice to the sponsoring jeweler for verification. Try and kick off the event with pre-sales and a big "diamond picking" day so if the real gem is taken out early, you've still made good money.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Sell the jeweler on the idea by telling them you'll send potential customers their way... and when the winner is found, be sure to make a big splash!

 

7. Treasure Cupcakes

Overhead Cost: $-$$$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Boost your bake sale by hiding a special token or ticket inside of one particular baked good that will trigger a "grand prize". You can go from $1 cupcakes to $5 cupcakes if that "grand prize goody" is enticing enough.

Challenges to Consider:

Choosing an appropriate "grand prize" might be a challenge. Try to keep it connected to your mission, or to something big happening locally that you know your audience will be interested in.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

8. Cowpie Bingo

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

This is a favorite for the county fair and the rural community, and it might be time to bring it to the city too. Find an open grassy area and paint numbered squares on it. Get your local farmer to bring in one or two cows and some corral fencing (so much easier than you'd think, really). Sell the squares and whichever number lands a cowpie wins the 50/50 proceeds! Cows deliver pies 1-2 times per hour, so you can run this game all day with a well-fed bovine.

Challenges to Consider:

If you know cows and farmers, then you'll understand the challenges and the simplicity of this fun game!

The Best Time to Do This:

When it's cool and comfortable for the cows — spring and fall are ideal.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

The space you use might have to be rented from a local park if you want to get additional pedestrian traffic.

 

9. Drive a Luxury Car

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Give people the chance to win a taste of the high life with a ride in a luxury vehicle. Ask your Mercedes, BMW, Lamborghini type friends if they’d be willing to donate their precious baby for a few hours for a good cause. This could be a raffle or auction prize.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure everything is in order for insurance and safety, since these very expensive vehicles will be on loan!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

fundraising ideasClay Boggess

Big Fundraising Ideas

“Most fundraising sponsors have goals, but very few have what we call “first day goals”. Having a first day sales goal is an effective way to jumpstart your fundraiser. It’s been proven that most sales are made within the first 3-4 days, so why not capitalize on it? The result is that sponsors end up leaving money on the table because not only are they missing out on more early sales, they’re also not creating critical momentum that will set a stronger tone throughout.

Many sponsors simply ask their students to go out and sell as much as they can. What does this mean anyway? This is a typical request but unfortunately, it’s ambiguous at best. Most students will tune out when they hear this because they’ve heard it so many times.

Rather, just before the end of your kickoff presentation, ask your students (or whoever is participating) to go home and sell at least 5 items by tomorrow. Incorporating this strategy helps you set clear expectations. To reinforce this, one idea is to incorporate prize drawings throughout your sale. To be eligible to win, students must sell a defined number of items by certain dates during the sale. Be sure to have your first drawing the very next day after your kickoff meeting.

Having a successful fundraiser is not just about what you hope will happen, but what proactive steps you take to strive towards a clearly laid out goal.”



17 Fundraising Sale Ideas

Capitalize on your audiences’ shopping habits with the following fundraising ideas.

 

1. Charity Calendars

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

There's just something great about a paper calendar that has pictures from your favorite charity. Whether it's cute puppies in need of a home or firefighters who need new uniforms, if you make sure the production value is high, people will want to have a copy.

Challenges to Consider:

Custom calendars are huge around the holidays, so get your order in early to ensure they arrive in time for holiday sales.

The Best Time to Do This:

Shoot for the holidays so that your calendars are out before January 1st!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Try to link up with a local photographer to take the calendar pictures and keep costs low.

 

2. Succulent Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Succulents are easy to grow, affordable, and on trend! You can either sell the plants directly with a small markup, or have volunteers repot them into interesting objects (plastic dinosaurs or teacups are sure to be a hit) for added visual interest.

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to decide early whether you’ll be purchasing succulents from a nursery or growing them yourself.

The Best Time to Do This:

Succulents look great all year round!

 

3. Pre-Packaged Food Sale

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Head to your local wholesale store and pick up a car-load of packaged snacks. Local events, such as school events, sports matches, rallies, and markets, are a great place to set up your sale. The opportunities are endless!

Challenges to Consider:

Be aware of regulations around food sales in your area, and ask permission from the organizer if you plan to sell at an event. This can also work for packaged drinks such as Gatorade or water bottles.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Ask around to find events in your community at which you can participate.

 

4. Rubber Wristband Sale

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

It's hard to believe, but rubber message bands are still very popular — kids in particular love to wear these. Think of a fun slogan or message for your cause and buy these in bulk. Selling them for even $1 each can turn you a profit.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

5. Sell-A-Trinket

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

This sale's effectiveness is twofold: you make money by selling the item and you get advertising by those people wearing it. Get a local artist to design it and you'll be promoting their work, too.

Challenges to Consider:

Decide whether to design an item and get it made professionally, or to ask your community to help make them. Friendship bracelets and pins can easily by homemade... but beware, it'll need to be nice enough that people will actually wear it!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Art schools in your area might be willing to help out for exposure.

 

6. T-Shirt Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

The secrets to a successful shirt sale are: 1. Create a design people will actually want to wear on a regular basis, 2. Use the most comfortable and flattering shirts, and 3. Consider printing on demand. Doing this means that you don't have a huge outlay creating stock at the start, and everyone can get the exact size (and color) that suits them.

Challenges to Consider:

While printing on demand does save you money, it also means that each shirt costs more to produce, and it also takes more time. If you’re having a shirt sale event, you can rent a screen printing machine - all you need is your design and some volunteers to get everyone at the event exactly what they need.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

7. Chocolate Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

A chocolate sale is one of the more straightforward approaches to charity fundraising. Just bulk buy chocolate, pick a busy location, and start selling!

Challenges to Consider:

Find a spot where there are plenty of people passing through, and not many stores to satisfy people's cravings. Schools, sports clubs and local events could all work well.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

8. Greeting Cards

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Recruit some kids to design adorable holiday cards to sell individually or by the box. They can be easily copied and printed on high quality paper at FedEx. For an extra charge, offer to mail them out as well for complete holiday convenience.

The Best Time to Do This:

This idea also works well if you're participating in a craft sale or have an office where people could drop by to buy them. Holiday season is the sweet spot for this fundraiser.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

You could partner with an art school or a local artist for more professional cards as well.

 

9. Dedicated Books

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

A personalized book makes a great present. Collaborate with a well-known author who is willing to hand write dedications in their books and gather requests for the names and messages people would like for a small fee. This would particularly suit literacy or arts charities.

Challenges to Consider:

Figuring out the kind of book to sell will be the hardest part!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime, or connected to an event that relates back to the story you're sharing.

 

10. Memory Wall

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Create a wall or other feature that includes memorial plaques. People can pay to have their loved one's name and dates engraved on a plaque, and perhaps include a message to them. This can be a wonderful way to show support for your community, and is ideal for charities supporting those affected by illness or bereavement.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need a wall or other appropriate space for the plaques. The overhead cost for this fundraiser could also be quite high, but it also has the chance to raise some positive press for your organization.

The Best Time to Do This:

If you're relating it back to your charity, try to time it appropriately (for example, Breast Cancer Awareness Month is in October).

 

11. Recipe Book

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Ask your community for family recipes, and compile them into a book that you can then sell at craft sales, farmers markets, and other events.

Challenges to Consider:

Producing a book can be expensive, so consider partnering with a sponsor to cover the cost of these in exchange for their name or advert appearing in it.

The Best Time to Do This:

This makes a great present, so make sure it's ready for Christmas.

 

12. Community Coupon Book

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$

Collaborating with local businesses to build coupon books is a great alternative to direct donation. Ask each business to offer a deal or two, and compile them into a book of 50-100 coupons to sell to community members at an event.

Challenges to Consider:

This idea has two parts to organize — firstly, collaborating with businesses to get the deals and creating the coupon books, and secondly, organizing sales at various events or online.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

13. Christmas Tree Sale

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Buy a large number of Christmas trees in different sizes at wholesale prices, and set up your stand in a field or parking lot to sell them locally. You'll need volunteers to run the sales, and a tree netting machine.

Challenges to Consider:

Have a plan in place for any trees that don't get sold, and be prepared to clear up your space — Christmas tree needles get everywhere!

The Best Time to Do This:

Christmas, of course.

 

14. VIP Parking Sale

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

There's always a prime parking spot in a workplace or apartment building parking lot. Auction off exclusive parking rights to the spot for a year and see the donations come rolling in. You could even add a sign with the winner's name to make it officially theirs.

Challenges to Consider:

Be sure to check with the building management first, and to let everyone else with access to the parking lot know that the spot is now out of bounds.

The Best Time to Do This:

January, so you can auction off the spot for a full year. You can also auction it off month by month.

 

15. "Famous" Photographers Prints

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Find a well known photographer (or even a collection of people who are fairly well known locally) who is willing to let you use some of their images. You could use these to create products that are then sold at craft fairs or online.

Challenges to Consider:

Printing a calendar or book can be expensive, so shop around for a deal and promote them everywhere you can. Leftover stock can end up costing a lot!

The Best Time to Do This:

Create cards for Christmas, or calendars for the new year.

 

16. Buy-a-Brick

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

This is a perfect project if your organization is building something new or making a commemorative wall. Ask community members to donate to have their name or message engraved on a brick and be part of the structure.

The Best Time to Do This:

Get started whilst you're planning a new building project.

 

17. Farmer's Market Booth

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

This fundraising idea could combine a few of the other fundraisers we've listed. You could sell baked goods, calendars, crafts... anything that your volunteers or staff can make.

Challenges to Consider:

For this idea, you need to have people who are willing to contribute goods they've made or bought to your stall, as well as people who are willing to run it.

The Best Time to Do This:

Farmers' markets typically run in the late spring or summer. However, you could also do this in the winter if you can find a Christmas fair or other craft sale nearby.

 

fundraising ideasMarc A. Pitman

CFCC

The Concord Leadership Group: FundraisingCoach.com & The Nonprofit Academy

"In all of a nonprofit's fundraising work, whether in events, through print and digital communications, or in one-on-one meetings, the nonprofit's job is to show donors what they as donors have accomplished. That’s because the impact that has occurred through the nonprofit exists because of donations. So, as the nonprofit ties donors directly to the impact, donors will willingly give again and again.

And asking will be easier too. Nonprofits will now be able to say 'Remember that great decision you made to give earlier? And the tremendous results your gift created? There are more opportunities. Will you make that great decision to give again, right now?’”

 


15 Unique Fundraising Ideas

Looking for some fundraising inspiration that’s a little out of the ordinary? The following ideas might help.

 

1. Singing Telegrams

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

This one is an old favourite. What better way is there to say “I love you”, “Happy birthday” or the occasional “I’m sorry” than with an unexpected singing message? Recruit the Frank Sinatras and Whitney Houston's among your community to fulfill song requests around town.

Challenges to Consider:

Make sure your customers give a very specific “delivery” time. Unlike flowers or chocolates, the sweet gift of song can’t simply be left on the doorstep.

The Best Time to Do This:

Singing telegrams are a delight all year long, but may be a particularly big hit around Valentine Day.

 

2. Meal with a Celebrity

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Ask a local celeb (e.g. mayor, popular athlete, local artist or entrepreneur) to donate a few hours to have a meal with a raffle or auction winner. If you’re lucky you may even be able to have the meal donated by a local restaurant in exchange for the visit from the celeb.

Challenges to Consider:

Reach out to the celebrity early to make sure they can fit you in their busy schedule.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

3. Chauffeur for the Day

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Whether you want to finally be able to have that second glass of wine out at dinner or are just plain tired of having to drive your kids all around town, who wouldn’t love have a personal chauffeur for the day? Ask volunteers to give up a few hours to drive around some lucky souls to wherever takes their fancy. This could also be a raffle or auction prize.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

 

4. House Number Painting

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $

Offer to paint house numbers on the kerbs of your neighbourhood. All you'll need is black paint, reflective white paint, number stencils, and some volunteers.

Challenges to Consider:

Set aside several days to do this, as it will take a while to go around the houses and to paint each number, plus you might have to take a break on days when it’s raining.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime that it's mostly dry.


fundraising ideas5. Yoga with Animals

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Yoga with kittens and goats (to name only a few) is all the rage right now, so why not try it out yourself?

Challenges to Consider:

You'll have to find animals who are relaxed enough to do yoga with.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

This is the perfect event for an animal shelter or petting zoo to get involved with. You can also ask a yoga studio to donate their instructor's time for your event.


6. Duct Tape the Boss

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Charge students or office workers a small fee for a strip of duct tape to tape their leader to a wall. Kids will get a real kick out of this one! Make sure you've got some good quality tape and you're set.

Challenges to Consider:

As long as you have a willing "tape-ee", you're good to go.

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.


7. Eating Challenge

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

This event brings together two things people love: food and competition! You can host several competitions as the same time like "How many donuts in a minute?" alongside a 100 hotdog challenge! Ask local restaurants or bakeries if they'd be willing to donate the food used in the contests. They'll get some promotion, and you'll keep costs down.

Challenges to Consider:

Always ask about allergies and make sure all food is properly prepared. The last thing you want is to get anybody sick!

The Best Time to Do This:

Anytime.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Ask a local restaurant to partner with you.

 

8. Flamingo a Yard

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $

Grab 20-30 flamingos and plant them in someone’s yard overnight. To have them removed, they'll pay to send them to someone else's house. This can work with gnomes, school mascots, forks – just be creative!

Challenges to Consider:

As always, consent is everything. Make sure community members know this fundraiser is happening so they know that they may get "flamingoed" and how to get them moved. Volunteers need to be considerate of the flowers and other decorations already in the yard.

The Best Time to Do This:

You could do this seasonally — flamingoes for summer, and reindeer for winter.

 

9. Rent a Youth Day

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Raising money for a school or youth focused activity? Ask parents and community members to volunteer their kids or students to volunteer to help with yard work, painting, cleaning, or other jobs needed.

Challenges to Consider:

Partnering with a school or youth group could help ensure you get enough volunteers to match with the requested jobs. It might also help keep them focused on the task if there's an adult supervising each activity.

The Best Time to Do This:

If you start planning at the beginning of the summer, this can be easier to be organize whilst they're still in school, and they could then begin the work just as they break for vacation.

 

10. Teacup Pig Tea Party

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Give people the chance to make friends with an adorable animal over high tea!

Challenges to Consider:

If you don't have any teacup pigs in the area, consider doing this with other unique animals like Sphynx cats or snakes... or just having a good old-fashioned tea party without the gimmick!

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

A pet breeder or SPCA in the area is a good bet!

 

11. Kick the Habit

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Get people to donate to kick a habit - it could be smoking, sugar, shopping - anything! Donate the money you're saving by cutting out this habit, or get other people to donate to sponsor you. This could work particularly well for organizations that have a link to a specific habit — for instance, a charity helping lung cancer patients could encourage people to give up smoking.

Challenges to Consider:

Tracking that people are actually doing what they say they are can be difficult.

The Best Time to Do This:

People are often more inclined to change their habits around the new year or during a religious observance such as Lent or Ramadan.


12. VIP Tours

Overhead Cost: $-$$

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Ask employees or local experts to offer VIP, behind the scenes tours of special community places like museums, government buildings, breweries, etc. This can also be offered as a raffle or auction prize.

Challenges to Consider:

You'll need to get the okay from whichever organization owns the building that you plan to tour, and see if they have any specific rules to follow.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Any kind of building that you'd like to tour.

 

13. Skip a Meal

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 1

Expected Return: $$

Ask people to donate the money that would've been spent on a meal, or get sponsors to donate for the meal being skipped. This is a great way to raise awareness for hunger.

Challenges to Consider:

Determine how you're going to track participation in advance.

The Best Time to Do This:

During Lent or Ramadan, or other religious holidays that focus on abstinence, are great times for this fundraiser.

 

fundraising ideas14. Community Passport

Overhead Cost: $$

Complexity to Plan: 3

Expected Return: $$$

Collaborating with local businesses to create a passport of special places and deals with the community is a great way to build buzz for them and fundraise for you. Ask each business to offer a deal to include in the passport and agree to “stamp” the page when the deal has been redeemed . You could sell the passports at a local community event and offer a prize to the first community member to stamp all their pages!

Challenges to Consider:

To work well, there needs to be quite a few local businesses participating.

The Best Time to Do This:

This could work well outside of the busy season, when businesses will want to encourage more people to visit.

Sponsoring or Partnering Organization:

Any local businesses willing to donate to your cause.

 

15. Name a Meal

Overhead Cost: $

Complexity to Plan: 2

Expected Return: $$

Work with a local organization such as a restaurant, winery, or brewery, to name a new beer, meal or wine in your honour! Then, determine what percentage of sales from that item will be donated back to you. If you want inspiration, here's what the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County did.

Challenges to Consider:

Finding a company to partner with might take a while - if you have a personal connection to anyone who owns a restaurant or brewery, that would be a great place to start. You'll also have to work closely with them to keep track of how much of your product is being sold - consider setting up a shared document they can update daily or weekly.

The Best Time to Do This:

Keep the season in mind when you're choosing your food — partnering with a beer company would work well in the summer, whereas Thanksgiving and Christmas could be opportunities for seasonal products.

fundraising ideasSheryl Stiefel & Laurie Hochman

Fundraising Fox

“If you’re looking to get more volunteers involved with your fundraisers, just ASK!  You can do this through emails and social media, but one of the best ways is personally asking people.  Volunteers are part of the organization’s team, and leadership should continuously communicate, listen and thank their volunteers to keep them engaged and make them feel appreciated. This will keep volunteers coming back year after year!”


I hope you enjoyed this list of fundraisers and were inspired for your next fundraising event! 


Related Resources:

Credit to Marina Khmelnitskaya for all illustrations.

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Tatiana Morand

Posted by Tatiana Morand

Published Friday, 17 August 2018 at 1:07 PM

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