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Fundraising Ideas

25 creative and engaging fundraising ideas for your nonprofit

With a few hours of dedication, you can plan an event that will draw donors in and keep them invested in your nonprofit for years to come.

Max Friedman
April 2, 2018
Nerd Mr Butter

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All great fundraising ideas have two things in common: they inspire their participants to donate money, and they spread the message of your cause to as many people as possible. However, fundraising doesn’t need to take a ton of money, or months of planning. With a few hours of dedication, you can plan an event that will draw donors in and keep them invested in your nonprofit for years to come.

1. Donate or Dare: Energize your followers by promising to do a crazy dare if your crowdfunding page meets or exceeds its goal. Chris Biehn, a Givebutter changemaker passionate about Muscular Dystrophy awareness, did a phenomenal job using this technique to raise money for The Muscular Dystrophy Association on a crazy “Care to Dare” bike ride.  Depending on how brave you are, this could be anything from wearing a banana suit in public to tattooing the logo of a local charity onto your body. (Think wisely before doing anything too crazy!)

2. Fun Run: Channel your inner Michael Scott and throw a fun-run (or walk.) Get your participants to ask their friends and family to donate a certain amount to your organization per mile run.

3. Concert for a Cause: Partner with a local band and organize a concert for them, dedicating a portion of the proceeds to your organization. As an additional fundraising opportunity, you can sell your organization’s swag or snacks at the concert.

Band playing in a concert

4. Buy a Bachelor/ Bachelorette: Grab the most eligible bachelors or bachelorettes you know who wouldn’t mind donating a few hours of their time to catch a movie or sit through a dinner with the highest bidder.

5. Raffle: One of the easiest yet most effective fundraising ideas is a raffle because the prize doesn’t have to be expensive to garner interest and participation. For example, if you’re on a college campus, a simple and perfect auction item could be a basket of ramen, Doritos, or other cheap but delicious snack foods that students love eating around midterm season. If you have a larger budget, offering things off like iPads, Beats Headphones, or a one night stays in resorts are always good ideas due to the attention and amount of entries they tend to attract.

6.   Social Media Challenge: If you’re looking to appeal to millennials, you’ve got to meet them where they are on social media. Come up with a fun (and safe) challenge like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and get your followers to participate. It’s important to get your followers to tag people in their posts on social media and encourage their friends to participate in the challenge as well. The premise of this fundraiser should be that if people don’t accept the challenge, they must donate a certain amount of money to your organization. (Many people who accept the challenge will most likely also donate to your organization as well).

7.   Puppy Party: The best fundraising ideas provide something valuable to the community in addition to simply raising money. And what’s more valuable than puppies? Find an open space to set up your booth, and team up with a local animal shelter to bring in a bunch of adoptable animals for people to play with. Charge admission to play with the puppies, and donate a portion to the animal shelter. This not only raises funds for your cause, but can help the animals meet potential adoptive families as well. The Shelter Pet Project is an awesome organization if you’re seeking a shelter near you to partner with.

8. Hugging Booth: The beauty of this idea is in its simplicity; all you need is your friendliest friends and a space to set up your hugging booth. With a “pay what you want” model, you might be surprised how generous people can be for a single hug.

9. Bake Sale: Bake sales are always great go-to option. All it takes is a few bucks for raw ingredients, and a few hours of time from the most culinary inclined members of your organization. After all, everyone loves home-baked goods.

10. Design a T-shirt: Design a eye-catching t-shirt for your cause and sell it on your website. You can also use it as incentives for donors who donate a certain amount of money. Not only will the t-shirt raise money, it’s free advertising for your cause from anyone who wears it (think walking billboards).

11. Scavenger Hunt: This could work especially well if you’re fundraising in a city or a college town. Charge a small entrance fee per team and type up a list of clues that will guide your teams through the city all the way to the finish line. Reach out to local businesses to see if they can donate small prizes like a pizza at the end for the winning team.

12. Caroling: If you’re fundraising around the holidays, embrace the holiday spirit and rally a group of volunteers to go caroling door-to-door in your local community. Make house calls or take special song requests to those who donate above certain amount of money.

13. Pop Up Thrift Store: Take advantage of times when people typically purge their wardrobe, and ask for donations towards your cause instead. Blast the information about your store on your social media pages and on Craigslist, and rake in the cash donations for your cause.

14. The Guessing Game: Put a big jar full of candy in a high traffic area. For example, if you’re on a college campus, see if you can set up a table with your jar on the quad or outside the library. Let people put in a guess for a certain amount of money, and gift the jar of candy as a prize for the winner.

15. Online Incentives: Sometimes when looking for fundraising ideas, you have to look no further than creating a campaign on Givebutter. Show your supporters appreciation by giving back to those who give to your organization. This could either be small swag items with your organization’s brand on it (t-shirts, wristbands, etc.) or something as simple as a personalized video message from your organization’s founder with a sincere “thank you.” You can also use the team fundraising feature on Givebutter that shows which of your organization’s members has raised the most money, so that you know who to provide incentives to. This can help motivate your members to raise more money and to push each other during the fundraising process.

16. Partner with a Local Restaurant: Local restaurants are often times willing to donate a portion of their proceeds from a single week night to a good cause. Restaurants benefit from a larger amount of foot traffic, so sell them on your organization’s reach in your local area.

17. Burger Grill Off: This is a great idea to engage your donors throughout the summer and early part of Fall. Recruit the best chefs you can find in your area and charge a small fee per entry for each chef. Have a few of your friends act as judges and have them rate the burgers for taste, texture, and appearance. Throw in a small prize for the winner, like a basket of cooking supplies or a restaurant gift card. Once the competition is over, the event can turn into a barbecue, with people paying a certain for a plate of food.

Man cooking meat on a barbecue

18. Movie Night: Find some free space (parks, parking lots, or plazas on a college campus are all good options) and set up a movie night, charging a few dollars per patron. As far as movie selection goes, this is a “know your crowd” situation. If you’re in a small town or school community, you can’t go wrong with a Disney family favorite. For college campuses or artsy cities, aim for more of an indie festival vibe, and make sure to  reach out to students in your community.

19. Take a pie to the face: Set up a booth in a high traffic area and charge a fee to throw a pie, (or soft fruit if it’s more cost effective) at volunteers or organization members. It’s cheaper and simpler than a dunk tank, and just as entertaining for donors and people walking by.

20. Recycling Drive: Have your members collect cans and bottles over the course of a couple of weeks and donate them for cash. This can work great by having your members collecting from their friends and family while advertising what they are doing and why on social media. Websites like Eco Cell will take collect your used and old cell phones in exchange for cash.

21. House Party: Put fun into your fundraising ideas by throwing a house party and taking a small donation as “admission” to the party. This is a great peer to peer technique if you’re fundraising in college. You can easily get friends to invite their friends and build a great crowd in a short amount of time.

22. Movers for Hire: Start the school year off strong by helping students move into their dorms in exchange for a donation to your cause. Consider running this fundraiser multiple times a year during times when students are typically leaving campus for extended periods of time (i.e. school starting, holiday break, and the end of the Spring semester). If you aren’t fundraising in a college atmosphere, offer cleaning services instead.

23. Tie Dye: Have donors bring in an item for you to tie dye for a small fee, or just tie dye plain white t-shirts, shoes, or hats and sell them on the spot to the general public.

24. Karaoke Night: Rent (or borrow) a karaoke machine and a room and throw party charging a small fee per entry. You can also throw in other incentives to increase the amount of money raised, such as unlocking certain songs for people who donate above a certain amount.

25. Dance Marathon: Walk-a-thons are fun, but there’s nothing like the energy of a dance-a-thon. Have people donate per minute, or per song danced. Reach out to plenty of potential donors and participants far in advance of the event to ensure solid participation. Try to bring in a diverse group of people in order to have the farthest reach when it comes to collecting donations.  Fundraising can be intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be. When you focus on simple and engaging ideas, your donors will be just as excited for your cause as you are.

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