The leaves are turning, the pumpkin spiced lattes are brewing, and the wheels are turning for a fun fall festival campaign for your organization. And we're cooking up a few great ideas to ensure your event comes back year after year.
A fall festival offers a number of opportunities to raise funds for your good cause. Families have exhausted their summer travel plans, creating fewer conflicts — and therefore higher attendance — for your event. After Labor Day, you won't have to schedule around any national holidays until Thanksgiving. And last but certainly not least, most nonprofits make the majority of their year-end asks in November and December.
Meaning, if you start promoting your event toward the end of summer, you'll be competing with fewer organizations vying for your supporters' attention.
To make the most of this opportunity, we're sharing more than a dozen fall festival ideas to make it a show-stopping event for every age group.
13 fall festival ideas we're totally obsessed with
If you swoon at the thought of apple picking, pumpkin carving, and donning your favorite boots and scarves, you're not alone.
A recent poll of 2,000 Americans shows that people are happiest in autumn, compared to other seasons. Below, we share a number of fun game ideas to bring some of that seasonal joy to your fall harvest party — for parents, kids, teenagers, and everyone in between. From haunted house scavenger hunts to conjuring up a witch's potion, these fall festival games will make the most of your event.
1. Create a human mummy competition 🏆
It's the festival of the living dead, and we spotted a few corpses running about the grounds. Get a head-start on the Halloween scaries by creating a team zombie competition. Each team will wrap one player head-to-toe in toilet paper, while a panel of judges determines the scariest, haunted-house-worthy undead body.
2. Build a larger-than-life checkerboard ♠
Give a seasonal spin to lawn games by creating a larger-than-life checker board (when building, measure roughly one foot per square). Rather than checker pieces, place pumpkins (painted in different fall colors) on each square. Pro tip: Use this same theme to create a second party game, using small pumpkins to create a tic-tac-toe board.
3. Design a skeleton ring toss 😱
If the idea of a ring toss game seems a bit tame for your tastes, allow us to up the horror factor a notch. Take a trek to your local craft store, and buy several plastic, whole-body skeletons. Dissect your skeleton into various body parts, then drill each "bone" into a wooden background. Award different points for different body parts (whoever gets a ring on the skull wins 20 points!).
4. Knock over the ghosts 👻
Help! A ban of ghosts and ghouls are invading your harvest festival, and you need to stop them! Create an easy Halloween game by repainting bowling pins to look like ghosts, goblins, and ghouls, then invite the kiddos to knock them over. If you want to take the autumn-theme to a level 10, paint the bowling balls orange to look like a pumpkin bowling game.
5. Create an eyeball race 👁
A spoon-and-egg race is a fun activity usually reserved for springtime, but there's an easy way to give it an autumn twist. Paint each egg to look like an eyeball (or buy a game set online), then challenge each player to walk without letting it drop. The first player across the finish line wins.
6. Develop a witch's brew 🍜
A coven of witches are brewing up a new spell, and it's your job to finish the potion. Spread life-sized cauldrons across the lawn, then invite players to toss various ingredients (use mini pumpkins, ears of corn, or fall party favors) into the pot for a fun twist on a bean bag toss.
7. Hide treasures in a haunted house 🏘
If you're throwing your fall carnival at your school, community center, or place of worship, you can easily reserve several rooms to transform into a spooky haunted house. Recruit a group of volunteers to dress up as zombies, goblins, mummies, and other mythical creatures to “guard" various hidden treasures. Make a scavenger hunt out of the haunted house, using free printable clues to guide players to each prize.
8. Create a decorate-your-own caramel apple station 🍏
While the winter holidays are known for cooking decorating, autumn is more of the caramel-apple variety. To give a sweet kick to your fall fest, create a DIY caramel apple station with all the fixings. Allow festival-goers to dip fresh apples in melted caramel, then decorate with crushed peanuts, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows, coconut flakes, and other favorites. Afterwards, each guest can take home their decorated treat.
9. Have them walk the plank 🏃
For a fun carnival game — and a physical challenge — invite supporters to "walk the plank" at a pirate-themed post. Set up a face painting station and hand out eye patches so each guest looks like a pirate. Once they've donned their best Black Beard look, have them walk across a wooden board over troubled waters (i.e. a blue tarp with blown-up sharks) — all with just one eye open! If adults want an added physical challenge, have them walk a slackline.
10. Organize a field hockey (er, field pumpkin?) game 🏑
For a fun pumpkin game no one will expect, organize an annual field "hockey" tournament at your festival. Rather than hockey sticks, use brooms to push a pumpkin — rather than a puck — down the field. Create brackets for different age groups (including adults!), invite spectators to watch, and this will surely be a favorite fall festival activity for years to come.
11. Create a pumpkin carving contest 🎃
No fall festival is complete without a visit to the local pumpkin patch. Before the festival, pick up enough pumpkins to distribute to ticket holders. Then, organize a pumpkin carving contest where volunteer judges select the most original, scariest, or most artistic jack-o-lantern. (Note: If you're worried about distributing sharp objects to your supporters, switch things up and organize a pumpkin decorating contest instead, where supporters will paint — not carve — their designs.)
12. Build an architectural masterpiece 🏢
Want to organize a DIY fall craft activity that's fun for all ages? Create a craft station where you challenge participants to build houses using nothing but candy corn, gum drops, and toothpicks. If you want, lay out stickers, mini flags, and other decorative elements to allow supporters to add a little flair to their creations.
13. Sip a cold one on a boozy hayride 🍺
Creating an event that's fun for the whole family means including plenty of fall festival ideas for adults. So while the kiddos are galavanting between their favorite fall activities, allow the parents to kick up their boots on a boozy hayride around the grounds. Cover hay bales with cozy blankets, then pass out pumpkin ales, Oktoberfest lagers, and spiked apple cider for all to enjoy.
How Givebutter makes promoting your fall festival a total cakewalk
Hopefully, these autumn-themed games and party ideas inspire you when organizing the best fall festival ever. But before we sign off, there's one thing we need to touch on: logistics.
Givebutter offers 70+ features for free to help you promote your fall festival. Through Givebutter, you can sell tickets, email (or text!) event reminders, and easily spread the word on social media. Plus, Givebutter allows you to create gorgeous, branded pages with interactive supporter feeds to generate excitement before your event. Lastly, Givebutter offers countless ways to donate — like Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, check, or PayPal — so you can continue to collect donations at your event, even if supporters didn't purchase tickets in advance.
Planning a fall festival can be a daunting task — unless you have the right tools.
To see how Givebutter can make promoting a fall festival a total breeze, launch your free account today.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.