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8 fundraising event ideas to delight your supporters

Need some inspiration to excite your donors? These ideas and examples from real nonprofits will help you plan memorable, successful fundraising events.

Rachel Ayotte
May 15, 2023
December 8, 2020
Nerd Mr Butter

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Great fundraising events are all about engaging your supporters in new and exciting ways. Benefit concerts, bake sales, and galas are fundraising mainstays for a reason, but they can start to feel a little stale. And if there's one thing you don't want when trying to raise money, it's a bored audience.

Whether you’re looking to host virtual, in-person, or even hybrid fundraising events this year, we’ve got eight easy, fun, and budget-friendly ideas to consider. Plus, we've included lots of fundraising event examples from real nonprofits to get your gears turning and help you have a bigger impact than ever before.

What are the different types of fundraising events? 

Depending an organization's audience, size, and capacity, fundraising events can run the gamut from casual yard sales to full blown golf tournaments. While the types of fundraising events can cover a wide range of styles and themes, they typically fall into one of three main categories:

1. In-person events 👥

Nothing beats having a group of your supporters physically together IRL—in real life! In-person fundraising events are a surefire way grow connection within your community, foster transparency, and build momentum toward your goals.

You've probably seen or even participated in at least one of these classic in-person fundraising events:

  • 5K race 🏃‍♀️
  • Trivia night fundraiser 💡
  • Sports competition ⚽
  • Auction 🙋

2. Virtual events 💻

Virtual events are now more popular than ever. They provide a cost-effective way for people from anywhere in the world to participate in your cause. Whether your organization has a large supporter base spread across different locations or you can attract more attendees by hosting a virtual event on platforms like Zoom instead of a physical gathering, virtual events can help you save money on travel, venue rental, and other in-person expenses.

The pandemic taught us that you can take almost any fundraiser online with virtual events, including:

  • Zoom workshops or webinars 🤓
  • Livestream telethons 📺
  • Virtual book clubs 📚
  • Online film screenings 🎥

3. Hybrid events 💻 + 👥

The best fundraisers are joyful, engaging, and hassle-free. With all the excitement of an in-person event and the reach of a virtual fundraiser, hybrid events can bring the best of both worlds. Plus, when done right, they can make your events more inclusive and accessible for a wider range of supporters.

Hybrid fundraising events can look like:

When weighing different fundraising event ideas for your nonprofit, you'll have to to consider your budget, goals, and your audience—including their interests, needs, and resources. Some organizations are better suited to host in-person fundraisers while others are a better match for a hybrid event. No matter what kind of unique fundraising event you plan, Givebutter can help you pull it off.

Host free in-person, virtual, and hybrid events on Givebutter

8 fundraising event examples to get your gears turning

Ready to be inspired to elevate your fundraising events? We have a collection of delightful ideas and real-life examples of successful fundraising events from a variety of nonprofit organizations. We've also identified some of the best tools that can make your event even more memorable and increase its chances of success.

1. Primp-and-pamper crawl 💅

Cost: 💸
Effort: 💪 💪
Impact: 🎉 🎉

We've all heard of pub crawls, but what about a "primp-and-pamper" crawl? Instead of bar-hopping and boozing it up, organize a memorable in-person event that's a creative twist on a classic—and perhaps even more appealing for a broader range of supporters.

Here's how to do it:

🌎 Where: Invite supporters to an area of your town where there are nail salons, blowout bars, and makeup or skincare boutiques. 

👉 How: Participants can register for the event ahead of time and pay an entry fee to receive complimentary mini manis, quick hair treatments, makeup touch-ups, and skin consultations. 

🎉 Bonus points: Auction off gift baskets filled with goodies from all the participating local businesses for some for added sweetness. 

⭐ Alternative "crawl" ideas: 

  • A campus crawl tour of your facilities and programs
  • Sugar crawl to ice cream shops, bakeries, and candy stores
  • Themed dinner party crawl
  • Dry January bar crawl to try mocktails and zero-proof drinks
  • Workout crawl to try out mini versions of local fitness classes

2. Mutt strut with some furry friends 🐶

Cost: 💸
Effort: 💪
Impact: 🎉 🎉 

Everybody loves a fundraiser that involves puppies, right? Tug on some heartstrings and make all of your supporters’ dreams come true with the cutest hybrid athletic fundraising event idea that invites supporters to walk (or run) with their pets—either by themselves or with a team. 

The Champaign County Humane Society pulled off this fundraising event idea purr-fectly, engaging supporters of all stripes and abilities to raise almost $25,000 for their programs.

Champaign County Humane Society's fundraising page on Givebutter

 Here's how to do it:

🌎 Where: Invite supporters to come to a local dog-friendly park with their pups.

👉 How: Participants join as individual or team fundraisers and register to attend.

🎉 Bonus points: Invite cat people and other animal owners to participate with other activities (in the example case above, cat naps!). Use online team leaderboards to keep the friendly competition going remotely.

⭐ Alternative competition event ideas: 

3. A silent auction taco party 🌮

Cost: 💸
Effort: 💪 💪 💪
Impact: 🎉 🎉 🎉

A silent auction event can bring in big bucks for your organization without the need for paddles or fast-talking auctioneers. And silent auctions with mobile bidding allow your supporters to get in on the action from anywhere.

For its aptly named fundraising event, TACO Bout A Great Cause, Just Say Something auctioned off all kinds of themed baskets and married its silent auction with an in-person taco fest to raise even more for their mission. 

ACO Bout A Great Cause's auction page Givebutter

Here's how to do it:

🌎 Where: A bar or community space where people can gather and you can display items and mobile bidding instructions.

👉 How: Host your silent auction online so anyone can join in the bidding, even if they can't make it in person. Just make sure to set start and end times!

🎉 Bonus points: Partner with local vendors and organizations for sponsorships and extra special auction items.

⭐ Alternative hybrid auction items: 

  • Experiences and getaways
  • Household tools and gadgets 
  • Vintage items and collectibles

4. Host an interactive wine tasting… online 🍷

Cost: 💸
Effort: 💪 💪
Impact: 🎉  🎉  🎉

If you have unique expertise to share, hosting an intimate master class can be a great way to drive donations. Give people a chance to get hands-on with a session on wine tasting, cooking, or another fun (and tasty!) skill. Your supporters get a unique experience they might otherwise pay hundreds of dollars for—right from the comfort of their home.

The Achieve Foundation nailed this idea with a virtual wine tasting class that brought in more than $28K for their cause. That’s worth toasting! 🥂 

Virtual wine tasting event hosted by The Achieve Foundation

Here's how to do it:

🌎 Where: Instead of a formal, webinar-style livestream, host the event on a private Zoom for a more personalized experience.

👉 How: Choose accessible materials your participants can easily find at a grocery or craft store. Or, include the cost of any special items in the registration fee so you can send them to each participant ahead of time. Offer full bottle purchasing or additional cheese pairings for a higher donation.

🎉 Bonus points: Add a donate button to your event page for those who can’t attend but still want to contribute, and encourage extra donations from ticket holders who are able to give a little more. 

⭐ Alternative online master class ideas: 

  • Mixology
  • Crocheting
  • Meditation

5. Livestream a battle of the tribute bands 🎤

Cost: 💸  💸
Effort: 💪 💪 💪
Impact: 🎉  🎉  🎉 

It's time to elevate your average battle of the bands. Livestreaming a musical performance, festival, or concert series is a great way to reach a larger audience. And those who attend in person get to experience a one-of-a-kind show.

Broadway Melodies’ fundraising concert, which they also streamed online, was such a hit that they surpassed their goal by $10K! They raised even more by adding a silent action, and they promoted some fun in-person benefits like a selfie station, specialty cocktails, and raffle prizes!

Broadway Melodies's fundraising page on Givebutter

Here's how to do it:

🌎 Where: Use a local bar, community center, or school gym with a good sound system.

👉 How: Create multiple ticket types with pricing options for the livestream or in-person attendance. Invite a panel of judges, or have your audience cast their votes for the winners on your event page.

🎉 Bonus points: Encourage more donations from the audience during the event—in person and online—with text-to-donate.

⭐ Alternative hybrid livestream ideas: 

  • Karaoke competition
  • Children’s talent show
  • Air guitar contest
  • Burlesque or a drag contest

6. Family-friendly scavenger hunt 🔎

Cost: 💸
Effort: 💪  
Impact: 🎉  🎉  🎉

Scavenger hunts offer at-home fun for families and can be adapted to include any household items. This kind of community-wide, family-friendly hybrid fundraiser, like the one organized by Abana Foundation, has a lower barrier to participation—meaning anyone can take part, no matter where they are.

Abana Foundation's scavenger hunt flyer

Here's how to do it: 

🌎 Where: Invite families to participate right from the comfort of their own home.

👉 How: Sell tickets and have participants track down objects most people already own (oven mitts, black socks, etc.). Offer small prizes for the winners of each round to keep everyone engaged.

🎉 Bonus points: Create a hashtag to encourage participants to share their adventures with a wider audience, and encourage more donations with a goal bar embedded right on your event page.

⭐ Alternative family-friendly hybrid event ideas: 

  • Game night
  • Crafting project
  • Video game tournament

7. Expert webinars 🤓

Cost: 💸
Effort: 💪  
Impact: 🎉 🎉  

Virtual learning events help you showcase your organization's mission and impact and tap into supporters' interests—all while raising money for your cause. Swimmers for Change hosted a variety of webinars that covered wide-ranging topics like athlete nutrition, mental health, leadership, and even live workout sessions.

Here’s how do it:

🌎 Where: Anywhere with good lighting and wifi—this one's completely virtual.

👉 How: Invite supporters to purchase tickets to an entire webinar series or to specific private livestream sessions. Give a spokesperson from your organization time at the end of each session to talk about the impact of your work—and encourage more donations!

🎉 Bonus points: For even more exiting experts, reach out to social media influencers, instructors, and even smaller-scale celebrities who are relevant to your cause. You never know who's willing to participate until you ask!

⭐ Alternative virtual learning ideas: 

  • Networking classes
  • Design tutorials
  • Lectures from prestigious professors

8. Photo contest 📸

Cost: 💸
Effort: 💪  
Impact: 🎉

Everyone in your community can get involved in this kind of virtual or hybrid fundraiser, whether they’re submitting a photo or voting for their favorite. For example, Riley's Rescue hosted a low-key photo contest and invited participants to submit photos (of dogs, in this case) on their supporter feed. Then, anyone could vote for their favorites.

Riley's Rescue fundraising page's supporter feed on Givebutter

Here’s how to do it: 

🌎 Where: Host the entire showcase on your event page, or make it a hybrid event and have an in-person photo show with an online voting component.

👉 How: Have photographers pay an entry fee, or ask supporters to simply pledge a donation or sponsor a photographer. Offer a small prize for your winners and celebrate them on social media.

🎉 Bonus points: Create a photo slideshow to showcase all of the submissions, and make prints of the photos and sell them to raise even more for your cause.

⭐ Alternative contest ideas: 

  • Photos from different age groups 
  • Watercolors or paintings 
  • Craft submissions

Put your best fundraising event ideas into action with Givebutter

While oldies but goodies like luncheons and bowl-a-thons are reliable fundraising events, the truth is that they can be overdone. Don't be afraid to mix things up with creative ideas and mix in some new tools for engaging a wider audience. The possibilities are endless!

Givebutter's all-in-one fundraising platform makes event planning easy and fun. With free, world-class tools that enable you to create gorgeous event pages, sell tickets, livestream events, and of course, collect donations, Givebutter brings together everything you need to crush your goals and create events that people will talk about about for a long time.

Ready to make your next fundraising event even butter? Sign up for a free account today →

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