8 creative fundraising events that'll wow your supporters

Written by
Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

8 creative fundraising events that'll wow your supporters

It used to be that a local bake sale, cook-off, yard sale, or silent auction were the go-to options when it came to fundraising event ideas. But while these tried-and-true fundraisers are still effective, they can also become a little stale. And if there's one thing you don't want when trying to raise money, it's a bored audience.

Fortunately, there are countless opportunities to make sure your fundraising event won't make attendees feel like they've seen it a million times before. Whether you're part of a nonprofit organization, company, student group, sports team, or simply an individual who wants to make a difference, it's possible for your fundraising efforts to knock it out of the park. (Even if you're having a virtual event!) 

This roundup of fundraising events offers fun ways to help you raise awareness — and potentially a lot of money — for a good cause. 

How to start your fundraising campaign

Team planning upcoming fundraising events

Before we share some ideas for memorable and exciting fundraising events, it's essential for you to first get your fundraising platform in place. When you consider that online giving continues to grow year after year, the best place to start is online. What's more, the latest stats on charitable giving show that 84% of millennials give to charity, and most of them are highly active on their phones and respond best to text messages and social media. 

So, what does that mean for you? It means using an online tool like Givebutter is a no-brainer because it lets you handle every aspect of your fundraising efforts in one easy-to-use dashboard. Not only does it let you create your own unique fundraising page, but it allows you to collect donations, add text-to-donate options, and spread the word via social media and email with a single click. 

Some other features to look for when planning your fundraising strategy include: 

  • Team fundraising: Raise money with peer-to-peer fundraising that promotes participation, creates a little friendly competition, and helps bolster team spirit. 
  • Team ticket tracking: This function ensures you always stay on track by letting you add team members to see how many tickets they sell. You can also manage ticket purchases from specific attendees or anyone else involved in your fundraiser. 
  • Add a donation: Many people are willing to add a donation in addition to their ticket price, so don't let the opportunity pass you by. Adding a donation button is also a great idea if the person cannot attend your fundraising event but would still like to donate.
  • Add to calendar functionality: There's no point in having a fundraiser if your supporters forget to show up! With an "add to calendar" option, people can add the event to their Google, Yahoo, Outlook, or iCal calendar so they don't forget about the big day.
  • PDF tickets: Since most people are on their phones anyhow, make it easier for them (and you) by offering scannable tickets. If your attendees prefer printed tickets, they can simply print off the PDF. Easy peasy.
  • Streaming video such as Livestream: Whether you're hosting a public or private virtual event on Zoom, Facebook, YouTube, Twitch, or Vimeo, you can expand your reach exponentially when you stream it live. No matter where you or your supporters are in the world, Livestream personalizes the whole experience and fosters a greater sense of community and connection.

8 can't-miss fundraising ideas for your next event

Now that you know more about what you need to start up your fundraising campaign, it's time to finalize your event. Check out these nine nifty ideas that will get your creative wheels turning, generate excitement, boost support, and ensure fun times for all.

1. Primp and pamper crawl

In The Heights gif

We've all heard of pub crawls, but what about a "primp and pamper" crawl? Instead of bar-hopping and boozing it up, this type of social crawl is perfect if you're trying to raise funds for say, a women's charity or your local Black beauty community

You can set up the event on a particular stretch where there are nail salons, blowout bars, and makeup or skincare boutiques. 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. You can also sell raffle tickets for gift baskets filled with goodies from all the participating local businesses. 

2. Expert webinars 

For this fundraising event, you can bring people together even if they're miles apart. (And you'll also raise awareness and a lot of money in the process.) For example, take a look at the Swimmers for Change campaign, which was created by Olympians, Paralympians, and U.S. National Team athletes supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. 

The webinars were geared toward the swimming community and covered a range of topics including athlete nutrition, mental health, leadership, technique advice, and live workout sessions. The group also sold T-shirts with proceeds supporting charities. 

Use this same idea to raise money for your particular cause — reach out to local experts, 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.

3. Muddy obstacle course

Mud run gif

People love a challenge, so rather than having yet another walkathon, step it up with a muddy obstacle course. While you could pay a company to rent a facility or set up a course at a specified location, you can also consider creating your own. (Just keep in mind it'll be a lot more work and you'll need to find a park or other outdoor venue willing to provide the space.) 

Either way, between the rope climbing, high jumps (you can use hay bales or tires), giant inflatable slides, and muddy pits, this is by far one of the most fun activities for raising money. Set up an online registration form and charge participants a registration fee. Set a minimum fundraising goal for each individual or team. Check out this list of epic mud runs for more messy inspiration. 

4. Dancing fashion show

Who cares if you can't get Gisele, Gigi, or Kaia? Community members can get in touch with their inner supermodel for a fashion show fundraiser that's sure to turn heads. We agree that watching regular people strut down the catwalk can be entertaining on its own, but get creative and make it a dancing fashion show. 

Ask each participant to pick a favorite song or you can designate a specific genre or era for the show — you can't go wrong with ‘90s pop or funky disco. Charge an entry fee, sell snacks and drinks before and after the show, and auction off some of the clothes. 

Another money-raising idea: Have participants get sponsors who pledge to donate a set amount (say, $5) every time a particular dance move is performed. Also, livestream the event so people can watch (and react) from wherever they are. 

5. Stack ‘em ice cream scoop challenge

Ice cream scoops gif

How sweet it is! This very Instagrammable fundraising event is sure to scoop up some fun (and funds) for your cause. It's pretty simple: Whoever can stack the most scoops on an ice cream cone wins. You can have five contestants at a time and keep rotating until everyone has had a chance. Every scoop is worth $5, so the more they can pile on the cone without it falling apart, the more money you raise. 

Charge all contestants an entry fee and get a local ice cream shop to sponsor the event by providing the venue and ice cream. If you can't get a full sponsorship from a local business, you can always do some initial fundraising to buy gallons of ice cream and then have the competition at a location where you can accommodate participants and spectators. Either way, you'll want to have plenty of napkins on hand. 

6. Theme-tastic dinner party

Everybody loves a good meal and there's almost no better way to put people in a giving mood than by filling their bellies with delicious eats. For a tantalizing take on the average dinner party, give it a specific theme. For example, maybe it's an underground bacon fete with bacon cocktails, bacon appetizers, and bacon baked goods. (Yes, they exist!) 

For a "Red, White, and BBQ" themed dinner party, think globally. Instead of just featuring American-style barbecue, make it an international affair with Korean barbecue, Brazilian churrasco, Mexican barbacoa, Japanese yakitori, South African braai, and so on.

Or perhaps you want to choose a color-specific theme. If you're raising money for high school equipment, choose the school's colors and encourage event attendees to wear those colors. Whatever you decide, you can raise a lot of money by selling tickets and offering upgrades such as early VIP access or a meet-and-greet with the chef(s).

7. Photo contest

For a more compelling take on the typical photo contest, this fundraising idea puts the power of storytelling in the hands of those you're raising money to help. For instance, if you're raising funds for a children's elementary school, have the kids take photos. If you're running a women's fundraiser, then arrange to give them disposable cameras so that whoever is interested can take photos and share the world through their lens.

Instead of having the photographers pay an entry fee, you can ask supporters to simply pledge a donation or sponsor a photographer. You can also make prints of the photos and sell them. Offer a small prize for the top winner(s) and create a photo slideshow on your various social media channels. This is a fundraising event that could generate interest among local media as well.

8. Battle of the tribute bands

Lady Gaga gif

Never mind your average battle of the bands. With this event fundraising idea, it's time to pay tribute to the rock stars who make the music world go round. Upon registration, bands or solo artists have to pick which band they want to cover. (Even better if they dress in costume.) Use a local bar, community center, or school gym to provide the space, and be sure to promote the event via email and social media.

Charge an admission fee at the door and sell tickets online in advance. (You could also promote a discounted price or promo code to encourage people to buy tickets before the big day.) Set up a concession stand and sell band merch with a portion of the proceeds going to your cause. Whether you have the crowd choose the winning band or you have a panel of judges, this type of fundraising event is sure to be a raucously good time. 

Fundraising events for awareness, money, and fun times

While oldies but goodies like trivia night, movie night, and bowl-a-thons are reliable fundraising events, the truth is that they can feel played out. Instead of turning to these old standbys, don't be afraid to try something new. 

The possibilities are endless for engaging your supporters and raising excitement for your cause. By adding just a few creative tweaks, you can create a fresh take on old favorites. For more fundraising campaign ideas that will inspire your next event, be sure to explore Givebutter and sign up to create your own page — it's free!

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.