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Fundraising Ideas

Fundraising ideas for individuals: 12 surefire ways to raise money

You don’t need to host an expensive gala (or stick to the yard sale) to raise money. There’s a whole universe of ideas that you can draw from. Keep reading for fundraising ideas for individuals.

Rachel Mills
July 31, 2020
Nerd Mr Butter

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Whether you’re a one-person fundraising machine or a lean-and-mean crew, thinking of a practical but powerful fundraiser can be challenging. Don’t worry — having limited time, money, or volunteers isn’t a barrier when you’ve got the right idea.

This article is packed with fundraising ideas for individuals and small teams, plus plenty of tips to help you execute each event to perfection.

The two kinds of individual fundraising

Let’s quickly distinguish between the two kinds of individual fundraising:

  • 🙋 Personal fundraising: You’re fundraising to accomplish a personal goal. You may be helping a loved one, raising money to start a business, or funding a dream trip abroad.
  • 🌎 Fundraising for nonprofit organizations: You’re fundraising on behalf of a favorite nonprofit or charitable group, like a children’s health organization.

In both scenarios, you’ll need a fundraising platform that lets you make an engaging fundraising page, create events and sell tickets, and of course, collect donations.

As an individual or small team, you’re not working with a $5 million budget, and every penny counts. So you should also look for a platform where there’s an option for donors to cover your payment processing fees. (Anyone who accepts credit cards and bank transfers like Venmo has to pay these fees. They’re issued by Visa, Mastercard, and other payment networks.) That way, you get 100% of every donation.

Guess what? Givebutter checks all those boxes and more. Our platform is completely free — see if we’re a good fit for your fundraising.

12 fundraising ideas for individuals

To help you raise the most money, we’ve adapted the nonprofit fundraising playbook to work for your small but mighty team. Read closely — we’ve included some extra event ideas in each section.

1. Crowdfunding campaign

Live Music Festival GIF

Crowdfunding is the quintessential fundraising idea for individuals, partners, and teams on a mission. (Our guide to successful crowdfunding is a good place to start.)

Put simply, you meet your goal by earning small amounts of money from a large number of people. This is a popular method to win support for a cause, so you’ll need to stand out. The best campaigns include:

Here’s some advice from Esusu, a business that raised 7 times its fundraising goal using crowdfunding on Givebutter: Momentum matters. People love to participate in something that’s already gaining steam. Before you do a wide launch, give some enthusiastic supporters early access to donate and comment.

2. Sporting event watch party

Build off the passion, energy, and commitment of sports fans for your next fundraising campaign. Rent a small venue or host a game viewing party at your home with plenty of snacks and drinks. You can charge a small entry fee and add a capacity limit to your event to control the headcount.

Another reason this event is great for individuals is because it doesn’t have to take place in person. In a post-COVID-19 environment, many stadiums have limited seats or aren’t welcoming fans back yet. A livestreamed watch party is the perfect alternative for your “attendees.”

3. Birthday gift fundraiser

Turn your special day into an occasion to give. With a birthday fundraiser, you invite your friends to make a donation that matches your age or birth date in place of a gift.

For example, if you’re turning 40, you could ask for $40 donations, either for your personal goal or your nonprofit of choice. Dates offer more flexibility. If your birthday is April 9, 1980 (04/09/80), you might request $13 (4 + 9) or $49 (4 and 9) donations. Or, ask eight friends to give $10 for a total of $80.

This is just one example of peer-to-peer fundraising. All you need is a friendly, personalized donation page, and your peers can rally around your cause.

And although Facebook has popularized birthday fundraisers, it’s no longer the best platform to host one, especially if you’re supporting a nonprofit.

A main downside is that it can take more than two weeks for nonprofits to receive the funds you’ve raised. It’s harder for them to connect with Facebook donors due to privacy settings and limited contact details. And users may not be comfortable giving their payment information directly to Facebook after multiple data misuse scandals.

In addition, Facebook has a minimum 24-hour review process for personal campaigns, and that number increases with demand. You could be stuck waiting for approval when you need to raise money.

By contrast, Givebutter empowers people to amplify their campaign with one-click Facebook sharing — while ensuring speedy donations to their favorite nonprofits and quick setup for personal fundraising.

4. Scavenger hunt fundraiser

Inspect Will Smith GIF

A scavenger hunt combines all the ingredients of a fun fundraising campaign: challenging clues, unique destinations, and the thrill of friendly competition. Have participants register as teams or individuals, either by paying a competition entrance fee or raising a certain amount of funds to qualify.

If you’re fundraising on behalf of a nonprofit, this is a great way to educate people about its mission. For instance, if it’s a clean-water group, have teams find a specific water fountain at the park or take a picture with someone who has a water bottle.

Run the event online (posting clues to your fundraising page) or simply hand out printed lists. Raise extra funds by selling snazzy team T-shirts. Or, let participants unlock bonus clues by donating.

5. Tasty treat fundraiser

Did you know some fast food restaurants will let you buy their food at a discount if you’re fundraising? For example, Krispy Kreme and Auntie Anne’s offer their fried treats as fundraising products.

Your next step is to sell these delicious donuts and pretzels, bake sale-style. Choose an area with lots of foot traffic and set up shop. (Keep in mind that your municipality might require you to get a temporary food handlers permit.) You can also take online orders and arrange convenient delivery or pickup. Another idea is to call your local businesses and see if they’re willing to participate.

6. Sponsored marathon

You can go a couple ways with this reliable fundraising idea for individuals. First, see if a business or nonprofit will sponsor you for an endurance marathon (think walk-a-thons, 5Ks, dance marathons, etc.) Sponsorship aren’t just for top athletes anymore. Increasingly, large brands are supporting amateurs with inspiring stories and serious fundraising goals.

Alternatively, you can go a little crazy for your cause. Podcaster Jesse Carey raised $30,953 for charity: water by livestreaming himself watching Nicolas Cage movies for 24 hours straight. His supporters loved it, and he gave “marathon” a new meaning.

7. Obstacle course fundraiser

Save Game Show GIF

Take a page from American Ninja Warrior and Wipeout and build a tough (or wacky) obstacle course to raise funds!

If you want people to work as a team, ask them to raise a certain amount of money to participate. If you prefer that people compete as individuals, you can charge a fee each time they run the course. (Depending on the difficulty level and type of participants, people may try to improve their time, which means more donations for your cause.)

Grab some parking cones, sand, tires, and kiddie pools, and start building.

8. Viral video or photo challenge

Need to switch things up for your Generation Z or millennial audience? Try a viral video or photo contest. You’ll need a challenge that motivates people without being too involved. For example, Cancer Research UK raised roughly £8 million in donations through a “No Make-up Selfie For Cancer Awareness” campaign.

The key element is that every participant has to tag at least three people to join in after they’ve shared their picture/video to your social media page. Anyone who doesn’t has to donate to your campaign (usually between $5 and $20).

You and your team members need to know the best times to post to social media to get the word out. Here’s a rundown:

  • Facebook: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 to 11 a.m.
  • Twitter: Friday from 7 to 9 a.m.
  • Instagram: Monday, Tuesday, and Friday at 11 a.m. and Tuesday at 2 p.m.

Don’t forget a memorable #hashtag!

9. Scratch card fundraiser

New school, meet old school. Scratch-and-donate is a classic and easy fundraising idea for individuals. It’s like playing the lottery for a good cause.

First, buy a bulk batch of scratch cards from a wholesaler. Each circle hides a dollar amount, usually ranging from 50 cents to several dollars. Then, have participants scratch off as many sections as they’d like. The total amount is how much they’ll donate. Collect donations offline or accept virtual payment (credit card, Venmo, etc.) through your donation page. If you like this idea, you can also sell coupon books or discount cards.

10. Corporate matching gift

You don’t need a big team or budget to double or even triple your fundraising goal. Take advantage of corporate matching gift programs.

It’s not the kind of gift with wrapping paper. With this fundraising campaign, you make a donation to a nonprofit and then request that your employer matches your gift. Some companies do a straight 1:1 to match, but others take it to the next level, offering a 2:1 or 3:1 commitment.

A simple way to multiply your impact is to draw on elements of peer-to-peer fundraising. Get your co-workers on board, set up individual fundraising pages, and then request a corporate match for your collective donations.

11. Car wash fundraiser

Car Wash Dancing GIF by Justin Timberlake

Who doesn’t have a soft spot for the car wash fundraiser? Make a difference with nothing more than some soap, water hoses, towels, buckets, and willing hands.

Sell tickets ahead of time and attract business with a wacky, hard-to-ignore theme (think silly costumes and wigs), large signs (with your text-to-donate number), and good music.

Leading up to the big day, post paper and digital flyers. Another pro tip? Emphasize speed and convenience. Although people want to offer support, they likely don’t want to wait 20 minutes for a car wash. And have a plan B in case of bad weather.

12. Block party fundraiser

Put the “fun” in fundraiser. A block party is definitely ambitious for an individual or small team, but it’s doable with some prep work. And because it’s a larger event, there’s potential to earn a lot of money. Keep things simple and focus on two areas: food and entertainment.

  • 🍕 Food: Save money by offering light snacks and drinks, and shine the spotlight on an exciting cook-off. See if you can get a local chef or culinary goods store to judge the competition or donate a prize for the winner. If you have a local restaurant cater the event, they may be willing to donate 10-20% of sales to your cause.
  • 🎙 Entertainment: Local artist performances, DJs, talent shows, jump houses, photo booths, silent auctions, trivia — they’re all blockparty winners. You can also hold a raffle and hand out raffle tickets to every attendee.

Survey your community members well in advance to compile a list of activities and other requests.

Want more fundraising ideas for individuals?

As you can see, you don’t need to host an expensive gala (or stick to the humble yard sale) to raise money. There’s a whole universe of ideas that individuals and small teams can draw from. Want more? Keep reading:

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