Outgrown the lemonade stand and tired of car washes? No worries. These 11 fundraising ideas for teenagers will help you fund your personal goal, youth group mission trip, community service project, and much more without repeating the same old idea.
1. Bowling party
Need a fundraising event that’s sure to draw a crowd? A bowling party is right up your alley! Not only is it popular with teens, but it’s ready-made for families, school clubs, and sports teams, too.
All you need to do is create an exciting online event page. Sell tickets, get a headcount, and then rent out lanes at your local alley. For instance, Bowlero, a popular bowling chain, has nearly 300 centers across the U.S. and offers custom fundraising packages.
One way to raise a lot of money is to sell group ticket packages of four or six. You can have attendees compete for the highest scoring game, most strikes, most spares, or best team overall. Don’t forget to pick up trophies at the dollar store.
Add extra fundraising power by selling food and drink items, arcade passes, and more.
2. Social media challenge
A social media challenge is one of our favorite fundraising ideas for teenagers. Many middle school and high school students are already avid TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter users. So, have them use their smartphones and tablets for a good cause.
First, come up with an age-appropriate challenge. You can jump in on a current trend making the rounds, or brainstorm a fresh idea. For instance, have your supporters try the #TrickShot challenge, in which people try to make complicated shots, or the #FlipTheSwitch challenge, in which multiple people switch clothes or poses.
They should post their video and then tag three people to participate in the next 24 hours. If the tagged person doesn’t accept or respond fast enough, they’ve got to donate to your fundraising effort! Encourage your followers to make a donation in addition to their video.
3. Obstacle course
Let the games begin! An obstacle course is another fun way teens can meet their fundraising goal. Although it may seem complicated at first glance, it doesn’t take much to put together a thrilling set of obstacles.
You can use sand, garden hoses, rope nets, kiddie pools, tires, logs, bean bags, flags, and traffic cones to create your course.
Local home improvement stores, garden centers, gyms, and discount stores may be willing to donate or rent out supplies, too.
Individuals or teams can put themselves to the test. Raise money by charging an event entry fee, or let participants run the course multiple times for a descending fee each time. For instance, charge $50 for the first run, $35 for the second run, $20 for the third run, and so on. That way, there’s an incentive to improve their course time.
4. Gift wrapping fundraiser
This campaign is a Christmas classic. Odds are that each student knows at least three or four family members and friends who would love to outsource their yearly gift wrapping. Best of all, this mini workshop is inexpensive to run and easy to promote.
You’ll need to source attractive wrapping paper from a wholesaler or discount shop, and stock up on scissors, tape, ribbons, markers, and tags. Set up the gift wrapping station in a convenient location, like a local school, church, or community center.
Another pro tip? Hold a quick demonstration for your teen volunteers that shows them how to properly wrap gifts of different shapes and sizes. Charge flat fees for each item, like $2 for a small present and $7 for a large present. You can use a free fundraising tool like Givebutter to accept every payment type, from debit and credit card to Venmo.
Throw in a bake sale on the side, with cupcakes and other goodies, so your customers can snack while they wait.
Here’s a truly unique fundraising idea for teenagers. With a flamingo fundraiser, teens raise money by “flocking” people’s yards with pink lawn flamingos.
You’ll create a “Flock Your Friends” form, and people will pay to have flamingos placed on their friends’ yards. The requester will indicate how many flamingos they want and any other special requests. The more flamingos requested, the higher the price. For instance, you could charge $20 to place 15 flamingos.
Your volunteers will sneak the flamingos onto the victim’s lawn at night so that they awake to a very pink surprise. You’ll leave a prominent note explaining the campaign and naming the person who flocked them. It may be a good idea to contact your local police or homeowners associations before the campaign starts to get approval.
6. Spirit night
Keep things simple with a series of spirit nights. This is a tried-and-true way to raise funds and help your community members get to know each other at the same time.
Choose a local restaurant that will donate a portion of food and drink sales to your group.
National franchises like Chipotle and Chick-fil-A will give back anywhere from 15-33% of purchases, but local businesses may too.
Throughout the year, rotate various teen- and family-friendly activities like karaoke, board game tournaments, and talent shows. That way, you’ll keep things fresh and motivate people to attend each spirit night. You can charge a separate contest entrance fee for these events or come up with an all-in-one ticket package.
7. Gift basket showdown
When you’re brainstorming fundraising ideas for teenagers, a gift basket sale may not be the first thing to pop into your mind. But it’s actually an effective way to get teens involved and invested in your fundraising efforts.
Here’s how it works: Each teen creates their own fundraising page and raises money from their network of family, friends, and co-workers until the campaign cut-off date. (This is what’s known as peer-to-peer fundraising.) Whoever raises the most money gets first pick from a selection of gift baskets (or “swag bags”). The second-place fundraiser gets to choose next, and so on.
The key is to create product bundles that are worth the effort and appeal to a young audience. Here are some examples of gift baskets for teens:
- “Netflix and chill” basket: Netflix gift card, Grubhub gift card, candy assortment, soda, ultra-soft blanket, pillow
- “Self-care” basket: Spa gift cards, face masks, bath bombs, lotion, essential oils, journal, plush robe
- “Music to my ears” basket: Bluetooth headphones, Amazon gift card, iTunes gift card
- “Ultimate sports fan” basket: Official team equipment like T-shirts, jerseys, and caps, signed merchandise, sporting event tickets
- “Day at the beach” basket: Designer sunglasses, tote or backpack, hat, beach towel, folding chair, metal water bottle, snack pack
8. Community serve-a-thon
This next fundraising idea is a community service project that also gives teens a chance to flex their skills. Essentially, you’ll raise funds by offering a variety of practical and creative services to donors.
These services can be on the professional and hobby end of the spectrum. For instance, teens can offer math tutoring or swimming lessons, or provide photography services for upcoming events. Or, teens can help their neighbors and supporters with everyday activities, like dog-walking, cat-sitting, running errands, or taking down Halloween decorations.
Compile a list of services, skills, and talents, and have your community members bid on each volunteer. You can run this campaign over a single weekend, or allow each donor and teen to create their own schedule. Encourage donors to leave a “tip” via your virtual donation jar for a job well done. They can even text-to-donate in seconds.
9. Used book sale
While books face some steep competition from social media and TV, there are still millions of teens who love to curl up with a good book. And young-adult novels — like “The Hunger Games,” “The Fault in Our Stars,” and the Percy Jackson series — are always making their way to the big screen and introducing new generations to literature.
With that in mind, a used book sale could be the perfect fundraising idea if you’re targeting teens. Reserve a space and have your community clean out their bookshelves. Ask around at local libraries, college and school libraries, and used bookstores. You can also set up collection boxes around town.
Make sure there’s something for everyone — fiction and nonfiction reads, magazines, comic books, cookbooks, video game manuals, etc. Set a price for each book based on factors like condition, number available, and popularity. For added pizzazz, decorate the space with famous book quotes and pictures of characters. Need other ways to drum up publicity? Invite a popular local author for a book signing, or sell raffle tickets for a new book collection.
10. Crowdfunding campaign
With crowdfunding, you ask a large group of individuals to chip in a small amount of money to hit your fundraising goal. It could be $5, $10, $50, $100, or more.
It’s become the go-to method for individuals, nonprofits, and businesses to raise funds for their projects and causes — and teens can use it, too.
Crowdfunding is an ultra-easy ask because donors decide how much they want to give, and the whole campaign is run online. Best of all, crowdfunding campaigns harness the power of social media, making it a no-brainer for teen fundraising. All you need to do is make a free fundraising page, share the campaign, and update supporters with plenty of messages, photos, and videos. Read our full guide to crowdfunding for nonprofit causes here.
11. Thrift shop
Give new life to some old threads! Apps like Poshmark, Depop, and thredUP have helped thrifting make a big comeback among teens. So, skip the traditional yard sale and create a temporary thrift shop for your next fundraising campaign.
Stocking your pop-up store isn’t hard. Ask for donations from your network. Get the word out via phone, email, social media, and neighborhood flyers. It’s also a good idea to share pictures of the clothing categories and styles you’re looking for. You don’t want to receive a truckload of old flare jeans and no tops. Give each item a price tag, and be sure to post the best finds online to entice buyers to your store.
More fundraising ideas for teenagers
We’ve got plenty of other fun and effective ideas that teens can use to raise money for their next big cause or project. Keep reading:
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.