How to raise money for charities through innovative, grassroots efforts
As a nonprofit, your fundraising efforts hold the key to your success (and your survival). There are roughly 1.5 million registered nonprofit organizations in the United States alone, and you need some creative campaigns to get your message heard.
But how do you hit your fundraising goals? As the saying goes, you need to spend money to make money. Estimates say that you'll need to spend roughly 25 cents to raise just $1 for your campaign, so don't shy from innovative ideas that come with an upfront cost. With that being said, you don't need to throw a black-tie gala with hundreds of attendees to hit your target.
Below, we offer 10 fundraising tips on how to raise money for charities of every size and budget. From old-school movie nights to new twists on raffle prizes, we offer fun solutions to help you raise funds for your good cause.
10 fundraising ideas for how to raise money for charities
Below, we share new ideas for a very old problem: hitting your fundraising goal as a nonprofit. Fortunately, you don't need to have a seven-, six-, or even five-figure budget to launch a successful campaign. Start raising money for your charity with these fun campaign ideas.
1. Host a drive-in movie 🎥
If you want to host a movie night, make it old school — we're talking 1960s drive-in movie old school.
To host a drive-in movie, you'll need a projector, screen (even a large white sheet works!), and a very, very large wall (like the side of your school building). You can easily sell tickets in advance, or use the text-to-donate feature for walk-in (er, drive-in) supporters. To raise extra funds, consider selling popcorn, sodas, candy, and other treats onsite.
This campaign hosted a drive-in move event (complete with food trucks, costume contests, music, and even a pumpkin decorating contest) to raise funds for a Resilient Retreat, Inc. Supporters and sponsors bought tickets through their fundraising page, or purchased add-on activities like a pumpkin decorating kit.
2. Organize a pub crawl 🍺
To raise funds while funneling money back into the local economy, host your own bar crawl.
Sell tickets in advance, with the ticket covering all drinks for the evening (work with your bar managers to come with a set drink list in advance). Start at 5 p.m. (happy hour), enjoying a beverage before moving to your next establishment.
For simplicity’s sake, try to choose bars within walking distance! Be sure to include a map and itinerary in your automated thank-you message, so each participant knows the plan for the evening.
3. Auction off your help 💪
If you're raising money for your local sports team, here's a fun way to raise funds while giving back to your community: auction off your time. Hold a silent auction where supporters can "bid" on hiring each respective athlete for two hours of work. The athletes can help with lawn maintenance, house cleaning, or other chores.
4. Get taste-fully competitive 🍰
To raise funds for your local elementary, middle, or high school, put a fun spin on the classic bake sale. Have the teachers face off in a live baking competition, selling tickets in advance so supporters can enjoy the action.
Choose a category (think chili cook-off, BBQ showdown, or bake-off), select a panel of judges, then judge the teachers on their prepared dish. When the votes are tallied, announce the winner and serve the various dishes to event attendees.
The Great Girl Scout Cookie Kickoff held a virtual baking competition where pastry chefs dreamed up imaginative desserts based on Girl Scout cookie flavors. Supporters voted for their favorite creation by donating in that chef’s name. The live streamed event was hosted by local celebrities, and different donation tiers earned supporters a variety of themed prizes. They raised $9,231!
5. Host a sand volleyball tournament 🏐
Virtually any sporting event is a great way to start fundraising for your charitable cause.
These events bring in a lot of money from different revenue streams, selling tickets to attendees, charging entry fees for competitors, and booking sponsorships for local businesses.
For a fun summer event idea, host a sand volleyball tourney at a local park. If you're a school or sports team, have your local booster club sell hot dogs, sodas, and other snacks to bring in extra funds. Or, invite local businesses to sponsor your event, selling T-shirts, setting up beer tents, or bringing in a food truck.
6. Launch your own battle of the bands 🎤
Listening to live music is a special event for nearly every season of the year. And fortunately, you don't need to book a chart-topping artist to pull it off.
Organize your own battle of the bands competition, inviting local arts to perform for your supporters. If you're organizing an online fundraising campaign, you can live stream the concert instead. After your fundraising event ends, share a recording of the event with your email list, so supporters can continue to enjoy it at a later date.
7. Host a high heels walk 👠
Walk-a-thons and charity runs are healthy ways to start raising funds for your worthy cause. But, to increase the stakes, why not encourage supporters to walk the entire race course in high heels?
High heel races can help raise funds and awareness for a number of issues, from domestic violence (like Walk a Mile in Her Shoes), LGBTQ+ issues (like the annual drag race in Washington, D.C. or the high heel race in Spain), breast cancer research, trans rights — you name it. Sell tickets in advance of the race, then use the ticket scanning feature to easily check-in event attendees to raise funds for your favorite charity.
8. Spark joy by cleaning out your closets 👚
Most of your supporters have clothes, books, and other household items they'd love to give away.
To raise money for your religious group, sports team, or school, host an annual "Spark Joy'' event by donating gently used items.
Have supporters, friends, and family members donate items weeks in advance, giving you an ample amount of time to sort, organize, and prepare items to be resold. On your fundraising page, advertise big-ticket items (think televisions, guitars and other musical instruments, or modern furniture) to attract attendees.
9. Launch your own dancing with the stars 💃
For a creative spin on the classic dance-a-thon fundraiser, introduce a competitive twist. Invite local choreographers or dancers (if your school has a drill team, dance team, or cheerleading squad, use them!) to teach people in your community new moves.
To incorporate peer-to-peer fundraising, have each dancing duo create a team on your donation page. On the night of your "dancing with the stars" event, announce two winners. One prize will go to the team with the best moves, while another prize will go to the team that raised the highest amount of money.
10. Host a "give it up" challenge 🙅
You don't need three- or four-digit donations to run a successful charity fundraising campaign.
In fact, nonprofits of any size can hit their goals through grassroots efforts, raising one dollar at a time.
To show supporters that a small donation can make a big difference in your nonprofit fundraising campaign, host a month-long "give it up" challenge. Throughout the challenge, invite supporters to give up one thing — a morning coffee habit ($5), a studio workout class ($20), an Uber Eats order ($30+). They then donate the money to charity instead. Display a progress bar on your page to show how small donations can help you reach your ultimate goal.
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