Finding the perfect fundraising ideas for your organization is crucial, especially if your nonprofit is new. The right ideas will engage your community, grow your audience, and (most importantly) raise more money for your cause.
However, the day-to-day challenges of pursuing your mission can make it a challenge to constantly come up with new, engaging fundraising ideas that haven’t been done before.
Not to worry, we’ve got your back! We believe every nonprofit organization deserves a chance to thrive, and it informs every part of our fundraising philosophy.
The Snowball Fundraising Philosophy
Even the smallest of nonprofits can start building and growing a sustainable base of support. It all comes down to staying focused on your donors and your relationships. We break it down into 3 core steps:
- Don’t kill your donor’s buzz. Let them feel good about giving without slowing them down too much! Keep the donation process simple and easy.
- Master the art of securing a card on file. When the process is easy, donors are more likely to trust you with their payment information, streamlining any future donations.
- Focus on recurring donors. Building long-term relationships with donors means letting them focus on feeling good about supporting you, not about manually making donations.
The right tech can support you at the crucial intersection of fundraising and relationship-building. Read our more comprehensive guide to building a strong donation page for a full walkthrough of our approach.
But when it comes time to engage with the community of supporters you’ve worked so hard to build, what do you do? That’s where fundraising ideas come in.
Here’s our complete directory of fundraising ideas for nonprofits, broken down into several main categories:
- Our favorite fundraising ideas
- Easy fundraising ideas
- Quick fundraising ideas
- Cheap fundraising ideas
- Product fundraising ideas
- Unique and funny ideas
- Holiday fundraising ideas
- High-ROI fundraising ideas
- Fundraising ideas for new nonprofits
- Fundraising ideas for churches
- Fundraising ideas for schools
Use the list above to jump to a specific section, or follow along with us from the top. You’re sure to find an idea that’s perfect for your nonprofit, your community, and your unique fundraising goals. Let’s get started.
Our Favorite Fundraising Ideas
These are our favorites because they’re reliable, adaptable, and can work for organizations of all sizes. Many smaller organizations think that more advanced tools or strategies are out of their reach, but that’s not true! You can easily get started with any of these fundraising ideas today:
A pledge drive is a perfect way to generate a lot of support and buzz for your cause quickly. These campaigns work by securing pledges of support from wide audiences and then following up with them to complete the donations later. Check out our complete guide to developing a pledge drive here.
You’ll need flexible pledge software and effective marketing strategies (especially social media) to get started with a pledge drive. After that, the sky’s the limit!
Text-to-give is a powerful way to directly reach your donors where they already are — their smartphones! Text-to-give tools and services are more accessible for growing organizations than ever before, and the effects can be significant for your nonprofit.
Organize a text-to-give campaign and promote it to donors every way you can, including on social media, via email, and in-person. Text giving tools can be especially effective at boosting donations at your fundraising events by giving attendees a fast way to donate. With mobile technology playing an increasingly important role in donor engagement, text-to-give tools should be an essential part of your toolkit. Explore our comprehensive text-to-give guide for more information on planning a campaign.
Matching gifts are probably one of the most under-utilized fundraising ideas out there. Corporate philanthropy programs, in which businesses will financially match the donations that their employees make to eligible nonprofits, are a major opportunity to boost your revenue. Make sure to include matching gifts in your marketing materials, and include a matching gift search tool on your website.
Matching gifts can serve as a permanent, built-in boost to any future fundraising campaigns you host. You just have to put in the upfront work of raising awareness and giving donors the tools they need to submit a match request. Learn more about matching gifts with this resource from Re:charity.
Crowdfunding has been a popular online fundraising idea for a while now because it works! It’s easier than ever to get set up with a campaign page and start promoting it to your audience. There are tons of great crowdfunding sites out there, but we definitely recommend hosting your campaign on your own website whenever possible.
Create a custom donation page that includes social sharing options for donors. This will allow you to fully control the campaign without being held to the requirements of a separate crowdfunding platform. For nonprofits looking to raise donations for a specific project, this can be a very effective strategy.
Easy Fundraising Ideas
These fundraising ideas are all about keeping it simple. They require some planning and coordination, but they’re easy to run and can provide a great return on the time you invest in them. Plus, these are all engaging ideas for building stronger bonds with your community of supporters, which provides long-term benefits.
Use these fundraising ideas as inspiration to develop the right easy events or campaigns for your particular audience.
The concept is simple: You sell raffle tickets at a set price and then draw one at random when the sale is over. Whoever bought the winning ticket receives half of the money you raised.
A fifty-fifty raffle is one of the easiest raffle-style fundraising ideas to plan, and it’s also one of the most exciting for donors. Most will probably even buy several tickets at once. All you need to do is provide a way to buy tickets and heavily promote the event to your community.
Partner with a local business, agree on a date, gather your trivia questions, and invite your supporters to register their teams. You might charge a registration fee to raise money, or you could arrange a percentage fundraiser with the bar or restaurant. Either way, this fundraising idea is easy to plan and just plain fun!
Community-oriented organizations can work with a local park to organize a simple sports tournament. Baseball, softball, kickball, soccer, and even ultimate frisbee are all popular picks.
Promote your tournament heavily across the community and invite supporters to register their teams online. On the big day, make sure to offer concessions, first aid, merchandise, and more information about your organization’s mission.
Community Yard Sale
Here’s another easy event that doesn’t require extensive planning. Ask your supporters to participate in and help you promote a community yard sale. You can host it on a volunteer’s actual front yard, or you might partner with a local park, school, church, or business.
There are a few ways you can raise money with a yard sale. You might accept donated items and keep all the raised funds, or you can allow participants to pay to register their own booths. Spread the word, pick a sunny weekend morning, and you’re sure to see a strong turnout for this easy fundraising idea.
Tasting events are another easy-to-plan and engaging fundraising idea. Wine tastings are the most common, but get creative to think of a type of food or drink that will really get your target audience excited.
You might partner with a local restaurant to offer a tasting event, but you can also take a more DIY approach if your team has time to devote to securing a space and the food or drink to share with guests. Just be sure to promote your event and offer tickets online!
This easy fundraising event idea is similar to the community yard sale described above. Invite local artists and craftspeople to come share their work with your audience at a craft fair hosted in a park, school gym, church hall, or any other space available to you.
Charge participants a registration fee to set up a booth, and be sure to encourage attendees to donate to your cause or buy refreshments! If you’re already planning to host a festival or street fair-style event, craft booths are easy additions.
Using a giving kiosk is a best practice that you can easily incorporate into practically any future fundraising idea, event, or campaign you host in the future. Even though mobile giving has become a new standard, hardware that can accept card-based payments are still a smart investment. This is especially true if you host a lot of in-person events or if you’re a church looking to increase donations during services.
This easy fundraising campaign is old-fashioned but still delivers reliable results for nonprofits. Send postcards to supporters reminding them of your organization’s good work and asking them to make a donation.
Make sure to include simple instructions for accessing your online donation form or using your text-to-give service. These campaigns can be an easy way to boost revenue around the holiday season.
Quick Fundraising Ideas
This category of fundraising ideas is focused on speed. These ideas can give you a quick burst of support, either because they require minimal planning or because they can be easily added to your existing campaigns or events.
We’ve touched on this strategy in other fundraising ideas listed above, but it makes a great standalone fundraiser, too. Best of all, it requires very little investment of your nonprofit’s own resources.
Partner with a local restaurant or business to host a percentage fundraiser event. During these events, the business agrees to donate a percentage of their sales profits to your cause. For example, several big-name restaurant franchises regularly host these events for local schools. However, smaller local businesses make great partners, as well, since they can gain a lot of positive publicity in the community.
Your team will only need to spend some time arranging the partnership and then promoting it heavily to your audience. Make sure to offer a way to collect additional donations, too, like via text-to-give!
Chain of Hearts
You’ve probably encountered this fundraising idea before. It also involves partnering with other local businesses or organizations to help boost your impact.
Your organization will offer paper hearts for sale, usually $1 a piece, for donors to write their names on and add to a growing chain that’s publicly displayed as a show of community support for your cause. Grocery stores make excellent partners for this fundraising idea since a paper heart can easily be added onto a transaction that a customer is already making.
Get creative to come up with the right twist and setting for your nonprofit. You might ask a local business to start a chain of hearts for its employees. You’ll just need to arrange the partnership, provide the hearts, and then collect your donations when the fundraiser ends.
Sip and Paint
Host a fun night of casual mingling as your guests enjoy the wine and see who can create the best painting. If a team member or volunteer is an artist, ask them to lead the evening. You might also reach out to a local school or college to recruit a volunteer artist.
This fundraising idea is easy to plan quickly, so long as your organization has a ready-to-use space and is able to sell alcohol to guests who are 21+. Use online ticketing tools to streamline the process and let guests buy their wine vouchers ahead of time.
Every community can use a clean up, and environmental activities where participants pick up garbage and litter are more popular than ever. Create a simple pledge-style challenge for your community to band together and clean up a local park, neighborhood, or other public space.
Ask participants to register ahead of time and then secure friends and family to pledge a certain amount of money per full trash bag the participant is able to collect. You’ll need permission from wherever you’re hosting the event, easy-to-use pledge tools, and supplies. This event is an impactful way to do some good and raise money in a short amount of time.
Nonprofits of all sizes rely on email as a direct way to reach wide audiences and ask for donations. If your organization isn’t already using email effectively for fundraising, it’s time to get started. If you are already using email to fundraise, look for ways to improve your strategies. To conduct effective email campaigns, you’ll need to make sure you have easy ways to store, organize, and segment your donors’ email addresses.
Investing in a CRM database or dedicated email tool is a good idea, but simply taking the time to develop a new email strategy can pay off. Once you’ve got your tools set up, you’ll be able to launch new email campaigns very quickly. It’s an important step that even brand new organizations should take.
Food Truck Partnership
This quick fundraising idea can easily be added to any other events that you’ve already planned. Find a local food truck and ask about inviting them to your public event in exchange for a percentage of their sales profits.
This is a popular fundraising idea for schools, churches, and community organizations that host large outdoor events. Food trucks will likely be excited to join since your readily-assembled crowd will generate a lot more business and publicity for them than they’d find completely on their own.
Best Seat in the House Raffle
Raffles are a quick fundraising idea that can be easily adapted to all kinds of organizations and causes. For this one, you’ll offer great seats at an upcoming event and then sell raffle tickets to your supporters.
Your nonprofit might be able to solicit an in-kind donation of event tickets from the venue itself, or you can simply buy them ahead of time and make up more than your costs during the raffle. For events that are likely to sell out quickly, there’s a chance to raise a lot of money. Take advantage of your own upcoming events, too. School plays and benefit concerts are good examples.
Here’s a classic fundraising idea that requires the absolute minimum of planning. Fill a jar with beans, marbles, or any other small item, and charge participants $1 to guess how many are in it. Whoever guesses the closest receives a prize or a portion of the raised funds, as in a fifty-fifty raffle.
Sounds corny, but it works! The return on this fundraising idea is especially high if you’re able to partner with another organization or business that will help get a lot of guessers involved. Schools, community centers, and even bars can make good partners. You’ll just need to take the time to actually count all those marbles once the challenge is over.
Cheap Fundraising Ideas
For many nonprofits, the upfront cost of a fundraising idea is the biggest factor that they need to consider before getting started. Smaller organizations need to make sure every project, campaign, and outreach strategy can raise more money than they cost.
Most of the fundraising ideas already listed above are cheap (or free) and fast to get set up, but here are a few more of our favorite inexpensive ways to begin raising money.
Shoe Drive Fundraiser
A shoe drive fundraiser is a free way for organizations, schools, and community groups to raise some money. This guide from Funds2Orgs includes a good explanation of how these campaigns work. They’re free to run, they can be easily incorporated into your other campaigns or events, and donors will be more than happy to get rid of a pair or two of shoes cluttering their closet (or their kids’ closets).
Hosting a scavenger hunt is a free fundraising idea that’s especially effective for organizations with their own spaces and that cater to kids. Schools, churches, and sports teams can easily create a scavenger hunt, including tricky riddles, zigzagging maps, and a fun prize or two. Plan and promote your scavenger hunt, then charge a small fee for tickets. If you’re already hosting another public event, like a cookout, picnic, or field day, this is an easy way to boost your revenue and entertain your guests.
A penny war is a classic (and extremely cheap and easy) fundraising idea that’s popular with schools and youth groups. Give each class or team an empty jar or jug, set a deadline, and see who can fill up their container with pennies the fastest. Just ask each teacher or team leader to promote the penny war and boost your fundraiser to success! Just be sure to offer a prize that will really motivate the participants.
Hosting a game night for your community is a free fundraising idea that works great for all kinds of organizations. If you have access to your own space, organize a simple evening for supporters to get together and enjoy a game tournament. Classic board games and video games work well, and be sure to offer refreshments. Charge for admission or for teams to register ahead of time. Get creative to come up with an exciting theme for the night, too!
Ice Cream Social
Another classic, low-maintenance fundraising idea, an ice cream social is a cheap way to engage your supporters and neighbors. All you’ll need to do is plan a date, purchase the supplies, and spread the word. Charge attendees for a scoop or bowl of their favorite flavor, and provide all the fun toppings they’ll need. This cheap fundraising idea is perfect for schools, youth groups, and smaller community organizations.
Social Media Challenge
You probably remember the Ice Bucket Challenge, right? This free fundraising idea works similarly. Come up with a unique or funny challenge for supporters to complete and post online using a designated hashtag. Alternately, you can create more of a contest-style event where followers share their stories or see who can get the most shares.
This idea is free to conduct, takes little planning, and can really boost your visibility. Just make sure you have a donation page set up for new supporters to get involved.
Here’s another very easy and free fundraising idea that works especially well for churches and community groups. Label envelopes with different dollar amounts, then attach them to a wall display. Promote your fundraiser to your supporters, encouraging everyone to pick an envelope and return it with its designated amount enclosed. This is a no-fuss, low-pressure way to gather some additional support, but make sure to offer an online giving option if that’s easier for your donors.
Give It Up Challenge
With this cheap fundraising idea, you’ll encourage your participants to kick unhealthy or bad habits while helping to raise money for your cause. This is a pledge-style fundraiser, where participants will ask their friends and family to pledge a certain amount for each day/week/etc. that they can stick to the rules. Common examples are fast food, coffee, or even screen time. Or, you can design your challenge to encourage better habits, like hours spent reading or exercising.
Product Fundraising Ideas
Fundraising with custom products is a staple of nonprofit organizations for a few reasons. Offering products to your donors in exchange for their support gives them a physical incentive, plus it builds your brand visibility and helps spread the word to more people.
With new online platforms, it’s easier than ever to create, order, or directly sell your custom products to your community of support. Here are a few top-performing product fundraising ideas that might be perfect for your organization.
Custom t-shirts are the king of all product fundraising ideas. They’re completely customizable, they can be worked into practically any type of broader fundraising campaign or event, and they’re easy to sell online, too. Look for an online platform that offers plenty of flexible options, like the ability to launch crowdfunding-style campaigns for your shirts, place direct orders to sell them yourself, or simply sell them online.
Check out Bonfire’s guide to designing the perfect t-shirt to get started.
Themed gift baskets are another popular product for fundraising. Work with your team to create themed baskets that your supporters will love, and then hold a raffle. Example themes for baskets include A Day at the Beach, Sports Fanatic, Spa Day Package, and Holiday Baking Supplies.
If you want to maximize the return on your baskets, consider investing some extra time and resources into making them as appealing as possible, and then host a silent auction event rather than a more casual raffle. These events can raise a lot of money for your cause, plus they’re a lot of fun for donors.
Candy and Baked Goods
A classic, inexpensive way to raise money with products is to host an old-fashioned bake sale. Have your volunteers make or gather baked goods, and then offer them for sale to community members at a public event or in a shared space. Candy sales are another good option, too, and they work particularly well for school groups and PTAs.
Pizza partnership fundraisers are another popular product fundraising idea for schools. With this strategy, you’ll partner with a local pizza restaurant chain to offer coupons or vouchers for sale to your supporters. Many pizza chains already have very popular programs in place and will be happy to arrange a partnership, so just do some online research or reach out to a local restaurant to get started.
For organizations looking to boost the results of a larger fundraising campaign, offering engraved bricks or a spot on a legacy display can be a smart move. Basically, you’ll offer donors the chance to have their names displayed on bricks or a wall display in the new development that you’re fundraising for. Brick walkways in gardens and beautiful wall displays in lobbies are common examples. Nonprofits, churches, and schools can all find great success with this strategy.
Check out this overview from Double the Donation to learn more about fundraising with engraved bricks.
Coupon books can raise a lot of money for your organization if you find the perfect deals to attract your supporters and neighbors. You can purchase pre-made coupon books from product fundraising companies that offer coupons to common stores and franchise restaurants.
Our favorite strategy, though, is to make your own coupon books. Reach out to tons of local businesses and discuss creating an exclusive promotion to offer your donors. For community-based organizations, your coupon book could become a hot commodity! Stores, restaurants, and local service providers will all be excited to attract new customers, and you might even begin building long-term sponsorships with partners.
Selling seasonal items is a mainstay of product fundraising. Christmas trees, holiday candles, Thanksgiving turkeys or pies, and pumpkins are all classic examples. Work with a local supplier to arrange a bulk deal. Oftentimes they’ll be happy to provide the items as an in-kind donation, or you can offer them a percentage of your total revenue from the sale. Just be sure to heavily promote your sale! You can even incorporate it into a larger event, like a year-end holiday party or fall festival.
Supporters will be excited to get a new set of professional family portraits, especially when they know the price will be going towards your organization. For this product fundraising idea, you’ll need a professional photographer and printing equipment. A talented staff member or volunteer might be able to step up and offer their help, or you can partner with a local photographer. This can be a very effective fundraiser around the year-end holidays and in the springtime.
Unique and Funny Fundraising Ideas
Sometimes what your fundraiser really needs to stand out is a unique or funny angle. These unique and funny fundraising ideas can be a smart move if you’re looking to give your supporters a fun time, get them more engaged with your mission, or reach new audiences. Just get creative to come up with the perfect versions for your particular organization and community.
Pet Costume Contest
Here’s a unique fundraising idea that’s perfect for the Halloween season. Dog owners love showing off their best friends, so adding funny costumes is a great way to get all your supporters (even four-legged ones) engaged with your mission. Organize a costume contest or parade for costumed dogs and their owners to strut their stuff. You’ll most likely charge a registration fee for participants, or you can create a vote-with-your-dollars system for spectators to choose the contest’s winner. Look into partnering with a local dog park or community organization to secure a dog-friendly space for the event, and make sure you’ve got plenty of prizes that the dogs will love!
Themed Fun Run
Fun runs are a more casual style of marathon or race event, and they’re a great way to get your community up and active in support of your cause. Adding an exciting or funny theme, though, can take it to the next level! Common examples include superhero, zombie, or wintertime holiday themes, or you can completely reimagine the event as an obstacle course, mud run, haunted house, etc. The main point is to give your supporters a fun time!
Charge a registration fee, and be sure to offer refreshments and water to runners. Creating custom race shirts is an easy way to boost your revenue even further.
This classic fundraising event is an easy way to get your supporters, especially your younger ones, excited to show off their skills. Put out a call for singers, musicians, comedians, dancers, and more to join you for an entertaining evening of fun and fundraising. There are a number of ways you can use a talent show to raise money for your cause. You can charge a registration fee, sell tickets to spectators, or create a unique voting system where the audience votes for a winner with their dollars. Consider using a text-to-give service with customizable keywords to provide an additional giving option!
Hosting a street fair is a unique fundraising idea that gives you a ton of flexibility for offering creative and engaging activities. Make sure you coordinate with a local park or the city government to get permission to host your fair on a designated day and location. You’ll likely want to partner with other local organizations or look for business sponsors to get involved, too.
Street fairs can incorporate a wide range of additional fundraising and donor engagement opportunities. Refreshments, merchandise, fun outdoor games, live music, and more can all contribute to a successful event. Just remember to make live solicitations for donations periodically throughout the day, and be sure to have multiple giving methods for donors to use.
Guided Nature Hike
Here’s a unique fundraising idea that gives your supporters a fun day outside enjoying nature. Depending on your organization, this might already align well with your mission if you focus on environmental and conservation issues. For other community-based organizations, a guided nature walk can be a great way to connect your supporters and give them a unique experience that they might not often have. Organize a group outing, learn about the sights you’ll encounter, promote your walk, and charge a registration fee to attendees. Just be sure to take necessary safety precautions, including bringing plenty of water and first aid supplies.
Nearby state parks and nature reserves will most likely be happy to help you plan a group hike, and they might even provide a guide for the day. Get creative to plan an event that works for your organization, though. Even a short walk through a city park can be an engaging way to learn more about the plants and wildlife all around us.
Here’s a funny way to raise more support – get your supporters out on the dancefloor! Dance marathons are classic fundraising events because they’re extremely fun for participants and hilarious for spectators. If your audience would be interested in a dance-based event, start planning yours now. Use an overarching theme (decades like the 1920s, 50s, 70s, and 80s are all popular) to help guide your event, and promote it heavily to your community. Be sure to secure exciting prizes for the last dancers standing, too!
There are a number of ways to raise money with dance marathon. You can charge general admission, sell concessions, and set a registration fee for dancers. You might also choose to take a pledge-style approach by having your registered dancers secure pledged donations per song or hour that they’re able to stay on the dancefloor. It’s sure to be a fun night!
Mystery Dinner Theater
Planning a mystery dinner theater is a way to really flex your creative muscles and give your donors a memorable event. There are two general approaches you might take for your dinner party – performing a play during the meal and incorporating some interactive elements, or planning a fully-interactive murder mystery party where each guest plays a role. If your fundraising team is especially creative, you might choose to write the whole night’s storyline yourselves! However, there are companies that sell pre-written scripts and planning guides for this type of event.
Don’t forget about the food, too! If your mystery has a unique setting, that’s a great place to start. For instance, a fish and chips dinner would go perfectly with a detective mystery set in Victorian London. If you think your community would enjoy an event like this, invest the time and resources to plan a perfect dinner theater event. Ticket and food sales will easily raise a lot of money for your cause.
Kiss a Pig
This last funny fundraising idea is a favorite of schools and youth groups, especially ones located in more rural areas. Here’s how Kiss a Pig works: Secure a volunteer pig who’s up to being kissed by a reluctant volunteer, ask your students/members/etc. to nominate a victim, then set a fundraising challenge. If they can raise enough money by the deadline, their teacher, pastor, or program director will have to pucker up.
This fundraising idea makes a very easy addition to any type of larger event, like a fall festival. Plus, it can raise a lot of money quickly. You might be surprised by how excited kids will get to see this one through to the end! If a volunteer pig isn’t available, see if any local goats support your organization and would be willing to stand in.
Holiday Fundraising Ideas
Holidays make for excellent fundraising opportunities. Whether folks are excited to get out of the house in the springtime or feeling generous at the end of the year, you can raise a lot of support and deepen your relationships with donors by incorporating some holiday fundraising ideas into your calendar. We’ve already touched on a few holiday-centric ideas, like selling seasonal items and hosting Halloween costume contests, but here are a few more of our favorite ideas to help you find the perfect strategy for your organization.
When the summer heat sets in, time to bust out the grill and host a cook-off picnic! This event will be perfect for Independence Day. Your supporters will love the chance to show off their grilling or meat smoking skills as they serve up their own personal specialties, whether they’re burgers, hot dogs, ribs, brisket, pulled pork, grilled chicken, or roasted vegetables. You’re probably getting hungry just thinking about it, and so will your supporters when you invite them to your own cook-off. Plan a picnic event at your own space or at a local park, and charge the grillmasters a registration fee. Provide plenty of additional supplies, like plates and forks, and come up with a system for the tasters to vote with their dollars on whose food will take home the blue ribbon.
Holiday Baking Contest
Cook-offs and contests work well at the end of the year, too! A holiday baking contest is another simple way to engage your community, tap into the seasonal spirit, and raise some money. Cookies, cakes, and pies are always crowd-pleasers. You might charge a registration fee for bakers, a general admission fee, or have tasters buy each baked good individually before voting or ranking their favorites. If you’re in the mood for something more savory, chili cook-offs are a popular option for the colder months, too.
Ornament Craft Night
Around Christmas, your community will be eager to gather together for a craft night to create new Christmas tree ornaments and sip hot chocolate. Gather supplies, including bare ornaments and paint, plenty of felt, popsicle sticks, and practically any type of craft supply you think someone may want to use. Offer refreshments and other goodies for sale, and allow participants to purchase your bare or blank ornaments to customize. This fundraising idea can be easily combined with others, like baking contests, decoration sales, basket raffles, and more in a Holiday Market-style event. This can be a great way to engage your community right during the heart of the year-end giving season.
Don’t forget about holiday fundraising ideas in the autumn, too! For some organizations, October is the perfect time to put together a haunted house event for their communities. Here’s a pro tip: look for new volunteers to act in your haunted house at a local high school. They’ll jump at the chance to get involved.
Many schools and churches host their own annual Halloween events in order to ensure that younger kids in their community have a not-so-scary place to hang out with their friends and families. However scary or family-friendly you choose to make your haunted house, be sure to promote it heavily and include all kinds of other fall-related activities and fundraising opportunities. You may choose to charge a general admission fee or ask for donations at all the individual activities you offer on the big evening of your festival.
For Valentine’s Day, why not offer your supporters a candy-gram delivery service to let their sweethearts know someone’s thinking of them? This is a classic fundraising idea for school-based organizations. Gather plenty of candy and strips of paper, then ask supporters to submit their candy-gram requests the day before the delivery. This will give your team plenty of time to write the recipient, location, sender, and personal message on each paper and then attach them to the candy or small bag of candy. Just charge a dollar per candy-gram, and you’ll be raising more support in no time.
Mother’s Day Flowers
Here’s another delivery-style fundraising idea. Solicit an in-kind donation or discounted deal on fresh flowers from a local supplier, then sell small bouquets or corsages that you’ll then deliver to mothers to celebrate the special day.
Logistically, this fundraising idea works best if you’re already planning to host a Mother’s Day event, like a themed brunch or evening cocktail hour, for your community. Notify attendees ahead of time that they’ll be able to easily give their moms a surprise gift of fresh flowers at the event itself by simply making an additional donation when they buy their tickets.
Potluck gatherings are the perfect holiday fundraising events for very community-oriented organizations. A classic example might be a church or neighborhood group organizing their own Thanksgiving potluck for anyone to attend (provided they bring a dish to share and a donation if they can spare it). Hosting a Thanksgiving potluck for your supporters and neighbors will really strengthen your bonds with them, but be sure to pick a time that’s most likely to interest them. Too close to Thanksgiving will likely be a stressful time for many people. Opt instead for a week or two early for a casual pre-Thanksgiving dinner, or a few days after for a communal leftovers feast.
Seasonal Neighborhood Tours
This holiday fundraising idea can be a smash hit when planned well, and it can be adapted to practically any season. Here’s how the basic premise works: Announce your neighborhood tour fundraiser and put out the call for volunteers. The volunteers will then prepare their homes to receive guests, who buy tickets and/or tour maps from your organization. Then, they go on a relaxed walking tour to drop in on their neighbors and fellow supporters of your organization. On this general framework, you can add and adapt all sorts of unique twists and themes.
Seasonal decoration contests are a great example of how you might make this idea your own. Consider turning your neighborhood tour into a Halloween or Christmas decor competition, then ask volunteers to go all out decking out their yards and houses for the holiday. Encourage them to provide refreshments, like caramel apples or hot chocolate for guests, as well. In the springtime, a neighborhood garden tour can be an excellent way to engage your supporters after the sleepy late winter months.
High-ROI Fundraising Ideas
These enterprise-level fundraising ideas will require heavier investment of your organization’s time and resources, but they also have the chance to pay off big time when planned well. For mid-size and large organizations, you’re probably already following one of these strategies. For growing organizations, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the large-scale fundraising methods you’ll be using one day, too!
Remember, there’s no reason why smaller nonprofits should be held back from fundraising beyond their size! The internet has opened up all kinds of opportunities in the world of fundraising. Explore these high-ROI fundraising ideas and adapt their core ideas to your own toolkits and audiences.
The charity auction is a classic fundraising event for nonprofits of all types. Although they require significant preparation (including securing and prepping a space, gathering and promoting all the auction items, and making sure you have the right tools to handle the bids), auctions can generate a lot of support for your organization.
Get creative to plan the right auction for your nonprofit, though. The formality, price point of the items, and general tone fo the event can all be adjusted. Even the location can be flexible, mobile auctions can work great for events where attendees are roaming or socializing. Just focus on giving your attendees an evening that they’ll enjoy and remember!
5K or Marathon
Here’s another fundraising idea that requires a lot of planning in exchange for a major payoff. Marathons and 5Ks are exciting events that engage very broad segments of your community. Registration fees are the main source of revenue for these events, so focus your attention there. In order to boost their events’ visibility, many nonprofits conduct peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns in the run-up to the event in which registered participants will promote the event online and ask for donations from friends and family. With plenty of time to plan and organize your 5K event, it can become an extremely effective fundraising method that you can rely on year after year.
A gala is an annual dinner party event that incorporates fundraising elements, and they’re typically targeted towards an organization’s mid-range and major donors. First and foremost, a gala should be an occasion to celebrate and thank your key supporters in order to build stronger relationships with them. Making live solicitations, offering a text-to-give tool, or even incorporating a charity auction into the gala will only help to boost the event’s long- and short-term impact on your nonprofit.
If you want to host a gala, give yourself plenty of time to plan it. Incorporate an engaging theme, and think about the time of year when you’ll host it. Many nonprofits host end-of-year dinners to celebrate the holiday season and capitalize on year-end generosity, but other times might work better for your organization. For instance, universities might host an alumni gala around the start or end of a new school year.
For organizations whose audiences are likely to enjoy golf, organizing a tournament in partnership with a local course can be an excellent idea. A golf tournament will take considerable time to plan, but it’s an effective way to engage your key donors, give them a fun day out, and get some valuable face-to-face time to build your relationships. Many nonprofits incorporate funny fundraising games at each hole along the course to boost impact and challenge the participants. Most importantly, think about what your audience and key donors will enjoy. Tournament events of all types can be effective. You’ll just need to carefully plan and promote them.
Hosting a charity concert is a classic fundraising idea for large organizations. Think back to the mega-benefit music events of the 80s and 90s! Of course, your own charity concert doesn’t need to be quite that big, but that’s the general idea. Partner with local sponsors, other nonprofits, and a venue to solicit a benefit performance from a famous musician. These events can be extremely effective at engaging your audience and boosting your visibility across the whole community. You’ll likely need to arrange percentage deals for how your organization and its partners will share the event’s revenue.
Get creative to come up with your own twist on the charity concert, too. You don’t necessarily need to find a top-tier musical celebrity or even a huge space. Popular local songwriters will often be happy to perform at cafes, restaurants, or even the decorated backyard of a volunteer to help out a good cause.
Prospect research is the process of using publicly-available information on donors to guide your fundraising strategies at the individual level. It’s most commonly used in major gift fundraising, to help organizations identify prospects who are both able and likely to make a generous donation and then to develop personalized strategies for attracting their attention.
Many smaller organizations don’t take full advantage of prospect research as a fundraising tool, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t! Using a dedicated prospect research database can unlock new levels of fundraising for your nonprofit, but there are tons of free resources out there, too. For example, public records of SEC transactions and real estate ownership can give you a rough estimate of a prospect’s wealth. Their involvement with other nonprofits, including their past donations, will then tell you what sorts of missions motivate them to act. Check the full prospect research guide from DonorSearch for a comprehensive overview of these strategies.
Fundraising Ideas for New Nonprofits
These fundraising ideas are ideal for new and growing organizations. They require minimal existing resources and can raise a considerable amount of support when planned well. Most importantly, though, all of these ideas will effectively lay the groundwork for long-term relationships with donors. Investing in those relationships as early as possible is the best move you can make your nonprofit, regardless of how many high-tech tools you have access to or many events you can afford to host. By fully engaging your supporters and inviting them to be a part of your organization, you’ll be growing faster in no time.
We’ve touched on this strategy in a few other fundraising ideas. The main concept of peer-to-peer fundraising is that your supporters and volunteers will essentially fundraise on your organization’s behalf. By using dedicated peer-to-peer fundraising software (or even online donation tools with plenty of social media sharing options), you can run an extensive peer-to-peer campaign. This strategy is effective for raising support, but oftentimes its biggest benefit is that it can drastically expand your network of donors, supporters, volunteers, and other online contacts. Use that expanded network to continue growing and developing your relationships down the line.
An advocacy campaign is another effective strategy for raising support and growing your nonprofit’s network of donors and volunteers. These campaigns revolve around raising awareness and directing audiences towards specific actions, like contacting a legislator or signing a petition. For community-based organizations with social, cultural, or political-oriented missions, hosting a well-planned advocacy campaign will help to raise your profile to the attention of wider audiences. Plus, the internet has made it easier than ever to conduct online advocacy work. For a major campaign, you might even want to invest in a custom advocacy mobile app for your supporters to use.
Social media is a powerful tool for nonprofits and especially for those just getting a foothold in their communities. Develop a viral challenge to grow your online audience, and then leverage your expanded audience for fundraising and relationship cultivation in the future. Invent a funny challenge, create a unique hashtag for participants to use, and then make sure your challenge clearly states your organization’s name, mission, and how supporters can make a donation. A viral video campaign won’t cost your organization anything to launch, and you just might strike gold with the right challenge!
Corporate philanthropy encompasses both matching gifts and volunteer grants. For growing nonprofits with active volunteer programs, these grants can be a considerable source of new revenue with little extra effort. Companies with policies in place will financially match the hours that their employees volunteer for eligible nonprofits with a donation. All you’ll need to do is ask your volunteers to check their eligibility, remind them to submit their requests, and then verify their hours volunteered. Explore Double the Donation’s complete guide for more information.
Organizing community classes is an easy way to get to know new supporters and reach wider audiences. Chances are your mission could be adapted for an engaging class, or a staff member or volunteer has special expertise to share. For example, an organization that promotes a health-related mission could partner with a community center to offer nutrition or yoga classes. You’ll likely need to find a partner that can provide a space for your classes, and then charge a small fee for registration. The connections you make with community members who are interested in your mission will be just as valuable in the long run as the money you raise through the classes themselves.
Apply for Grants
For many nonprofits, applying for grant funding is one of the first steps they take shortly after being officially founded and cleared for fundraising. It’s an essential part of the nonprofit landscape, but it can be overwhelming, confusing, or downright difficult to get a hang of applying for and receiving grant funding. If your organization is ready to begin applying for grants, make sure to do your research first and understand the process from start to finish. We’ve put together a nonprofit grant writing guide to help you get started.
This fundraising idea is fairly simple, but it can go a long way to boost your reach and visibility in the community. Simply familiarize yourself with all the other businesses, organizations, and government offices in your area, and then reach out to introduce your organization. You might discover a wide variety of new opportunities. If you have similar audiences, missions, or core functions, helpful partnerships can easily emerge. For instance, local businesses might be happy to help promote your organization to their own customers and set up check-out counter donation boxes. Your city government might offer special resources or funding for new nonprofit organizations that you weren’t aware of. It never hurts to spend some time exploring your community!
Amazon Smile Program
Amazon Smile is a program in which the online mega-retailer will donate .5% of eligible sales revenue from customers who designate your organization as their nonprofit of choice. This program makes it insanely easy for supporters to boost their impact on your organization with no added effort. All you’ll need to apply to the Amazon Smile program, wait to get approved, and then start promoting it to your community. We all rely on online shopping these days, so why not tap into all that energy and attention? This is is an easy way for your nonprofit to rake in some extra revenue.
Fundraising Ideas for Churches
Churches and religious organizations need to fundraise in order to pursue their missions and do good in their communities, just like other organizations. We’ve written extensively on church fundraising ideas before, so we’ll recap a few of our favorites here.
With this pledge-style fundraising idea, your participants secure pledges for the number of hours they spend serving others and volunteering for your church and other organizations in the community.
Writing fundraising letters is one of the most reliable ideas for churches to raise money and stay in touch with their wider community of friends and family. Check out our complete guide to church fundraising letters to learn more.
A picnic potluck is a great way to bring your congregation together to enjoy beautiful weather and good food. Your picnic event can be as simple or as elaborate as you want, but make sure to sell tickets or request contributions in order to raise money.
Around the holiday season, hosting an evening for your congregation to sing carols together is a great way to tap into the joyous mood. You might host this event at your church, in a local park, or even along a designated path around your neighborhood. Ask for contributions and sell concessions like hot cocoa.
Easter Egg Hunt
Another classic holiday-based fundraising idea for churches, Easter egg hunts are a favorite for congregations with a lot of young members. Ask participants to register ahead of time and contribute some money to help cover the cost of the eggs, candy, and baskets!
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Fundraising Ideas for Schools
Schools of all sizes rely on effective fundraising ideas to supplement their budgets from one year to the next and to offer additional or extracurricular activities and events for their students and families. We’ve written a complete list of school fundraising ideas here, but we’ll walk through just a few of our favorites.
Walkathons are great ways to get your students up and active on a beautiful day to raise money for your school. Explore this guide from 99Pledges for some first steps to get started planning a walkathon.
Teachers in Jail
With this fundraiser, your students will have the opportunity to put their teacher in “jail” for part of a day (or maybe a whole day!) but only if they raise enough money first. This is a popular idea with elementary schools, and it gives the students an exciting and funny goal to work for.
This classic school fundraising event is perfect for the end of the school year in the springtime or early summer. You can raise money in a number of ways during a field day, like through registration, custom school shirts, concessions, or admission for individual activities.
This is popular “a-thon”-style fundraising idea will encourage your students to read more while raising support for your school. They’ll secure pledges from their family per every set amount of pages or hours that they read. Make sure to offer motivating prizes for top readers!
This funny twist on the classic talent show is ideal for middle and high schools. Let students pay to register to perform a choreographed lip-sync performance of their favorite song. Be sure to promote the event, sell tickets ahead of time, and offer refreshments, too.
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There you have it! All of our favorite fundraising ideas, broken down into the most common categories that you might be looking for.
Remember, the best nonprofit fundraising ideas are ones that not only raise money for your cause but also deepen your relationships with supporters. All of your strategies need to take long-term donor engagement into account. That’s the single best way to ensure all of your fundraising progress and growth will be sustainable into the future.
For even more fundraising tips, be sure to keep exploring with some additional resources:
- Best Nonprofit Software to Raise Money Fast. Check out our top picks for the best tools to help you raise money. Many of them are free or very cheap to begin using!
- The Perfect Donation Page: How to Raise More Than Ever. Your online donation page should be the cornerstone of all your online fundraising efforts.
- Free and Low-Cost Nonprofit CRM Software. As your organization grows, you’ll need more robust data strategies to record and organize all your essential donor engagement data.