52 Proven Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas to Raise Funds in 2019

July 9, 2019 - 1 hours read

With email donations taking a plunge (almost 8% less than last year), many nonprofits like yours are looking at offline fundraising ideas to rake in the big bucks.

That is an excellent idea! Because, despite the advent and explosion of social media and the omnipresent internet, we find that online giving has only increased by 1% last year (2018).

Related: Nonprofits should use video storytelling to create impact

Nonprofit online giving stats 2018

Source: MR Benchmarks

This could be because people fundamentally believe that coming together and taking action is necessary to promote positive change. In fact, 80% of Americans think so. That is why, at least 1 in 5 Americans have attended an event (in 2015), to support a cause. Or it could merely be that coming together and being personally involved in your cause inspires them to support it.

Regardless, fundraising events are an excellent opportunity for your organization to create awareness about your cause and invite donations. To inspire more donations, your ideas have to be fresh and creative. That is where this post will help. Check out the various types of events you can hold for your organization and see how you can add your own twist to it.

You may like: Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid While Nonprofit Event Planning

Here’s a list of events you can think of conducting

There are a variety of different ways you can think of conducting these events. You can also add your own unique twist to these events to make it fun and more interesting for your audience. Just remember, whatever event you choose should relate to your cause and strike a chord with the audience.

Here are a few ideas that you can choose from. Let’s look at each of these in detail.


auctions-fundraising-ideas

Auction based Fundraising Ideas

1. Silent auction

What it is:

At a silent auction, you offer a list of items for your attendees to bid and buy from. Every item has a bidding sheet next to it, where your (potential donor) specifies his bid. At the predetermined end time of the auction, the item is sold to the bidder who has placed the highest bid. 

Add your twist:

Depending upon the cause you are supporting and the event attendees, you can decide on the kind of items you are auctioning. It could range from selling experiences (maybe a dinner for two at a Michelin star restaurant) to a simple dog walking opportunity. Just remember that what you sell should strike a chord with your audience and relate to your cause.

What you should know:

Silent auctions are a lot of work. To actually see returns from this endeavor, you have to either have a vast number of items to auction off; or a few high-end items that are bid on by major donors. Either way, silent auctions give results in the long haul. The first auction may not have a lot of items. However, once you gain momentum and have corporates pitching in, the range of items you offer and your guest list will increase.


2. Mobile auction

What it is:

At a mobile auction, donors use their cellphones to place their bid. All they have to do is register (maybe at the entrance or maybe when they RSVP) and then use a software to see the items on sale and bid. The advantage is that, even if a donor is unable to make it to the venue, he can still log in to participate.

Add your twist:

Strictly speaking, mobile auctions are just a technologically savvy silent auction. That is – it is rather like a silent auction, instead of bidding via sheets, the donors use their phones. However, it deserves to be mentioned separately because the use of cell phones has made the bidding process markedly easier. Which means, mobile auction need not be an event in itself – it can be a feature of a gala night that you have planned. 

What you should know:

The same rules of auction apply. Here, as an added overhead, you may have to use a mobile bidding software to streamline the process. So, the costs do go up a bit. However, if you have the resources (time, money, and volunteers), then it will definitely get your returns.


3. Date night auction

What it is:

In date-night auctions, volunteers (usually single), opt to have one evening of their time sold to the highest bidder. So essentially, your donors can select whom to go on a date with and then bid on that volunteer. 

Add your twist:

Date-night auctions can be a casual and fun affair, with just the local community (like a school) participating. Or, it can be a high-end affair, if you can rope in celebrities to volunteer their time for one evening (and agree to be bid on). Either way, it has a lot of potential to get donors in your door and participate easily.

What you should know:

As the House, it is up to you to explain to your volunteers that they cannot back-out once the bids on them are finalized. Since it is quite a big responsibility, a lot of nonprofits just auction gift set of packages (maybe items or an experience- not a date), that the bidder can use for his date-night. 


4. Mentor-ship auction

What it is:

Here, instead of going on a date, a volunteer agrees to spend his time mentoring the highest bidder.

Add your twist:

This could be an excellent idea for fundraising for high schools and even corporates. The mentorship can be about career conversations or options outside high-school that will genuinely benefit the participant. 

What you should know:

It can be tricky to pull off because mentoring is a bigger ask than just a date. It could potentially be for longer and has a higher impact. Also, for the mentoring to be meaningful, the mentors-to-be who volunteer have to be accomplished – which could be tough for you to find.


5. Chores-auction

What it is:

This is a good-old favorite of schools. Volunteers (school kids), step up to do a series of chores – like say lawn mowing or dog walking – for the highest bidder. 

Add your twist:

To make it more relevant to your cause, see if you can include a chore that is close to your cause. 

What you should know:

A chores auction is ideal for fundraising from schools, raising awareness among kids and parents in a particular neighborhood. The chores that are auctioned are usually simple – that the parents anyway would get done. So, it may not always bring you big bucks, but is a great opportunity for you to raise awareness for your cause (and get a lot of people to participate).


6. Coaching auction

What it is:

Get the local coaches in your community (it could be for any sport) and encourage them to donate a few hours of their time for your cause. Parents and children can then bid for a coach in a sport they are interested in – and thus bring in money for your cause.

Add your twist:

To make it more interesting, see if you can have a match at the end of the coaching sessions, between the children. This will ensure that their enthusiasm doesn’t fizzle out mid-way and keep them involved till the end. That is a big bonus for you if you want to make it a yearly event. 

What you should know:

Not all children would be able to participate in regular coaching sessions. So, if differently abled children want to be involved, you have to ensure that the coaching programs are inclusive. To get more from this event, you can also make the final tournament ticketed and invite the school to come watch the game.


black-tie-events-fundraising-ideas

Black-tie Events for Fundraising

7. Charity Ball/gala

What it is:

An evening of fun and entertainment for your audience. It usually includes dinner, preceded by various shows. It ends with networking – with lots of alcohol (if appropriate), to lubricate the social scene.

Add your twist:

Even if it is a regular black tie affair, see if you can make it a masked ball or a costume themed party to keep it interesting for your donors.

What you should know:

Ticket pricing is a crucial aspect of your Gala Ball. If it is too high, not many people will participate. If it is too less, then even though people buy the tickets, they may not always show up. The latter scenario is not ideal, because it sets a bad precedent for your next event. So, try to find the right balance (and ensure that your overheads are covered in the ticket price).

Consider reading: How To Run A Charity Auction


8. Concerts

What it is:

Well, I know you don’t need an explanation. It is an evening of music performed by talented artists. The first of its kind Live Aid, was the global jukebox that raised funds for the Ethiopian famine. Since then, the idea has inspired a lot of charity drives – and it could work for you too!

Add your twist:

Send out a text message to all your participants during the interval and see if they would like to contribute more. Eg. “Hi @donorname, Thank you for coming to our concert for war veterans. Would you like to contribute 15$ for our cause? Yes/No.”

What you should know:

Networking opportunities while the concert is happening would be minimal.


9. Sit down dinner

What it is:

Again, fairly obvious. Invite your donors to join you for dinner at a fancy ballroom.

Add your twist:

To make it more interesting, include a few fun events – like a silent auction or a musical event. 

What you should know:

Take extra care during seating arrangements. See if you can seat a prospective donor next to a passionate supporter. Peer to peer influence goes a long way in encouraging prospects to act. 


10. Themed parties

What it is:

The same gala event or the sit-down dinner revolves around a central theme of your choosing. It could relate to your cause (ideally) or could just be an exciting way to keep your audience engaged.

Add your twist:

Have a competition for the best costume and see if you can give out prices. Also, if you can rope in celebrities to host the party, participate in the competition and give out the prices, that would add to the entertainment factor.

What you should know:

This needs a lot more planning than a regular sit-down dinner. So, you need to have a lot of resources to spare. For most nonprofits, this is just a yearly affair.

Related reading: How To Host A Gala Dinner


11. Alumni networking dinner

What it is:

Gather your old high-school or college alumni to catch-up over dinner. 

Add your twist:

You need not make it a ticketed event. However, you can encourage people to buy a token at the entrance (Eg. Buy a recycled paper cup to use for the rest of the evening). This will create awareness for your cause and also get people involved.

What you should know:

It could be relatively easy to get your old alumni to meet. However, it is generally not a ticketed event. Your returns come from how well you reach out to the audience and encourage them to participate. 


12. Casino night

What it is:

A fun night of gambling, playing poker, blackjack, and drinks.

Add your twist:

See if you can have a raffle (maybe a 50/50 raffle) with the house winnings for that evening. 

What you should know:

This may not be cost-effective. Booking the right destination matters – and this could cost you a lot of money. Also, entry is not typically charged. But the buy-in for each game is high (this is what makes up your donations).


competitions-fundraising-ideas

Competitions based Fundraising

13. Challenges (like ice bucket challenge)

What it is: 

I am sure the example gave you the idea. Invite people to participate in challenges that are quirky, fun, and resonate with your cause. Every person who participates donates a certain amount to your cause and also opens the challenge to another in their network.

Add your twist:

What challenge your participant does is totally left to you. If you think the ice bucket challenge is too banal (or over-used), feel free to come up with your own ideas. Eg. If you are an animal welfare nonprofit, you can challenge your audience to go for a 5K run, with their dog. 

What you should know:

Social media plays a massive role in making this event a success. So, before you decide to run with it, check your social media presence. You can also loop in social media influencers to participate. Again, because of the channel (social media), the audience you reach may be exclusive (only millennials). So, this could be a great opportunity for you to involve them in your cause.

TIP: How to Maximize Fundraising by Saying What Your Donor Wants To Hear


14. Dance-offs

What it is: 

Organize popular dance crews battle it out on stage, and invite your followers to come for the show.

Add your twist:

To keep it interesting, auction off the best seats in the auditorium. You can also auction backstage passes to the highest bidder and thus increase the money collected.

What you should know:

Though these are ticketed events that are highly entertaining, it may not work for all audience. For instance, some of your donors would prefer a ballet performance to freestyle dance. In such cases, keeping the show interesting for everybody would be a challenge.


15. Cooking competition

What it is:

Invite your donors to a cooking competition. You can provide the raw materials. The participants can come up with a mind-blowing dish to wow the judges.

Add your twist:

Encourage your audience to place bets on who would win. You can also run a pledge fundraising here – with the audience pledging to donate some money if their participant wins.

What you should know:

For this event to be a success, your audience and participants should be enthusiastic about cooking. Also, this competition should relate to your cause (if possible). For e.g., it would make sense for nonprofits fighting hunger and starvation, to hold such a competition and donate the food to a local homeless shelter.


16. Bowl-a-Thon

What it is:

Individuals form teams and come participate in a bowling match to support your cause. There is an entry fee to get teams registered (this goes towards your cause). The teams then train separately and compete on tournament day. 

Add your twist:

Since this is fun for all ages, you can ask your audience to get their kids involved – with a special bowling tournament for kids. On match day, you can give out interesting prizes for “most fun team” or “crowd’s favorite.”

What you should know:

It would be tough to contribute to the winning prizes from your funds. See if you can solicit prizes from local corporates or celebrities. Also, a successful bowl-a-Thon is well advertised and hyped on social media. Ensure that your event gets the same kind of attention.


17. Eating Competitions

What it is: 

As the name suggests, invite people to participate in contests like “who can eat the most number of pizzas” or “how quickly can you finish a pie.” This would be a ticketed event – where you charge a nominal entry fee for people to watch/participate.

Add your twist:

It would be a good idea to have concession stands for the audience to buy food and drinks from. The proceeds from the purchase would, of course, go to your cause. See if you can get a local bakery to contribute the eats.

What you should know:

While eating competitions are fun, they may not always bring in a large donation amount. The money you raise would only be from the entry fee and the food stalls. So, this works great for creating awareness and as a low-barrier fundraiser. 


18. Make the grade

What it is: 

This is very similar to a pledge fundraising drive. Here, the students pledge to make A grade or B grade, with the teachers and parents pledging to donate a particular sum if they make the grade. The fund collected will go towards your cause. For parents, it is an extra incentive for their child make better grades. For the school, it is the advantage of raising money for a cause. For you, it is not just funds collected, but also an exercise in raising awareness.

Add your twist:

To make it interesting, run polls among the student body to see who will win. You can also auction tuition classes for those students who think they need it to win.

What you should know:

You will have to keep up the momentum throughout the examination time starting from the time you announced the program, to ensure that excitement doesn’t fizzle out midway. That would mean, distributing flyers, using text message marketing and email marketing (to parents and students) to maintain the buzz. It would also be up to you to help the participating students with coaching classes to ensure that they make the grade. Both these efforts need considerable commitment in terms of time and volunteer effort. So, keep that in mind before you decide to take it up.


sports-events-fundraising-ideas

Fundraising based on Sports Events

19. Basketball tournament

What it is:

Precisely that – invite your local community/donors to form teams and have a match. This could be a ticketed event. Or, you can auction best seats to the highest bidder.

Add your twist:

The players participating can pledge to donate an amount for each basket they score. The audience watching can also place bets on who will score the maximum and who will win. All the proceeds and money collected will go towards your cause.

What you should know:

It would be a lot more fun to have a basketball tournament, during the NBA season, when the popularity of the sport is high. This may not always sync with your fundraising calendar. Also, if your donor or participants do not share an enthusiasm for the game, it can fall flat.


20. Golf tournament

What it is:

Very similar to the basketball tournament, except that instead of teams, the players are pitted against each other. Every hole scored has a different donation amount – that the player can play or the audience can choose to pay. The entry for the audience can be ticketed when they come to watch the match.

Add your twist:

Make a family day out of it. Ask your players and audience to come with their family to watch the fun. You can have impromptu raffles and lemonade stalls to keep up the fun vibe. 

What you should know:

Blocking an entire golf course for the tournament can be tough. Also, golf is a niche sport. It is typically used as a high-value fundraiser, with major donors and may not resonate with your entire audience or donors. Remember to keep this in mind before planning this event.

Consider reading: [Free Template] How To Plan A Successful Fundraising Event


21. Marathon/ runs/walkathons

What it is about:

Like the popular Oxfam run, you can ask people to participate in a run or a walk to support your cause. Buying the running bib will cost money – which will go towards your organization.

Add your twist:

To make it more interesting, see if you can have buddy run (participants run with their dogs). If you are fundraising for an orphanage, then the kids in that orphanage can also participate in the run or be volunteers and interact with the donors.

What you should know:

Organizing a marathon or a run or even a simple walkathon is not easy. From the running route, bib distribution to the refreshments at each point, you have to organize. Also, to ensure enough participation, it has to be well advertised. So while it is a great means of fundraising and creating awareness, it also demands considerable effort.


22. Paddle races

What it is:

Paddle races – like how Paddle With Purpose has now been doing for quite some time. Host a paddle race within your local community. All interested players will have to pay an entry fee to participate. The proceeds will go towards your cause.

Add your twist:

Have a bake sale or a lemonade stand at the venue. Encourage the audience to place bets, and take pledges against who will win. For the price money, see if a corporate would be willing to sponsor the event. 

What you should know:

Organizing a paddle race is tricky – it has a series of safety measures you should adhere to (e.g., having a lifeguard on hand). Also, if you have to provide the equipment, it will work out quite expensive for you. Likewise, this would not make sense if you live in a locality where there are no water bodies and paddle racing is not accessible.


23. Field day

What it is:

Think of it as a PT day – for adults. They can participate in sprints, in runs, in relay races and obstacle courses. Participation is at a specific fee. Every winner can choose either go 50/50 on the prize money, or pledge to donate a certain amount towards your cause (if they win). 

Add your twist:

Ask your participants to bring their kids. The children will have a great time cheering their parents on. You can also have one exclusive event for the kids during the day. This will keep your audience more engaged, and also give them a lot more incentive to participate in the first place. 

What you should know:

It could be relatively easy to organize – just track and field events. Maybe a few foods and drink stalls if you are so inclined. However, there is a catch. The amount of funds you collect will depend solely on the entry fee and how many people turn up. So, this could work if you already have a relationship with your donors and if it is not a first time ask.


24. Home-run Derby

Like Givebutter, you could host a home-run derby – where it is not just fundraisers who participate, but any baseball player. The success of the event will depend upon your players reaching out to their network and soliciting funds/participation.

Add your twist:

As with any competition, you can take bets on the players. You can also have a screen up, with a fundraising thermometer, showing your attendees how well the event is doing. This would be a great way to encourage them to contribute.

What you should know:

Since the success of your event depends upon your players and volunteers soliciting funds, this is more like a peer to peer fundraising event. Have a good software (like an SMS texting platform), to make it easier for your volunteers to talk to the potential donors.


Fundraising with Peer to Peer Texting

Modern era fundraising strategies and tips using peer to peer texting

community-events-fundraising-ideas

Community Events based Fundraising

25. Pot lucks

What it is:

Pot-lucks are informal dinner gatherings where everyone from the local community brings one (or two) dishes to the table. If it is like the AGLA potluck, then it would be a night of socializing and creating awareness for your cause. However, you can still use it for fundraising, if you combine it with a ticketed event (like a talent show). 

Add your twist:

Depending upon your cause and your event objective (to create awareness/ raise funds), you can decide the kind of add-on to have at the potluck. For instance, if your cause is focussed on environmental issues, you can ask your participants to come with their own reusable flatware and plates to reduce waste. 

What you should know:

Typically, potlucks take some time to catch on. You could have it every month or just once a year – depending upon the scale in which you want it. The upside is – that since it is a low ask event, your turn out and attendance might be pretty good. However, since it is a low ask event, the funds you collect may not be exceedingly high (which is why it is a great idea in the long haul).

Telling a story: Examples of great Nonprofit Storytelling


26. Movie screening

What it is:

Gather your local community together and screen a movie at a common place – it could be an outdoor location (like a park) or simply the local draft house. Regardless, you can charge for entry/per ticket and raise money for your cause.

Add your twist:

You can do an advance movie screening (before a blockbuster release) only for your exclusive donors. Or, call your crowd in for a cult-movie night of a favourite show. Make sure the tickets are priced right – you don’t want it to be a deterrent, nor do you want it to be so less that the money raised is minimal.

What you should know:

Movie screenings can be a hit if you can nail the right kind of movie experience for your donors. If you are targeting high-end exclusive prospects, a private screening (complete with a red carpet would do the trick). Since coming for a movie is not a big ask, it is great for first-time donors and also engaging past donors (stewardship).


27. Carnivals

What it is:

An evening of fun and games at various stalls that are set up by the community. It is perfect for large groups to get together and network via games. You could charge an entry fee, and also a nominal fee for every game. 

Add your twist:

You can have booths at the carnival that relate to your cause. For instance, people can stop by for a free health check-up or blood pressure screenings, if you want to create more awareness around health and wellness.

What you should know:

The success of the carnival totally depends upon the entry fee and the number of people coming in. The best part is, your donors can also bring guests along. Typically, it would be family and close friends who get to see upfront what your cause is all about. And that means, to you, they are prospective donors, whom you can reach out to later.


28. Photo exhibition

What it is:

You can rope in photographers to feature their works, and all the purchases would go towards your cause (it can also be 50/50 on each sale). Or, you can also individually organize a photo exhibition (like the AIRproject) that work as a separate contribution towards a bigger fundraising goal. 

Add your twist:

To make it more interesting, you can either have photography workshops or invite lectures from celebrated photographers.

What you should know:

This may take a few weeks to plan and organize – from choosing the right photographers to creating a buzz around the event will take time. 


29. Pub crawl

What it is:

Pub crawling for a cause is very different from the pub crawl we are used to :). Instead of hopping from one pub to another, doing shots with your friends, you move from one to another, with a collection box and talking to prospects. You can either set up a donation box right at the door or, you can have it inside the pub at a vantage point (that the patrons cannot miss). 

Add your twist:

You can have a free form pub crawl , where the volunteers move at their pace within a 4hour window. Or, you can have a more defined pub crawl, where you do it together as a group. If you time it on popular nights, you can reach several prospects to create awareness about your cause (at the very least)

What you should know:

Typically, pub crawls are a modest fundraising effort. It is more about creating awareness and networking. Regardless, you will have to finalize a pub-route plan with your volunteers and let the bartenders know in advance that you are coming (so that they can be supportive).


30. Pet day

What it is:

With such a generic title, a pet day can be anything from Dog Church event to a pet photo contest. The specifics of the event are totally up to you. The point is, with 44% of US households owning a dog (and 35% cats, in case you are wondering), pets are increasingly becoming important in our lives. Involving them in your fundraising is just another way of reaching your prospective donors.

Add your twist:

April 11th is National Pet day in the US. See if you can organize your events on this day (or close to it) to encourage participation.

What you should know:

Like any other community event, a pet day can only be a modest fundraiser (unless the donors you invite are major donors). To make it bigger, you can combine it with a few fun events that we will discuss shortly.


community-sales-fundraising-ideas

Community Sales based Fundraising

31. Bake sale

What it is:

As the name suggests, a sale of delicious baked goods – that can raise money for your cause. You can either ask volunteers or your community to bake the goods. Or, you can approach a local bakery to contribute to the cause.

Add your twist:

A bake sale is a sensory treat. The prospects who come can see and catch the delicious smells and be encouraged to buy. However, if you want to reach a larger number of prospects, you can have the sale online (yep, an online bake sale). Prospects visit your site to see the goodies on display and place their order. You can later ship it to them.

What you should know:

Typically, bake sales bring in modest funds and are perfect for small communities or churches to raise funds. If you want to make it bigger, you can have your volunteers sell it door to door (rather like girl scout cookies). Remember to price your goodies right so that you can raise a modest amount for your cause.


32. Garage Sale

What it is:

A classic community event, where knick-knacks contributed by the whole community is on sale. The entire community pools in articles that they don’t need (like a used lawn mower or a wooden table). All the things are put on sale and well, one persons’ “don’t need” is another’s treasure!

Add your twist:

You can make it a day-long event, and put up food stalls and lemonade trucks too. As always, you can mix it up with any of the events in this list to make it more entertaining and fun for your audience.

What you should know:

The proceeds from the sale of all items will go to your cause. However, encouraging your community to contribute things for sale have to be done weeks in advance. Otherwise, you may not have enough items to sell. In such cases, you can mark up the price for each item so that the sum total you make is higher. Just remember to explain to your audience that the high pricing is geared towards your fundraising goals so that they are not deterred by the cost.

Consider next: How To Write The Perfect End Of Year Fundraising Email


33. Swap Sale

What it is:

Very similar to the garage sale we discussed. Everyone in the community brings (gently used) items that they do not need. All the items are put on display, and those who want to get something else can swap the goods, with the price difference between the goods paid towards your cause.

Add your twist:

You can make it a ticketed event, with a modest fee. You can also encourage the community to make it a potluck dinner. This will keep them interested and encourage them to spend more time at the event.

What you should know:

Organizing a swap sale can be quite tough – because you have to coordinate between so many different people. Remember that though your monetary gains may be modest, it will unite the community for your cause and also raise awareness.


34. T-shirt sale

What it is:

Get a custom T-Shirt made with a message from your cause. You can use platforms like Bonfire or Niftly to create and sell them. 

Add your twist:

You need not always sell them online. Your custom T-shirt can be an honorary item on sale at your silent auction. Or, it can be a challenge on social media to wear your custom t-shirt and (say), run a 5K.

What you should know:

Like many of the events discussed here, t-shirt fundraising is not an overnight event. It may take time for your t-shirts to become popular. And you can keep it up as a constant online fundraising effort (without strict timelines). You can also promote your t-shirts via celebrity influencers and various events you hold. 


35. Wrist band sale

What it is:

Remember the silicone Live Strong wristbands? You can try the same for your cause. Get custom wristbands made with the message that resonates with your audience. You can then sell them online or as exclusive merchandize at events.

Add your twist:

See if corporates would be keen on selling it to their employees. Or, if they would be willing to match the money raised at a sale.

What you should know:

Similar to t-shirt sales, wrist band sales are not an overnight fundraising effort and are more a long term strategy.


36. Book sales

What it is:

Primarily, you sell used and gently used second-hand books to raise money for your cause.

Add your twist:

See if you can rope in schools and parents to contribute the books that their children no longer use. 

What you should know:

Like most of the community events discussed, this is also a modest fundraising strategy. It will raise awareness about your cause and prime prospects and first time donors for the next ask.


fun-events-fundraising-ideas

Fun Events for Fundraising Ideas

37. Talent shows

What it is:

An evening of entertainment, where people in your community (be it from your church gathering or from your school), line up to showcase their talent. It can involve stand-up comedy, plays, singing, dancing, and even choir singing!

Add your twist:

Not all Talent shows have to be ticketed events. Especially if it is for your school, you can treat it as a chance for kids to shine and showcase their talent. How will you raise funds? Simple, once the crowd is in, you can raise money via silent auction and DVD sales (these guys raised $13,000).

What you should know:

Rounding up performers for talent shows (especially in schools) can be tough. See if you can rope in parents as volunteers or coaches to help you with it. Remember to create a lot of buzz around the big day – and encourage everyone to join with family and friends.


38. Trivia night

What it is:

Just your usual trivia night – with questions on various topics ranging from 90’s Pop to Game of Thrones. Teams compete with each other to win the prize. As with any fundraiser, you can either go 50/50 on the prize or have it wholly donated towards your case. Raising money will be via ticketed entrance, and if your audience is up for it, paid drinks.

Add your twist:

Before the night, you can sell coupons for food and drinks that your audience can use during the show. For participants, you can sell bonus cards or freebies that work in their favor during the quiz.

What you should know:

Trivia nights are a lot of fun to organize and can be a huge success. Just remember to choose categories for questions that everyone can relate to. To make it easier for the participants, you can send out text messages with rules and reminders before the event. This will also ensure increased participation for your event.


39. Game nights

What it is:

Instead of just quizzes (like above), the participants play video games for 4 to 8 hours straight. Winners pledge to contribute a fixed amount to your cause. Such gaming marathons have been a chief fundraising event for Child’s play (a gaming industry charity that provides toys and game consoles to children’s hospital worldwide), who raise $13 million in annual donations

Add your twist:

See if you can mix it up with any of the other events listed here. For instance, a game night with matched giving will not only increase the funds raised but will also show you how involved your supporters are.

What you should know:

As you have probably guessed, game nights are a low ask. So while you may get enough people to attend, it could be challenging to maintain the energy of the crowd. Remember to plan your evening well and keep your audience involved till the end. The happier the crowd, the better your funds collected. Also, see if you can get some hard-core gamers to attend – so that they can keep up the energy to play.


40. Scavenger hunt

What it is:

Your typical scavenger hunt, where teams compete to collect a set of items pre-determined by you, based on clues. As a fundraiser, this can work if the winning team donates a specific sum to your organization. You can also have a registration fee for various teams to register, and a separate entry fee for the audience. 

Add your twist:

To keep the audience interested in the game, have a good MC take bets on the competing teams. You can also arrange for screens to live cast the entire show to the audience who come for the event. 

What you should know

Organizing a scavenger hunt can be tricky, as you have to identify tasks that are interesting and make sense for your cause. Also, depending upon the scale at which you organize it, you would know if it is a modest or high-income fundraiser.


41. Fashion shows

What it is:

At a fundraiser fashion show, not only will the guests pay handsomely to see the latest trend, but you can also make money off every item that is sold. For instance, if somebody buys the showstopper piece, then proceeds would go to you. And of course, you can make it an eat and drink event, with the alcohol controlled by you (for which guests have to pay separately).

Add your twist:

See if you can combine a date night auction with your fashion show, with audience bidding on the models who volunteer for this event.

What you should know:

A successful fashion show can become your signature fundraiser every year. If you are planning it as an upscale event, remember to keep the audience exclusive and the entry fee high enough to reflect it.


42. Theatre

What it is:

Host a play with a ticketed entry for your donors. The participants in the play and the theme of the play can closely resonate with your cause.

Add your twist:

Use text message marketing during half-time to see if your audience is interested in donating more. Remember, you can always club other events (like silent auctions or even open with stand up comedy) to add more variety to your show.

What you should know:

Hosting a play (preparing script and training) is an insanely time-consuming effort. The ticket prices may not be enough to cover the amount of time spent in creating the play. See if you can rope in volunteers to coach and help you with all the zillion details that will crop up. Like the above events, you can make it an annual signature fundraising event for your cause, if you do it right.


pledge-fundraising-ideas

Pledge based Fundraising Ideas

43. Matched giving

What it is:

An estimated $2 to $3 billion is donated via matched giving annually. As a fundraiser for a charity, you can ask if the company you are targeting, is willing to match the amount of money you raise. Usually, corporates do only a 1:1 match. So if you raise $1000 via your fundraising efforts, your company chips in with $1000 too – and you have a total of $2000 for your charity.

Add your twist:

Since matched giving largely depends upon the company policy, there is very little you can control. 

What you should know:

65% of corporates offer matched giving programs. However, close to $7 billion of matched gifts go unclaimed. Since 84% of companies willingly donate if a match is offered, it is up to you to find out if your company offers one such program and then use it to improve your fundraising.


44. Give up pledge

What it is:

Quite a popular form of fundraising, a Give up pledge is when you encourage prospects to give up a bad habit or an indulgence. It could be a sinful chocolate croissant or just one pack less of smokes. The money they save by not buying it goes towards your cause.

Add your twist:

Make it popular on social media to raise awareness and get more people to participate. You can also make it a competition (with a running tally of how much each donor has donated thus far), to keep it interesting.

What you should know:

These pledges typically last for a month. So, it is not a one-time fundraising effort. For a month, you have to motivate your potential donors to stick to their pledge. This could be via social media posts, influencers on social media, or even direct texts to their cellphones.  Regardless of the method you choose, sustaining the effort for a month can be a drain on you, if you haven’t planned it right. So, remember to account for motivating participants while planning your pledge.


45. Make the grade pledge

What it is:

This is a superb idea for schools and colleges. Here, the students pledge to make A grade or B grade, with the teachers and parents pledging to donate a particular sum if they make the grade. For instance, parents can donate $1000 to your cause, if their kids have received an A+ in all subjects. Similarly, the school can make a donation to your charity, if they have high ranking students for the SATs. The fund collected will go towards your cause. For the parents, it is an extra incentive for their child make better grades. For the school, it is the advantage of raising money for a cause. For you, it is not just funds collected, but also an exercise in raising awareness. Parents (or even the school itself), pledges to donate to a cause if their kids make a particular grade.

Add your twist:

When you encourage the schools to participate, you can ask if they would like to make a sum for every student who makes the grade or pledge an amount even if one student achieves good grades. The school bursar or the principal can announce on graduation day, how much exactly the school is contributing towards your cause.

What you should know:

The students should also be made aware of the pledge and be encouraged to study harder. During the end of each semester, you can run awareness drives and organize study groups with volunteers to encourage and help the students get better grades. Yes, this is again a time consuming and demanding fundraising event. It needs a lot of advanced planning and volunteer help. So keep that in mind if you want to run a make the grade pledge for your nonprofit.


46. Lose weight pledge

What it is:

For every pound your volunteers lose, they pledge to donate to your cause. For them, it is a more motivated weight loss program. For you, it is a great way to combine a lifestyle change with a fundraising effort.

Add your twist:

Have a leaderboard that shows how well every donor is doing. You can also have a fundraising thermometer on your website to countdown to the amount you want to raise. To encourage more participants, see if you can rope in Gyms and fitness centers to be part of this program. That way, their clients all have an opportunity to donate for every pound they lose.

What you should know:

Lose weight pledges don’t happen overnight. As the organizer, you have to create awareness, get volunteers to sign up for your cause, and also encourage them throughout the entire journey to keep their momentum. For this, you need good volunteer support, or at the very least, a good texting platform that can send texts in bulk.


47. Make the miles pledge

What it is:

Another form of corporate giving, where the company pledges to donate a sum for every mile its employees run/cycle.

Add your twist:

Since this is part of the company policy, there is very little you can control. However, you can encourage the employees to participate via emails and texts. You can also have a fundraising thermometer on the site to show the employees how well their efforts are doing.

What you should know:

Getting the companies to sign up and agree on a sum per mile can be quite tricky. Also, the amount of money you make directly depends upon how many employees participate and how much they run. So, your efforts should also be focussed on encouraging them to keep up the momentum. While this is not “volunteer heavy” work, it will take up a lot of your time to be constantly in touch with the employees.


48. Pledge-a-thon

What it is:

Essentially, your prospects pledge to donate a sum, for accomplishing a milestone in an activity of their choice. For instance, a set of prospects can choose to give $50 for every book they read. Or a few prospects can choose to donate $5 for every mile they run.

Add your twist:

Organize meetups during the pledge-a-thon month so that the prospects can get inspired by each other. If you have the resources, you can build an exclusive app where your prospects can compare how much they have been able to raise. You can also have a separate Facebook page, with a fundraising thermometer to show the funds that have been raised by this event.

What you should know:

A big advantage of this pledge-a-thon is that you do not have to depend on a third party (like a corporate) to run the show. You can directly reach your prospects and ask them to take up a pledge based on their interest. Since you already have a relationship with your prospects, it makes it easier for you to communicate and motivate them to meet their target.


traditional-fundraising-ideas

Traditional Fundraising Ideas

49. Phone sprints

What it is:

On a pre-decided date, you and a bunch of volunteers meet at a place and call all the donors (prospective and past) on your list to solicit funds.

Add your twist:

Since it is pretty much a straightforward event, there is not much you can do. You can time these phone sprints along with a national awareness day for your cause to make it more relevant to the audience.

What you should know:

For any phone sprint, the number of volunteers you invite depends on the donor list. You can’t have too many volunteers – then, there might not be enough numbers to go around. Having a phone banking software can be of immense help here. It would help you keep track of conversations and follow up with donors later. The software will add up to overhead costs. While you can definitely make up for it from the donation received, invest in a software only if phone sprints are going to be a frequent exercise for your organization.


50. Text-to-give

What it is:

In a text-to-give fundraising effort, you enable the prospects to donate via a text message. You can either send them the link via a broadcast message, or you can send it to them when they opt -in to your campaign. Once the prospects receive the text, they can follow the link and donate on your website homepage.

Add your twist:

Typically, text to give campaigns have a keyword and a short code that is set up and promoted. Interested prospects who come across the keyword, can text it to the short code and opt into the campaign. This, as you can guess, is an ongoing effort. It need not happen overnight, but over a period of time. To use text to give as a separate effort, you can send a broadcast text during an event to all the attendees and ask them to donate via texts.

What you should know:

As with phone-banking software, investing in a separate SMS tool to send out the text messages can add to your costs. So select a software (like CallHub for instance) that has phone-calling and texting rolled into it, with affordable pricing. This will keep your overhead costs minimal.


51. Giving Tuesday

What it is:

Following the shopping frenzy on Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday is centered around encouraging people to donate for a cause – right before the holiday season. By 2017, #GivingTuesday campaigns raised $300 Million (that is a 69% increase from the year before). You can have a #GivingTuesday campaign, that encourages your prospects to donate and also raises awareness for your cause.

Add your twist:

Have an auction or a field day linked to #GivingTuesday to encourage your prospects to engage with you offline. You can also approach corporates for matched giving, to match the funds you raise. 

What you should know:

GivingTuesday campaigns are usually multi-channel campaigns that target the audience across various touch points. If you want to launch it for your organization, you will have to introduce it on your website homepage, include it in social media communication and also via text messages. It is definitely worth the effort – with some nonprofits raising as high as $100,000 (online and offline). However, because it needs such serious campaigning efforts, it will require a dedicated team to strategize and execute it. 


52. Crowdfunding

What it is:

To put it simply, you collect money (small sums) from a large number of individuals online to help support your cause. Think of it as a penny drive – online. You have a dedicated website where you announce your intentions and your goal and start promoting it. Prospects who empathize with your cause will contribute and help meet your fundraising goal.

Add your twist:

Even the quirkiest crowdfunding campaigns work. The squirrel census that wanted to follow squirrels in Atlanta and gauge their population made more than $8000 online. So, think of your campaign. Use platforms like Kickstarter or GoFundMe to create your campaigns and raise money for your cause.

What you should know:

Even the craziest crowdfunding campaigns had a fundraising goal and a clear plan. Also, if you look at the numbers, the goal is reached by not a handful of donors but is backed by at least 100 supporters. What this means is, since you are asking several people to contribute a small sum, the ask is less. However, unless your campaign is compelling and reaches enough people, you may not be able to make the goal easily.

Resources: [Free Script]Donor Thank You Calls: Writing the Perfect Script


Bonus Reading: Using Tech for Fundraising

Your Turn

Which of these ideas are you going to use for your nonprofit? Drop me a note and let me know.

Tags: , , ,