List of Fundraising Ideas

Mary Gormandy White
Contributor: Michele Meleen
Girl holding fundraising thermometer

If you're responsible for raising money for a nonprofit organization, it's important to come up with a comprehensive list of fundraising ideas that can help accomplish your goals. This list offers ideas to choose from and serve as inspiration in helping you raise the funds needed.

Choosing from a List of Fundraising Ideas

When you're engaged in ongoing fundraising efforts for an organization, it's essential to vary the types of campaigns you utilize. You don't find want to find yourself in the position of going back to the same individuals asking for money repeatedly.

Your list of fundraising ideas should include several types of projects so your efforts appeal to a diverse group of potential supporters. It's better to alternate among different types of fundraisers that reach out to different volunteers and donors regularly.

Special Event Fundraising Ideas

Many organizations find that special events provide excellent opportunities to raise money. The type of event that works best for you depends on a variety of factors including where you are located, the time of year, and who you are trying to reach. Make sure that the price range of the event is appropriate for the income level of the population you are targeting.

Before scheduling a special event find out what other activities are going on in your city on your desired date. Verify that you aren't scheduling your event at a time when there are other activities in the area that appeal to the same people you expect to attend yours.

Examples of special event fundraisers include:

  • Bachelor/Bachelorette Auction: Raffle off dates with prominent single community members or celebrities by asking participants to pay a small fee for their auction paddle. They can then bid on the person they'd like to win a date with.
  • Casino Night: Set up a variety of casino games like Poker, Blackjack, and Roulette. Guests can buy chips at the door and drinks or snacks throughout the event.
  • Classic Car Show
    Classic Car Show: Participants with cool cars can pay an entry fee to showcase their automobile and be entered into a judged competition. Community members can either pay an admittance fee to check out all the cars or simply buy drinks and treats at the event.
  • Conference: Host a one, two, or three day event at a conference center where participants can learn about important topics related to your organization from professionals in the field. Charge a registration fee with options to add on cocktail hours, networking sessions, and one-on-one meetings with the speakers.
  • Draw Down: Sometimes called a reverse raffle, guests purchase event tickets ahead of time or at the door. All ticket numbers and the name of the ticket holder are displayed on a large board. Periodically throughout the event numbers are drawn and those matching tickets are eliminated from the drawing. The last ticket number left on the board at the end of the night wins the grand prize.
  • Gala: This black tie affair typically includes an evening of dinner and dancing where guests get the chance to feel like royalty or celebrities.
  • Golf Tournament: Seek out community sponsors and donations then charge individual or team fees for participating in the tournament.
  • Food Sales: Host a fish fry, shrimp boil, spaghetti dinner, or wine tasting where guests purchase meal tickets in advance or at the door. When you get most of your goods and the venue donated, the ticket sales are pure profit.
  • Raffle: Solicit community businesses for prize donations then raffle them off by selling tickets guests can use to enter each drawing. Instead of goods, you can also host a 50/50 raffle where you keep half the profits and choose one winning ticket to receive the other half.
  • Rummage Sale: Think of it as a community-wide yard sale where your organization receives all the profits. Community members can bring in donations of items typically sold at a lawn sale for you to sell during your event.
  • Silent Auction: In this fundraiser new items are donated similar to a raffle. Each item is set next to a blank bidding list where guests place their name and bid. Each auction sheet stays open until the end of the event and the last person on the paper with the highest bid wins.
  • Walk/Run: Organize a walkathon or run that covers anywhere from one mile to an actual marathon. Business sponsors donate money in exchange for advertisement at your event and runners pay a registration fee to enter.

Contest Fundraisers

Contests can raise a lot of money, especially for organizations trying to attract supporters who can't make large financial commitments or who have certain types of skills. Both entry fees and sponsorship sales allow for large profits from these types of fundraisers.

Contest fundraiser ideas you may want to try include:

  • Art Competition: Choose a relevant theme and any art form then make a call for submissions or artwork incorporating it. Charge a small entry fee just like professional art contests and enlist a panel of professionals to volunteer as judges.
  • Costume Contests: Whether it's Halloween or any other holiday you can create a competition asking guests to wear their best costumes. Spectators can pay an entry fee to watch the festivities and vote for their favorites.
  • Photography Contest: Create categories for amateurs, professionals, adults, and youth to enter their best photographs in a competition. Display the images and use spectator votes or a panel of experts to judge. Pick a theme that's relevant to your organization, like toys and games for a childcare center.
  • Races: Think beyond running or biking and plan a unique race event like no other. Challenge participants to a speed-building contest or a race to take selfies with local landmarks.
  • Chili cookoff contest
    Cook-Off: Choose a specific type of food, like barbecue or chili, then solicit local chefs, cooks, and eateries to offer their best dish in that category. Invite the community to pay an entry fee or small amounts for each tasting.
  • Scavenger Hunt: Create a list of items participants must find and bring back or take a picture with. Charge an entry fee for each team, then give out donated prizes to the teams who find the most items in the shortest amount of time.
  • Karaoke Contest: Solicit a few volunteer judges to emulate those seen on popular reality television competitions. Charge spectators a fee for their seats. Partner with a local DJ or look for someone who could loan you basic karaoke equipment.

Do-it-Yourself Fundraisers

Nonprofit organizations often find do-it-yourself fundraisers lucrative, simple to execute, and fun. It can be rewarding creating products to market or offering services to supporters as a means of raising money.

Ideas for do-it-yourself fundraisers include:

  • Logo Merchandise: People who are supportive of your organization may be interested in owning and using items with your logo on them. You can sell items like shirts, hats, bags, and other apparel or use them as thank you gifts for individuals or organizations that make donations to your capital or fundraising campaign.
  • Cookbooks: Ask employees or consumers to provide recipes you can put into a community cookbook. Sell the cookbooks at other events or in local restaurants and shops.
  • Girls selling door to door
    Product Resale: Many companies that produce consumer goods have special fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. The key to success with a product sale fundraiser is to select items that appeal to consumers, are reasonably priced, and are of high quality. Candles, candy, wrapping paper, and flowers are a few common examples.
  • Lunch Takeout/Delivery: Partner with a local grocer, restaurant, or catering company to provide pre-order lunches within your community for one day or week. Offer customers a few simple choices, buy the ingredients wholesale, then sell each lunch for a small profit.
  • Yard Work: Gather volunteers to mow lawns, rake yards, and weed gardens for a small fee around your community.
  • Craft/Paint Night: Partner with a local company who hosts paint nights and get your venue donated, then they help plan and market the event while you collect a portion of the ticket sales. Make it a complete DIY event by having volunteers teach and demonstrate a craft while attendees simply purchase a ticket and show up.
  • Balloon Pop: Tuck dollar bills, candy, gift certificates, and other small prizes into balloons before blowing them up. Participants purchase the chance to pop one or more balloons. Fill a large room with balloons, some containing prizes and others containing fakes. If someone pops a balloon with a prize, they keep that prize.

Creating a Fundraising Plan

If your organization's ability to offer services is dependent on fundraising efforts, it's important to create a plan that includes several types of projects designed to help you raise money. Put your plan in place about a year in advance so you have time to organize committees, get chair people in place, and properly plan, making each event a success.

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List of Fundraising Ideas