Need to fundraise, but out of ideas on how to do it? We’ve got you covered! Read on for 48 great ways to fundraise that really work, featuring examples from some of our favorite nonprofits including the Michael J. Fox Foundation, DoSomething.org, and (of course) the ALS Association. Plus more thoughts on auctions, events, online campaigns, and peer-to-peer fundraising ideas to get you started.
No matter your nonprofit’s size, scale, or mission, you’ll find useful tips and tricks in this article that will have you raising money in no time.
Athletic Fundraising Ideas
1. Golf for Good
We’ll kick off with sports! Organize a golf tournament. Get companies involved, have people come out to the course, and raise money for your organization.
2. Run for a Cause
From 1-milers, to 5ks, to marathons, this option has something for everyone. Start small so you can build a base together, and work up to larger, longer events. The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is a great example of this. Pro tip: use a tool like Race Entry to make organizing your run a walk in the park…err, run in the park.
3. Bike for a Cause
Cycling for a cause doesn’t have to be complicated! Map it out, and get people involved year over year.
4. Lawn Sport Olympics
Who doesn’t love a game of cornhole, or a good old-fashioned sack race? Have people sign up for a fun field day, or pay to sponsor teams.
5. Relays and Challenges
Walk-a-thons, dance-a-thons, pledge per mile, oh my! Whether it’s by walking around a track (Relay for Life) or dancing for 24 hours straight, challenge events engage communities and make for great fundraising ideas. This builds a list of people that you can reach out to again the next year, getting local champions involved.
6. Embarrass the Boss
Add fun to team challenges by raising the stakes! Once you’ve reached your fundraising goal, the boss, principal, or other leader can take their chances with a dunk tank, get taped to the wall, sing their least favorite song, or any number of other “embarrassing” activities.
7. Cause Marketing Campaign
Partner up with a company whose passions align with your nonprofit’s, and hold a cause marketing campaign to raise funds. Check out DoSomething.org for ideas.
8. Restaurant Partnership
Team up with with a local restaurant that’s interested in helping to support your cause. Ask for a small water donation, or a percent tip on top of tip. The UNICEF Tap Project is an example of how asking for just a $1 donation for tap water at a restaurant added up very quickly.
Group Fundraising Ideas and Drives
9. Workplace Giving
Now, onto fundraising ideas where we’re raising in a cluster, in a group. In the workplace, you can work with charities.org to make it easy for people to give part of their paycheck to your cause. DipJar is another awesome tool to help you collect these group donations.
10. Penny Drive
Got any spare change? You can run a penny drive! Collect a lot of pennies, and soon you’ll have a lot of money.
11. Box Tops for Good
The Box Tops for Education program was started by General Mills in 1996. They donate to your organization based on the number of box tops collected from products including cereal, tissues, frozen vegetables, and more. This is an especially great option for schools — get parents involved!
12. Shoe Drive
You can also do a shoe drive, collecting gently used or new shoes. Send them to funds2orgs.com — they’ll send you a check, and pass along the shoes to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries.
13. E-Waste Drive
Everyone has some old ink cartridges, cell phones, or other electronic detritus laying around. You can get store credit for empty ink cartridges at major office supply retailers, and look into selling old electronics on eBay for Charity or other websites to raise funds.
Online Fundraising Essentials
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Timeless Fundraising Events
14. Classic Rubber Chicken
Let’s talk events! The “classic rubber chicken” pairs a big dinner with speakers, performances, and more for an entertaining evening that raises awareness along with funds.
15. Poker or Casino Night
Poker or casino nights can get people “gambling” for good! Instead of a winner-take-all, brainstorm other awards. Poker 4 Parkinson’s hosts charitable poker tournaments, with all monies raised given to research.
16. Bar Event
Hold a young professionals bar event or a Sunday Funday — any excuse to get dressed up and drink mimosas. Worried that might be too fancy? Try a casual bar event with a lower price point.
17. Wine Taste Test
Combine a wine tasting with fundraising in a “guess the wine” challenge. See who can tell their Pinots from their Pinotages!
18. Be the Bartender
You wouldn’t believe how people would love to be behind the bar — sell the chance to be a bartender! Tips for Parkinson’s has built out this idea into a highly successful amateur bartending competition, combining it with silent auctions and delicious food.
Encourage people to embrace their inner know-it-all at trivia events. These can be held at a bar or any other event space. You can charge per team, create a fun reward system, and even get local businesses involved.
20. Food Tasting
Sell tickets to a food tasting event, and include voting challenges to spice it up. Try a theme, like “A Taste of the Lower East Side,” and partner with local vendors. This is a win-win for both the cause and the local companies.
21. Dog or Cat Show
Get everybody’s cute cats and puppies together, march them down the avenue, and sell tickets to enter your pet or to watch the parade!
22. Art Show
Exhibit an array of artists — local or not, famous or unknown — with a percentage of profits going to your cause.
23. Grow for Good
Almost everyone knows about growing mustaches in Movember, but there’s so many other things you could grow! Your hair, your nails — it might sound weird, but hey, if it works, why not?
Auction It Off
24. Guess the Amount
Now we get into auction-style fundraisers. Put a bunch of fun things in a jar and have people pay to guess the amount. Winner takes the jar, and your organization keeps the money!
25. Silent Auction
Have people donate things that you can then auction off by placing forms in front of each one. Gather in-kind items and bundle them for experiences that will get higher bids than solo items. Silent auctions are also great to run in conjunction with other types of fundraising events.
26. 50/50 Raffle
Sell tickets for the chance to win half of all of the ticket money collected. One lucky winner gets 50%, and the other 50% goes to your organization! The Giants Community Fund runs one example of a very lucrative 50/50 raffle model.
27. Penny Auction
This auction style works well for lower tier prize packages. People buy tickets that equal chances to win, and they can put those tickets towards various prizes of their choice. The more tickets they buy, the more chances they have — and the more money you’ll receive.
28. Live Auction
At a catered dinner or other social event, auction off dates, cars, vacations, and more. Make sure to find an entertaining auctioneer!
29. Online Auction
Hold an online auction with high value celebrity experiences. eBay for Charity and Charitybuzz are fantastic at managing these types of events.
Think Outside the Box
30. Duck Race
Find a small body of water and some floaty things like rubber ducks. Every duck gets a number, and people pay to enter their duck in the race. See which floaty duck reigns supreme, and swim away with new funds!
31. Karaoke Night
Reveal everyone’s inner superstars with a karaoke night! Book the venue, and then charge for songs, spotlight moments, and drinks.
32. Polar Bear Plunge
Convince brave volunteers to Polar Bear Plunge into a cold body of water! Sell tickets, sell towels, sponsor teams, and have fun with it.
33. Cupcake Wars
Who will prevail as the top chef? Hold a “food wars” event with anything from cupcakes to chili. Charge admission to tasters, and have them vote for the winning recipe.
34. Dog or Car Wash
Everyone loves a clean car and a clean dog, but maybe don’t run these at the same time.
Have your supporters use tools like goodsearch.org to send a portion of search and purchase proceeds to your organization. These are very small margins, but they can add up.
36. Affiliate Advertising
Affiliate advertising is another online fundraising option. Register your organization with the Amazon Smile program. When people shop, you get a very small percentage of their purchase donated to your cause.
37. Online Real Estate
Have a website? Ask people to pay to put messages on your site, like a digital donor wall.
38. Sponsored Brick or Wall
Building something new? Sell sponsored bricks or walls in your physical location.
39. Gift Wrapping
Offer gift wrapping at a local store for open donations. Set up a table and ask if anyone would like their purchase gift-wrapped for a cause. Try to time this around major holidays!
40. Combined Federal Campaign
Large nonprofits can apply for the Combined Federal Campaign to enter into federal donation systems; check out charities.org to learn more.
41. Recipe Book
Peer-to-peer fundraising ideas are another great model you can follow. Source a recipe book with a theme. Sell advertisements or sponsorship within the book, and then sell the book itself!
42. Odd Challenge
The ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge is the most viral example of this, but you can dream up all kinds of other odd challenges for fundraising ideas. If a certain amount of dollars is raised, someone will do something odd and post about it on social media.
43. Gifts for Good
You can do a birthday, a wedding, or a shower gift for good. There’s tons of websites that allow people to ask well-wishers to send donations to a certain organization in lieu of gifts.
44. Haunted House
Do a haunted house or a trick-or-treat fundraiser, and take advantage of the UNICEF style of giving people boxes to run around and fundraise on your behalf during those events. Just make sure they correspond with the holiday, since Halloween in December doesn’t make much sense.
45. Branded Food
Girl Scout Cookies are an international phenomenon, so why not brand a food of your own to raise some money for your organization?
46. Coffee or Bake Sale
Hold a coffee or bake sale. This tried-and-true fundraising idea is especially effective on high-traffic days such as election days.
47. Branded Merchandise
You can put your logo on just about anything! Shirts, tote bags, jewelry — why not pet rocks for the environment? Get creative! Susan G. Komen has a whole online store full of merchandise, branded very clearly with their signature pink.
48. Cause or Town-opoly
Customize a Monopoly set, or any sort of board game, to fit your local town or your cause. You can then hold a very special game night fundraiser!
There you have it — 48 fundraising ideas to get your gears turning and your assets growing. When it comes to fundraising, getting a little creative can go a long way!
Does your organization swear by a fundraising scheme that’s not on this list? Tweet us @WholeWhale to tell us more. And don’t forget to check out our favorite fundraising apps as well!
As you build your fundraising pages and flows remember that 83% of people won’t donate (M+R Benchmarks 2019). Lighthouse by Whole Whale is a tool that shows you a list of email addresses of the people that left the donate page without giving.