34 Clever Summer Fundraising Ideas

Digital Fundraising

The summer brings with it the opportunity to take advantage of the great weather and use the great outdoors for great fundraising. We’ve put together over 30 fun nonprofit fundraising ideas for you to spring into this season. We’re willing to bet $1 that there’s at least one you haven’t thought of — and if that one is #34, we have some questions for you…

For any of these ideas make sure you have the following technical elements:

  • Event name, date, and details in an email/flyer/social post. Canva is a great tool for designing images.
  • Website or event page so people can find it. You can use a Facebook event, Eventbrite or a simple campaign site like splashthat. Remember you can buy a nice-looking domain and redirect it to anywhere you like to make the branding look more official.
  • Way to accept donations or money from the event. List of nonprofit donation platforms.
  • Email system like Mailchimp or Emma to message a larger audience and collect attendee information.

And now, for the ideas:

1. Polish for a Purpose

National Nail Polish Day (June 1)

Set a fundraising goal to sponsor a nail color on National Nail Polish Day (June 1) in the spirit of Movember. Each nail painted with that color ups the fundraising digits for a worthy purpose.

2. Bike-a-Thon

World Bicycle Day (June 3)

Tour-de-France (July)

It’s not summer without the Tour-de-France in July (or get a head-start with World Bicycle Day on June 3). Design a local route with varying distances to be both competitive and family-friendly. Get the city permits, and then make sure there’s a good open area for an after-party. For ideas, check out the Tour de Fox event in wine country.

3. Repeat repeat donors

National Repeat Day (June 3)

Take advantage of one of those random holidays to foster some recurring donors: Email your one-time donors from the last year with an invitation to repeat their donation.

3. Repeat donors

National Repeat Day (June 3)

Take advantage of one of those random holidays to foster some recurring donors: Email your one-time donors from the last year with an invitation to repeat their donation.
I see what you did there, @wholewhale… Here's the one day in June to encourage repeat donors. Click To Tweet

4. Host a Community Clean-Up

World Environment Day (June 5)

Think a walk-a-thon meets those highway sponsorship programs: Get supporters to sponsor teams at a rate of $X per pound of trash collected.

5. Eat for Good

Inspire your supporters to channel their inner Joey Chestnut and stuff their face for good. Take advantage of National Donut Day (6/7) or National Hot Dog Month (July) and host a summer treat-eating competition or bake sale for your cause. Ask your local donut maker to donate a portion of their proceeds on June 7 to your cause, or ask a favorite hot dog shack to give special coupons for a free or discounted frank to the folks that donate to you in a given time period.

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6. Coast & Competition Day

National Oceans Month (June, US)
World Oceans Day (June 8)

Take advantage of National Oceans Month (June) or World Oceans Day (June 8) to get your supporters together for a beach day for good. Dust off that cornhole, bocce, badminton, or beach volleyball set and have participants establish teams for tournament-style competition. Fundraise ahead of time for extra points or advantages. Coast to Coast Cures rides a similar wave for their annual Luau for Lymphoma.  

7. Climb for a Cause

Great Outdoors Month (June, US)

Do a walk-slash-hike for charity: Choose the tallest peak in your town or neighborhood (unless you live in Washington or Oregon, then find something a bit more manageable). Provide water station stops and set up a picnic at the end for people that raise money. Use a crowdfunding strategy or strategic peer-to-peer asks. Take a look at how HikeFor.com is helping Donate Life America raise funds.

8. Host a Prom for a Purpose

LGBT Pride Month (June, US)

We love the New York Public Library’s Anti-Proms, which provide an alternative, safe space regardless of sexuality, gender identity, and any other reason for NYC teens. Remember, too, that many supporters wouldn’t mind the chance to re-live their prom days in an inclusive space that didn’t exist when we were pinning on corsages and renting limos. It’s the perfect way to celebrate Pride Month in the US for LGBTQIA-focused organizations — the Charleston-based We Are Family hosted one last year to fund its new drop-in center.

9. Donations for Dad

Father’s Day (Third Sunday in June)

Fact: Nobody knows what to get their dad on Father’s Day. Help your supporters out and create a Donation-for-Dad gift that gives them a nice printable or ecard telling their dad that a gift was made in his name.

10. Sunset Party

Summer Solstice (June 21)

The longest day of the year is the perfect day for a sunset party. Take over your roof (or an office floor with a good view). This can be a great tie-in for a workplace giving program.

11. Stretch for a Cause

International Day of Yoga (June 21)

The longest day of the year is a day that can stretch far into the evening hours, and a day that can stretch your supporters towards inner peace. Pick a great public space and create a quick event on Eventbrite.com. Ask for donations in exchange for attendance and have a yoga teacher lead a class for a cause.

12. Be #UnSelfie–ish

National Selfie Day (June 21)

#Unselfies: Not just for Giving Tuesday. Ask your supporters to donate and submit their #Unselfie sign supporting your cause on Instagram. Plan ahead and recruit some Instagram influencers to support the cause.

13. Movies for Impact

Summer blockbuster season could offer the opportunity to partner with a local movie theater to screen a relevant film with proceeds going to your cause (some movie theaters are even nonprofits themselves). Or get an outdoor setup with a projector and screen, a permit or neighborhood space, and the screening rights to share a cause-related movie for free. Sell concessions like popcorn, soda, and candy for charity, and make a public ask for donations for the cause before the movie starts.

14. Superhero Fundraisers

The summer is also a time for superhero movie franchises to take over. Consider a play out of Sigma Tau Delta’s book and host a superhero-themed fundraiser with a local bookstore or comic shop that donates a percentage of all in-store sales for a set amount of time to your organization.  

15. Ice Cream Social

National Ice Cream Month (July)

Like you need an excuse to have a cold one… but July is National Ice Cream Month, so what better opportunity to partner with a local ice cream parlor or simply have a spread of Ben and Jerry’s finest? You can set up a DIY sundae station for kids, or work with a liquor sponsor to give older supporters an adult root beer float. Remember: Calories don’t count when it’s for charity.  

16. Adult Lemonade Stand

Playing on the idea of an adult root beer float above, tap into the joy of mixing lemons, water, and sugar and host a be-the-bartender fundraiser with a menu of lemony shandys, margaritas, and lemon drops. Here are 14 lemony cocktail ideas to bring the idea of an adult lemonade stand to the next level.

17. BBQ with a Bonus

Independence Day (July 4)

Your supporters are hauling out the grill anyway, have them do it for your cause. Email your recent donors (last year or so) and ask them to add a tip jar to benefit your cause on to their Fourth of July picnic table. Or host a rib, pie, or hot dog eating contest and have your own tip jars for people to support their favorite competitors in the form of donations. Those dollars add up.

18. Rosé All Day Season

Nothing pairs well with summer quite like rosé. Host a tasting event where participants bring their own bottles — or a wine vendor sponsors — a blind tasting. Set up tasting tables with glasses and laminated A/B/C cards (they will get wet) for people to try to match the samples to the bottle. Alternatively, participants can all be given a sheet they need to fill in as they go to different tables. Charge for tickets, food and add competition awards (like wine) for people who can match all the bottles. Fact: No one can tell rosés apart after the second bottle.

19. Pool Party for a Porpoise Purpose

Recruit someone with the space and send out the invites via Eventbrite or a Splash page. Have a float race, water balloon toss, or water polo competition to raise additional funds for a cause. Remember to dunk your executive director or board chair if you raise a certain amount of money through the event to really up the ante!

20. Under the Boardwalk — for a Cause

Take a look at how the JDRF fundraiser in Santa Cruz runs their annual boardwalk fundraiser. Combine local businesses, a boardwalk, info booths, and a nice day for a good cause.

21. Bastille Day Waiter’s Race

Bastille Day (July 14)

Bastille Day is the perfect excuse to indulge in the 3 Bs: Brie, baguettes, and beaujolais. If you want to up the ante, consider a Waiter’s Race (perfect if you’re a food bank) that challenges a racer’s speed and ability to keep a tray stable without spilling. Don’t forget to order a tricolor flag and a few props for an easy Francophone photobooth.

22. Get Inked for Charity

National Tattoo Day (July 17)

Celebrating National Tattoo Day can go one of two ways for a nonprofit:
Temporary tattoos for a cause: Let your supporters know they can donate to get temporary tattoos that support your cause’s message. Have your supporters send pictures of their causey ink. Create bulk tatoos and consider distribution partners.
Or do what Planned Parenthood did and partner with local tattoo artists who may have a connection to your cause to donate a portion of their bookings to your organization. Bonus points if the artist does an entire custom flash related to your cause.

23. Host a Shark-a-thon or Sharkfest for Shark Week

(2019 Start-Date: July 28)

If the Ocean Society can do a beach clean-up and Shark Tank can use it for promotion, we think it’s fair game to make a shark connection with your nonprofit. Combine viewing parties with fundraisers, or jump the shark with a left shark dance-a-thon for your cause. Actually, please do this and send us a picture.

24. Parents’ Night Out

Parents’ Day (July 28)

Most parents wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need a night out every now and then. Charge an entry fee to cover both a fun low-key activity (pub crawl, wine tasting, bowling league) and babysitting services and bring your community together. Pro-tip: You can use Facebook ads to target new parents, who may be in most need of a night out (or even just a nap).

25. Card for a Cause

International Day of Friendship (July 30)

Create cause-related e-cards on your site that let your supporters send to their friends, each one noting a donation was made in their name. $10 allows them to send up to 5 cards. (If you need some inspiration, check out these incredible Planned Parenthood Valentines.)

26. Night Out for a Cause

National Night Out Day (First Tuesday in August)

Celebrating National Night Out Day is pretty simple, and an excuse to team up with a new restaurant willing to cut you a deal in exchange for some local exposure. Or you can flip this random holiday on its head by…

27. Ask Your Supporters to Donate a Night In

Because the dog days of summer are too hot to go out. Play on the April Fool’s gala we mentioned in our list of spring fundraising ideas and invite your supporters to an event that takes place in their (hopefully air-conditioned) homes. Yes, this is basically just a request for your supporters to donate money to your cause, but think about it: How many of us have thought at some point in our lives that we would pay money to skip out on a commitment and stay home with Netflix and Seamless?  

28. Cats with Purrr-pose

World Cat Day (August 8)

Take a page from the Lung Cancer Foundation of America’s #CatsAgainstLungCancer campaign and pull in your cats to talk about you c(l)ause. Invite your supporters to share their cutest feline photos. Then run a contest to determine the winner and a potential spot in an official calendar that’s sold to supporters (you’ll get at least 12 orders off the bat).

29. Garage Sale for Good

National Garage Sale Day (Second Saturday in August)

Of *course* there’s a National Garage Sale Day. You know what to do with this. Mobilize supporters to clean out their Dire Straits records and Gore/Lieberman T-shirts (or is that just us?) and donate 10% of their proceeds to your organization. You can even give them a branded Marie Kondo-style checklist to make their cleanout a bit easier and joy-sparking.

30. Swim-a-Thon…

Team up with a local pool or swim club to enlist their regular swimmers as sponsorees. For every mile swum over the summer, their supporters can contribute a certain amount.

31. …Or the Classic Read-a-Thon

We have at least one state MS Read-a-Thon champ on the Whole Whale team (and if you’re reading this article and lived through the 80s, you may remember this guy), and since this fundraiser has faded from the American market, that means there’s a hole waiting to be filled. Consider your younger supporters or your supporters’ teenage or college kids who have summer reading lists — or just give the kids at heart a competitive edge with their beach reads.
Raise your hand ✋🏼 if you remember the #MSReadAThon. Raise both hands 🙌🏼 if you'd do an adult summer read-a-thon for the right cause. Click To Tweet

32. Outdoor Music Festival

Because not everyone on your list will be at Coachella or Woodstock. Check out this guide on how to throw a benefit concert.

33. Clean Up with a Car Wash

Yeah, we’ve all done one of these at some point in our lives. You can jazz it up with refreshments, having your washers don wacky costumes, or a face painting station, but ultimately, it’s a cliche because it works. And we all need a clean car.

34. Duck Race

Get a whole bunch of ducks, find a location with a small stream or pool. Allow people to pay to sponsor a duck and put their name or number on it. Then get them in a large container to dump into the starting point, have some fun with it and call out the race with an announcer on a microphone. The winner gets their name in lights, and a charity gets the winnings. Remember to have a way to get those ducks out of the water if in a natural waterway.

More fundraising ideas…