Think fundraising is losing its effectiveness? Think again. According to the latest research, overall charitable fundraising in the United States grew 4.2% in the last calendar year alone. Those and other nonprofit fundraising statistics point to an upward trend in giving for 2019 and beyond.
In order to host a successful charity event, planners need to keep honing their business practices. Things like event ROI, brand recognition, and clever partnerships are just some of the things you need to execute or monitor. With a little creativity and some skill, a great charity event is well within reach.
Here’s how to engage donors, support causes you love, and win over clients with ten amazing charity event ideas.
Begin with the charity event planning basics
Regardless of which charity event idea you pick from this list, here are some things about charity event planning to keep in mind:
- Social media is your friend. Use it to spread the word before and after your charity event.
- The venue you select really matters. It’s usually the most expensive line item in your event budget. Stay within your spending limit but be sure to find a venue that’s perfect for your theme.
- Your theme will drive engagement. It’s what ties the whole event together. Use your theme to determine your venue, event activities, wardrobe, food & beverage, and decor.
Now without further ado, here are some of the best charity event ideas to motivate and inspire you. Some are well-known classics, proven time and time again to bring in major funds. Others are out of the box shindigs meant to help your events stand out and be memorable.
No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find something spectacular in this list of charity event ideas.
Explore charity event ideas for fundraising
1. Donkey basketball
This one’s a little out there! But yes, we’re talking about actual donkeys. And playing basketball. While riding donkeys.
It’s one of the more unique items on this charity event ideas list, but it’s a staple activity for nonprofits like Turkey Day. Their annual game brings together community members for highly entertaining shenanigans. No advanced training is needed, as all Donkey Basketball companies guide players and their furry partners through the process step-by-step.
If you’re interested in hosting a sports-themed charity event, but dread the thought of riding barn yard animals, you’re in luck. Donkey Basketball is just one of many ways to put a new spin on an old classic. You can just as easily add a unique twist to any sporting event.
Have your players dress up in their best themed costumes. Play with teams of adults versus kids. Or even have a donors team versus a host team.
2. Online flash fundraiser
Quick and cost effective, a limited time only digital fundraiser is a great way to raise funds on any budget. Create a sense of urgency by limiting contributions to a single 24-hour window. You can even align this fundraiser with a related holiday.
For example, The Adventure Project hosted a flash fundraiser to promote their well water mechanics program. To help spread the word, they posted the day-long charity event page on World Water Day. Anyone searching for events or news related to the environmental holiday were sure to find this related charity.
Even if digital fundraising isn’t your top choice, you can still create a sense of urgency in any of your other charity event ideas. For example, you can limit VIP gala ticket sales. Or offer to match the contributions of early bird event registrars for a short period of time.
3. Bowling for a cause
Bowling tournaments have been a charity event idea staple for decades. And for good reason.
Bowling is cost effective, family friendly, and highly accessible. Even the most rural of communities has at least one bowling lane within a reasonable distance. Plus, bowling is indoors, so weather won’t be an issue like with most other sports related charity events.
4. Cupcake contest
A riff on the normal bake off theme, a cupcake contest is sure to be a hit for anyone with a sweet tooth. Which includes most people. According to Mobile Cause, you’ll need the following to make your cupcake contest a hit:
- Several teams of bakers
- A panel of judges (we recommend using event sponsors)
- An event ticketing platform
- A venue with kitchen space
You can even get the audience involved by offering them the chance to vote. If you don’t have enough cupcakes to go around, make sure to include other concession options for guests. You can even auction off the winning recipe to the highest bidder!
5. Themed pub crawl
The great thing about themed pub crawls is that they can involve any theme, activity, or location that you want. To pull it all together, pick a theme related to your charity, choose a starting point, then map out the event. Groups of 10 or more adults can sign up for bonus activities like mini golf or buy fun extras like event t-shirts and raffle tickets.
Themed pub crawls give you lots of opportunities to be creative. If you’re interested in the concept of a pub crawl but don’t want to limit your attendance to adults only, you still have options.
For example, if you’re raising money for a wellness brand, why not host a beauty crawl in an area filled with nail salons, blowout bars, and juice shops? Participants can receive complimentary services like mini hair styling sessions or an event-themed smoothie.
6. Seasonal events
If you have lots of volunteers available, try hosting a seasonal-themed event. What you do depends on the time of year. Here are a few suggestions:
- Gift wrapping at the mall over the holidays
- Haunted house or maze leading up to Halloween
- A summer picnic series in the park with live music or magic shows
- A spring garden party complete with cocktails and horderves
- Leaf raking teams that go from neighborhood to neighborhood
- And some additional ideas for fall decor for events, winter-themed events, and spring event themes
The great thing about hosting seasonal events is that you can do four (or more) every year. They usually require more manpower than capital so they’re great for charities on a budget. They often involve bettering the community that hosts them. And they’re fun for everyone!
Galas aren’t for everyone but they might be the best charity event idea for your brand if you are looking to host an annual, upscale event. As long as you have the right budget, support from your board, and substantial interest from your audience, a gala is a great option.
Where you choose to host you gala might be the most important part of planning this charity event idea. A glitzy black tie affair pairs well with am art museum or cultural association as its backdrop.
If you’re part of a field where galas are the norm, try switching it up with a different event type. Your event might be a welcome breath of fresh air within your target community.
8. Networking dinner
Networking dinners are exactly what they sound like – a meal shared by people who benefit from meeting and forming relationships with each other. The nice thing about using a networking dinner for your charity event idea is that it can be as formal or as casual as you like. As usual, make sure the theme aligns with your charity goals and values.
Here are some examples you can use to kick off your brainstorming:
- An outdoor BBQ with your charity’s president showing off their grilling skills
- A lecture series featuring a different industry leader with each course
- Kid’s meal-inspired cuisine (think bacon mac and cheese or organic, locally sourced pb&j bites) prepared by professional chefs for a children’s charity
Like a themed pub crawl, a networking dinner gives you a lot of room for variety. The two most important factors of this event type are the food and the guests. If you can add a little buzz by securing a celebrity to attend or host your event then great!
If not, don’t worry. The opportunity to connect with new people in your field is really all you need to attract more donors for this charity event idea.
9. Shoe drive
What’s a shoe drive? It’s an event where participants can donate their new or gently used shoes. Once collected, the host organization (in collaboration with other nonprofits) can trade shoes for donation checks to their charity. The donated shoes go to small business owners and members of developing countries in need of clothing or a leg up on their own entrepreneurial efforts.
Shoe drives are a popular option for nonprofit fundraising because they’re free and fun. If you’ve discovered that donors are tired of just giving money to organizations, this charity event idea will spice up their normal routine. Besides marketing, which you can get volunteer help with, there are few expenses associated with a shoe drive.
To pull it off, you’ll need a few event leaders who stick with the process from start to finish. You’ll also need a central location for participants to leave their shoes. Or offer to pick them up in select neighborhoods.
10. Donation by text drive
Another tech friendly and convenient charity event idea is to lead a Text-to-Donate drive. Text Drives are events that allow participants to donate funds via their cellular devices. The text message itself will often include a direct link to donate along with information on the charity and where their money is going.
A donation by text drive is a simple and easy add-on to any other charity effort you produce. Simply collect phone numbers from attendees and, with their permission, add them to your marketing list. Follow up with attendees using text message and encourage them to stay engaged with your company.
Remember to provide value as well. If they have attended an event with your brand before, what are the advantages of donating now via text? Things like free swag, discounts on future event packages or other bonuses help persuade those who are on the fence.
Also make sure you use really good and reliable software. Slow page loading speeds, faulty links, and repeat texts are annoying and might prevent people from donating.
Fuel fundraising with better events
There are endless possibilities when it comes to charity event ideas. Pick a theme or fundraising event idea that syncs with your brand, reflects your company’s values, and lines up with your target audience’s interests.
And no matter what you choose, keep your event goals in mind. Engage your community, keep donors happy, and find exciting new ways to raise funds. To properly organize and execute a successful charity event idea, event planning software can help you get the job done.
Maria is a freelance writer specializing in B2B SaaS, technology, and events.