Executing a high-earning fundraiser with an abundance of community support relies heavily on volunteers and sponsorships, as well as space and product donations. Successful fundraisers raise 4-5X the revenue they spent hosting the event and consistently sell out, year after year. It can be difficult to find fundraising event ideas that are both affordable for hosts and attractive to attendees, but we can help.
Whether you are fundraising for a massive organization like the Red Cross, or raising money for a local animal shelter, this post is for you. We’ve created a list of fun, fresh, and successful fundraising event ideas we absolutely love.
Discover exciting fundraising event ideas that bring in big bucks!
Establishing event objectives early will help organizers choose the right fundraiser type to fit their mission and secure the necessary participants. Dig deep into the primary goals of the fundraiser or charity drive.
- How much of your organization’s budget are you hoping to raise? 10%-20% or more?
- How will the fundraiser draw attention to your mission?
- Which corporate sponsors do you need to participate? How many?
- How many new donors would you like to attract?
- Will the event strengthen your relationship with supporters?
- Are your fundraising event ideas going to appeal to volunteers?
- What will fundraiser attendees get out of the event: fun, food, entertainment, or recognition?
Evaluate which organization fundraisers have been successful in the past, and identify opportunities for improving similar events in the future. If you are preparing to host your organization’s very first fundraiser, consider sending a survey or event planning questionnaire to your target donors and supporter pool. Ask them what type of fundraising events they enjoy, and what they would like to see from your organization in the future. Reach out to community members for their advice and experience hosting successful fundraisers in the area.
20 fundraising event ideas that draw donors
Before committing any fundraising event dates to the calendar, take stock of your current supporters, corporate sponsors, and major donors. What do your supporters enjoy: outdoor activity, five-star service, a great party, or something else? Choose fundraising event ideas that will appeal to your audience of supporters.
We have compiled a list of unique event fundraising ideas for inspiration:
- Community flea market
Reserve a large public space, such as a farmer’s market venue or outdoor arena, and invite a variety of local businesses, organization members, and local residents to participate. Promote the event in neighboring communities, on social media, with participating partners, your local tourism office, and with landmark Visitor Centers nearby.
Secure an impressive number of sellers, invite area restaurants or food trucks to participate, and market the event regionally months in advance to get the word out. Charge a small per person entry fee, and request that vendors agree to donate a small percentage of their earnings to the cause.
2. Ice cream social
Invite donors to show their sweet support at an ice cream social. Reach out to local companies and request donated items for the big day. Contact local bakers, artisan candy makers, local pastry chefs, and other small businesses in your area. Highlight local sponsors, donors, and participating organizations.
Think of creative ice cream catering ideas for the fundraiser. Offer unique flavors, toppings, and dessert combinations. Charge per scoop and offer bulk purchasing for applicable products. Raise additional funds by offering tiered rewards for increasing donor levels, including an ice cream eating contest, and hosting the event during peak family-outing times.
3. Clothing or shoe drive
Are you interested in eliminating community waste while raising money for your organization? If so, consider hosting a clothing or shoe drive fundraising event. Partner with a donation collection organization that collects donated good in exchange for a monetary donation to your charity. ClothingDriveFundraiser.com, Funds2Orgs, and FUNDraise are just a few of the organizations who partner with nonprofits for clothing drives.
Every year, the average American throws away approximately 81 pounds of clothing waste and seven and a half pairs of shoes. Encourage supporters of your charity to come out and donate their items to you instead. Offer concessions, hire entertainment, or host the drive in a beautiful community park to make an entire day of it.
4. Eco-friendly art auction
Invite local artists to create unique masterpieces using only sustainable materials and methods. Encourage environmental activists, local sustainability leaders, and eco-friendly sponsors to speak about your organization and the importance of shifting to sustainable business practices. Raise money by selling tickets, collecting a portion of auction sales, bar sales, or hosting additional mini fundraisers at the auction.
5. Silent auction
Silent auctions are quintessential fundraising events because they are versatile, require a shorter event planning timeline, and they work. A silent auction can be used to raise money for an elementary school just as well as a political candidate. Additionally, they are versatile enough to serve as the main fundraising event or as an additional earner at a much larger event. Bids can easily be tracked on a mobile bidding app or on traditional paper bidding sheets.
During a silent auction, organizations to get a lot of one-on-one time with their donors. This time can be used to share information about the organization, fundraising objectives, and connect with supporters.
6. Penny social
Another auction-based fundraising event, a penny social, sometimes called a raffle, combines the thrill of a raffle with the intrigue of a silent auction. In a traditional silent auction, event attendees use bid sheets or mobile bidding technology to place monetary bids on individual items. The highest bidder wins the item. During a penny social, however, individuals purchase tickets that will be used to bid on items.
At a penny social, donors can purchase as many tickets as they wish, and use the tickets to bid on individual items. A bowl (or other container) is placed beside each auction item, and supporters use their tickets to enter into a drawing for the items they are interested in. The more tickets entered into an item drawing, the higher the donor’s chances of winning the item!
Penny social auctions are especially popular for school fundraising events as they are relatively simple to plan and execute, and hosts can request donations for auction items. Make the auction the main fundraising event or set it up on the side.
7. Charity Gala
Elegant charity galas are flagship fundraising events, especially for non-profits. They are the perfect fundraiser for organizations with donors who appreciate a glimpse of glamor or a night out on the town. Host a gala to kick off a new project. Invite your major donors, and treat them to an evening of lavish luxury and public gratitude to thank them for their support. Use the event as an opportunity to make one-on-one connections with major players.
Although galas require a time-consuming and often intensive event planning period, they are ideal events for enticing big spenders. Traditionally, charity galas include dinner service as well as entertainment or activities that take place throughout the fundraiser. Organizers can choose a unique theme for the charity gala and encourage guests to dress up, or host a formal black tie affair.
8. Trivia night
One of the easiest fundraising events to plan, a trivia night or trivia tournament is also inexpensive for organization and event planners to host. Schedule your trivia night to correspond with local community, corporate, or university events when enthusiastic community members will be out in force.
The most important part of trivia night, without a doubt, is the host. Ensure that you have a captivating and engaging host to work the room and entertain attendees. Frame trivia questions around your cause, and partner with a local restaurant to drum up additional support.
Once a host is secured, encourage supporters to form teams and donate to participate in the competition. Offer an amazing prize, and promote your event on social media. To raise additional funds, offer concessions or merchandise for purchase.
During a charity cook-off, competitors cook their best dishes, and spectators pay to taste their food and vote for the winner. Choose a theme or dish that competitors will be cooking for the charity event. Chili, BBQ, and burger cook-offs are all popular options.
Invite local companies, donors, and organization supporters to enter the contest, set up vendor tables, or perform live cooking demonstrations. Charge a small fee for attending and sell tickets to function as votes. Include one vote or ticket with the price of entry, and allow attendees to purchase additional tickets as desired.
10. Outdoor movie night
Reserve a public park for free or ask a local sports team to donate use of their field for an evening to accommodate a “Movie Night” charity drive. Show a family-friendly movie so all ages can attend, and promote the warm weather event throughout the community. Contact local media production companies, theatres, and audio-visual companies and request donated projection equipment for the event (or donated projection services).
Offer low-cost tickets and raise additional donations by selling popcorn, candy, nachos, and other movie theatre themed snacks at the event. Having trouble securing concessions or food vendors? Sell tickets at a higher price and encourage donors to pack a picnic!
11. Field day
Host an outdoor field day fundraising event, and invite supporters to join you for a day of food, sun, and fun for the whole family. We love field day fundraisers because these creative outdoor events typically include numerous mini-games that can easily be turned into multiple individual fundraisers.
Hosting a field day requires quite a bit of planning, but these events usually have something for everyone. From concessions to competitions, host a “Field Day Funraiser” with games, snacks, or even a dunking booth if you feel brave! Best hosted outdoors on a warm day, rain or cool weather could impact event plans. Have a backup plan to move the fundraiser indoors, just in case.
Gain the monetary support of sponsors by dancing as long as you can in a charity danceathon. Donors sponsor participants based on how long they think they dance; it’s that simple! With some danceathons lasting as long as 24 hours, they provide ample opportunities for additional fundraising activities to take place throughout the event.
Exciting and out of the ordinary, dance marathons are high-earning fundraisers when planned well. Each year, the NUDM (Northwestern University Dance Marathon) hosts a dance marathon to raise money for a new beneficiary. In 2019, the danceathon raised $1.2 million for Communities in Schools (CIS) in Chicago.
13. Scavenger hunt
Host a massive live scavenger hunt to headline your next charity drive. Invite participants to form small teams and scavenge around town for clues. Market a massive prize for the event to generate buzz, and invite participants to attend or watch your social media feed the day of the event for live updates. Instruct hunters to find designated items, visit specific locations, and share their journey on social media with a catchy event hashtag.
14. Fun run/5k
“Fun runs” are one of the most popular forms of peer-to-peer fundraisers. Fun runs raise money by encouraging runners to accept monetary pledges from their friends and family to compete in the race. Donors make pledges based on how far the participant will run in the race, making for enthusiastic and infectious community support.
Dress to fit the theme, or in a costume, to put an organization-themed spin on your run-of-the-mill 5k. Dress as zombies, seniors, historical figures, famous literary characters, or even inspirational leaders. Each year, thousands of runners dress up in Santa suits and run the Las Vegas Great Santa run to benefit Opportunity Village, an organization that assists individuals with intellectual disabilities.
Keep in mind, hosting a fun run fundraiser requires a significant amount of planning. A race route will need to be confirmed, permits will likely need to be secured, and certain permissions will need to be obtained from the town or county, so start planning your charity event early! Ensure that hydration stations are set up throughout the course and that a variety of safety and support volunteers are available to assist.
Blend fundraising and fitness by hosting a charity walkathon. While marathons and triathlons are also popular fundraisers, walkathons are less physically demanding and may appeal to a larger demographic of supporters. These fundraisers rely on active participation and can be a fantastic way to connect your supporters with members of the community. Rally participants to form teams and enjoy spending a beautiful day outside as they raise money for a worthy cause.
Create social media groups to promote the event and share information with attendees. Encourage your supporters to share fundraiser content on social media, as well as post their own using an event hashtag. By promoting user-generated content about the walkathon or marathon, a new audience of potential supporters will be introduced to your fundraiser and organization.
16. Team sporting event
Host a community sporting event that stars organization members or charity board members as athletes. Basketball, soccer, football, and hockey are fun spectator sports sure to draw a crowd—depending on your climate, of course. Encourage participants to find team sponsors and share event promotion materials.
Market the match as a community rivalry come to life. To raise money for a university, for example, organizers could pit students against professors to spark competition and get buzz going in the community.
Host a charity carnival, and invite your supporters and community members to attend the family-friendly fundraising event. With games, concessions, rides, and a variety of live entertainment, carnivals offer something fun for everyone. Charge for carnival admission, concessions, ride tickets, and sell branded products to bring in additional funds.
While putting an outdoor carnival together may sound like a huge undertaking, they are surprisingly affordable fundraisers for organizers savvy at eliciting donations. In addition to raising money for your organization, charity carnivals are a terrific way to bring the community together to support a common goal.
18. Gaming tournament
Host an in-person gaming tournament to fundraise for your event. Contact event centers, hotels, conference centers, nearby universities, and local colleges to see if they would be willing to donate event space. Charge a small entry fee for participants, and sell spectator tickets online. Offer reduced entry tickets for contestants who provide their own video game system, TV, or other AV equipment. Fortnite, Call of Duty, and Super Smash Bros are popular live tournament games.
Display a social media wall in the event space that connects your online audience to event attendees. Allow real-time donations from spectators and encourage participants to engage with donors during the competition. To raise additional funds, consider opening the tournament to a few select online participators. Encourage online gamers to bid for a chance to win one of the exclusive online participant slots.
19. Talent show
Do you live in an area full of actors, musicians, comedians, or other performers? Host a talent night! Highlight area artists, and charge a small cover fee for attending. Ask a local restaurant or bar to host for a percentage of the door profits.
If you are introducing your organization or charity, consider hosting a more personalized talent show featuring board members or other leadership positions. Encourage participants to really go for it whether they are top-tier talent or not; just have fun! Help audience members connect with seemingly inaccessible organization partners in a laid-back atmosphere.
20. Golf Tournament
Plan a golf tournament to raise funds for your charity if your supporters are athletic and competitive. Contestants get to spend a beautiful day outside with a team of friends while competing for an exciting prize.
Charity golf tournaments work best for organizations that have large boards or on-site fundraisers. Board members and fundraisers can collaborate with major donors to encourage support, as well as engage with event attendees to promote additional day-of donations.
Local companies can sponsor the event by donating prizes, sponsoring different services (e.g., food or bar service), or by reserving a vendor tent at the tournament. As teams travel from green to green, they will be able to interact with local businesses, organization members, collect swag from vendors, and connect with community members.
Turn your big fundraising event ideas into reality!
Once the plans for your fundraising event are in place, start marketing as soon as possible to spread the work. Next up, we’re sharing killer secrets for successful event marketing to help you get started.