Fundraising is hard—and throwing a flesh-and-blood fundraiser event is even harder. The list of headaches and hassles you’ll encounter is pretty much endless: Renting a venue, hiring a caterer, soliciting silent auction items, signing up and training volunteer event staff, etc.
But not all fundraisers are difficult and time-consuming to pull off. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of 19 easy fundraisers you can use in between major events to engage your supporters, build community, and—of course—raise some money.
Here Are 19 Ideas for Easy Nonprofit Fundraisers
While these ideas pretty much run the gamut, they all offer a mix of supporter engagement, community involvement, and fun creativity that all successful events need.
That having been said, none of these are out-of-the-box solutions. There will always be some assembly required. The success of these fundraisers will always depend on promoting your event, engaging your audience, and showing appreciation to all who participate.
1. Car Washes
Organize teams to wash cars in a parking lot. You can also offer car vacuuming and interior detailing services if you want a chance to upcharge. Some well-placed, colorful signage and a fun atmosphere (i.e. blast some tunes) will go a long way toward enticing local drivers to pull over and get a wash.
2. Community Yard Sales
Gather donated items from the community and hold a low-cost sale. By using volunteers and donated goods, your overhead costs will be pretty much near zero. If you don’t want to handle collecting goods, you could also hold a bazaar-type event, recruiting people to bring their own goods and then taking a cut of the proceeds.
3. Online Raffles
Raffles can be a fun addition to your fundraising gala, but it can also be its own standalone digital event. All you have to do is gather prizes donated by local businesses and sponsors, then sell low-cost tickets for the chance to win them in your drawing. Word of advice: Livestream your drawing and record it. That way, no one can be accused of any hanky-panky once the winners are announced.
4. Pet Fundraisers
Host events like dog walks, pet parades, dog washes, or pet costume contests and charge admission/entry fees. The great thing about pet-based fundraisers is that they also make for wonderful community and family-friendly events, which give your volunteers and staff members ample opportunities to make new connections and talk about your nonprofit’s mission.
5. Educational Workshops
Offer low-cost workshops or classes on topics relevant to your cause, with the funds coming from class fees. If you’re not sure how to sign up class attendees, you should check out the class attendance features in Neon CRM. We have an entire events module for nonprofits geared specifically for classes that will blow your socks off.
6. Holiday Gift Wrapping Services
Provide affordable gift-wrapping services during the holiday season, using volunteers to wrap gifts in exchange for a small donation. Just make sure you check out your volunteers’ gift-wrapping abilities before you sign them up. When giving gifts, it’s the thought that counts; but when wrapping gifts, nobody cares about thought. All they want are straight lines and tight corners.
7. Recipe Book Fundraiser
Create and sell a low-cost cookbook featuring recipes contributed by supporters, leveraging community involvement to raise funds. You can make it a .PDF to save on printing costs. To really save time and effort, you could have people simply submit their recipe for potato salad; you’ll end up with a host of entirely different recipes because potato salad is modern society’s most chaotic dish, bar none.
8. Tech Disposal Drive
Charge people a small fee to come around and collect old electronics for recycling. The key to this fundraiser is one that will serve you well as you come up with other ideas: Most people will happily pay money for something they could do themselves for free if doing that thing presents a big enough hassle. Recycling electronics definitely qualifies.
9. Trivia Night
Host an affordable trivia event, charging a small entry fee per team or participant to compete. If you partner with a local bar to host your trivia night, you might even be able to secure a portion of their sales for the night as a donation. If your trivia night is a success, you can make it a recurring event.
10. Photo Contest
Organize a low-cost photo contest, charging entry fees and showcasing winning photos through an exhibition or calendar sale (either of which could end up being another way to raise funds). Do some outreach to any local photography groups or classes to see if they would be interested in participating.
11. Fitness Challenges
Create inexpensive fitness challenges like 5Ks or yoga sessions, with entrants gathering pledges that support your cause by supporting their participation. To really get the juices flowing, make it an online challenge where people get their family and friends involved. Fun fact: If we don’t mention the Ice Bucket Challenge whenever online challenges come up, we’ll go to jail.
12. Book Sale
Collect donated books, hold a low-cost sale, and invite the neighborhood to show out and buy some used books! We’re trying to think of something pithy or insightful to add, but frankly, this event just sounds very nice. Books rule.
13. Mystery Box Fundraiser
Sell affordable mystery boxes containing donated items without revealing their contents. Now, we’re gonna be honest here: You could do a super-duper cheap version of this fundraiser where you fill them with total junk, but you’re only going to get away with it once, and people are gonna be pretty mad—-so maybe get some nice items donated from local businesses instead.
14. Art Show and Auction
Host a low-cost art exhibition and auction, showcasing local artists’ work and selling pieces to raise funds. You could also hold an art fair where local artists set up booths or tables to sell their work, with your nonprofit getting a cut of all sales.
15. Puzzle Competition
Organize a low-cost puzzle-solving competition for different age groups, charging entry fees to participate. If the event is going well, consider discreetly stealing some pieces to keep the magic going. Just remember to return them before too long, lest your participants go mad with puzzle rage, a very real condition.
16. Dine & Donate
Partner with local restaurants to host fundraising nights where a percentage of sales goes towards your cause, attracting donors through the promise of good food, good drinks, and good company. We promise it’ll go better than that time you tried to woo donors with “bad food, bad drinks, and bad company.”
17. Virtual Events
Host events such as webinars, workshops, or concerts online, encouraging participants to donate to join the event and support your cause. Try out some different types of events to see which ones work best for your audience. Do they want to learn something in a webinar, have some fun on a livestream, or participate in a virtual auction? Time to find out!
18. Sell Merchandise
Sell some affordable merch items like t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, etc. While you’ll have to pay up front to get these items made, you can try to find a local designer interested in your cause who would be willing to donate their time and expertise on some designs. Not only will this raise money for your organization, but people wearing your merch around town will provide some free advertising too.
19. Matching Gift Campaigns
Collaborate with companies willing to match donations made during a specified period, doubling the impact of individual contributions. You can read more about matching gift campaigns in this handy guide!
Need Some Help Planning Your Next Event?
See? Not all fundraisers have to be a megawatt gala. Hopefully, this list gives you some good ideas for ways that you can keep throwing events for your nonprofit without totally burning yourself out.
But even an easy fundraiser is going to require careful, strategic planning. If you need some help standing up your next fundraiser, check out this event planning checklist we’ve created with everything you need to know in 12 easy steps.
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