November 28, 2023
Fundraising for nonprofits

Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits

Nonprofits have to rely on donations, grants, and fundraisers in order to stay afloat. Some nonprofits have full-time employees while others utilize volunteers. But, all of them need adequate funds in order to give back and fulfill their purpose. 

With over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations in the U.S. alone, it’s important to be creative with your fundraising efforts. The fundraiser(s) you choose for your nonprofit can make a big difference in how much money you’re able to collect and how successful the efforts actually are. 

So, what are the best fundraising ideas for nonprofits? How can you maximize your efforts with creativity and innovation?

Let’s take a look at some tried and true ideas that will make your next nonprofit fundraising endeavor a success. 

1. Host a Bake Sale

There is truly nothing quite like an old-fashioned bake sale! Bake sales hold a lot of nostalgia for many people, because they have been used for fundraising for years. Plus, you can create a bake sale to be a community effort by asking members of your organization to bring in their favorite baked good(s). 

Or, you can opt for a more “professional” sale and set higher price points by working with local businesses. Depending on your organization, you may be able to convince area restaurants or bakeries to donate items to your sale, so you will get to keep 100% of whatever those items sell for. 

2. Host a Cooking Competition

Fundraising ideas - cooking competition

You can never go wrong with a fundraiser that gets people directly involved. Everyone loves a little friendly competition, and everyone loves free food!

So, why not host a cooking competition at your organization? There are a few different ways to do this that will bring in money. 

One option is to host a competition with multiple people making one specific thing, like a chili cookoff. People would then pay a fee in order to sample all of the varieties of chili. 

Or, you can host a head-to-head competition in which two people have to create a meal for a panel of judges. Audience members can make donations to the person they believe will win the competition. Anyone who votes “correctly” can be given a small prize or item promoting your organization. 

3. Movie Night

If you want your fundraising efforts to be a family event, nothing beats a movie night! Host a screening of a family-friendly movie at your organization or a public place for the community. There are plenty of ways to make money off of an event like this, including: 

  • Charging admission for parking or into the actual venue
  • Ticket prices
  • Selling concession items like candy, drinks, etc. 
  • Asking for donations

Because people will already be ready to pay attention to a movie, this is also a perfect opportunity to speak either before or after the film about your nonprofit, what you do, and how people can help. 

4. Host a Giveaway

Many nonprofits work with businesses to give away big-ticket items. That includes things like cars, vacations, and even houses! This is usually done by selling raffle tickets (usually at high prices for bigger items). The more tickets a person buys, the better their chances of winning. 

Talk to local businesses in your area to see what they might be willing to donate to your organization. One of the biggest reasons why businesses tend to jump on board with nonprofits is that it is a great promotional/marketing tool for them, as well as great PR with the community. 

You can entice people to buy more tickets by offering multiple prizes. Even smaller items like bags, drink containers, or keychains can be given as prizes for those who buy cheaper raffle tickets. 

5. Host a Race

Any type of race or marathon where people have to do something for an extended period of time can be a great fundraiser. Your participants will ask for donations ahead of time. For example, they might ask for so much money per each mile they run, or each hour they’re able to do something else, etc. 

With enough participants collecting “pledges”, you can end up making quite a bit from fundraisers like these! Plus, on the day of the actual event, you can continue to take donations, charge admission, or sell refreshments to onlookers. 

6. Have a “Yard Sale” 

Fundraising ideas - yard sale

When people want to get rid of items while making a bit of extra money, they host a garage sale or a yard sale. There is no reason your nonprofit can’t do the same. You can either sell items directly from your organization or have volunteers bring in items from home they want to sell. 

While each item might be inexpensive, they can add up quickly! Plus, you can increase the amount of money you’ll make during the event by selling new, small trinkets as well. Everything from keychains to coffee mugs will interest people and go a long way. 

7. Host a Fashion Show

Holding a local fashion show is a great way to draw attention to your organization and get people involved. One creative way to make a fashion show work is to build it around a “theme”. For example, if you decide to host a show around the holidays, you might require your “models” to wear their best festive attire. 

Obviously, your fashion show doesn’t have to be serious. In fact, the more ridiculous the outfits, the better! You can sell tickets to the event ahead of time and take donations at the door. You might also consider having people vote on their favorite outift(s) by placing money in specific boxes. 

8. Plan a Dance Marathon

Much like hosting a race or other longevity event, a dance marathon is a great way to raise money for your organization before the actual event even begins!

Your participants will collect pledges before the marathon even begins. People will donate for a certain number of hours danced. So, you could end up raising quite a bit of money if you have plenty of participants! There are, of course, other ways to raise money during the event itself. For example, let people know that they can request songs for a dollar, and have concessions available for extra money. 

9. Score a Slam Dunk With a Basketball Tournament

Hosting a basketball tournament can provide your nonprofit with multiple ways to raise money. 

Anyone who wants to play in the tournament can pay an entree fee to get in. Additionally, you can sell tickets for admission, as well as concessions at the actual event. You can even host smaller “side events” at the tournament, like free throw or slam dunk contests to raise more money. 

10. Rock Out With a Benefit Concert

Everyone loves music and a reason to watch a live show. Hosting a local benefit concert to raise money for your nonprofit is sure to be a hit and a great fundraising opportunity. 

You can either host the concert at your nonprofit organization or work with a local business with a venue space to hold the concert. Ask local musicians to play, and try to include as many popular acts as possible to draw a crowd. 

Musicians will typically love to be a part of it because they get exposure, so they will likely be willing to play for free as long as they can promote themselves or sell their own merchandise. You can charge for admission tickets, and if you work with another business (like a restaurant), they will benefit if anyone spends money on food. 

11. Hold a Silent Auction

Silent auctions are great for raising a lot of money quickly. Work with local restaurants and businesses who might be willing to donate items or gift certificates to your cause. When you have enough items up for auction, you can host your event and people will make their bids without knowing the current highest offer. 

When the auction is over, the person who wrote down the highest offer for each item will get to take it home. And, your nonprofit keeps all of the money that was bid. If you are able to secure great prizes, you could make quite a bit of money in just one evening!

You can also hold a more traditional auction event with an auctioneer and items being bid on in “real time”. If you hire the right person to auction off the items, it can make for an extremely exciting event. Plus, knowing what other people are bidding can motivate people to spend more on the things they really want!

12. Get Quizzical With a Trivia Night

Fundraising ideas - Trivia Night

If you want to raise money while testing people’s pop culture knowledge, host a fun adult trivia night! You can work with a local restaurant to use them as a venue (allowing them to get all of the food profits) or you can host the event at your own space. 

Participants would have to pay a fee to enter a team into the trivia contest. The more teams you can get to sign up, the more you’ll raise. Additionally, you can charge admission for anyone coming to watch. While the winner(s) can receive a monetary prize, you should still end up with plenty of funds raised for your nonprofit on the night. 

Because most people get used to having trivia nights on certain days of the week, you could even host a weekly event. Not only will that bring in more money for you, but it’s a lot of fun for trivia addicts who will keep coming back week after week for their chance to win. 

13. Pig Out With an Eating Contest

Food competitions are always popular. That includes eating contests where people are willing to pay top dollar to stretch their stomach capacity! If you decide to host an eating contest, participants can pay to sign up, and you can charge admission for people to watch. From pie to ice cream to hot dogs, you can’t go wrong with a classic eating contest. They always draw a crowd, which means your nonprofit will make more money. 

14. Get Clean With a Car Wash

Car washes might be “stereotypical” fundraisers, but people keep using them because they’re effective! Pick a warm day in the summer and host a car wash in the parking lot of your nonprofit location. 

You can charge a flat fee per car or work on a donation basis. Additionally, it gives you a great opportunity to tell people getting their cars washed about your nonprofit and what you do. 

15. Set Up a Fundraising Page

Since we’re living in the digital age, an easy way to raise money for your organization is to do so online. 

If you have a website, set up a separate fundraising page where people can donate whatever amount they might like. You can also work with crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe to set up a campaign for your nonprofit. Many times, people are willing to donate quite a bit for organizations they are passionate about. If people truly believe in what you are doing and they see the need for it, you might be surprised at how much money a simple web page can draw in. 

Finding the Perfect Fundraiser

There is no ideal fundraiser for a nonprofit. Instead, there are multiple options that can give you great results. This is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the types of fundraisers that will work for your organization. 

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your fundraising ideas. People are always looking  for something different and unique to participate in, so let your fundraiser attract people while raising the money your nonprofit needs to stay afloat. By using these fundraising ideas for nonprofits, you’ll never run out of fun and lucrative ideas for your organization. 

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