Fundraising Ideas 101

It can seem overwhelming creating a plan from scratch, so here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing to cultivate participation and donations!


Fundraising events where people “get” something for their donations: 
  • Annual race or marathon. A great way to attract participants outside of your organization
  • Bar-B-Q/chicken/vegetarian dinners. Include a bounce house for the kids or some entertainment like face painting or balloon animals
  • Educational presentation. Pick a relevant topic and invite people to attend. Often a local business will sponsor the event (and donate additional funds) when they are allowed to present in front of your guests
  • Don’t Come fundraiser. What!? Yep, invite as many people as you’d like to attend a non-existent event. Have fun with it…money isn’t the issue! Mention the spectacular activities, delicious banquet and the celebrities who won’t attend!
  • Silent auction dinner
  • Restaurant get-togethers. The restaurant donates a percentage of the everyone who lets them know they are from your group. Plan on having several volunteers collecting the receipts by the door and marking the amount collected on a poster or whiteboard. Have volunteers help out the staff, and choose a typically slow night, so the restaurant has some incentive beside attracting new patrons.
  • Bachelor auction
  • Rock-a-thon. Each participant gets pledges from friends, family, neighbors, colleagues with so much per hour. The longer they rock, the more they make! Everything has fun by talking, playing games (while sitting) and playing video games. Can also be taken outdoors as a walk-a-thon.
  • Ice cream/food trucks. Tell the kids (and adults) what day of the week the vendor will be there and expect a flurry of activity. Meanwhile, you collect “rent” from the vendor ($50+/- per day). Can easily be a repeat event.
  • 50/50 raffles. People love to gamble! With this idea, you sell tickets for $50 or $100, then split the pot. A high sale goal is set, such as $20,000 or whatever amount you are comfortable with. You can use an online solution to sell tickets (and avoid people handling cash).
  • Craft or art festival. Offer booths or tables (for a fee) for people to sell their wares, as well as charge admission. You can also host lectures and sell baked goods/promotional items on site.
  • Voluntourism — a combination of both volunteering and tourism. For example, a school might offer a study abroad program.
  • Volunteer award banquet. Volunteers often become loyal donors
  • Pet parade
  • Sell stuff. Lots of companies offer a fundraising catalog for seeds, candles, candy and more
  • Golf tournament (or mini golf)
  • Tea party
  • Talent contest
  • Winter carnival. Host the event at your facilities with stations that host activities such as cake walks, interactive games such as cornhole 0r musical chairs, pie throwing, picture with Santa, face painting, etc.
  • Singing telegrams. Great for schools!
  • Holiday themes
    • Angel Tree. Send out a mailer with paper ornament(s) that can be return with a donation. The ornaments are hung on a Christmas tree in the lobby.
    • Photo with Santa — can be children or pets
  • Scratch-off cards. Sell chances to win prizes/services/baskets
  • Jellybean count
  • Blood drive. Not exactly fun, but it’s for a good cause
  • Arrest the director/teacher/dean. Set the bail high and have them call their family and friends for the bail money.
  • Cemetery walk. Join with the historical society to have an informative guided tour that’s a bit creepy. Great for Halloween!


Donation-focused fund raising:
  • Annual campaigns
  • Online giving
  • Monthly giving
  • Sponsorships
  • Major gifts
  • Planned giving/Legacy gifts
  • Earned income
  • Cause marketing
  • Membership


Methods for reaching your intended donors and participants:
  • Newsletters—print and/or email
  • Direct Mail (include a brochure, letter, business reply card or envelope, and outer envelope
  • Phone-a-thon
  • Mobile giving can be used for online donations (puts links in your e-newsletters), event registration, ticketing, crowdfunding and peer to peer campaigns, signups, surveys, petitions, and membership forms.
  • Mass advertising, such as billboards, grocery bag stuffers, posters
  • Co-branding. Partner with another company/organization/nonprofit to gain a whole new base.
  • Be a guest speaker at tradeshows/events/schools, etc.
  • Email campaigns
  • Social Media. At the very least be active on Facebook and Twitter, which lets others spread your news and updates


People to reach out to:
  • Employees/staff
  • Volunteers
  • Board members
  • Corporations
  • Community. If you purchase mailing/email lists, you can target the recipients by interests, income, gender and more


Prioritize your markets

Donations from individuals account for roughly 75% of all donations.¹ If you add in gifts from bequests and family foundations, which are essentially gifts from individuals, then the category accounts for nearly 90% of all giving. You will want to keep this in mind when planning your fundraising efforts.

  • 75% of all donations came from individual donors, that’s $258.5 billion!
  • Foundations gave $54 billion
  • Corporations donated $17.8 billion

¹Giving USA 2015


Data is the property of Giving USA 2015, the Annual Report on Philanthropy.