Not every fundraising idea is a winner for every kind of charity. Even so, there are many fundraising ideas that go beyond the standard ones that every charity has tried from time to time, such as auctions or sponsored coffee mornings. Although such events certainly have their place, there are many more original ways to raise funds. And the more original you are, the more likely you are to get attention.
Remember that attention-grabbing as a charity has multiple effects. Firstly, it will help you to raise your profile, potentially reaching a wider audience and providing a better understanding of the cause you are raising funds for. It could even mean that press and local radio and TV gets involved. In turn, being better known means being able to raise more funds than you otherwise would have done. Crucially, this doesn’t just mean the current fundraiser you are organising, but future ones, too, so long as you keep the originality up.
So, what are some of the best fundraising ideas around that would suit all – or nearly all – charities? Read on to find out.
1. Social Media Challenges
The ice bucket challenge is probably the most famous online social media fundraising phenomenons of recent years. Think of a challenge that people can do, film themselves while they’re doing it and nominate others in their social media groups to replicate. The only proviso is that they’ll need to make a donation to your charity before posting their efforts for all too see. The more original and strange ideas tend to work out best! That’s just the way social media seems to work.
2. Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers
Encourage people who would normally donate to you to take up their own fundraising activities. Give them your approval to set up their own peer-to-peer fundraising page so they have autonomy about what they’re going to do and when. Most people set themselves a challenge they’d like to do anyway and then get their friends and family to back them to complete it by pledging money to charity. Why not get in on the action and outsource some of your fundraising activities in this increasingly popular way?
3. E-Commerce Donation Programmes
There are numerous e-commerce sites that will allow buyers to make a charitable donation when they pay for their goods. A well-known one is Amazon Smile, but the fact is that there are many more online retailers that run similar projects. Any not-for-profit organisation can benefit from ad hoc payments this way as people either choose their chosen charity every time they buy something or simply act on the spur of the moment when they are in the giving mood while shopping online.
4. Donation Matching
Many people find that they are more predisposed to giving if they think their donation will be boosted when they do so. If you can find someone who will match donations for a certain campaign as they come in, then you are likely to see more than double the amount of income. Lots of corporates want to get in on this sort of matching with charitable giving these days since it affords them some great publicity as well as improved brand recognition. Sometimes, employers will donation match any sums their employees choose to give, a good thing to know if you have certain businesses you already do a lot of work with.
5. Social Media Influencing
In the world of social media, influencing is everything. Of course, a lot of professional social media influencers will mention a particular product or brand in a favourable light in return for money. The more followers an influencer has, the more they can demand. However, there is nothing to stop non-profit organisations from getting in on the action. Many influencers will enjoy the kudos of helping out with a fundraising event by drawing attention to it without receiving much, if any, payment.
6. E-Greetings Cards
Printing greetings cards to sell is nothing new. Many charities do this already but there are significant product distribution and printing costs involved. There are none of these with e-cards though, so selling them to people to send to their loved ones at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or any other big event for that matter, is the most cost-effective way forward. Yes, you still need a winning design that will appeal but you can always reuse popular ones year after year.
7. Stage a Negative Gala Event
The idea of being negative might sound crazy in terms of fundraising but it need not be. After all, many people feel obliged to attend charity galas and other black-tie events out of a sense of duty. Maybe you can still go on holding them for those that love them but how about selling tickets to a negative gala? What this means is that people pay for a ticket just as they always would but don’t have to turn up because no one who purchases one is expected to.
8. Live Stream an Event
Live streaming has been a way that many charities have kept up their fundraising events during periods of social lockdown around the world. You don’t need to stop doing them just because the world is starting to emerge from the pandemic period, however. Live streams are popular among younger givers especially. What they want to see on their screens are events they can interact with, play along with and comment on as the action unfolds even though they might not be present in a physical sense.
9. Virtual Fitness Challenges
Races and sponsored walks have been one of the mainstays of charitable fundraising events for decades. However, you do not need to have everybody in the same physical space to stage an event of this kind. Nowadays, people can undertake them on their home gym equipment. How about a rowing machine challenge for the fastest 10,000 metres rowed or even a sponsored step with everyone involved using a pedometer over the course of a week?
10. Online Workshopping
Workshops are a great way of teaching people about what it is a charity does, whether it is digging wells in under-developed parts of the world or providing daycare assistance in old people’s homes. When people attend a workshop, they have to travel and potentially book time off work. With an online one that people pay a small fee to attend, you can raise funds, raise awareness and raise morale among your givers in one fell swoop, especially if otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to come.
11. Sell Charity Merchandise
Bands do it, visual artists do it, even large corporations with a public following do it. So, why shouldn’t charities have a merchandise page on their website where you can buy all the latest branded goods. Anything from T-shirts to printed mugs and keyrings make for good merchandising items these days and plenty of companies will produce such goods in your charity’s livery.
12. Virtual Happy Hours
Everybody likes a get-together whether it is online or otherwise. Many charities have found that an early evening happy hour is a great way to share notes, kick back and relax or even just talk about what the organisation has been up to that week. Encourage attendees to pour a glass of something while they’re online and to pledge a donation for every time they replenish their glass. What could be simpler and more social?
13. Open Mic Nights
Whether it is a few amateur musicians wanting to play their latest cover versions or a stand-up show where new material can be tried out, open mic nights are a great way of putting on a show without having to pay the performers. You can still charge audience members, however, whether they live stream the action or turn up in person. All you need is a PA, a couple of mics and a stage to perform on.
14. Hold a Car Raffle
Raffles are another long-standing part of any charity’s repertoire of fundraising activities. However, making the top prize something big, like a car, will certainly be more eye-catching than the usual things. What’s more, you can significantly raise the price of raffle tickets when the prize is worth winning, making it much more enticing and potentially profitable into the bargain.
15. Stage a Dance-a-Thon
Few people don’t like the idea of putting on a few tracks and cutting some rug, so dance marathons are a superbly inclusive way of fundraising with a physical activity. Races and sporting contests have a competitive element whereas dancing is for everyone no matter what their physical condition might be. Live streaming music for people to dance to in their own homes as well as discos where people are in attendance both work well.
16. Sponsored Dog Walks
Another good idea for getting people to donate is to involve something they find sentimental or irresistible. In particular, dogs have the effect of opening up conversations with the public and potential givers. As such, a sponsored dog walk is often more effective than a more straightforward sponsored walk.
17. Book Club Membership Sale
You don’t have to sell books to run a book club. Essentially, book clubs and poetry groups are social affairs where people have a subject matter that they stick to, giving each meeting a sense of unity and purpose. They’re increasingly popular in times of social isolation. Set one up and ask for a modest donation for membership and, perhaps, prompt for a new gift every time a new book is moved on to by the club’s members.
18. Online Gaming Tournament
Entry to any tournament can be charged for with a prize paid for from the entry fees. Live streaming board games is one way you could operate with a gaming tournament even if not all of your entrants are present at the same time. Of course, many video gamers will be only too pleased to show off their skills, as well, so running an online video game tournament with one-on-one battles in a knockout style event also makes a great deal of sense.
19. A Community Toy Swap
This is a great idea, especially in communities where you want to support social interactions and provide the opportunity to recycle items at a lower cost than would be the case if they were purchased from new. Swapping toys that kids might have barely used means they’ll enjoy a longer life and be enjoyed by children of the intended age. All you need to do is to ask parents to bring along toys that are no longer played with and ask for a donation on entry. Then, they can swap their toys for something more suitable at their leisure.
20. Charity Art Sale
Auctions of donated items are fairly commonplace among fundraisers. However, how about your charity’s own workers producing the art that is then auctioned off without being seen beforehand? Alternatively, you could ask your givers to commission artworks from your team. The results could be a great deal of fun, especially if you don’t have naturally talented artists among your group so long as they try their best.
21. Start an Annual Giving Day
Sometimes, it is the cyclical nature of giving that makes all the difference. If your charity does not already have a drive for donations on a particular day of the year, then now is the time to implement one. Find a day that means something to your organisation, such as the anniversary of its first project or initial foundation. Remember to give your list of donors plenty of notice that your annual giving day is just around the corner so that repeat donations are more likely to flow in on the day itself.
22. Host a Class
People love to learn. Whether it is a cookery class, a car mechanic’s course or instructions on how to groom a pet, holding a class where someone shows off their expertise can be a great way to raise funds. Remember to charge a reasonable fee that is in line with the commercial going rate for such classes, however.
23. Hold an Online Q&A Session
Many Q&A sessions provide insights into what charities are doing on the ground. By promoting your activities with a Q&A session, it is more likely that your donors will want to give more, not less, to your organisation. Such a session is a good chance to ask people if now would be the right time to increase their monthly donations, for example.
24. Launch an E-mail Campaign
In the age of social media, it is often the case that e-mail campaigns are forgotten about. However, they still work remarkably effectively. Perhaps now is the right time to go through your database of contacts and update them in readiness for a new e-mail marketing campaign that asks for donations to be made. You can even use one to promote one of the other fundraising ideas featured here!
25. Stage a Wine Tasting
Sell tickets to a wine tasting session. Whether you choose to do so online or in person, send your attendees the names of the wines you will be consuming together and where they can buy them. Advise that half bottles will be a good idea since you will be opening a few. This way, everyone has their own wine to consume at their leisure. Even better, you are not selling any alcohol, just the wine tasting notes and the experience so you don’t need to worry about any licensing issues.