Fundraise for Your Favorite Charity
Fundraising is hard. With fundraising minimums set high for many charities, the task can seem overwhelming. I have raised over $10,000 over four seasons for Team in Training. In addition, I have volunteered for countless school fundraising events. I have worked hard and learned a few things along the way and compiled this creative and fun list of fundraising ideas. You are guaranteed to find one that will make your fundraising endeavor a success!
Get the Word Out
People Need to Know How to Donate
- Letters: Send out letters via snail mail. Since e-mails get lost among the junk, make sure everyone on your mailing list gets something tangible from you. Use something that stands out and is personal so that people know it is from you.
- E-mail: Use e-mail to get the word out, just don't make that your only way of contacting people. E-mail is still great for reminders and for reaching people you may not have a physical address for.
- Internet: Use your Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or whatever to get the word out. I had hundreds of dollars come in from posting reminders and a fundraising bar on my Facebook page. Individual charities sometimes have widgets you can load to your page to show your fundraising progress and a direct link to your donation page.
- Tell your local Chamber of Commerce: Local Chambers are a great centralized location for getting in touch with area businesses. Ask if you can be part of their newsletter or get info about the businesses in your area.
- Place an ad: Craigslist, local online event sites, and meet-up sites are great places to post. I know several individuals who received donations by placing a wanted ad in a local newspaper. My place of business even had a website where one could sell items, post fundraisers, and get recommendations. This works best if there is a legitimate site where individuals can direct their funds directly to the charity.
- Newsletters: If you know someone that blogs or writes stories for the neighborhood newsletter, ask them to feature your story. The local Chambers and businesses also send out newsletters: ask them to write up a story for you.
Many household items can be reused or recycled for cash. In addition to holding communal garage sales to raise money for a collective cause, there are many other ways you can arrange for people to make non-monetary donations.
- Phones: Research places that recycle phones for cash. There are a number of them out there. Find the one that works well for you and comes recommended.
- Printer Cartridges: There are numerous places that pay for used printer cartridges. Some limit the types of printer cartridges they will take. One of my favorites is Empties4Cash but they only take certain inkjet cartridges. Staples will give you up to $3 in store credit for up to 10 printer cartridges a month.
- Cans/Bottles: If you live in a place where you can redeem cans and bottles, this can be a good way to collect extra money. Let your friends and neighbors know what you are doing and become the neighborhood collection spot.
Selling Items to Raise Money for Charity
- Host a Yankee Candle sale through their fundraising program and you earn 40% for your charity. This one is good for local sales.
- Coasters for a Cause: Six Flags Great Escape in upstate NY allows organizations who sell discounted tickets to keep $5 of the proceeds for select dates. Check with your local amusement parks for similar offers.
- Join the Amazon Associates Program and earn cash for purchases. Or you can make a wish list of items needed and individuals can shop and have the items shipped to you. There is also an honors box you can use to receive cash donations.
- Fasttrack Fundraising makes finding the perfect fundraiser easier. This company offers a large variety of options, from selling products to discount cards to lollipops.
- Pampered Chef: This one will cost you to get started, but has been a successful way to make money for charities, especially when you are hosting.
- Entertainment books provide a large number of valuable coupons to the consumer. This fundraiser can be sold to local and long-distance family and friends. Enjoy the City is another coupon book that tends to be smaller and more localized but the coupons in this book tend to give deeper discounts.
- Give an Awareness Item in Exchange for a Donation: This link sells items such as ribbons, bracelets, pins, etc. so you can offer an item in exchange for a minimum donation. The company I work for often gives us a pin for a $5 donation to a cause. The pins cost less than $1 on this site and allow the donor to show their pride in their donation.
- Little Caesars Pizza Kit offers group pizza kits for fundraising.
- Local Resources: Check around at local businesses or craft groups, since many offer a percentage back to you for your referral.
- Jeans Day: Ask your employer if they will host a jeans or casual work day where people get to dress casually in exchange for a donation to your cause.
- Bake Sale: Host a bake sale and ask friends or family to help by contributing their favorite goodies. Hold it in conjunction with another event such as a neighborhood garage sale, sporting event, etc.
- Garage Sale: Host a garage sale and get rid of the stuff lying around your house.
- Create and sell items from Zazzle.
- Candy Sale: Ask to set up a table at a local store and sell candy.
- Discount Coupons: Talk to local department stores to see if they will provide one-day coupons for you to sell. The store receives your advertisement, and for a small fee, your friends and family get an awesome discount.
- If you are fundraising long-term, then consider becoming a stylist for one of the many home sales companies such as Stella and Dot, Silpada, or Premier Jewelry.
- Crafts: If you have a group of crafty friends, host a party to make bracelets, pins, bags, frames, or anything your crafty heart desires. Consider making the projects easy and inexpensive to maximize the number of volunteers and limit the cost.
- Hugs for Sale! Go to your local mall and give a hug for a donation! Everyone will have a great time for a great cause. For those that are not to keen on a physical hug, give them the option to get a Hershey's candy hug instead.
- Pancake Breakfast: Check at the local fire department, community center, or church and ask if you can use their facilities to host a pancake fundraiser. Check into local pancake restaurants as many allow individuals to host a breakfast for charity. Host it on a Sunday when people are looking for a place to eat before or after church.
- Big Box Shops: Ask your local Walmart, mall, or grocery store if you can sell items for your cause. Favorites are candy, girl scout cookies, and bake sales.
- Host a gold party, one where the guests bring their old pieces of gold to sell and the host charity receives a percentage.
- Sell popcorn through the Popcorn Palace.
- Phenomenal Fudge: An awesome fudge company out of Vermont. When you sell their fudge, you get 40% of the profits.
- Movie theaters like Regal allow you to buy movie tickets in bulk at a 35-40% discount and re-sell them.
- Become a Scentsy Consultant for a charity.
- See's Candy has several different fundraiser options.
- Host your own BBQ for a fundraiser. Many catering companies like Brooks BBQ will help non-profits put together a BBQ to raise money.
- Sherwood Forest Farms: Sell wreaths and garlands for the holidays. This company has on-line tools, too.
- Have your own Silly Bands designed to sell for your charitable organization. Need ideas? Go to their website to look at the options.
- Joe Corbi's has a fundraising program where you can sell pizza kits, cookies, and chocolate.
- Fundraise with Net Nanny, a top-rated, inexpensive, and easy-to-use computer monitoring tool designed to help you monitor your children's visits to websites. Net Nanny has a fundraiser option for groups. This is a fantastic school fundraiser.
Other Easy, Cheap, and Fun Fundraising Ideas
Teeth Whitening: A company called Solar Bright has a fundraising program that allows participants to keep 60% of the profits of their teeth whitening sales for up to one year.
Worlds Finest Chocolate can be a lucrative fundraiser if you have the money to invest upfront. The fundraisers offer chocolate bars and products for as low as $1. Items can be personalized, doubling as advertisement for your charity. Proceeds can net 45-50%.
Lollipop Tree: Set up a lollipop tree that requires a large donation, such as $25. Every lollipop has a number that corresponds to a prize such as gift certificates to local stores or events.
Drawings and Raffles for Charity
- 50/50 Raffle: Your charity or group keeps half of the proceeds and the winner of the drawing receives the other half. Use this in addition to another event you have to increase revenue. Good places to host 50/50s are at restaurant events, ball games, gift-wrapping stations, or other charity events.
- Drawing for Gift Cards: Ask local businesses for gift card donations, then use the gift cards in a drawing for those who donate money to your cause.
- Product Drawing: Host an in-home direct sale party and then use free items to raffle off for further revenue.
Collect Change for Charity
- Collect Coins: Instead of using your spare change when you pay cash, take that change and place it in a bucket.
- Restaurants: Check around at pay-at-the-counter restaurants and ask if you can place a spare change jar in their store.
- Your Job: Put a spare change jar at your desk at work.
- Spare Change Drive: Hand out bags or small containers for friends, students, and co-workers to collect spare change for your cause.
- Pick Up a Penny: I read a great article about a man who picked up change on the road when he was out on his daily runs. Over the decades he had run, he had picked up thousands of dollars in change.
"Will Work for Donations"
- Wrap Gifts for Donations: Many bookstores, malls, and other retail establishments allow you to wrap gifts for donations during holidays. Some even provide the paper and all the tools you need in exchange for your time volunteering. Check with your local book store or mall and ask if they have a program.
- Offer to Pass Out Flyers for Donations: Many small local businesses are in need of marketing help. Check out food places you frequent, particularly ones owned by local owners, and ask if you can hang door hangers or pass out flyers in exchange for a donation to your charity.
- Review Business on Insider Pages: Insider Pages is a web portal for businesses. You must reside in certain areas of the country, but by writing reviews, you can earn a significant amount of money for your organization.
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Host a Fundraising Party
- Host a tailgate party for a football, baseball, or any other sporting event. Invite your friends and charge a fee.
- As a mom, I am always looking for fun activities for my children. Host a children's party complete with crafts, treats, and goodies. This is great for holiday events such as Valentine's Day, Easter, Christmas, or other holidays. Charge a per-child fee and make sure everyone has a ball!
- Do you have a show you just love watching that all your friends are crazy about? Host a party for the season premiere or finale. Charge a cover charge in return for a great night and snacks. Have everyone dress as their favorite character or play trivia games during commercial breaks.
- Host a Mardi Gras. Order beads, a king cake from New Orleans, masks, and coins, and have an all-out good time. With that much fun, no one will mind paying a cover charge!
- Hosting a fun Halloween party complete with costumes, prizes, drinks, and food is a fun time and another great way to raise money!
- Girls Night Out: Get your friends out for a night, host it at your house, charge a cover, and have fun and drinks!
- Bowl-a-Thon: Check with your local bowling ally, since many of them host bowl-a-thons and lock-ins to raise money while having fun bowling.
- Host a Bingo! Fundraiser.
- Vegas Night Fundraiser: While many states may not let you gamble for money, winners can cash in their chips for drawing tickets. Tailor your format to fit local laws.
- Host a wine tasting event complete with appetizers and various local or unique wines. Add a silent and live auction to maximize profits.
- Rollerskating Night: Bring back old memories and create new ones with a fundraiser that will please the whole family. Organize it at a time of year when indoor activities are fun such as a winter break or during snow season.
Finding Corporate Sponsors for Your Fundraiser
- Company Matches: Many corporations will match employee donations up to a certain dollar amount. Ask friends that donate money if their company has a company match policy.
- Grants: Some corporations offer grants to employees who volunteer a certain number of hours to a charity. Check with your company for such a policy.
- Product Donations: Ask companies you frequent often if they are willing to donate any items for a raffle, drawing, or auction.
- Banners: Sell banners to display as advertising at your event. This is great for baseball/t-ball teams, indoor or outdoor soccer leagues, or other sporting or group events that host a large number of people.
Raising Funds for Education
If you are representing a school, here a few ways you can earn money for your school:
- Box Tops for Education: Collect box top logos that are on hundreds of grocery store products. Each one is worth ten cents. There are fun tools online like activity sheets that you can print and hand out to students. Have a drive and reward students who bring in a certain number.
- Campbell's Labels for Education: Collect labels to earn points for your school that you can then redeem for merchandise.
- Grocery Rewards: Check with your local supermarket for grocery rewards that are paid to your school in supplies or other forms of rewards. This is a great way to 'double dip' with grocery label programs like Box Tops and Labels for Education rewards.
- Malls: Ask your mall if they provide receipt rewards programs. Our local mall allows you to drop off receipts for the stores in its mall that are then credited toward a total dollar amount. The top three schools win money for their school.
- Scholastic book sales are a great way to spread the love of reading while earning free books for your class or school library. Teachers can set up their own account. The books are great and very inexpensive.
- Kohl's Cares for Kids offers discount gift cards schools can sell for a profit.
- A Barnes and Noble Book Fair can be a very successful way to raise funds for your school. Have class-recommended reading lists on hand and set up a teacher wish list table to boost profits. Schedule storytellers to read at specific hours. Barnes and Noble is a wonderful host and gives schools the ability to incorporate a lot of creativity in this fun event.
Organize Sports Events for Charity
Organizing a sporting event is very time-consuming. Make sure you have lots of help and some experienced volunteers to help you.
- Golf Tournament: This is not for the faint-of-heart. Organizing a tournament is very time-consuming and can take a large number of individuals, but it can also be very profitable. Sell foursomes, get hole sponsors, put ads in the flyers, have hole-in-one contests, get donations, sell social tickets, and invite a few good vendors to allow the ladies to shop. Do not forget the goody bags, door prizes, food, and fun.
- Organize a 5k: Make sure you have a good marketing plan, pick a place such as a park with trails to make the course easier to officiate, have races for the kids, and offer options for both walkers and runners. Do not forget goody bags, t-shirts, food, and plenty of water stations!
There are so many fabulous ways to host an auction these days. Here are just a few ideas:
- Silent Auction: See 101 Silent Auction Basket Ideas.
- Chinese Auction: These are great when the prizes are smaller in nature. Sell tickets and place entry boxes in front of each raffle item. Participants can put as many or few of the tickets in the box of the item of their choice. A winner is drawn at the end of the auction. You can raise more money for a single, smaller item because individuals are placing their tickets for a chance to win the item and the entry fee is minimal.
- General Auction: Get the numbered paddles out! General auctions are great for parties where there are a lot of attendants, great bidding items, and a terrific MC. They can bring in big money fast.
- Bidding for Good is a way to host an online auction. If you have some fabulous items to auction off but want to maximize the number of bidders, then this is a great way to do it. This is also perfect for schools since grandparents and remote family members can also join in the fun and raise money for a great cause!
Raising Money: Get Really Creative
Get really creative and offer up activities that are out-of-the-ordinary. Participants may be more likely to pay for something different and unique.
- Book a Train: If you are a larger, more experienced operation, book a train ride. Themes like "The Polar Express," "Fourth of July," or "Murder Mystery" could be a good draw.
- Jello Wrestling: The college-aged son of a woman I used to run with did a jello pool wrestling match for his mom's fundraiser. He raised several thousand dollars charging $5 a turn.
- Spa Day: Many spas allow for group spa days. Organize one with a choice of a few spa treatments for a set dollar amount. Usually, the spas will offer a discount for a group. Charge a set amount and bring a few appetizers and a bottle of wine.
- Host a Fashion Show with local high-end clothing stores, jewelers, and restaurants. Feature dinner, drinks, and a sneak peek at the latest fashions.
- Drive-In Movie Night: Some venues allow for private events and fundraisers. This is a perfect event for a close group or school where everyone can have a fun night out together and enjoy a movie.
- Facebook "Likes" Donations: Ask a local business if you can help them increase their Facebook following. In exchange for bringing more "likes" to their page, you receive a donation to your charity in return.
Telethons have long been around but are often reserved for nonprofits with very large resources. But there are lots of other a-thons you can hold that require less time and resources.
- Rock-a-Thon: Bands or rocking chairs, you name it!
- Ski-a-Thon: Twenty-four hours, a lighted ski-slope, and some rock star skiers willing to battle the slopes to raise funds!
- Walk-a-Thon: Easy, fun fundraising that can incorporate the entire family.
- Bowl-a-Thon: Disco lights, a bowling ball, pizza, and unlimited bowling fun.
- Sing-a-Thon: All you need is a karaoke machine, friends, and a fun venue.
- Prayer-a-Thon: Individuals can make a donation and place a prayer request for a loved one. Your volunteers light a candle and pray. You can make this even more personal by providing a prayer card or a personal note in return.
- Sport-a-Thon: Name your sport and turn it into a 24-hour fundraising event!
Probably one of the most fun and creative fundraisers: "Flock" someone's yard with flamingoes for a donation. Donors can pick a friend's house to "flamingo" for a specified dollar donation.
The person will come out and find a flamingo in front of their house, with this note:
Don't despair! You have been flocked. This is a fundraiser by ___________ for a cause from ____________. A friend of yours has paid to put these darling birds on your yard. This flocking is done in good spirits and not meant to be mean. We would love your support for our fundraising efforts, all in good fun!
For the removal of the flock: only a $20 donation.
For the removal and choosing of the next migration location: only a $40 donation.
For the removal, choosing of the next migration location, and purchasing flocking insurance (so you aren't flocked again!): only a $60 donation.
Again, we thank you for your humor and support.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2010 heidishome