Article by Laura Newcomer
“What are good fundraiser ideas?”
That’s a question heard around nonprofit headquarters across America—and sometimes it’s accompanied by a lot of hand-wringing or face-palming or (if you’re really feeling stuck) the occasional bout of tears.
When you’ve been working in the nonprofit space for a while, it’s easy to feel like all the good fundraising ideas have already been taken.
We won’t sugarcoat it: It’s true that bake sales and car washes have been done to death.
But the good news is there are still plenty of innovative ways to raise funds for your cause. This is especially true in the digital age, when fundraising may take forms that were unthinkable just a few decades ago.
Still feeling stuck? If your well of fundraising ideas has run dry, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve got your back with nine innovative ideas to raise some dough.
9 Ideas for Raising Money (Not Your Traditional Fundraising Ideas)
So what are some fun fundraiser ideas that will engage your audience and boost your coffers? No matter whether you plan to run a digital or in-person campaign, the following ideas offer a ton of fundraising inspiration.
1: One-Day Email Flash
No, we’re not talking about sending out email reminders for your followers to upgrade their Flash extensions. Trust us, a one-day email flash fundraiser will be much more effective.
One-day email flash fundraisers are similar to 24-hour Giving Days in that they take place over a single day. As the name implies, they also take place via email. The idea is to choose a day during which you send out multiple emails to your supporters asking them to contribute to the cause and help you reach a certain goal by day’s end.
Many nonprofits find it’s helpful to pick a day with special significance—say, the anniversary of the nonprofit’s founding or a national awareness day that corresponds to the nonprofit’s cause. It’s also important to advertise the campaign in the weeks leading up to it so supporters know to keep an eye out on that day.
In all your email updates and appeals around the campaign, make sure to use compelling storytelling, appealing design, a strong call to action, and other email marketing best practices. This will increase the odds of people reading and engaging with your fundraiser.
2: Interactive Video
You may be familiar with this type of fundraiser without even realizing it. If you ever heard of the ALS ice bucket challenge, then you know the power of interactive video fundraising. So do the creators of that challenge. (All those videos of people dumping icy-cold water on their heads reportedly raised more than $115 million!)
The idea is to create a challenge that people will want to participate in and share. Once you issue the challenge (via an online video), participants—who are often nominated by a friend or family member—are tasked with posting a video of themselves doing the challenge and then donating to the cause.
These types of fundraisers are great because they raise money while expanding awareness about your organization and its cause. And the sky’s the limit when it comes to the number of people who can participate!
3: Fundraising Through Online Shopping
AmazonSmile and Giving Assistant are both great options if you want to raise a little extra through your community’s online shopping. It’s easy too! AmazonSmile is an Amazon website that lets customers browse Amazon the way they normally would—only when they make a purchase, the AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases to a charitable organization of the customer’s choice.
Giving Assistant is like the Amazon Smile of more than 3,000 online brands—and raises up to 5x more per purchase than AmazonSmile.
When shoppers sign up with Giving Assistant they have the option to donate 1% to 100% of their cash back earnings directly to your nonprofit. This platform is 100% free for nonprofits and super easy for shoppers to join. Learn more about how it works here.
4: Facebook Fundraising
Odds are good that most of your supporters are on Facebook, because well over 2 billion people are on Facebook! Leveraging this platform can be a great way to raise funds for your cause.
Facebook fundraising can be done in a couple of ways.
- Add a donate button to your nonprofit’s Facebook page, which will send would-be supporters to your nonprofit’s donation page on your main website.
- Use Facebook’s fundraiser feature to receive donations directly from Facebook, Network for Good, or the PayPal Giving Fund. Facebook doesn’t charge nonprofits any fees on these donations, and (so long as your organization is a 501(c)(3)) these donations will be tax-deductible.
5: Google Ad Grants
Not to be outdone by Amazon, Google has also created its own giving program. The tech giant’s Google Ad Grants campaign is part of its Google for Nonprofits program, which provides an opportunity for nonprofits to receive upwards of $10,000 worth of AdWords advertising each month.
While advertising opportunities aren’t the same as cold, hard cash, this ad real estate can significantly expand your nonprofit’s online awareness and reach. As your nonprofit’s ads appear in Google search results, you’re likely to grow your audience and attract new potential donors and supporters.
Eligible organizations must have valid charity status and maintain an active website with what Google deems “substantial content.” Childcare centers, government organizations, hospitals, schools, and universities are not eligible for the program.
6: Scavenger Hunt
Kids and kids at heart will get excited to participate in this kind of fundraiser, which involves hosting a scavenger hunt and charging individuals or groups to participate.
To make the event more enticing, let participants know that they’ll be eligible to win fun prizes. You might consider sourcing these prizes from local businesses and, while you’re at it, ask if they’d be willing to offer corporate sponsorship!
You may choose to organize your hunt around a particular holiday or theme. The goal is to make it challenging but also accessible so that participants don’t get so frustrated they give up. Be sure to set a time limit so you won’t be responsible for late-night seekers.
7: Movie Night
Nothing beats cozying up and watching a good movie—except for cozying up and watching a good movie while raising money for a great cause.
In all these cases, just be sure to cover your bases when it comes to copyright issues.
8: Workout Class Fundraiser
If there’s a gym or fitness studio near your nonprofit, then partnering up with them might offer a great opportunity to raise some funds for your organization.
Workout class fundraisers involve charging an extra fee for a one-time, special class (preferably with a popular instructor!). Participants get to enjoy an endorphin high and the knowledge that they’ve contributed to a worthy cause.
9: World Record Attempt
Few things are more motivating than the prospect of holding a bizarre world record.
Hula hooping with thousands of other people? Whipping up 3,000 pounds of fried rice? Sitting naked in the snow for almost an hour? These are the accomplishments most people only dream of, and your nonprofit has the chance to turn dreams into reality.
A world record fundraising event challenges your supporters to help you accomplish something truly groundbreaking—and, of course, raise money in the process. It also makes your event inherently newsworthy and is likely to attract corporate sponsors eager for publicity.
In addition to corporate sponsorships, these events can raise funds by asking individuals to pledge a certain amount and/or engage in peer-to-peer fundraising in which they solicit donations from people in their personal networks.
To come up with your idea, keep your focus on activities that can involve a lot of people, such as the world’s largest scavenger hunt, the world’s largest number of people eating pizza simultaneously, and so on.
Coming up with fun and creative fundraising ideas doesn’t have to turn into a hair-tugging affair.
Use this list to inspire upcoming fundraising campaigns and get your wheels turning for future initiatives. It really is possible to engage your supporters and raise funds for your cause—without ever baking another cinnamon bun!