Your fundraising events need to be really engaging if you want to get people excited about supporting your organization. Unfortunately, fundraising can be a difficult and tedious process, especially for nonprofits with limited resources.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can organize and host fundraising events that are both unique and inexpensive. This article explores fundraising and its importance, and offers over two dozen ideas for your consideration.
What Is Fundraising?
Fundraising is commonly defined as the act of soliciting funds to support a nonprofit’s mission or cause.
The Importance of Fundraising
Fundraising is critical for the continued success of an organization. A good event can raise much-needed funds to support an organization’s programs and mission; a poor one can leave a nonprofit with empty pockets and empty dreams.
Quick, Easy, and Cheap Fundraising Ideas
Are your budget constraints taking the wind out of your fundraising efforts? Here are 25 cheap fundraising ideas to help with your nonprofit’s event planning:
- Puppy Kissing Booth
Who can turn down kisses from a puppy? Invite friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers over for hugs and affection from the pure heart of a puppy. It’s sure to be a big hit with kids of all ages.
- Baby Contest
These types of events always get great laughs, and typically they are very successful. There are a couple of variations:
- Guess the Baby Contest – Supporters guess which baby picture belongs to which adult. The person who guesses the most correctly wins a prize.
- Cutest Baby Contest – Like the first option, staff or supporters bring in their baby pictures. Volunteers will then set up tables decorated with baby pictures. Participants can come to the “Baby Photo Booth” and vote for their favorite with a dollar. The baby photo with the most votes is crowned the winner.
A bake-off contest allows local bakers to showcase their creativity while also helping the community. A baker can compete in one or more categories by baking cupcakes, cookies, muffins, or other treats. Each baker submits an entry and a panel of judges critique each entry on taste and presentation. The top three bakers in each category win a prize. The money raised from the entry fees and sale of baked goods help fund the nonprofit’s programs.
- Local Business Cleaning Service
Many small businesses are having a hard time finding people to do odd jobs such as cleaning the parking area and taking out the trash. Put together a team of volunteers who are willing to sweat a little. Then reach out to local businesses and pitch your team’s services for a reasonable fee.
- Car Wash
A car wash is a tried and true fundraiser that is easy and cost-effective. People always need their cars washed, so there is no shortage of demand for this event. Put a memorable twist on it by adding a yearly theme (80s style, famous celebrities, etc.) and give out a prize for best-dressed.
- Craft Sale
Invite local artists to display and sell their work at your event. Set up an agreement with all the participants, where a portion of the proceeds goes toward your nonprofit. Let supporters know they can support your nonprofit by purchasing arts and crafts, which will benefit the organization’s cause.
- Dish Smashing Event
This is a great way to raise money for your cause while letting supporters release stress. Collect unwanted dishes from supporters and members of the community, and then charge an admission fee to smash dishes for a set amount of time.
IMPORTANT: For safety reasons, be sure to provide gloves and goggles for participants.
- Karaoke Contest
Karaoke is an entertaining activity that people enjoy doing and watching. By hosting a fundraiser, you can raise money while entertaining your supporters. The affordability and availability of a karaoke machine give you the ability to run the event almost anywhere.
- Dog Walking
A dog walking service allows busy dog owners to leave their dogs at home instead of worrying about taking them for walks. Owners simply pay a small fee. Your nonprofit can make more money by charging more for longer walks or by offering additional services, such as grooming.
- Scavenger Hunt
Predetermine the size of each team, and then charge an entry fee for each team that participates. Give each team a list of the items that need to be found, and lay out rules for what is and is not allowed. Each team has a specified time allotted before they need to return back to the starting point.
The winning team is determined by taking the teams that returned within the allotted timeframe and then figuring out which team found the most items from the list. If there happens to be a tie, the overall time will be used as a tiebreaker.
- Donate Your Coffee for a Cause
Ask coffee drinkers in your community to give up their favorite caffeinated beverage for a day and instead donate that money to your organization. It is usually pretty easy to get friends and family members on board with this fundraiser, and because coffee isn’t cheap these days, it can be quite profitable as well.
- Local Comedy Night
Put together a comedy night that features some local talent that can benefit from the exposure and publicity. Prepare an agreement where it is clear to all involved how the proceeds will be split between the performers and your nonprofit. It is important to know your audience here, so make sure the type of comedy matches up with the supporters who will be filling the seats.
- Trivia Contest
Trivia fundraisers are an economical way to raise funds for charities. Ask friends to compete against each other in trivia contests in which you, the organizer, get to pick the questions. These contests can be family-friendly, and you can even make the event a competition between teams or individuals.
- Restaurant Partnership
Many local restaurants are open to the idea of splitting the proceeds for a day to support a good cause, especially if the nonprofit organization is willing to provide volunteers to help with serving, cleaning, etc. Reach out to local eateries to see which places would be interested in the concept. Then set up meetings with the managers of each establishment to see if both parties can come up with a plan and revenue share that works for all involved.
- 50/50 Raffle
This is a very simple yet popular fundraiser that can be very profitable when marketed correctly and to the right supporters. The concept is straightforward; your nonprofit organization raffles of tickets for a set amount. and the winner of the raffle gets 50% of the money generated from tickets sold. For example, if your nonprofit sells $2000 in tickets, the winner gets $1000, and the nonprofit gets $1000. As you can imagine, these can be a very effective way to raise funds if promoted to an audience with deep pockets.
- Local Restaurant/Retailer Change Jar
Have your staff reach out to local restaurants and retailers to gauge their interest in supporting your cause with a change jar fundraiser. Once you have a list of willing participants, drop off a large decorated jar for spare change and leave it there. Make sure the name of your nonprofit and details about your mission is specified on each jar.
- Bottle and Can Drive
Have staff members collect recyclables from friends, family, and neighbors. They might even want to organize a competition among themselves to see which group can recycle the most items.
If you are looking to turn this into a full-blown annual event, market it to your community through Craigslist, social media, local schools, businesses, etc., with a specific collection day and location(s) where people can drop off their recyclables.
- Potluck Dinner
Not only is this a great fundraiser, but it is also an excellent way for the community to get out and mingle. Choose a method for participants to register and list what items they will be bringing. This is pretty easy to set up on a website or social media platform.
Next, choose a location for the event, and then promote it online and in your community. Come up with a fixed price per plate, and be sure to include that all proceeds go toward your cause. One final tip: provide music and activities to make it even more memorable.
- Photography Contest
Photo contests are unique fundraising ideas that encourage people of all ages to get involved. Create categories for children, amateurs, and professionals, and then display the images on tables by their respective categories. Place a jar next to each image, and instruct supporters to “vote” for their favorite photo by placing a dollar (or more, if they choose) in the jar next to it. Come up with a unique prize or trophy for the person with the most “votes” in each category.
- Movie Night
Poll potential participants to see which movies they would like to see, and then raise money for your nonprofit by selling tickets to the event, You can also offer concessions during the event. Ideally, you will want to partner with a local theater, but if that is not an option, it is typically not too difficult to find a generous community member who is willing to offer their home or spacious backyard for a good cause.
- Dog Wash
Choose a warm day at a local park to host a dog wash. Dog owners will gladly donate to your cause in exchange for a break on their four-legged friend’s regular bath. Beforehand, reach out to local pet stores to see if any of them are willing to donate the necessary supplies needed for the event. You may also want to consider offering canine-friendly treats to bring in additional income.
- Silent Auction
A silent auction is still one of the most loved and profitable fundraising ideas available. In case you are not familiar with the concept, staff members contact local restaurants, golf courses, movie theaters, etc. to see if they would be willing to donate items or services for your auction. You then collect these items before the event. During the event, items or certificates are nicely displayed throughout the venue along with a bidding sheet.
Interested bidders add their names to the bid sheet along with their bid for that item. Once the bidding window closes, the event host announces the highest bidders for each item or service. People love the excitement and fun of bidding on these items, and nonprofits love these events because they are an inexpensive way to generate thousands of dollars for their mission.
- Golf Tournament
Golf tournaments put happiness into fundraising with nice weather, scenic surroundings, and abundant funds. Selling tickets to individuals isn’t difficult, but selling tickets in pairs or small groups is faster and easier. Once the day of the event arrives, make sure you have plenty of staff and volunteers so everyone can register and get out on the golf course as quickly as possible.
Once play has ended, have an awards ceremony. Then reserve some time to briefly discuss your nonprofit and how your cause is benefiting the community.
Capitalize on the recent Movember movement by organizing and running a fundraiser tied to this concept. Start advertising in September and take entries all of the way up to the end of October. Charge an entry fee, and then award prizes on the 1st of December for various categories (most facial hair, ugliest beard, etc.). Men love to compete, and won’t mind paying the entry fee if it is reasonable and for a good cause.
- Virtual Bingo
Host an online bingo night, and have players donate to your cause using fun online virtual cards. There are countless online resources that make hosting and running an event like this easy and economical.
Tools to Streamline Your Fundraising Efforts
We have hopefully made your life easier with some cheap fundraising ideas that should help you raise funds for your nonprofit.
Fortunately, Aplos offers a suite of nonprofit tools that can help streamline your next fundraising event. Some of the features include:
- Event management
- Digital giving
- Donation tracking
- Email marketing
- Giving statements
- And much more