best fundraising ideas for your nonprofit

21 of the Best Fundraising Ideas for Your Nonprofit

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Briana

The possibilities for fundraising are only limited to a nonprofit’s inspiration and creative self-expression. While it can be overwhelming to come up with something that will not only have a great impact, but will represent your organization well, and not to mention earn you significant revenue, this article can help you find that sweet spot.

To make things a bit easier for your planning team, we will explore what makes a good fundraising campaign, as well as share the best examples of some of the most effective fundraising for nonprofits. We feel confident you will find something your organization can use!

Let’s go!

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What is Fundraising?

If you fully engaged with Giving Tuesday 2022, you are probably already familiar with the term 'fundraising'.

In its simplest form, fundraising can be defined as soliciting donations to bring in revenue to support your nonprofit’s mission. Essentially, your organization is asking the community to give money, goods or services to further your cause. But when it comes to the strategy and the multi-layered process of bringing about a specific fundraiser, there is so much more going on behind the scenes.  

Fundraising can only be successful if an organization builds relationships: with corporations, individual donors, volunteers, the local community, and media outlets. There are a lot of roles that need to be filled when launching a fundraiser, especially in some of the higher-level events. Advertising, networking, data gathering, PR, managing volunteers, and event planning all have their place, and take up a lot of an organization’s time and energy.

louis happy with fundraising ideasLouis is pumped to read about all these fundraising ideas!

Your fundraising plan can be as simple as setting up a social media crowdfunding page, or as complex as planning a multi-event gala. Either way, there are techniques you can employ to make the best of it.

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How to Organize an Efficient Fundraising Campaign

Before launching a campaign, the single most important thing to do is gather information. Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to running an effective fundraiser. Take stock of what you have by asking the following questions:

  • What is my budget?

  • What is our objective for this particular campaign?

  • Who is on my fundraising team? 

  • What special skills or talents are available to this campaign, either through team members or dedicated volunteers?

  • What does our donor profile look like? Who is our target audience?

  • What is our donor lifecycle? 
  • What communication tools do we have (email lists, popular social media accounts, fundraising software) at our disposal?

  • What is our timeline?

It is important to understand that there is no magic recipe for a perfect fundraising idea. An event that brings in thousands for one organization could be a complete flop for another. What matters is the fundraiser’s relevance to your own participants, and how it aligns with and takes advantage of the resources unique to your own organization. Here are some additional fundraising tips for nonprofits.

Pro Tip: Don't forget to follow up each contribution with a donation receipt and donation letter.

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21 Examples of the Best Fundraising Campaigns

Now it is time to take a closer look at examples of the best fundraising campaigns. We will list each type, starting from the simplest to most complex, and describe how each works. We will also share some common data points: the general budget required, the return on investment, the human cost, and the level of planning required. 

Are you ready? Grab a snack, and let’s go!

Facebook Birthday Donations

  facebook nonprofits posts for fundraising

A fairly new feature for Facebook is the ability for users to create a "Birthday Fundraiser," allowing them to set up a donation page for the nonprofit of their choice on their birthday. This is more-so something of a background push for organizations. It would not really be a main event or take a whole lot of time or planning. Simply reach out to your donor base through emails, social media, or DMs to encourage them to choose your nonprofit as their fundraiser. It is one of the easiest ways you can fundraise. 

General Budget: This costs nothing. Simply consult your donor database to encourage individuals, and run general reminders occasionally on social media or in your newsletter. 

ROI: Typically these kinds of campaigns will net around $50-$100 per person on average, with Facebook throwing in $5.00. A bigger return is the visibility of your nonprofit to your participant’s  social network. With eyes on your organization that would not typically see it, you may get some interest. 

Human Cost: Simply having a member of your fundraising staff keep track of birthdays, and sending out occasional reminders. 

Level of Planning: Extremely low

Urgent Crowdfunding

nonprofit fundraising campaign example

This type of event is low on the complexity list. Urgent humanitarian plights (such as natural disasters, medical dilemmas, or forms of violence, like war) create a feeling of community - often a transnational one - and a strong motivation to give. When combined with the fact that crowdfunding for nonprofits is a simple way to gather donations, and not to mention for patrons to donate, it really cannot get any easier than this. It is also relatively inexpensive: you will not need to fork over any money up front, but crowdfunding platforms will take a cut of the profits. You can use some of the best crowdfunding sites for nonprofits like GoFundMe or MightyCause to set up a fundraiser on behalf of your organization, or you can set one up directly on your website with the help of crowdfunding software like Fundraising Script.

General Budget: No initial budget is required for crowdfunding, unless you count the fees associated with the website/software you use. 

ROI: This can vary greatly when dealing with an emergency situation. The bottom line is that you will be able to use what is given, without having to invest any money at all. Depending on the size of your audience, you could bring in anywhere from $100 to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Notably, if you hit your fundraising goal, you have technically hit maximum ROI as long as you fundraise enough to cover the crowdfunding platform’s fees; for example, if GoFundMe collects 5% of the amount you raise, then you have to raise 5% more than you need to have a positive ROI.

Creating a successful crowdfunding event for an emergency is also an excellent way for your nonprofit to build awareness with both social and traditional media. 

Human Cost: You will need a member of your staff or a volunteer to build and monitor the page - as well as someone to drive marketing and communications to incite people to donate. Depending on the level of urgency, this could be a full-time job; however, a volunteer could handle it as not much supervision is needed. Setting up and maintaining a crowdfunding fundraiser is relatively intuitive and straightforward. 

Level of Planning: Extremely low

Email Donation Campaign 


nonprofit email donation campaign example

This usually takes place as a yearly drive, during which the donor base is encouraged to give through a big email push. Planning and costs are low for this type of campaign, as most nonprofits already have the email database and software necessary to run it. Fundraising email campaigns are a staple of most nonprofits, yet they do not require a lot of overhead. One of your goals should be to encourage recurring donations from your givers.

General Budget: The cost of nonprofit email software. Anywhere from free (basic with fewer features) to several hundred a month, depending on the size of the database. 

ROI: $500-$50,000

Human Cost: A staff member to write the email, send, and analyze the metrics. Should be a side job for approximately a month. Email software makes this all pretty simple and standard. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to analyze the previous year's email metrics, including the open rate and click-through rate to determine which strategies were highly effective last year, so that you can replicate and iterate them this year. When you know, for example, that your supporters are clicking on your CTA (call-to-action) links, you know that something in the body of your email (and perhaps your subject line, which motivated them to open the email in the first place) is drawing them in. Call-to-actions should be integral to all of your fundraising techniques; they should be sincere, humble, encouraging but not forceful, and so forth.

Level of Planning: Very Low 

Text-to-Give Fundraiser 

text to give fundraiser for nonprofits

What could be easier for a supporter than to simply receive a text that allows them to donate via textback? There is a bit more planning involved for this kind of event, because your organization will need to market it correctly. Most text-to-give fundraisers are either done in complement to another fundraising event, meaning they direct your supporters to a different fundraiser your nonprofit is hosting, or they are communicated only to a pool of trusted community members. Texting is a bit invasive by nature, so it makes more sense to utilize this technique when you already know your donor base very well, and they are intimately connected to your organization. 

Your nonprofit will need to use donor management software to run this campaign. Many software brands offer this option; you simply have to talk to customer service to get started. 

General Budget: This will depend on the software you use. The features required will involve a paid membership, which can run from $25 to several hundred per month depending on the size of your database. Often a small percentage of each donation will also go to the software company. 

ROI: This can vary anywhere from several hundred dollars to the tens of thousands. 

Human Cost: Not too high, as the fundraising software will do most of the heavy lifting. You will need a staff member to do the marketing via email, newsletter, social media, flyers, or even contests if you want to get fancy. 

Level of Planning: Very Low

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising (Solely Donations) 

nonprofit peer to peer fundraising example

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a form of crowdfunding campaign in which a nonprofit not only asks for donations from their base, but also asks their supporters to reach out to their own social networks to give to their cause. In this section we will cover a simple peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, without an attached event. For this, you will need a fundraising software platform to create an event page. Then you will encourage your members, volunteers, and other supporters to create their own donation pages (with templates available through your own), and then share them on all of their social media channels. 

General Budget: Cost of donation software membership. This can be anywhere from free (for a very basic package–but it can get the job done), to several hundred a month depending on the size of the database and included features. 

ROI: $500-$15,000

Human Cost: Typically requires one employee to organize the event online. Sending emails and reminders to supporters to save the date, to create their own pages, and to provide support for the individual fundraisers. Afterward, this staff member will ideally analyze the data to look for areas of success, as well as areas that need improvement. 

Level of Planning: Low

Pro Tip: Many companies offer to run a donation matching campaign in parllel to peer-to-peer. If you have any corporate partners, this is a great way to get them involved in your campaign and raise a little extra cash!

Car Wash 

fundraising example car wash

A car wash is a fairly simple live event that can be launched without much financial outlay. Typically the only cost is soap and sponges. Gather volunteers (this is a fabulous event for schools), and have a local car wash or gas station donate a section for you to work. All that is required is time, enthusiasm, and some advertising. Social media is a great way to reach your community: post the upcoming car wash on community pages. You can also create flyers to post in local businesses and make colorful signs to wave roadside. Make the whole event more fun by playing loud music and making it a party for your staff and attendees.  

General Budget: $20-$250 (supplies, advertising)

ROI: $500-$1,000 

Human Cost: Around a day’s worth of work for 10-20 people on average, with some minor effort put into advertising before the event 

Level of Planning: Moderate

Community Scavenger Hunt

fundraising example community scavenger hunt

A scavenger hunt is a great fundraiser that can really educate people on the community they live in. There is also very little overhead involved as far as finances go. You can place items around town somewhere for supporters to find, in a relatively small area or a large one, depending on what works for your organization. To make your scavenger hunt unique, you can create a theme that reminds people of the work you do; little plastic cats are reminiscent of a cat rescue, for example. Just remember to document where you are placing all of them! You can also create a hunt that involves finding and photographing local landmarks. Have your participants share their photos on social media and add a hashtag specially created for your event. 

In either case, provide prizes and refreshments for your event. This can be as simple as having volunteers bake goodies, or you can hire a food truck. You may even choose to enlist the help of a DJ if the hunt is taking place in a small, localized area. Charge anywhere from $20 to $100 per team, depending on the average financial means of your donor base and the cost of your event. 

General Budget: $500-$2,000

ROI: $500-$3,000

Human Cost: A fundraiser planning team of at least several people will likely need to work for a month or two on advertising and event set up. 

Level of Planning: Moderate 

Lesson From an Expert

lesson from expert nonprofit

If you have a volunteer or someone on staff who has a specialized talent and is willing to donate their time, this is a fundraiser that can be both fun and profitable. Create a "Lesson Night" in which this person helps attendees learn a new skill. This can be something like watercolor painting, pottery, or crafting a seasonal decoration for the home. 

Pro Tip: Unless the expertise given is geared toward something unique to your organization’s mission (and thus is already enticing to those who support it), it is best to go for a pretty mainstream topic so that you bring in the most participation. If your nonprofit is, say, an animal sanctuary or rescue, you could discuss veganism, or even just giving up meat once or twice a week to entice others to do so without being too niche. 

Your costs would include materials, and possible space rental - although you may be able to find a place that will donate their space to you for a night, like a local rec room or school gymnasium. You can even hold your event at your nonprofit’s headquarters or at a member’s home. You may want to offer light refreshments (think Sip and Paint, where attendees learn to paint while drinking alcoholic beverages) or food. The event can be advertised through social media, email, and flyers for about a month leading up to the event. 

General Budget: $100-$500

ROI: $500-$1,000

Human Cost: A volunteer or employee must donate up to several hours of their time to teach at the event, as well set it up and break it down. Someone should also be in charge of the advertising campaign leading up to the event (approximately a month’s worth of time). 

Level of Planning: Moderate

Social Media Fundraiser

social media fundraiser example

A social media fundraiser can be a really great way to reach your base and even some of their networks. There are a lot of ways you can use social media platforms to raise money, but some popular ones are live stream events, or days of giving. If you have a relationship with an influencer or want to start using influencer marketing, this is a great way to get them involved. They can "take over" your social media page for a day or a few weeks if possible, and solicit funds. 

Or you can simply get the most engaging of your volunteers to do a fun live stream, in which they introduce your team, show off some interesting aspects of your organization, or simply tell stories of your mission. An interview format is fun for this if you get some members or recipients of your organization’s services to get involved. A different volunteer or group of volunteers could speak each day you do the fundraiser; it does not have to be just one day long. There are so many different social media fundraising ideas to employ in the highly personable atmosphere of social networking. 

General Budget: This can cost nothing if done in-house with your own staff or volunteers. If you hire a social media influencer, the price can vary. Some micro-influencers might work for free or a small fee if they are really passionate about your mission. 

ROI: A day of giving or a takeover can net anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars on average. If your fundraiser spans weeks, which can be highly effective, you could bring in five hundred to fifteen thousand. This type of campaign can also create brand awareness if your audience is encouraged to share posts and live streams with their own social networks. 

Human Cost: There will be some planning required for this kind of event. Smaller to mid-level nonprofits can probably get the work done with one or two volunteers or employees who dedicate themselves to the creation of posts, videos, email alerts, and data collection. They will also need to respond to comments, be aware of what is trending, and in general, know how to reach people via social networking. Planning can take upwards of a month. 

Level of Planning: Moderate

Social Media Challenge

example of social media challenge to raise funds

A social media challenge harnesses the power of social media to share your message with (hopefully) the world. There is a slightly higher level of planning involved in this type of campaign, because the point is to try to create a viral challenge. You will want to come up with something that will engage your audience, is relatively simple to do, and that can be easily linked back to your nonprofit. 

Pro Tip: The key to going viral is being disruptive and eye-catchingly unique so as to be noticeable (and intriguing) while staying "on brand" - that is, while adhering to your values, and not advocating for any off-putting or offensive behavior. This is not an easy balance to strike which is why coming up with a social media challenge is so complex!

Some examples of social media challenges include: the Ice Bucket Challenge, No Shave November, and the Betty White Challenge. You can ask participants to share a picture with no makeup, or without a filter. A picture with an animal. A picture in a goofy outfit. You can even create merchandise for the event–t-shirts, hats, a button, and have donors take a picture wearing it. 

General Budget: Very little financially, unless you create merchandise to advertise the event, or use social media ads to increase visibility (think a few hundred dollars). This type of event leans more into human cost. 

ROI: For this type of event, you are looking to capture several hundred dollars, or (if it goes viral) possibly many thousands. A big return on a social media challenge is an increased awareness of your nonprofit. It is a great way to increase your organization’s popularity while influencing potential future donors. 

Human Cost: A planning team of several people should come together for the idea stage, as well as for the challenge’s execution. Each member should be ready to reach out to several people they know to support the effort and keep the challenge going. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to test your idea out on several people, especially if you are trying to "go viral" - they may pick up on something wrong with it that you do not!

Level of Planning: Moderate

Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser With Attached Event

peer to peer fundraising event example

Another form of peer-to-peer fundraising is one that is attached to an event. This one obviously requires more planning than the donation-only form. Popular types of peer-to-peer fundraising events include:

  • "A-thons" style events--spin-a-thons, walk-a-thons, and bowl-a-thons

  • A Polar Plunge

  • Virtual (or in-person) race (charity runs, for example)

  • Trivia or game night

  • Online or in-person challenges

Just like the donation-only P2P event, you will create a main page and encourage your participants to solicit donations from their friends and family. The event, however, can create more excitement and friendly competition. Donors can be asked to donate "per mile" or "per question", or any unit of measure that is appropriate. Usually, there is a minimum amount each participant must fundraise before participating in the event, as is the case with most walks (individuals must accrue $2,300 before partaking in Susan G Komen’s breast cancer walk). There is an added layer of both financial and human cost, since many of these events require extra planning and set up. 

General Budget: $500-$5,000

ROI: Depending on the minimum you require your supporters to fundraise before participating, this could be 1k or upwards of 100k

Human Cost: If you are running a live event, you will probably need a team of at least 3 people to organize. You will also need to recruit volunteers to work the event itself: for example, a spin-a-thon would require spin instructors, people to set up and break down the event, someone to run a soundboard for music, one or more people to run concessions, and more. 

Level of Planning: Moderate to High 

Sports Tournament

 sports tournament to raise funds

Who doesn’t love sports? A sports tournament is a sure driver for turnout. It can be anything from a traditional sport like softball, to a fun "school gym" game like dodgeball, or a popular leisure game like bocce or pickleball. Charge an entry fee for teams, and then create an event around the tournament itself to sell tickets. You can also have a bake sale or offer other refreshments for additional revenue. 

You will need to rent space at a park or gym, but as we have mentioned for other events, you may be able to cut a deal with the owners - especially if they are aligned with your mission. Hire a DJ to keep energy high, and a food truck or two is always welcome if you are not providing your own food via bake sale. 

Pro Tip: Plan for rain! If your event is supposed to be outside, also involve an indoor venue if possible - hopefully you can find someone who will be willing to donate their indoor space in case of an emergency. 

General Budget: $2,000-$5,000

ROI: $3,000-$15,000

Human Cost: A small team can handle this event. The work will be part time over the course of around 3 months or so. Getting the word out will be key, so make sure that you reach out through all channels, including local media. 

Level of Planning: Moderate to High

Corporate Sponsorships and Grants 

fundraising ideas corporate sponsorship

There are grants and corporate sponsorships available for nonprofits at any given time, but you have to put in a bit of research to find the right ones. Nonprofit grants are a good place to begin, but some nonprofits actually keep a grant writer on the payroll to focus solely on finding and applying for grants. So really the cost depends very much on the size of your nonprofit, and what you decide to do about that role: hire someone specifically for the job, or put it on one of your more talented writers and researchers. 

General Budget: A percentage of what you pay your fundraising employees, or the salary of a grant writer on your staff. Applying through Grants.gov is free; other channels sometimes require money down to apply.

ROI: Up to several million dollars, even for a small to midsize nonprofit

Human Cost: Can be quite expensive, especially if you have a full-time grant writer on staff. 

Level of Planning: High 

Touch a Truck Event 

touch a truck fundraising example

I know this sounds oddly specific, but hear us out. This is an event that is mainly aimed at children, but can be fun for the whole community. It requires a large outdoor area, ideally with some shaded areas where people can sit and eat (like a park with a large parking lot). Hire a DJ or band, and a food truck or two. For 2-3 hours, families can walk around and let their kids touch and explore different trucks from the community. Include fire trucks, police trucks, tow trucks, construction trucks, and mail or delivery trucks. The more the better!

You will have to reach out to a lot of different companies and organizations to try to get volunteers to bring their trucks for a several hour event. If you already have corporate sponsorships or relationships with some local companies, this will be easier. If not, it is a great place to start! The popularity of trucks with kids is where you are going to hit a home run.

General Budget: $1,000-$2,000 (It may be more if you have to rent a space to hold the event. However, with a good fundraising professional you can possibly get this donated, or at a good discount.

ROI: $1,500-$3,500, plus some valuable contacts within the business community. With a big community event, you may also find that you get some excellent brand awareness. 

Human Cost: You will want a planning team of 2-3 people coordinating and managing before the event, about 3-4 months in advance. This is in addition to other duties; it will not require all of their time. At the event itself, you will want a team of perhaps 10 volunteers to set up, clean up, take tickets, and keep an eye on things. 

Level of Planning: High 

Amateur Film Festival

film festival as an example of fundraising

This is another fun community event that can really offer a lot of reach. You can collect donations through two revenue streams, as well. Participants in the film festival can be charged for entry, and the event itself will have ticket sales. Most of the cost for this event will be in space rental, although some movie houses may be willing to cut a deal if they align with your mission. You will also have to pay for advertising (this can be through social media, email, flyers, and even networking with the local news), and light refreshments. Wine and popcorn flights, anyone? 

You may choose to have a theme based on your nonprofit’s mission. Select judges from your staff members and volunteers, or even try to get some local celebrities involved. Prizes should be offered in a number of categories to keep things interesting. 

Be sure to screen the movies beforehand - the last thing you want is to find out at the wrong time there is something in one of the films that is not aligned with your organization's values

General Budget: $2,000-$5,000

ROI: $2,500-$10,000

Human Cost: You will want to establish a team for planning this type of event. With advertising and organization, they should be working on this project part time for at least 3 months in advance. 

Pro Tip: Reach out to your local university or community college’s art department and see if they will organize the event with you. Your nonprofit will have the benefit of involving their tight-knit community (students and staff alike, who could not only be audience members but contestants), which could really make your event a success.

Level of Planning: High

Dance Marathon

dance marathon fundraising event example

A popular event for schools, dance marathons can be a blast for both participants and spectators. And again, you have got two revenue streams: dancers will pay a fee to enter, and ticket sales at the door for anyone coming to watch the fun. You may even get corporate sponsors for a big event. You will need an event space, a band or DJ, a caterer or food truck, and a lot of advertising. Offer prizes for the dancers longest on the floor, and create a variety of other categories to make it even more interesting. 

When planning, think about your donor target demographic. Themes are fun, and the music playlist can be built around it. Baby Boomers? Do a 60’s-70’s rock theme. Gen X? How about an 80’s throwback? Millennials might enjoy anything from 90's dance music through the present day. You can even do a survey of your members and past before getting started to see what might be the best option. 

General Budget: $2,000-$5,000

ROI: $2,500-$10,000 

Human Cost: You will want a small team to work on this project part time for a few months in advance. At the event itself, you will need a set up and clean up crew, judges, and ticket takers. 

Level of Planning: High

Online Auction 

example of virtual silent auction to raise funds

Auctions, and online fundraising in general, offer an excellent return on investment. Especially an online auction, since you do not have to pay for a space or any kind of entertainment, food, or other event costs. You will want to be sure that you have an excellent fundraising software platform, however. This is a relatively complex, but highly rewarding virtual fundraiser to execute. 

This is very much an event that requires bringing a lot of people together. You will have to reach out to companies and individuals to get a large roster of donated items for your auction. You may get things like vacations, experiences (skydiving, snorkeling, dance lessons), artwork, jewelry, sports memorabilia, and home goods. There is no limit to what you can offer, but you will have to spend some time networking and gathering items. 

General Budget: Price of your software platform, anywhere from $100 to several hundred with a possible small percentage from each donation. 

ROI: $2,000-$100,000 depending on size and items available

Human Cost: A team should work this event, mainly for procuring the auction items. There is a lot of networking and advertising involved, and it may take 3-5 months to pull it all together. Fundraising software typically has templates available, but you may want to have someone with design knowledge to put together an attractive auction website. 

Level of Planning: Very high 

Live Silent Auction

live silent auction fundraiser

A silent auction is a type of fundraising event in which participants bid on a variety of items, vacations, or entertainment experiences. Unlike traditional auctions, bidders make an offer on an item without knowing the amount others are bidding on that same item. A live silent auction requires the same work as a virtual event, but with the addition of setting up a live event space. Again, you will have to gather items from the community, both from businesses and individuals. You will also have to rent a space, offer refreshments, and possibly entertainment (a harpist or string quartet are nice). 

Often nonprofits will make a live silent auction part of another event like a gala. These silent auction ideas will show you that this event type comes in many forms. 

General Budget: $1,500-$5,000

ROI: $2,000-$100,000 depending on size and items available. 

Human Cost: A team is most appropriate, and with several months planning. If your silent auction is more of a black-tie affair, you may choose to hire an event planner as well. 

Level of Planning: Very high 

Murder Mystery Dinner Party

murder mystery dinner fundraising event

Bring together food and entertainment to offer donors a night they will not forget. Hire or acquire volunteer actors from a local college or theater to help set the stage. Pick a theme: the roaring twenties, train murder mystery, film noir, hippies in the 60’s - the possibilities are endless. Create a basic premise, and characters to move the action along. 

You can hold the event at a ballroom, on a train (some even have an option for murder mysteries in place), or at a retro hotel. All you need is space for a sit-down dinner. You will also want to hire a catering company, music, and maybe set up a picture "booth" with props so that your participants can share pictures on social media. Costume parties are especially popular and lend themselves to great viral pictures. 

Pro Tip: You really have to be sure that the storyline you create is without error or, so test it out several times before you go live with it (a soft launch is appropriate here - i.e., run the full event first with friends and family so you can work out any kinks that make themselves known).

General Budget: $5,000-$10,000

ROI: $20,000-$50,000

Human Cost: Some of the work can be delegated to an event planner if you have the budget for this. If not, your team will need to dedicate several months to both planning and advertising for this event. 

Level of Planning: Very high 

Fashion Show

hosting a fashion show to raise funds

A fashion show is another event that lends itself to any number of themes or types. For example, if your organization is a women’s shelter, have a fashion show with some of the best used clothing you come across over a few months’ time. Really exhibit how much your nonprofit can help women have their basic need of being clothed well taken care of in a time when they tend to be without a lot of their possessions. Create a lot of buzz with social media advertising, and live stream the event to create greater reach. If possible,  involve local designers in your show to make it that much more special, sleek and professional. 

This event can be a standalone, or part of a larger gala event. If standalone, it is a good idea to offer a cocktail hour beforehand. You will also have to find a DJ for the event, and coordinate the models, designers, and caterers. 

General Budget: $5,000-$10,000

ROI: $20,000-$50,000

Human Cost: There are potentially a lot of moving pieces to consider with this type of event, so your team should be working on this for several months. 

Level of Planning: Very high 

Battle of the Bands

battle of the bands fundraising example

Take advantage of local talent by hosting a battle of the bands. Reach out to popular artists - every town has their own favorite bands that play bars, wineries, and small-scale events. Also open up entries to aspiring garage bands. Each band will pay an entree fee, and you will sell tickets to the event as well. 

The battle can be as simple or elaborate as you choose. You can hold it anywhere - an outdoor park with a bandstand, a school auditorium, or a huge concert venue. As with any of these options, just be sure to keep your target audience in mind. 

General Budget: $10,000-$50,000

ROI: $100,000-$200,000

Human Cost: A team is required to manage the publicity, advertising, and procurement of bands. Give your team around 6 months to plan this. 

Level of Planning: Very high 

Gala Event

fundraising gala example

A gala is a swanky event that often includes things like dinner, dancing, and drinks. Even a basic gala has a lot of moving parts, but many of these events also involve another type of fundraiser such as a raffle or a silent auction. 

Your team will have to find and rent a space (typically a ballroom), coordinate entertainment, speakers, a sit-down dinner, a bar, and very often a cocktail hour. This is usually an event for big donors, and subsequently comes with a large price tag for attendance. High expectations mean that this event needs to come off with a high level of professionalism. This event will take time and money to create, but it will pay off. 

General Budget: $50,000-$200,000

ROI: $250,000-$1,000,000

Human Cost: This is a big project that will take up a large chunk of your fundraising team’s time for about 9 to 12 months, depending on complexity. Some mid to large size nonprofits will also hire an event planner to take on some of the work. If your gala also offers a raffle or an auction, there is also the networking for donated items to consider. 

Level of Planning: Extremely high

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Final Thoughts

Fundraising is the lifeblood of any nonprofit. Whether you have a dedicated fundraising team, or just a hardworking fundraising staff professional, the whole organization will likely be involved at some level at times. Keep in mind that any of the events on this list can be performed at a variety of labor levels and price points. The general budget and ROI is based on a general average for small to midsize nonprofits, but it may be different for your organization as you make it your own. 

The most important things to keep in mind when running a fundraiser are your own resources and target donor profile. Only plan what is within your reach, and that will be profitable in the end. Do not squander money on a high-level event that will end up costing more than it is worth. You also must know what will be exciting for your donors, and what they can comfortably give. And remember not to forget about your donors once you have them aligned with your mission, this is where donor retention comes in. If you build your event upon this base knowledge, it's sure to be a winner. 

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FAQ

đź’ˇWhat exactly is fundraising?

The short answer is: raising money for a nonprofit organization to fund its mission. Taking a deeper dive, it’s about building relationships with the community and creating a large donor and volunteer network that can be counted on for continual support. Find out more. 

🔑 What makes a good fundraising idea?

The best fundraising idea is the one that conforms to both your mission and your audience. For some nonprofits, virtual fundraisers are most profitable, while others may do best with live events. One organization will make thousands from an athletic event, while that same idea might be a flop for another nonprofit. There is no magic idea that works for everyone, it’s really more about having a strong understanding of what engages your donors. Find out more. 

đź“ť What are the best types of fundraising?

It depends on your particular goal. Most nonprofits will have a series of short-term and long-term events in the pipeline during any given fiscal year. Using a combination of social media events, email campaigns, and community fundraisers is the best way to keep a steady stream of income to your organization. Find out more.  

Fundraising
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Briana
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