We’ve all been to the tried-and-true fundraising events: The Silent Auction, The Car Wash, The Nelson’s Chicken Sale, The Golf Tournament, The Walk-A-Thon, etc. That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with these standby fundraisers, but what if your nonprofit is looking to spice things up and add a new, creative fundraiser to the mix? If that’s the case, then you, my nonprofit friend, have come to the right place! Take a look at the list below, which features some generalized creative fundraising ideas as well as some real-life examples of successful fundraisers.
Creative Fundraising Ideas
1. Comedy (or Talent) Night
Double the Donation brings us our first fundraising idea: a comedy night! Is your nonprofit located in an area with a good number of aspiring (or established) comedians? If so, consider hosting a fundraiser (at a number of venues such as a bar, theater, school gymnasium, outdoor venue equipped with a sound system, etc.) that raises money by: 1) charging the local comedians a small fee to perform and 2) charging audience members an admission fee.
You could even have a contest during the event where audience members vote for their favorite comedian of the night via their dollars! Or, you could partner with a local business to provide concessions, the proceeds of which would hopefully go toward your nonprofit.
You could easily turn this into a more generalized talent night fundraiser featuring local musicians and other performers.
2. Dance Marathon/Party
Also brought to you by Double the Donation, a dance marathon or dance party would function in a manner similar to a comedy/talent night. Participants would pay an admission fee to attend the event.
Here’s a little something in the way of a real-life example: I recently graduated from Ball State University, home of the annual BSU Dance Marathon. This wildly successful fundraiser is one of over 60 held annually in high schools and colleges across Indiana on behalf of Riley Hospital for Children. Students donate money and then participate in a dance marathon during which they must remain standing (and awake!) for many, many hours. In 2015 Ball State’s Dance Marathon raised a little over $500,000 for Riley Hospital for Children. In the case of a dance marathon, it might help to gear the event toward younger generations.
3. Trivia Night
Once again brought to you by Double the Donation (What can I say? They compiled a nice list of fundraising ideas), a trivia night would function just as you imagine. It could be held at a local bar, although this would limit attendance to the 21 & over club, or at another venue that was more family-friendly. Donations could be collected throughout the event, or perhaps an admission fee would be collected for each participating team. The winning team could collect a small prize at the end (perhaps a prize donated by a local business!). If the event was held at a bar or similar venue, perhaps you could also finagle your way into receiving part of the proceeds from the night!
4. Minor Holiday Extravaganza
And now for another real-life example: back in 2009, the nonprofit Clowns Without Borders hosted an April Fools Extravaganza that was part late night costume party, part fundraiser. Guests paid an admission fee to attend the event, and most came dressed in appropriately outrageous costumes. Performers from the area (including–you guessed it–circus performers) volunteered their time to entertain the guests.
I included this example not to suggest that every nonprofit should hold a crazy fundraising event, but to highlight this particular event’s creativity. Above all, the participants attended a fun and unique fundraiser that was appropriate given the nature of the nonprofit. The event likely stuck in the participants’ memories for years to come. Although I wasn’t in attendance at the April Fools Extravaganza, I’m fairly certain it wasn’t a boring or stuffy affair. If a fundraising event like this was happening in Fort Wayne, I would likely attend just because it sounded like a fun experience!
5. Fundraising Feast
We’re all familiar with spaghetti dinner or pancake breakfast fundraisers, but what if your organization took this trusty event even further and turned it into a verifiable feast? If you can manage to get local chefs to donate their time, and local restaurants (or even community gardens!) to donate some food, you can pick a suitable venue and organize a feast!
How would you raise money from an event that likely requires a sizable initial investment? By charging a sizable admission fee, of course. And here’s the thing: people expect to pay money for food. A fundraising feast doesn’t feature an activity that’s normally free; it features something that people normally already pay money for. So organize the feast according to a certain type of cuisine, or offer different dishes to tempt a participant’s taste buds. The point is to make the event even more memorable and indulgent than a typical dining experience, so that the participants understand (and are willing to pay) the sizable admission fee.