20 Creative Fundraising Event Ideas
Needing to raise more funds for your nonprofit? Engaging events—whether in-person or online—are the perfect way to energize supporters and remind them of their impact.
Your cause is hugely important. But empowering communities, defending the climate, or transforming lives doesn’t happen without dedicated attention to raising funds.
It’s a huge effort to convince supporters to hand over money time and time again.
We have put together a list of 20 creative fundraising ideas to inspire your event strategy. From events that tickle the imagination to challenges that speak to the Olympian in us all, you’ll find something exciting that’ll work for your community.
Table Of contents
Virtual Fundraising events
1. Make it easy for your supporters to start their own fundraiser
Source: Arbor Day Foundation
Arbor Day Foundation makes it simple for supporters to multiply their impact. Instead of asking involved stakeholders to donate on an individual basis, they offer resources for people to start their own fundraisers. With this strategy, they can facilitate multiple fundraisers at a national level.
Supporters are given resources to make birthdays, weddings, and special adventures dedicated to “gifting trees” to communities and forests that need them most.
2. Team up with an influential digital organization (and offer an enticing digital product)
Source: Morning Brew Newsletter
Morning Brew, a newsletter with more than 2.5 million subscribers, teamed up with World Central Kitchen to provide food to struggling families during the pandemic.
Morning Brew itself donated $10,000—but the giving didn’t stop there. The newsletter asked readers to also donate to the nonprofit. In return for their donation, readers received a digital copy of their Brunch with the Brew cookbook. The cookbook is a collection of recipes from esteemed chefs and food entrepreneurs like Amanda Hesser, Dimitri Moshovitis, Ron Finley and more.
Morning Brew is a high profile newsletter owned by Insider Inc.—but that doesn’t mean you can’t apply the same tactics with a local newspaper, business, or community organization that has a significant following.
Alongside the partner organization, create a valuable digital product, like a recipe book or music album, and offer it to those who donate to your fundraiser.
3. Coordinate a virtual charity run
Source: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Road races are classic when it comes to fundraising—and today they can be virtual, hybrid, or in-person. For annual races with limited capacity, expect higher fundraising commitments from participants.
To run the Boston Marathon with the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 2021, runners pay an $85 fee and also commit to raising $7,500. Virtual runners commit to raising $4,000.
The annual Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge has participated in the Boston Marathon for 32 years and has raised over $100 million to fight cancer.
4. Host a virtual gala
Source: Upaya Gala
A virtual gala brings the traditional gala event online. After choosing the best virtual event platform for you, you can incorporate a pre-recorded program or live streaming, an online auction, peer-to-peer fundraising and more. Bridge the gap between virtual and in-person by sending participants a box with their prepared meal and a classy gift.
Upaya is a nonprofit that fights extreme poverty by creating dignified jobs. With their virtual gala, they aimed to raise $200,000, but greatly exceeded their goal. They ended up raising over $300,000, which will be used to invest in businesses and create thousands of jobs.
Even though virtual fundraising events may lack some of the buzz of in-person events, there are many unique virtual event ideas that can help you make your next campaign successful.
5. Mini Spa Day
Source: Jeremiah’s Ranch
Surely you’d want your event attendees to feel relaxed and rejuvenated after a wonderful day of giving? That’s just how the participants in last year’s Spa Day for Jeremiah’s Ranch felt after receiving chair massages and sipping on custom cocktails from the mimosa bar. The nonprofit hosted mothers and their special needs children to raise funds for community homes. These residencies service families with kids who are diagnosed with various levels of developmental disabilities so they can gain access to the care they need.
6. Themed Walk
Source: Superheroes for Seniors
In terms of cuteness, it’s hard to top the Mutt Mosey hosted by Superheroes for Seniors where participants get to walk with homeless senior pets while wearing themed costumes. This past year’s theme was Pajama Party so people and pooches got to wear their most comfortable jammies for the one mile walk that raised over $37,152. For participants who couldn’t attend the event in person they even offered the option to become a Virtual Walker. By registering online long distance volunteers could receive their sponsored pj bottoms to wear on the day.
7. Fashion Show
Source: Take the Lead Women
The YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago made a splash with this fundraiser event staple. As promised, local leaders and influencers delivered high fashion and high power at the same time. Based on their experience, they suggest revamping this traditional event with the help of digital fundraising. Text-to-give systems, event apps, social media sharing, and email fundraising are all ways to reinforce your in-person fundraising experience with technology to make a real impact.
8. Gift Basket Auction
Source: Virginia Hemophilia Foundation
The Virginia Hemophilia Foundation for inherited bleeding disorders held a “red tie party” and gift basket silent auction to support the work of VHF. They rounded out the affair with plenty of delicious food, great music, and a worthwhile cause. This event helps nonprofits like the Hemophilia Foundation raise awareness and engage with their community on a personal level.
9. Golf Tournament (or another sporting event)
Source: Arpin Strong
Arpin Strong focuses on helping those in need during natural disasters. In addition to fundraising events like this one they also organize community-based volunteer projects. While the organization itself is sponsored by the Arpin Group, dedicated members and friends help keep their traditions in place both on and off the green.
10. Chef’s Table Dinner Party
If farm to table food is your thing, you might want to consider copying the Hillsboro Downtown Partnership’s dinner event that featured a five-course meal with locally grown sourced ingredients. Multiple restaurants and eateries contributed to the food prep. They credit the success from their second attempt at this event to a more conscious effort to organize and streamline their event strategy. Event management software can help you do the same.
11. Museum Crawl
While the American Museum of Natural History’s Dance was hosted by and for its own organization, you can recreate a magical evening like this one with the help of some local museums and galleries. You can provide guests with a new activity at every location. Whether it’s a dance, a gift basket auction, or a locally sourced dinner, providing guests with a backstage look at these locations can make for an incredibly memorable experience.
12. Mentorship Auction
Source: MENTOR Rhode Island
MENTOR Rhode Island raised more than $25,000 at a tribute to local hero John Howell. In keeping with their own commitment to providing role models and mentors to children, they auctioned off opportunities to receive guidance from political leaders, entrepreneurs, and esteemed member of the community. MENTOR’s approach illustrates how your fundraising event can create lasting relationships long after the actual event is over.
Fun Fundraising Ideas
13. Vegas Games Night
Source: Kenny Family Foundation
The Kenny Family Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to social welfare in New Castle County, hosts a Casino Night at a local grade school. Their guests enjoy the opportunity to learn popular Vegas games for an evening of gambling and entertainment. Fundraising events like these help bring new technologies, such as tablets, laptops, and smart boards, to the Delaware school system.
14. Donkey Basketball
Source: The Globe
Believe it or not, nonprofits like King Turkey Day host annual fundraising events where guests can challenge each other to a little game of basketball…while riding an actual donkey. This unique brand of hoops helps Worthington, Minnesota residents come together for community celebrations while promoting a good cause. No advanced training needed - donkey basketball companies review safety information for both the humans and trained animals before the first jump ball.
15. Trivia Tournament
Source: ABC News
While Lucasfilm itself isn’t actually a nonprofit, they host this annual trivia night to support several charities, including the Breast Cancer Emergency Fund, the AIDS Emergency Fund, and the Mental Health Associates of San Francisco. The trivia night has been running for over 12 years and recently brought in a whopping $143,000! If you’re interested in fundraising events like this one, be sure to take a page from their book and partner with a well known brand. Alternatively you can even get a local celebrity to host the event.
16. BBQ Contest
Source: Sip & Swine
All the proceeds from this mouth-watering fundraiser event, Sip & Swine, goes to support nonprofit Home of Hope which provides services to homeless children and their mothers. In addition to sponsored judges, at least one of the best BBQ awards ribbons was awarded based on majority vote. Both professional and amateur teams entered the competition. Attendees also enjoyed fresh lemonade, sugary funnel cakes, and live music on this sunny Kansas day.
17. Pink Flamingo Prank
Source: The Haynes House of Hope
Who doesn’t love a good, clean prank? The Haynes House of Hope sure does. Their annual fundraiser takes over Granville, filling lawns with these pink plastic birds, complete with their own ransom instructions. Participants can pay to have the birds removed from their yard or, for a little extra, they can move the flock to their neighbors for some extra mischievous fun.
18. Escape Room Party
Source: The Workshop School
The Workshop School focuses on creating experiences that double as learning opportunities for youths of West Philly. This nonprofit doubles as a school so the escape rooms featured at their party were created by their very own students. With so many fun themes to choose from, both students and participants had a blast.
19. Baby Photo Contest
Looking for a way get people’s attention through digital fundraising? Look no further than an online baby photo contest. Participants can pay to be in the running for best smile, cutest outfit, and face only a mother could love. Have people vote by donating money next to the photo they think should win. The highest earner takes home the prize! This sort of content can just as easily be incorporated to live experiences.
20. Board Game Tournament
Source: Mox Boarding House
The Mox Boarding House recently hosted a comic-themed charity board game night to raise funds for a variety of beneficiaries, including Seattle’s Treehouse, a program that supports foster kids and their adoptive families. Teams competed in a diverse array of challenging board, card, and trivia games. Hosting one of your own board game tournaments is simple. Just have sponsors donate their favorite games!
Wrapping Up: Ideas for Your Next Fundraising Event
When it comes to keeping your donors engaged and community members satisfied, the possibilities are endless. Consider the examples from above that best reflect your event brand, speak to the interests of your target market, and fall within your event planning wheelhouse.
Also remember to brainstorm ideas you didn’t see here. More than anything, this list is meant to serve as a jumping off point for your research. How you can take something like donkey basketball and truly make it your own?
If you're interested in learning more about how technology can help your fundraising event strategy, reach out to us or try a free demo.