I have been a professional fundraiser for nearly 30 years, and I am asked the same question, in different forms, countless times. "What can we do to raise money?"
It's a simple enough question, but a correct answer depends on many other questions. What do you want to raise money for? (This is often the most important question to answer well). What resources do you have available? Do you have funds budgeted to raise money? (Most organizations don't). Who will do the work? How many people are available? What methods do you wish to use? And, on and on...
Sometimes nonprofits want to raise money for their cause directly. Sometimes volunteers want to raise money for a cause they believe in. Sometimes, school children want to raise money for their schools. Sometimes, missionaries want to raise money for a trip. Once again, the list goes on and on...
I am a planner at heart. So, I like to know what I'm getting into before I start. But, a detailed fundraising plan that answers these questions is really outside the scope of this article. I'll tackle that one elsewhere. What I want to do here is to give a list of some very practical ways you can raise money for yourself or your cause. Some of these ideas I have used myself. Others I have not, and cannot attest to their impact or validity. However, the list is really just meant to get your brain active. I've found that one idea can often spur another, even better idea. If that happens to you while reviewing this list, then I've accomplished my purpose.
Fundraising Ideas for Individuals
Buy or find a regular house brick, a.k.a. red brick. Paint a door, windows, and trees, etc, so that the brick looks like the outside of a house. Add a roof with two slats forming an "A" on top, and one slat cut to fit and cover the "attic space." Sell the red bricks at whatever price the market will bear: $5, $10, etc.
Make Some Diamond Pins
Take a regular safety pin (not the little gold ones but the little larger silver ones). The width of the ribbon should almost fit exactly the width of the safety pin rung. Then take your ribbon and cut them into sections about 3-4 inches in length. With the safety pin closed, slip a piece of the ribbon through the center and bring it down so that the two ends meet. Spread the two ends apart a bit, so now you have the ribbon over the bottom rung of the pin (not around the clasp end) and you can see both ends of the one ribbon. Then cut the two ends neat and diagonally. Now you have what sort of looks like a "badge". Place a dot of super glue between the two sides of the ribbon. Now place a shiny new dime on the ribbon (Eisenhower head up) and super glue it to the front of the ribbon. Viola - now you have a "Diamond Pin" (actually it's a Dime & Pin), but no one cares because they are so cute!! You can use many different colors of ribbon and you can make a lot in just a few minutes. Advertised them: "Get Your Diamond Pin - $1.00 each". That's enough to get everyone curious to see this "diamond." Many people buy four or five and wrap them up for prank gifts. Each pin is sold with a little gift card & the pin fits inside the card. The card's front read "A SPECIAL GIFT FOR YOU." The inside of the card reads, "All proceeds from the sale of these DIME & PINs goes toward the important work of (insert charity name here)."
Best Seat in the House Fundraising
First, find a sofa to use. This fundraising raiser involves raffling off tickets for a student and two friends to win the best seat in the house. Tickets are sold throughout the week prior to a game. Before a volleyball, basketball, or football game announce the winner. The winner gets to sit on the sofa with two of his or her friends. Make sure the sofa is in an ideal spot to view the game. For halftime, order pizza and sodas for the winner and guests.
Best Legs Contest Fundraising
Both guys and gals can have pictures of their legs posted around the campus. People vote on who has the "best legs" by making a donation. All entries will be placed in a central box from where the winner's name will be drawn. The winner could receive a pre-designated prize or part of the money pot accumulated from the donations. Alternatives: Paint a large cartoon animal - turkey, monkey, bear, flamingo, etc on a sheet of plywood or canvas. Hang the picture so that participating teachers and students can stand behind it; all that can be seen is their legs. You could have a different picture for males and females. Participants can wear their favorite socks or funny shoes and have their picture taken. Participants pay a fee to vote for the "best (turkey, monkey, etc) legs."
Dog Walk Fundraising
Call it what you will - Strut Your Mutt, Jog Your Dog, Canine Constitutional, Paws in the Park, Wag and Walk. A sponsored pet walk where the walkers (and their pets) solicit donations for how far they walk. Or, fundraising participants pay a set fee to enter and walk their dog. OR, bring homeless dogs that need walking. Remember the pooper scoopers. This could culminate in a pet talent show or some other event where you solicit additional donations. Use it to present spay/neuter message, or message of finding homes for all the homeless ones. Ask people to sponsor a homeless dog to see how many laps (limit of four?) he can do.
Very funny with puppies, who have their own agenda. Or, sponsor a dog who wants to walk his person? You could do a cute turn-around, with advertising that promotes "walking your person" and that explains that this is good for your "person's" health. Relays and races, booths for snacks, kennel rentals for dogs while people do their own things. Remember to try to get lots of vendors, even yard sale table type vendors, exhibits, dog wash and a vaccination clinic. Have a yard sale area where you rent spaces out-lined in chalk. Food booths for people and dogs. Organize an interesting route for dogs and their owners to walk around, with all participants sponsored. Take a synonym of walk and add something to it. Re-member you can change the verb case.
Name ideas (some are just verbs you can add to): Paws Forward, Canine Cruise, Paws on the Pavement, Outward Hound, Bassett Waddle, Poodle Perambulation, Pooch Patrol, Walk and Wag, Million Mutt March, Mutt March, Samoyed Saunter, Canine Swagger, Puppy Parade, Hound Hike, Tramp with Your Pet, Pace With Your Pooch, The Puppy Path, Sidewalk of Many Dog Poops, Labrador Lane, Fido's Footpath.
The Burger King in our area has "fundraising benefits" to support area groups like Girl Scouts, M.O.P.S., etc. All you do is arrange with the Burger King the date and time (for example Friday the 5th from 3-5pm) and they donate a percent of the sales during that time! You just need to get as many people as possible to eat there during that time so that you get the most money possible. The Burger King here says they did one for the Girl Scouts last month and the girls made $500 in those couple hours!!
A fundraising event that everyone who has ever gone to McDonald's will love! McDonalds will have a school night for your school. In our area our school system uses it a lot. McDonalds will have, for example, an Oakhurst Elementary Night. They donate to the school 25% of all monies that come in from 5 pm to 7 pm. This is generally one of McDonald's busiest times so the money can be quite great! Each area may have a different percentage that they donate. It seems to be about 20% to 25% as a general rule. All you need to do is go to the McDonald's nearest to the school or pre-school and ask about their fundraising program. Another thing that they do is the class who has the most attendance gets an ice cream party! This helps bring in the students and their families in as well as the general public.
Many Pizza Hut restaurants offer "Fun" draiser Nights where they donate a percentage of the net sales generated on a particular night and time frame to non-profit groups. All the groups have to do is encourage supporters to dine-in, carry-out or order delivery (where available)! Some restaurants even provide flyers to distribute prior to the event to help get the word out! Some stores offer a flat amount per purchase instead of a percentage. For more information, call your local Pizza Hut.
Chuck E. Cheese's restaurants donate 15% of all proceeds back to schools from sales generated by this weeknight event. Sales include all food, merchandise and token deals purchased at the register. Only authorized school personnel or PTA/PTO representatives can officially book events. You must be a non-profit public or private pre-school or elementary school with 75 or more students to be eligible. Request a weeknight (Mon-Thurs) event for your school. Three weeks advance notice from date of booking is required. They supply some of the tools to make your event a success. When you reserve your event, you will receive a promotion package and access to online tools to promote your fundraiser. Contact your local Chuck E. Cheese restaurant or call 1-888-CEC-4FUN for details.
Fundraising Ideas for Organizations
Hold A Talent Show/Bake Sale
Put on a Talent Show (you might be surprised by the amount of talent you already have in your organization). Members bake items that are auctioned off during the program. Most items are sold by silent auction where a bid sheet is posted next to the item, but some larger items are auctioned off with a lively round of bidding. Snacks such as popcorn and drinks are also sold during the show. People are free to move around during the show to bid on items and purchase snacks. As part of the talent show, slides and videos can be shown of organizational activities, so members can see what you do. It really helps keep the community in touch with what your organization is all about.
Conduct A Fruit Sale
This is one fundraiser that organization members look forward to each year. There are a couple of growers that specialize in providing citrus fruit from Florida, although they would need to be researched on the Internet to find contact information. Some are available from December to February.
Hold A FREE Car Wash
Most car washes are hard work and not big money-makers. But a little hard work builds character. Here's a new spin on an old classic; hold a FREE Carwash-a-thon. You get organization members, friends and family to get sponsors to pledge one, two, or three cents for each car you wash in an afternoon. This makes money several ways. If you wash 100 cars in an afternoon, that is a dollar from each sponsor (at a penny a car). If you have 20 sponsors, that is $20 you have raised. If 20 members of your organization participate, that's $400. This fundraiser gets a lot of cars, because people want to get their car washed for free. If a high traffic gas station will donate the space and the water, so much the better, because it's free and you get more traffic because people are already stopped. If you have a bucket that says "Donations accepted," most people will throw in at least a buck. So if 75 out of the 100 that stopped by for the free car wash donate at least a $1.00, you have $75 more dollars on top of the money that each organization member makes through their sponsors.
Prepare a CookBook
Have organization members submit forms with their favorite recipes (do it by theme if you like -veggie dishes, fall recipes, etc.). The cookbook is then compiled (by a member with a nice computer) and then taken to a copy center to get it copied up and possibly bound. Sell the cookbooks to the organization members, possibly at a dinner where some of the favorite recipes have been prepared.
Conduct a Lip-Sync Contest
Hold a lip-sync contest. People pay to enter, and they go up in front of everyone to lip-sync to their favorite song. Prizes are awarded for different age groups. These prizes can be donated by different companies. People also pay admission to come watch. It's a great chance just to hear the music, and every year, more people end up going. It's a lot of fun, and is very enjoyable for all ages. For a special twist - make the theme "Oldies" or some other theme.
Hold A Fashion Show
Have your group get their favorite stores around your community to donate various outfits for the day's show. Select a few models from the organization, get some cool lighting and music going, form a runway, and then spread the word! Sell tickets for whatever you think is reasonable. Have refreshments available afterwards. This is good advertising for the clothing stores plus a chance to show the community how involved the people of your organization are.
Take A Break
Send out invitations to people who support your organization to sit down and take a break. Included with the invitation is a tea bag. Request an amount you'd like donated to a specific cause in exchange for the break you've offered them and inform them they will be listed in a local newspaper and organization newsletter (if you have one) for their assistance. This is an easy and fun way to raise some extra money without the expense of holding an actual event!
Sell "Organization Shares"
Consider selling shares in our organization. Call it "(Your Organization) Shares" and sell one share for $25.00 (or $10, or whatever amount you decide the shares should be worth). Members have the opportunity to buy as many shares as they'd like. Hold a shareholders dinner and show videos and pictures of an organization project, and have members share personal stories about why the project was so important. This is a great way of showing the shareholders what their money went towards and how much their donations were appreciated.
Create A Cup and Mug Art Exhibition
Hold an open art exhibition called "Cup and Mugs." Artists in your organization decorate and submit a decorated cup or mug. Charge a $5.00 entry fee. Ask the artists to also donate the same or different cup or mug to be auctioned off at the end of the event. The event is great fun, and the artists can't wait till the next thematic arts exhibition and auction. Don't like the mugs idea? Try hats instead, or any other item you can think of!
Conduct an Indoor Golf Tournament
If you have the facilities, this idea is one that will get lots of attention, and you'll have lots of fun doing. Create an indoor mini-golf course throughout your building. You can have as many holes as you'd like, up to eighteen; perhaps one hole for each floor or corridor. Use the natural layout of the hallways, and rooms. Create obstacles of furniture, which also serve to direct traffic in a specific pattern. If you can't get hold of actual golf putters -make your own out of stick or broom handle and a butter knife lashed together. Just like a real golf tournament, have participants pay an entry fee -$5, $10 -anything the market will bear. You can easily create and sell hole sponsorships as well - every person in your organization is a potential advertiser. Charge extra for sponsorships: create packages that include foursomes and advertising. If you'd like, create an ad book out of 8" x 11" sheets of photocopied paper and charge additionally for advertising. Give-aways could include office supplies or materials - a calculator or stapler - anything cheap. Give a special prize for a hole in one on a particularly challenging hole. The comparisons with a real tournament are endless.
Potty Protection Insurance Fundraising
The Odom Elementary School in Moultrie, Georgia, formed the Potty Pack to raise funds for the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, by selling "potty protection insurance". For $10, you can have one of the tacky pink and purple toilets placed anywhere you choose, including local businesses or someone's home. To have the potty removed, the recipient must pay $15. A second option is to pay $10 to have it passed on to someone else. If someone decides to be a "potty pooper" the group will remove the toilet for no charge. The team offers "potty protection insurance" for $25. This insurance ensures that the potties will not be delivered to your home or business.
No Talent Contest
Organize a talent contest where the contestants purposefully perform badly. Suggestions: singing out of tune for an entire song, silly and failing magic tricks, dance routine out of sync, etc. Advertise as a fundraising event for... (your organization) and... (reason). Charge $1 for admission. Place signs at the entry point that state the entry fee is $1, exit fee is $5. However, to exit the building before the end of the contest is $5 (or more). When the patrons exit and pay the $5 fee, present them with a Thank You for supporting... (your organization) business size card.
Fundraising Ideas for Businesses
Donate a Portion of your Overall Sales
An easy and quick way to support your favorite charity is simply to donate a portion of your overall sales for a specific day, week or month. You decide what percentage you'd like to give, calculate it based on your sales and whala! you're done.
Donate a Portion of your Sales for a Specific Item
Do the exact same thing as above, but choose a specific item in your inventory. For example, choose a specific type of hoagie, or a type of plant or a specific book author, and make that your designated item.
Conduct a Round-up
Grocery stores and high-traffic retailers can use this method to raise a large sum of money in a short amount of time. Simply ask each customer when they check out of they'd like to "Round-up for your favorite charity?" When they say yes, simply round-up their total bill to the nearest dollar. The customer makes the contribution; you collect the donation and forward it to your favorite charity. Often, this can be done automatically by your checkout software, and even include a statement of their donation right on the receipt. Once again, do this for a specific day, week or month or specific items purchased. You decide how large the support can be!
Sell Opportunities to Dress-Down
Many office workers crave the chance to relax in casual wear. And, many companies have dress-down day already. Why not combine the two? For a designated time period -perhaps every Friday for a month, why not sell the opportunity to dress down? You can charge $1, $5 or $10. Those who don't contribute must don the corporate uniform. Those that do can relax in jeans and sneakers (or whatever your dress code calls for). It's for a good cause, and makes everyone much more comfortable.
Hold a Staff Pot-Luck Lunch
Employees love their lunch break! Consider asking each staff member to bring in an item so that everyone can enjoy each other's cooking. Then, charge a nominal fee to enjoy the culinary delights. The food goes in the stomach; the proceeds go to your favorite charity.
Involve your Customers
Often, mortgage companies and realtors will ask their customers if they'd like to donate to your favorite charity at the time they buy, refinance or rehab their house. The pitch is this - you're buying your first house; would you like to help someone less fortunate? Sometimes the salesperson, or the company themselves, will match a donation made by a client.
Donate a Portion of your Commission
This works the same way as donating a portion of your sales. Many commission-based salespeople like this approach. It works whether you're a realtor or a car dealer! What is most exciting is that you are able to share the financial success you are enjoying with others who need it.
Hold a Raffle for a Day/Week Off with Pay
Everyone will want to participate in this idea! Hold a raffle for a day, several days, or week off (with pay). Charge whatever you think the market will bear. It doesn't get any easier than this. To spice things up, have more than one drawing, and create some rules about when the time can (or can't) be taken. Remind everyone that all proceeds benefit the important work of your favorite charity.
Have a Pajama Day
This works just like dress down day, except that employees get to wear pajamas! Think of the fun this engenders when the staff only has to roll out of bed and go to work. The stares and double-takes from your customers or clients are well worth it, too! Your favorite charity office staff will love to participate in this one!
Create your Own Method for Supporting Your Favorite Charity
The best and most creative ideas always come from the field. If you have a fun and engaging way to support your favorite charity, go for it! But, don't forget to tell us about it when it is successful. We want to share the good news with everyone!