Marketing, Non-profit

5 creative ideas for your next big fundraiser

Looking for creative, out-of-the-box fundraising ideas? These five fundraising event ideas are guaranteed to engage your donors.

Looking for creative, out-of-the-box fundraising ideas? These five fundraising event ideas are guaranteed to engage your donors. 

Fundraising events are a crucial part of the operations of any non-profit organization. Unique and out-of-the-box fundraising event ideas can get more people to show up and donate, and help your cause. 

To help you get more creative with your organization’s fundraising events, we’ve assembled a list of non-profit expert Ken Engelman’s most unique fundraisers – then created our own spin on how Ken’s approaches could be re-imagined for other organizations. 

Ken Engelman is a volunteer for The Orchard House, a non-profit medical adult day care center in Branford, Connecticut – and founder and CEO of Community Volunteers of America.

“The secret to fundraising success is simple: focus on the emotional aspect of the event and the value that it will bring to your attendees. Everyone wants to come together for a good cause and a good time. If your organization makes that happen – everyone wins!” Ken said.

For Ken’s tips for planning your event, check out Ken’s fool-proof strategies for organizing a fundraiser. You’ll find everything you need to know about how to throw a successful fundraising event. 

So what are these imaginative and unique fundraising event ideas? We’re glad you asked.

1. Pet marathon

This is the cutest idea out of all the fundraising ideas in this list! It’s inspired by Ken’s duck race fundraiser for The Orchard House where they released a thousand rubber ducks into the river and raced them downstream. Each duck was purchased by a donor and the owner of the winning duck received a prize. 

So, we figured, why not try doing this with real animals? 

Here’s the gist:

What is a pet marathon?

It’s a marathon that pets participate in to raise money for charity (of course, people will donate on their pet’s behalf!).

There will be a starting line that all pets will be placed on. Pet owners will hold on to their pets until the whistle blows, signifying that the race has started. As soon as the race starts, the pets will be released and their owners step aside. The first pet to reach the finish line drawn on the other side of the venue wins. 

How will donations be collected?

People register their pets via a Google Form – and pay a standard fee at the time of sign-up.

Where will it happen?

Somewhere outdoors that’s easily accessible and has lots of space for animals to run. Even better if the space is very public and has the potential to attract spectators — such as a local park. 

Tips for a successful pet marathon:

  • Ask for pet vaccination certificates when people register to keep all participants healthy.
  • You can limit your marathon to a single type of pet (e.g. dog, turtle, or frog) if you’re worried about animal fights. 
  • Encourage people to sign up and get the word out with fun and easy-to-make pet flyers.
  • Invite local food businesses to cater or sell refreshments.
  • Ask local pet-supply companies and services to donate prizes for the winners.

2. Art therapy fundraiser

When it comes to creative fundraising ideas, an art therapy fundraiser is the way to go. Who doesn’t love a relaxing painting date in the park? This is a great opportunity to get the whole community together for a wholesome and fun afternoon, that also raises money for your cause. 

What is an art therapy fundraiser?

Attendees grab a blank canvas and paintbrush, sit with their friends and family, and paint their own creations. 

How will donations be collected?

Invite people to RSVP in advance, on the day of the event, or even at the venue. Require a fee to register. A portion of the fee can pay for art supplies you are unable to get donated. The remainder gets donated to your cause. 

Where will it happen?

If the weather’s nice, do it somewhere outdoors — perhaps a place with a nice view that will inspire people to paint. You can also do it at a community center or a town hall. 

Some things to keep in mind for a successful art therapy fundraiser:

  • Make sure you have enough art supplies for everyone who comes. A good way to keep track of this is to assign a fixed number of art supplies (e.g. one canvas and two brushes) for each sign-up. Keep some extras for people who sign up onsite.
  • Ask a local art teacher to volunteer to help people through the painting process.
  • Get some props to inspire wacky still life paintings or portraits.
  • Play calming background music.

3. Vintage prom night

Ken once hosted a vintage prom night for members of The Orchard House as a means to engage and socialize. We think something like this could also be a great community-wide fundraising event. After all, who doesn’t love to dress up and go out dancing?

What is a vintage prom night?

Imagine your event like a prom night for adults. It can be a fancy ball or a casual dance party.

Choose a theme (like the ‘90s, ‘80s, or ‘70s) and ask everyone to dress up accordingly. 

How will donations be collected?

Sell tickets to the event at local coffee shops, colleges, grocery stores, you name it. Also, give people the option to buy a table where their friends and family can hang out together at the event.

Where will it happen?

Find a public hall or rent a high school gymnasium. Just make sure there’s enough space for everyone to dance and mingle. 

Tips for a successful vintage prom night:

  • Stress the importance of dressing up to the theme.
  • Create decor to match the theme.
  • Recruit volunteers to help you sell tickets and set up the venue — Ken has a Facebook group of volunteers that he reaches out to every time he needs help with an event.

4. Open mic night

Let your community showcase all the talent it possesses! People love the opportunity to share their interests and passions, so why not make it happen for them?

What is an open mic night?

It’s an open mic night where people come up on stage and share their music, poetry, comedy routines, or any other type of performance. 

How will donations be collected?

Sell tickets online and ask your performers to invite their friends and contacts by email and social media. Most people like to see how many talented people live in their community. The great thing about this is that cult followers, friends, and family of the performers will buy tickets, giving you guaranteed attendance. 

Where will it happen?

Collaborate with a local coffee house or bookstore to use their shop as a venue. All you’ll have to do is set up a small stage and advertise the event. 

Tips for a successful open mic night:

  • Start reaching out to potential performers months in advance — you can find them on social media or through word of mouth.
  • Start your promotion once all the performers have been booked so that you can run a well-informed marketing campaign.
  • Ask the performers to share event promotions on their pages and within their networks to expand your reach. 

5. Annual cornhole tournament 

This is a town-wide fundraising event that Ken does every year. He challenges different towns to compete, and everyone fights to take home the coveted Cornhole Cup. The tournament brings people from far and near to represent their town and win, while also raising money for a good cause. 

What is a cornhole tournament?

Cornhole is a game where players throw bean bags or potato sacks into a hole on a board set up a few feet away. It’s a game of aim, consistency, and luck, that nearly everyone of all ages can play.

Schedule your tournament to take place over several days. The first day could be the qualifiers, where each team or contestant plays in a certain number of matches. The winners then go on to the playoffs. The semi-final round features the four best teams – and leads up to the finals where the champion is crowned. You can end it with a closing ceremony if you’re feeling extra festive. You can even end with an awards ceremony.

How will donations be collected?

Team captains will sign up and pay a registration fee. You might also allow people to compete individually. For the final round, you can even sell tickets to audience members and fans. 

Where will it happen?

Preferably on an open field. Ideally a park or parking lot.

Tips for a successful cornhole tournament:

  • Include lots of food. Invite local vendors to set up booths or bring their food trucks.
  • Creating a festival vibe will help to sell more audience tickets (especially for the finals). Make the event even more appealing to prospective audience members by setting up games and activities for the fans – and by inviting a musician or two to perform.
  • Build hype by posting sports posters and using social media both before the tournament to get teams to sign-up, and then during the tournament to sell audience tickets .

Plan your next fundraiser!

Now that you’ve got these incredible fundraiser ideas, what are you waiting for? Grab a pen and paper, gather your colleagues, and start brainstorming. Trust us, planning a fundraiser can be a lot of fun, and the fact that you’re supporting an organization that is important to your community makes all of your efforts worthwhile. 

Keep in mind that promotion is a big part of organizing a fundraiser. More and better promotion pays off in more money earned for your cause. With PosterMyWall, you can streamline the promotion process by creating your own professional quality, engaging graphics in minutes. Plus, PosterMyWall’s promotion tools make it super easy to send out an email campaign, post directly to social media, or publish your flier as a webpage with links.

So what are you waiting for? Start planning your next big fundraiser today!