10 + 1 Creative and Worthwhile Non-Profit Fundraising Ideas
When it comes to non-profit fundraising ideas, choosing an idea is as easy as baking a cake or cooking a lasagna.
Have you ever wanted to host a fundraiser but didn’t know where to begin? We get it. For starters, fundraising ideas are endless. From raffles to fitness challenges, virtual events to silent auctions, it can be hard to choose an idea.
Before we dive into our best 10 creative and worthwhile non-profit fundraising ideas, it’s best to put some thought into what might work best for your non-profit. Read on to learn more.
What if planning a fundraiser was as easy as picking a recipe?
To pick the perfect recipe, you’d consider:
- What you like to eat,
- The amount of time it would take to make,
- The skill level required,
- The cost to take it on, and
- The number of servings the recipe made at the end.
By considering these factors, you’d pick the best option, and—voilà!—you’d have chosen the perfect recipe.
How to pick the best fundraiser for your non-profit
Compare picking a recipe to picking a fundraising idea.
You’d want to pick something that you’d enjoy, have the time to do, the skill level to complete, and the financial resources to make it happen.
As for serving size, the number of servings would be equal to the expected return of the fundraiser. In other words, you’d want to pick an idea with the potential to raise money.
Once you’ve picked your idea, how can you make your fundraiser stand out? How do you get people to want to donate in support of what you’re doing? Get creative, that’s how.
Be unique, not weird
If we stick with the recipe idea, consider the uniqueness and originality of your choice.
For example, there’s usually a guest that brings either a pasta salad or a devilled egg platter to a potluck. What if you were the one who brings a devilled egg pasta salad to the potluck? Now you’re talking!
By combining two popular favourites, you’d get peoples’ attention without alienating anyone. Your dish would be a hit.
You want your fundraiser to be like the pasta dish; innovative and unexpected, but still made with familiar ingredients. The goal is to ensure people won’t be confused by what you’re doing and also will want to donate.
The key is to stand out. Turn your charity idea into something people will talk about and want to be a part of. The more involvement and the more word of mouth your idea gets, the more money it will raise for a good cause.
Here’s our list of unique takes on existing fundraising ideas that promise to be memorable and raise money for your non-profit
1. Grow Your Hair or Mustache
Whether it’s facial hair or the head hair, intentional as part of another appeal like Movember, or because you’ve lived through a pandemic and haven’t cut your locks in almost 2 years, hair offers the perfect opportunity to raise money.
Why not grow it out?
Decide which spot of hair you want to lengthen and how long to let it grow, give your campaign a catchy name, and you have the makings of a fundraiser. Grow a mustache, a beard, your hair—whatever you’d like. No holds barred.
This is by far one of the most visual campaigns you can choose. Be prepared to share your progress. People will want to see the evolution of your mane throughout the fundraising drive.
Set up a schedule for sharing.
Update your potential donors on, say, a weekly basis with a new photo of yourself.
Consider recording candid videos of your progress, too. With smartphones, offering your donors a peek at your metamorphosis will raise more dough.
You could also give people the option to pledge a dollar for every day you don’t cut your hair. At the end of a year, you would have collected $365 per pledged donor.
If ten people donate, that’s $3,650 for a year’s worth of year growth. Not bad, and we’d bet you’d have a heck of a lot of fun over those twelve months.
Fundraising Recipe #1: Grow Your Hair or Mustache
|Cost:||None, except perhaps the added cost of shampoo and condition.|
|Difficulty: .||Very, very easy.|
|Time:||Weeks (or years) depending on your commitment level.|
|Time of Year:||You can start anytime, but it’s crucial you have a clear start and end date.|
|Pros & Cons:||You have to live with extra facial and/or head hair for a long time. You then have to be a good sport about going through life looking like Gangolf. |
Get comfortable with the idea of showing off your looks. Shy fundraisers need not apply.
The biggest consideration when doing this type of challenge is to get the word out.
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Partner with a popular salon to host the official start and end date. You could agree to cross-promote them on social media throughout the year. With any luck you might be able to get some free hair product donated as word spreads.|
Movember has become the mustache-growing event of the year in support of suicide prevention, mental health advocacy, and research into testicular and prostate cancer. In the past 18 years, Movember has raised $1.26 billion for men’s health.
You can take inspiration from Movember has done by turning your hair growing affair into a fundraiser for your prefered non-profit.
Now that you’ve grown out your hair, it’s time to shave (or wax) it off.
2. The Head Shave
The notorious head shave. Sure, it’s a fundraising cliché, but it works. How many people do you know who would be willing to shave off their hair for a good cause? Not many, we’d guess.
Put a fresh spin on the old favourite
Instead of shaving your head, why not shave your beard or mustache instead? Or, do all the above! Heck, you could even shave your chest (or dare someone else to do it and then shave it for them).
If you know a friend who’s a good sport, you could shave a design into their chest, like a bikini top. We bet you’d collect a heafy number of donations for that tomfoolery!
Take it up a notch and get a professional esthetician to get involved. Ask them to wax you. Remember the scene with Steve Carrell from the movie, The 40-Year-Old Virgin? Now that would have made a great fundraiser!
Be brave, work with a professional, and you have the makings of a hilarious, wild, and (we hope) harmless idea.
Grow it, shave it, donate it
Depending on how much hair you’re cutting off, you may be able to donate it to a separate not-for-profit.
Imagine that: in the end, you could give back three times with your hair: when you grow it, when you shave it, and when you donate it.
Not ready to shave your head or wax your chest?
Dye your hair instead. Think rainbow colours. Then, announce you’ll keep your hair that way for a set amount of time.
Fundraising Recipe #2: The Head Shave
|Cost:||Low, unless you go the wax route.|
|Difficulty: .||Easy, unless you go the wax route.|
|Time:||Weeks (or years) to grow, minutes to shave off.|
|Time of Year:||Anytime, although after December can work nicely for those who have grown a Movember Mustache. |
For those shaving their heads, if you choose December remember to buy yourself an extra warm toque in time for winter. Brrrrr…
For the chest waxers, an extra sweater may be in order. Avoid the scratchy kind, however.
|Pros & Cons:||You have to live with facial or head hair that you can’t stand for a long time. You then have to be a good sport about shaving it off. |
The good news is that those who are brave enough to go under the electric razor can nudge those who aren’t to donate.
The biggest drawback to this type of fundraising idea is that it all depends on getting the word out. Share, remind, advertise, shout it from the rooftops!
The more you tell people about what you’re cutting off, the more money you’ll raise. Now’s the time to use your PR contacts, if you have any!
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Partner with a popular salon to host the event, do the shaving, and live stream the excitement on their social feeds. If you can get a celebrity to do the shaving, even better.|
Keep going to learn about another option that will leave your house as ‘clean shaven’ as your head and face.
3. The Garage Sale
When the pandemic forced us to stay home, we took stock in the things we own. Some of us realized how few things we needed or wanted anymore.
What’s one to do with all those unwanted items? We’ve got the solution: sell them in a charity garage sale!
Declutter your home and give back at the same time—and do it virtually
Gone are the days when you had to give up a whole weekend to run an in-person sale. Now, you can take the ‘yard’ out of ‘yard sale’ and go virtual!
Sites like Kijij and Facebook Marketplace Live give you the perfect platform to post everything you want to sell in one place.
If you do opt to run an in-person sale, make it more fun. Add a (COVID-friendly) bake sale and lemonade stand to the mix.
Host a community-wide garage sale
Get your entire street involved. Invite your neighbours to be part of the garage sale. A community sale is a lot more fun, will attract more buyers, and has the potential to raise considerably more money than a one-home sale.
Fundraising Recipe #3: The Garage Sale
|Time:||Days of preparation and to run the sale.|
|Time of Year:||Anytime, although Spring tends to be an expected time for garage sales in Canada.|
|Pros & Cons:||We’re not going to sugar coat it: the time it takes to snap pictures, write descriptions, and post each item for sale online is very time consuming. |
Same goes if you’re selecting and storing items in your garage in preparation for one big weekend-long yard sale.
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Approach a local grocer to sponsor your neighbourhood garage sale. You may be surprised by what they’re willing to offer you in the way of lemonade, cups, and hand sanitizer. |
Every sponsored item means more money for charity.
The Veterans Association Food Bank has run larger scale garage sales for their non-profit. This is an example of an organization-run event, but you can get together with your neighbours to put on your own sale.
Once you’ve cleaned your house, it’s time to throw a fundraising party. Read on to see what we mean.
4. Throw a party or host an event—Small or large, live or virtual
Whatever size or type, events have always been popular fundraisers. If you can imagine it, it could be a charity event. Examples include:
- House concerts or parties,
- Music festivals,
- Virtual music gigs,
- Fundraising dinners,
- BBQ cook-offs,
- Cookie bake-offs,
- Cooking competitions,
- Book sales,
- Book club meetings,
- Movie nights,
- Art shows,
- Silent auctions,
- Fashion shows
Having said that, events can be hugely labour intensive and very costly to put on.
Don’t expect help from your charity
One misconception is that benefiting nonprofits supply the manpower, marketing, and other resources to run your event; this unfortunately isn’t the case.
Not-for-profits have their own signature fundraising events that they manage, and often with a small staff and volunteers.
Charities don’t have the extra manpower to help run your event. Knowing this will help you choose an event on a scale that is manageable.
Choose your non-profit wisely
Having said that, charities will happily help where marketing your event is concerned.
Non-profit teams show their support and gratitude for their third-party fundraisers (as these types of event hosts are called). If you chose a benefiting charity and they don’t offer to help, consider supporting another one.
Host a not-for-profit event online
The COVID silver lining is that events can now be set up online. Many live events have nicely transitioned to virtual.
If you have potential donors who are spread out across the country, consider hosting a Zoom event instead of a live event.
Approach the media
If your event is on the larger and more public side, approach the media. News anchors are always looking for community interest stories to share on their news shows.
Use social media to sleuth out the contact details of many media anchors can be found either on their social media or on their company website.
Fundraising Recipe #4: Throw a party or host an event
|Cost:||Moderate to Extremely High|
|Difficulty:||Moderate to Extremely High|
|Time:||Months or even a year of preparation|
|Time of Year:||Anytime|
|Pros & Cons:||The biggest con of running an event is the time and effort (and sometimes lots of money) it will take to put it on.|
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||There are too many to list. Consider which businesses are linked to what you’re trying to do with your event and then approach them for specific asks. |
Do you need mics loaned for your house concert? Ask a music rental company. Do you need tents? Ask a party rental company.
Companies don’t always give away things for free but they do offer non-profit discounts.
In one of the largest virtual concerts to date, One World: Together at Home showed you didn’t need to bring people together in one place to raise a lot of money for charity. One World’s didn’t support one non-profit per say, but rather raised money for frontline workers and the WHO.
Now that you’ve gained popularity by hosting a charity event, why not use your newfound fame to shoot a video. Read on to see what we mean.
5. Shoot a Video
It has never been easier to record your own video. Script what you want to say, pick up your smartphone, and hit record. You can delete and refilm as many times as you need to get it right.
Tell a story
In your video, explain why the cause is important to you, a brief story about your connection to the non-profit, and why you’re asking people to give.
Speak from the heart, don’t be worried if your video quality isn’t Oscar-worthy (people gravitate towards organic, authentic content), and record away.
Pay special attention to sound
Sound is the most important thing here. If people can’t hear you, they won’t know why you want their support.
Shoot & Share
Videos are considered more shareable than photos. You can take advantage of platforms like YouTube to gain traction.
Fundraising Recipe #5: Shoot a video
|Difficulty:||Low to High|
|Time:||Low to High|
|Time of Year:||Anytime|
|Pros & Cons:||This idea assumes you are tech-savvy and can easily record, edit, and post a video using your smartphone. If you are, then this option will be quick. If not, then it will take a greater investment in time. Ask a friend, colleague, or family member to help you if you’re not the savvy kind.|
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Partner with a small business to film your video in their location, or ask companies that already support your charity of choice to help share your video…and be in it! There’s nothing that says you save to be the only person in your appeal vid.|
Although this video example comes from a not-for-profit and not an individual donor, we think it’s worth mentioning. Sick Kids Foundation does an excellent job using video to pull at our heartstrings and encourage charitable giving.
Video shy? Shoot videos for a good cause instead. Keep reading to learn more.
6. Host a Photo Contest
Everyone has a phone in their pocket.
Platforms like Instagram have turned many of us into budding photographers. Why not leverage our amateur photography prowess and host an online photo contest?
Pick a Theme
Once you’ve decided on this philanthropic idea, it’s time to choose a theme. Be creative. Sure, cutest pet portraits are winners, but what about the ugliest pet portrait? How about…
…the worst holiday sweater, or
….the most creative Halloween costume, or
…the funniest backyard wildlife pic, or
…the messiest home laundry room, ot
…the most original baby pic—the options are endless.
Link the theme to the cause
If you can tie the theme to the not-for-profit you’re supporting, even better. For example, creat a pink-themed photo contest in support of the Canadian Cancer Society or yellow in support of our troops.
Once you’ve decided on a theme, create a hashtag so participants can post and share their photos on social media. A hashtag will make it easier for you to find and judge the entries and pick the winner.
Donate to enter
People officially participate in the contest by giving a donation to your cause. Any amount let’s a person participate. No donation, no chance of winning.
You then pick a winner at random or get a small group of friends together to judge. The prize could be a gift card or simply bragging rights.
A Photo A Day
If you decide to go it alone, pick a theme that is personal to you. Take and post a photo every day for an entire year. Sweeten the appeal if the daily photos are portraits of you.
Take a daily photo of something meaningful to you. For example, if there’s a pond or bridge or the like near your house, take a daily photo of it and show how it changes from day to day.
Fundraising Recipe #6: Host a photo contest
|Difficulty:||Low to Moderate|
|Time:||Varies depending on the type of challenge.|
|Time of Year:||Anytime|
|Pros & Cons:||Anyone can take part. Geographic location won’t prevent someone from participating, and donating, in this fundraising challenge. |
This idea is time consuming, however. Having said that, if you tend to take a lot of photos anyways, it may not add very much to your regular routine.
If you involve others the time investment shoots up as well. Get friends involved in the judging. This will save you on time and help build excitement and exposure for your fundraiser.
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Get your local photography shop involved somehow. Or, think about small businesses related to your theme and reach out to them to be involved as well. |
Because this idea is fully virtual, there’s no limit to the companies you can reach out to here either.
The Salvation Army of Abbotsford/Mission put on a photo contest for their annual fundraising calendar. You don’t need to add the calendar piece (unless you want to). This example shows how you can leverage the media to spread the word about your fundraiser.
You’ve taken the photos and shot the video. Now what? Time to exercise! Read more to learn how a fitness challenge can help you raise money for your non-profit.
7. Let’s Get Physical: The Fitness Fundraiser
Another popular fundraising option is the fitness event.
If you’re a trained fitness instructor, like a spin or aerobics instructor, hold a class where people donate to attend. For non-attendees, give them the option to donate for the chance to support, or heckle (!), participants.
Get your zen on
Are you a certified yoga instructor? Host an indoor or outdoor yoga or meditation class for charity.
Fundraising Recipe #7: Let’s get Physical: The Fitness Fundraiser
|Cost:||Very low to low|
|Time:||Low to moderate|
|Time of Year:||Anytime.|
|Pros & Cons:||For as little as a couple of hours of set-up and class time, plus the time to market and advertise, you can have yourself a charity fitness event. Another perk of the yoga or fitness class idea is that they can easily be moved online due to weather or new pandemic restrictions. The biggest drawback to this fundraising idea is getting the word out. Like many options on our list, the return in donations is directly proportional to how much you tell people about the event.|
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Partner with a fitness or yoga studio and ask them to donate their space for free. Some will even help advertise the event.For outdoor events, ask a food or beverage to attend to add a little somethin’ somethin’ to the occasion. Ask your non-profit of choice to send people to attend as well. This helps build camaraderie and puts some skin in the game for them, no pun intended.|
Power of Movement is a mega scale, nation-wide yoga class in support of research into arthritis and autoimmune disease. Power of Movement does an especially good job spreading the word through social media. Take examples from this event and scale them down for your own event.
A class isn’t enough for you? Try a challenge. We’ve got some examples for you. Keep reading.
8. Run, Walk, or Ride…or Roller Skate (?) for Charity
On the theme of fitness, a fundraising choice that’s been around a long time is the fitness challenge.
There’s no better way to motivate yourself to complete a physical achievement than by combining it with fundraising. When people give towards your run, charity bike ride, or the like, you’re more apt to train and finish the event.
Even roller skate events are a thing you can take part in—and people would love the novelty of watching you train towards that goal!
However you choose to move, there’s an opportunity to do some good at the same time.
Go big or go unique
Whether you’ve signed up for a bike race, your first 5km walk, your first marathon, or your first ride across the country, choose a challenge that will push your physical limits.
The reward, so to speak, in donations tends to be directly proportional to the size of endeavour you take on. It’s harder to convince people to give to your 10th 5 km than it is to your first cross-Canada bike ride from Vancouver to Halifax.
Show your supporters you’re willing to sacrifice in sweat, time, and effort, and they’ll be more willing to support your hard work.
Worth the effort
The gains you get from the hard work, the improved fitness, a smaller waist line, and a community of people aiming towards the same goal are, as Mastercard likes to say, priceless.
Fundraising Recipe #8: Run, Walk, or Ride…or Roller Skate (?) for Charity
|Cost:||Low to Moderate|
|Difficulty:||Low to High|
|Time:||Varies depending on the fitness challenge|
|Time of Year:||Anytime|
|Pros & Cons:||The cost of signing up for the fitness event varies. Some run events are expensive especially when you register for the longer distances. |
Then there’s the cost of equipment (shoes, clothing, roller skates, a bike!).
Finally, there’s the huge investment in time these fitness challenges take to train.
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||The sky’s the limit. Some events have built-in fundraising options for their participants. Search out a walk, run or bike ride that has a giving component. This means the event handles the collecting and distributing of donations. |
Some employers have donation matching programs, or a set amount of money they’ll donate to your cause.
Arguably the most famous example of a Canadian undertaking a walk for charity is Terry Fox. In 1980, Terry ran over 5,373 kms over 143 days to raise money for cancer research. The Terry Fox Run has been held every year since in honour of his legacy. To date, the run has raised over $850 million for research.
You look and feel your best, so much so you forgot you were getting older! Time to take that birthday and turn it into a fundraising idea.
9. The Birthday Fundraiser
Use your birthday as an excuse to give instead of receive.
Whether it’s a landmark birthday, like your 50th, or any other year, birthdays put the focus on you and your wish list. Make your wish a charitable donation.
There are organizations that encourage birthday fundraisers.
Even if yours doesn’t have a dedicated birthday giving program, you can create one on your own. Ask the non-profit for a personal fundraising link you can use for the occasion and then get to sharing!
Leverage social media
Email and social media are two very easy ways to ask for donations.
Facebook specifically gives users the ability to create a birthday fundraiser. With a few simple clicks, you can create your event, share it with family and friends, and start raising money for your charity of choice. Facebook does the rest.
An extension of the birthday idea would be to use another milestone event, like your anniversary, your retirement, a big promotion, or, dare we say it, a divorce, as a fundraising opportunity.
Or, give up your Christmas or hanukkah gifts in lieu of donations.
Whatever and however you want to celebrate, consider turning gift giving into giving-giving.
Fundraising Recipe #9: The Birthday Fundraiser
|Time of Year:||Once a year, but often over a specific period of time. For example, you could use the week leading up to your birthday to collect donations, not only wait for your big day.|
|Pros & Cons:||You get back what you put in. The more time you spend inviting and reminding your friends and family to give, the more money you’ll raise. If you expect to make a Facebook birthday event, share it once, then sit back while the donations roll in, you’ll be disappointed. |
Same goes for the email route. One email request for donations might result in a few gifts.
Several friendly, respectfully-space out reminders to those who haven’t given yet will result in way more.
Don’t be afraid to give your contacts a nudge. People are busy and appreciate being reminded as long as it’s not three times a day!
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Tell the charity you’re supporting that you’re hosting a birthday fundraiser. The reputable ones will often share the news on their social media channels.|
All the celebrities are doing it, why not you?! Follow the lead of actors like John Krasinski and ask your network to give in honour of your birthday.
Do you have another big life event around the corner? Read more to find out how to raise money from it, too.
Engagements, weddings, and pregnancies, are similar to birthdays in that they offer the opportunity to turn a big life event into a philanthropic gesture.
Send out an invitation to your wedding, engagement party, or baby shower, mention your wish for donations in lieu of gifts, and provide friends and family with an easy way to give.
Fundraising Recipe #10: Registries
|Time of Year:||Once, for a very specific day.|
|Pros & Cons:||There aren’t many cons to this choice. It’s a quick and easy way to do good in the world without the risk of getting four of the same toaster oven!|
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Same as with birthday fundraisers.|
Little Nas celebrated the announcement of his first baby with a request to fans to give to a non-profit. Sure, we may not all be rappers but we can still take inspiration from a celebrity who turned good news into the chance to do good.
11. The Bottle Drive!
No list would be complete without the bottle drive.
Our personal favourite, this choice is easy, can be run anytime, and costs very little to do. The main expenses are gas and time, and the attack on your senses. Recyclables can be stinky, after all.
Drop-off or pick-up options
You either pick a location, like your home or community center, and ask people to drop off their bottles and cans, or you can go door to door the old school way. If you choose the latter, ask your neighbours to leave their recyclables outside on their porch for you to pick up; this ensures social distancing.
Add a contest to the bottle drive
Sweeten the deal by giving a prize to the person who donates the most. A portion of the money raised or a gift card works well.
Fundraising Recipe #11: The Bottle Drive
|Time of Year:||Anytime, although after the holidays may prove the most fruitful.|
|Pros & Cons:||Loading, transporting, and unloading recyclables isn’t the fastest option on the list. Recruit volunteers for this one. Many hands make light work, as they say.Bottle drives also tend to raise less money for the amount of effort involved. The exception is if you run them over a longer period of time and over a larger area. What this idea lacks in reward, however, it makes up for in skill level-bottle drives are easy!|
|Sponsor or Partnership Opportunities:||Partner with your local bottle depot. Many offer programs dedicated to charity drives.|
Parkinson Canada hosts an annual Superwalk where they encourage participants to run a bottle drive. There’s a great example of combining two ideas in one: a charity walk with a fundraising bottle drive.
The non-profit fundraiser takeaway
Now that you have a list of innovative and creative fundraising ideas for non-profits, go ahead and pick one.
Remember: you want to choose the best ‘recipe’: one that sounds good to you, easy enough for you to do, won’t break the bank, and will make it worth the effort where raising donations is concerned.
If you stick to our recipe formula, you’ll be sure to pick an idea that others will want to bite into.
If you’ve chosen the bottle drive option (kudos from us!), keep reading to find out how we can help.
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