When it comes to organizing a fundraiser, sometimes you just want it to be, well, easy. Between juggling work, kids, and picking up Fido from the groomers, there isn’t enough time in the day to plan a fancy schmancy event with all the trimmings. And that’s okay!
The good news: fundraisers don’t have to be elaborate to be effective. The humble bake sale is a classic for a reason. It brings in the dough (pun intended) because it’s easy to set up, and who doesn’t love a sweet treat?
That said, just because a fundraiser is easy doesn’t mean it’s doomed to be boring or predictable. In this post, we cover easy fundraising ideas that come with a quirky twist. These events are unique, fun, and darn near effortless!
1. All the A-Thons
The classic A-Thon pairs an event with donations from supporters, whether individuals or big sponsors, who pledge to contribute a certain amount of money for each segment of an activity.
Whether it’s a dollar per block walked or a chapter read, a well-executed A-Thon can really bring in the big bucks. These event fundraisers are an effective way to boost your mission’s visibility and help the community put names to faces. Best of all, they’re super fun!
Of course, there’s no need to make excuses to get out and move in the fresh air with a Walk-A-Thon or Bike-A-Thon, and a Read-A-Thon poses a satisfying intellectual challenge.
However, there are other–and, frankly, weirder–ways to up the a-thon ante! We promise that this is going to be extra fun.
- Bounce-A-Thon: This is exactly what it sounds like. Participants use giant toy balls, trampolines, jumping castles, or basic jump ropes to bounce for a good cause. Tweak the logistics to suit your needs: bouncers can be sponsored per jump, per minute, per hour, or per block. It’s easy, silly, and kids love it, so get your Tigger on!
- Juggle-A-Thon: If you have a ball, you have a juggle-a-thon in the making. It doesn’t have to be traditional juggling, either: volunteers can bounce soccer balls, toss a football back and forth, or even kick around a hacky sack. Collect donations based on the number of minutes or number of objects in the air.
- Poem-A-Thon: Calling all nerds! A-Thons often privilege physical skills, but you can celebrate the brainiacs in your organization by hosting a Poet-A-Thon.
How it works: sponsors pledge to donate for every line or full poem a participant recites in a given time period. Not exactly a Shakespeare fan? You can still put cultural heritage front and center with stanzas from Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, or even Dr. Seuss. Or write your own poem! Your fundraiser, your rules.
2. Holiday Lights Drive-Thru Fundraiser
What’s more magical than strings of multi-colored lights twinkling from trees and rooftops? Holiday lights are a big hit with kids and families, and you can harness all that creativity and winter spirit with a drive thru fundraiser. (If you’re reading this in, say maybe February, plan ahead for bountiful fundriasing all year long.)
The best part? You don’t even have to get out of your car.
Since many homes and organizations put up lights each year anyway, most of the work is done for you. Get in touch with a school, a church, or a community center and discuss going the extra mile with their winter decor. Think filling the parking lot with giant candy canes, sparkly deer, and waving Santas in addition to glamming up the building itself. Decide on the price per vehicle and sell tickets near the entry or make it easy and utilize an online fundraising platform, like RallyUp.
An even more relaxed option is to coordinate decking out all the homes in a cul-de-sac, for example, or a row of businesses on a block. You can even make it a contest! Vehicles drive along the block with kids oohing and aahing from the back seat at the holiday bling.
For bonus winter flair, set up a drive-thru hot cocoa booth. Don’t forget the marshmallows!
3. Used Book Sale Fundraiser
Books make us better humans. In fact, research shows that literature increases empathy and lowers stress. Take advantage of all the mental health perks of a good read with a low cost and easy fundraising idea: a used book sale.
A book sale works just like a garage sale or rummage sale but is much less effort to set up and run. Books are easy to sort and stack, don’t need to be washed or ironed, and automatically look pretty on a shelf. Plus, you can just write the prices on the inside of the cover, eliminating the need for price stickers.
The trick with a book sale is getting a big book haul. You don’t need enough to fill a library, but you do want the selection to be browsable. If you spread the net wide enough, however, this shouldn’t be an issue. Pretty much everyone has some books lying around and gathering dust.
Encourage donations of used or unwanted books by providing drop-off boxes at schools, churches, local shops, and even the lobbies of apartment buildings. Community colleges and libraries almost always have unwanted books they’re willing to give away. Stop by used book shops, too, since they often have a shelf or two of books that they would be happy to part with.
Collect all that literary loot in one location, set a date, advertise the heck out of it, and watch the cash roll in. If you’re feeling feisty, flirt with the idea of serving themed baked goods or handmade items. Who can resist a slice of Jane Austen Crumb Cake?
4. Film Under the Stars Fundraiser
Treat the neighborhood to an unforgettable night and screen a film under the stars while generating serious cash for your special cause. Whether you opt for a family-friendly evening, a scary movie, or an action film extravaganza, movie nights bring in a pretty chunk of change. It just takes an inflatable screen (rent it!), a projector, and you’re in business.
If you’re planning a cozy indoor event for a chilly night, a community gym or a local library can be a great movie venue for a bigger crowd. You just need a wall–literally, any indoor wall will do–and space for the audience. You can set up folding chairs or, to make things truly effortless for yourself, just tell attendees to bring their own chairs and blankets. For extra cash, charge more for VIP seating, even if all it means is that your VIPs are seated closer to the popcorn maker!
To enhance all those happy vibes, it’s always fun to encourage attendees to don themed costumes. They require zero budgeting or planning on your end but create a cheerful and communal mood.
Can’t decide what to show? Consider your audience. If you want to entertain the yuppie residents of your slick downtown apartment building, you can’t go wrong with old-school film noir faves like Double Endemnity or thrillers like Pulp Fiction. If you’re searching for something imaginative that delights all ages on a school night, look no further than E.T. or Frozen.
5. Trivia Night Fundraiser
Crazy as it sounds, playing trivia games delivers a dopamine rush that’s not so different from a gambler’s high. Turns out, knowing obscure stuff makes people feel good. What this means for you and your organization: all of that right brain brilliance can be effectively channeled toward your fundraising goals with a trivia night, or quiz night, fundraiser.
To ensure a good turnout, first find a venue–anything from your pal’s living room to the high school cafeteria will do. After you get the advertising in motion with flyers and social media channels, start selling tickets.
Next, figure out the quiz format. If you’re after less work, just purchase or borrow a trivia card game. There are also free online resources available with good questions in different categories. If you’re in the mood to be creative, make the questions up yourself!
Just remember to include a wide range of categories, since pop culture buffs may not know the first thing about world history, while computer science gurus may get totally stumped by Justin Bieber references.
Trivia enthusiasts can get competitive, so be sure to keep them on their toes with a satisfying mix of good questions. If you’re planning a trivia night fundraiser that includes children, be sure to make the little ones feel welcome with kid-friendly questions, too. And no calling out answers!
6. Fashion Show Fundraiser
If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a celebrity, here’s a chance to shine while staying on mission. A blast for schools, religious organizations, or youth groups, hosting a fashion show is one of the most playful and easy fundraising ideas.
Okay, so this one takes an extra bit of planning, but if you have a dedicated team, it’s a breeze. You don’t even need a runway!
A fashion show fundraiser can be scaled to meet your budgeting needs. If you’re aiming to raise awareness of your organization while generating a little extra cash, then keep it on the downlow among co-workers in a volunteer’s basement.
If you’re looking to make a big splash, then Go Big or Go Home with a team of models, a bigger venue, and even a backstage manager.
How to make it happen:
- Collect used clothing. If you’re a school or a church, stick a big box near the door and encourage donations. Remind donors to wash the clothes, first!
- Collect new clothing. This step is optional, but if you’re feeling ambitious, chat with local retailers, vendors, and designers about donating a few items. If they agree, be sure to attach their coupons to the tickets and thank them publicly during the show.
- Recruit your models. Volunteers can be students, neighbors, friends, or members of your nonprofit.
- Find a venue. Again, this depends on how much of an impact you’re hoping to make and how big the crowd will be. For bigger events, a school auditorium, a community gym, or a sorority house can do the trick. Ask around: a local coffee shop might agree to host your fashion show, especially if the audience likes coffee!
Tip: if there’s no extra space that can be used as a dressing area, improvise with screens or even a shower curtain.
- Sell tickets in advance. Post ads in your church, library, and local newsletter. Don’t forget digital advertising: it’s quick and easy to throw something up on Facebook, and fundraising platforms like RallyUp are there to help you sell tickets and get the word out.
- The day before: have your models select spectacular ensembles from the clothing donations. Outfits can be posh–think 80s glam. Themed or funny choices are a crowd pleaser, too: that bright orange sweater and pink feather boa look fabulous, dah-ling.
- Don’t forget music! This part is as easy as making a playlist and then plugging a portable speaker into your mobile device.
Tip: it’s a good idea to have models wear bike shorts and tank tops beneath their outfits so changes are seamless.
- On the day, take lots of pictures to share with friends and community members. Post them on your fundraising site and social media accounts to show the world your fabulous and totally on-trend fundraiser. If you want to step it up, invite the audience to bid on clothing items while the fashionistas strut their stuff. You can toss in a merch table, mystery goodie bags, and photo ops with the models for extra cash.
7. Count On Small Businesses
When you don’t have time to hunt down venues, plan events, or sell tickets, it’s time to start reaching out to small, local businesses.
Did you know that small businesses donate 250% more to nonprofit causes than big enterprises, giving an impressive 6% of their profits to charity each year? Of course, the more invested a business is in a community, the more likely it is to get involved, take a stand, and contribute resources to your cause.
For example, a local bar or restaurant might donate a dollar to a cancer research foundation for each burger or martini purchased on a certain night. Or maybe a retailer will pledge to donate a percentage of their December sales to help families during the holidays. That’s why approaching local companies is a surefire way to get fundraising support with minimal work on your end.
So, how can you leverage small business philanthropy to meet your fundraising goals?
Find the Right Businesses
Start with some research on the companies in your area. What do they believe in? What have they supported in the past? How can they benefit from collaborating with you? Remember: while businesses often do wonderful work in their communities, at the end of the day, they’re still for-profit businesses. Make it worth their while to help you out. That means offering opportunities for publicity or helping them attract new clients.
Tell Them What You Need
Next, send a letter describing what you do and why it matters. Business administrators are busy people, so unless you want your beautifully crafted message to end up in the recycling bin, double-check that it’s addressed to the right person and department.
Be thorough, but don’t ramble. A page is fine. With that said, now is not the time to be coy, so ask for a specific amount for a specific cause. If you need $500 for ten jerseys, say exactly that. Remember to articulate how you will acknowledge their sponsorship. Whether it’s their name on that jersey or weekly dinner meetings in their restaurant, be clear about your intentions.
Make It Easy to Donate
Enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a simple form that your donor can complete and send to you with their contribution. Or you can simply provide a link to your donation page to make it even easier. Having a dedicated donation page not only makes it easy to track businesses contributing but also enables you to provide them deeper information about your cause helping to build that relationship for the long-term.
If a business responds with a donation or pledge, do a happy dance and take a bow, because you have sponsorship! That makes your cause even more legit, and is likely to encourage other businesses to make similar donations.
Don’t forget to come down from the clouds long enough to write a personal letter expressing your gratitude. Take it a step further and give your generous sponsor a shoutout with a heartfelt thank you through your social media channels too.
8. Fiddling On the Roof Fundraiser
For the easiest fundraising event on the planet, take a cue from a cop and climb a roof. Yep, seriously.
Every year, New York’s Special Olympics partners with local law enforcement, and police officers volunteer to stand on a roof of a local Dunkin Donuts shop until a certain amount of money is raised. Cleverly called “Cops on Top,” the amount raised is somewhere near the six-figure range. Impressed? We thought so.
To make this cute, effective, and easy fundraising idea work for you, begin by identifying a volunteer in your organization: maybe it’s a school principal, the mayor, or a local celebrity. Their job is to stand on a roof like a stalwart NYC cop and vow to remain up there, rain or shine, until you meet your fundraising goal. Collect donations throughout the day from community members who gather to watch the spectacle unfold.
The grass roots stunt guarantees an excited crowd and tons of exposure for your cause. Plus, there are so many fun opportunities to get creative. For example, earlier this year, a Nebraska principal spent the night on his school’s roof after the fundraising goal of 30k was met! Unless you’re a school, try to camp out on the roof of a local business, since it’s an awesome collaborative opportunity that can generate momentum to be repeated year after year.
Be sure to pick a good date and time–Saturday mornings and Friday evenings are best–and check the weather. Keep a camera handy, since this is exactly the type of easy fundraiser event that generates tons of pics, videos, likes, and shares.
Be sure to invite local newspapers to cover your silly on-the-roof campaign to generate even more publicity! And consider creating a donation page so donors have a place to go to get more information, can contribute, and then easily share the word through social media.
Ready to Plan That Fundraiser but Not Sure Where to Start?
Fun and easy fundraiser ideas may not grow on trees, but if you need some extra help to get started, RallyUp has your back.
RallyUp is a fundraising platform unlike any other because it gives you 10 ways to raise funds. RallyUp gives you everything from Raffles and A-Thons to Events and Livestreaming, and so much more. RallyUp truly is a home base for all your fundraising.
Plus, you can raise funds for free with Donor Tipping. It’s never been so easy to plan, execute, and promote your next big fundraising idea.