7 Creative Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas
Being a part of a nonprofit organization can be incredibly fulfilling. You get the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those who truly need it and to help make a better world for the ones you care about. At the same time, there is an essential piece of the nonprofit puzzle that can sometimes feel like a distraction from the true purpose of your organization. Want to know what it is that keeps program directors and nonprofit leaders up at night, worried that it will take away from being able to provide services to worthy recipients?
The secret to successful fundraising is to find a way to enjoy it. How? By reorienting your thinking and applying the same passion you have for the charitable work you do to the donors and volunteers that make the mission you’re on possible. As legendary nonprofit fundraiser and leader Henry “Hank” Rosso said, “Fundraising is not a right — it is a privilege and we must always honor it as such.” When you can stop seeing fundraising as something you have to do, and instead recognize that you get to do it, you’ll be able to find joy instead of fear!
“Giving is a privilege that fills the heart with joy.”Henry A. Rosso
So let’s look at some creative ways we can spark joy (thanks, Marie Kondo!) while fundraising:
1. Host a Sports Tournament
If you have access to the space (or a supporter willing to provide it for free/at a discounted rate), there are a variety of “sports” tournaments that can mobilize a big crowd. Consider hosting a summer 3 on 3 basketball tournament in the parking lot of your local shopping mall or work with a local golf course to hold a pro-am (or all-am, ha!) golf scramble. If you’d rather appeal to the less sporty crowd, there’s always miniature golf, laser tag, and paintball as other worthy competitive options.
Whether you go for basketball, golf, or something a little less serious, opportunities to raise funds for your organization abound. Entry fees, hoop or hole sponsorships, and concessions revenue are obvious avenues to bring in cash. You can also offer other competitive activities and contests throughout the event to boost morale and keep participants and spectators interested.
2. Host a Gaming Tournament
If sporting events aren’t quite your jam, and you have access to the necessary indoor space, host a tournament that brings joy to those who relish non-athletic pursuits. Collect multiple copies of popular board games (Settlers of Catan, Monopoly, Ticket to Ride, etc.), video games (Call of Duty, Halo, Fortnite, etc.), chess boards (or checkers), or even a library of NYT-level crossword puzzles.
Entry fees and concessions revenues are again the primary sources of fundraising from an event like this. Promote your tournament by customizing your own event posters, flyers, banners, and tickets. Use our templates to guarantee the marketing win. You can also offer door prizes and other contests throughout the day to keep the fun going and get the spectators involved!
3. Give Books a New Life
This fundraising idea has two essential parts:
First, for any book lover, the opportunity to share their favorite tome with others is irresistible. To mobilize this desire, host a book drive where people can donate their best-loved paperbacks and hardcovers in hopes that they will have a new life with someone else. Create your own event flyers and posters from our templates to encourage some serious donating.
Second, organize an open-to-the-public book fair featuring all of the donated books you received. Go all out to spread the word by using our templates to customize event banners, posters, and flyers. You can even create your own event yard signs to recruit the garage sale crowd. All revenue from book sales goes to your organization, and the participants get to go home with a new book or two (or more!). Don’t forget to invite those who donated!
4. Challenge Your Supporters to Put Others First
We’ve all got that little “something” we like to splurge on. For this idea, encourage your community members to “put others first” by pledging to give up their little luxury for a specified period of time. Then, they can donate what they didn’t spend on that fancy coffee or restaurant meal to your organization. Putting others first (and going without) can give them that extra dose of “feel-good” in addition to the monetary donation that comes your way.
Host a launch event where participants can finalize their pledges, then put together a celebration at the end of the challenge period where donations are collected and those who donate are celebrated. Promote both events with the event posters, flyers, banners, and yard signs you create from our customizable event templates!
5. Recruit a Volunteer Flash Mob
As an alternative to raising actual funds, take the time to raise up your very own volunteer flash mob. Using all of the communication methods at your disposal (radio, social media, posters, postcards, person-to-person, etc.), let your supporters know about a specific opportunity for them to come together and HELP.
Maybe your nonprofit serving the elderly can produce a volunteer flash mob that shovels snow or mows the lawn (depending on the season) for some of your homebound service recipients. Or you can recruit a gaggle of volunteers willing to show up to assist your environmentally-friendly group in reclaiming an empty lot for a community garden. Celebrate your work by placing a custom yard sign promoting your nonprofit at each completed project. Every nonprofit organization can benefit from sending out a call for volunteers to join them in serving!
6. Host Movie Nights
Spread joy to your community by setting up a projector and screen (or the side of a building) and hosting a movie night, complete with popcorn and all the trimmings. You can even create “theme nights” by showing movies that appeal to a specific audience. Consider hosting family night showcasing a much-loved by all film, date night featuring a sweet rom-com, or even a cult classic night for the cosplay crowd. Offer a variety of concessions for sale or just stick to popcorn and soda, depending on your venue and volunteer numbers.
Before showing any movie in public, you’ll need to obtain a “public performance license” in one of two ways:
- By renting the movie directly from a distributor that is authorized to grant such licenses (simply owning a copy of the movie isn’t enough), or
- By contacting the actual copyright holder (often the studio) directly.
Profits from these movie nights come from admission fees and concessions revenue less cost of inputs (including the fee you’ll need to pay in order to show the film). Every movie showing is also a fantastic opportunity to promote your organization, both with signage and with face-to-face interactions. Get the word out by customizing your own event posters, flyers, yard signs, and banners. Don’t miss those moments!
7. Silent Auction
Recruit some of your most enthusiastic supporters to spearhead the gathering of entries in a silent auction, with all proceeds benefiting your organization. Local businesses who share a passion for your mission should be asked if they’d put together gift baskets featuring their products and/or services. Gift cards and vouchers for hotel stays are also fantastic silent auction items. Tickets to professional sporting events are hard to pass up, especially if they include airfare and accommodations. Consider having a group of energetic volunteers band together to offer their services for yard work or gardening.
What goes better with a silent auction than a fancy (or not) fundraising gala (or barbecue!). Pair the two to create an unforgettable night for your organization AND its supporters. Set up tables with auction items and bid sheets, and have the emcee make time calls throughout the evening. Identify a few popular items worthy of lead-change announcements. Creating a buzz can inspire a bidding war, and bidding wars are definite fundraising wins!
For that extra touch of professionalism, create a full complement of marketing materials to share with prospective donors and attendees. MyCreativeShop has a litany of easily customizable event marketing templates at your disposal, from tickets and flyers to yard signs and banners, and everything in between!
Getting the Word Out
In the end, the most important thing to remember about nonprofit fundraising is that your donors want to feel that connection to your mission. The ability to effectively communicate that mission is dependent on your own enjoyment of the process. So, share your passion, share your need, and make the connection!
“People who give are rewarded, not monetarily, but because their involvement represents an expression beyond themselves.”Henry A. Rosso