No matter what kind of charity or nonprofit you may be, you’re likely always looking for new and creative ways to raise money. Events are one of the quickest and most fun methods of fundraising, plus they have great turnout rates and the ability to unite a community. There’s also the fact that fundraising events can be endless in their creativity – you’d never have to run the same event twice! As long as your participants have got friends and family to support them, then you’ve got a fun way to raise money for your organization.
But just in case you need some inspiration, we’ve got 52 fast and fun ideas for fundraising event success – one for each week of the year! Get ready to pass out those digital pledge sheets:
1. Bowling tournament: A good old-fashioned bowling tournament is an exciting way to get people to raise money for your cause! A bowl-a-thon can be a fantastic community event that gets everyone involved (even if it’s just bonding over the bad shoes). Strikes for Charity is a prime example of how to pull this event off successfully.
2. Christmas caroling: This event might not be so warmly received in, say, July, but holding Christmas caroling for charity in December is a prime seasonal fundraiser. Get a group together and go door-to-door in local neighborhoods to bring some Christmas cheer. Appoint one person to gather donations and be sure to ring some sleigh bells!
3. Bingo night: Sell bingo cards and appoint a person with solid vocal skills to call numbers on a bingo night for charity. See about collecting door prizes from local businesses, or even raffle prizes to raise a bit of extra cash. This can be an all-ages event and fun for the whole family!
4. Charity birthday: Instead of accepting birthday gifts, why not encourage your supporters to collect donations instead? Since lots of people are looking to get away from material gift-giving, it’s a smart idea to instead suggest that they ask for friends and family to donate to a good cause (yours!). You could encourage people to accept donations as Christmas gifts, as well.
5. Tea party: Pinkies up for charity! Organize a fundraising tea party with different types of tea, snacks, and baked goods for sale. Have participants set it up in the lobby of an office building, or on campus for a unique school fundraiser. Extra points if fancy hats are part of the outfit.
6. Scavenger hunt: Bring the spirit of competition to a city-wide scavenger hunt! Have participants put together designated teams with sponsors, and get ready for fun as people scour the area for special items. You could even build this in to a 5K run for added engagement.
7. Polar plunge: From a summer event to a winter one – take a cold plunge to raise money for charity! Think of this as a particularly bracing challenge that may require a few deep breaths before taking the plunge. Costumes are encouraged, but nothing too insulated – the point is to get chilly, after all. (Have towels and warm drinks ready afterward!)
8. Song marathon: This idea is sure to get a strong reaction! In a song marathon, participants get pledges to see how many times they can listen to one song on a loop (“Never Gonna Give You Up”, anyone?), or even sing along to the song. Hey, fundraising is supposed to be a challenge, right?
9. Bike-a-thon: Your participants join teams and ride to a common goal. A cycle event is a classic for a reason: So many of your passionate supporters already have bikes! Plus, it’s a great way to bring together teams of coworkers, friends, or families. Be sure to encourage participants to ask for pledges through their social networks.
10. Color run: You’ve seen the cool pictures on Instagram, so why not host your own? In this unique twist on the common fundraising run, a color run takes a typical 5K to a trendier next level as participants wear white and get splattered with colored powder at set intervals.
11. Neon run: Nighttime run, walks or bike-a-thons have never been more popular – add in some glow sticks and you’ll be in the 80’s neon groove. Watch Katharine House Hospice’s video, then hit up the dollar store for everything neon and everything glowing, including paint.
12. Dance-a-thon: In a dance-a-thon, participants see how long they can stay on their feet on the dance floor. Participants can register to dance in timed shifts, while friends and family members pledge small donations. You might even consider a prize for the winning individual or couple like in this Theatre Festival example.
13. Video game marathon: People of all ages love video games – but can they play them for multiple hours straight? Get your participants to collect sponsors to keep them going. Pick a specific genre of video game – puzzle games or multi-player co-op games work well – and see how far everyone gets.
14. Zombie run: The perfect P2P running event for the Halloween season especially! Recruit volunteers to dress up as zombies who then chase the participants as they run the course. This makes for memorable photos – perhaps ones that could go viral, get it? – and is a real community-builder.
15. Pumpkin run: Sure, you can organize a charity run – but one where participants have to run the course while carrying a pumpkin? Now that’s something truly original. Here’s how The Great Pumpkin Run does it, including mugs of apple cider, extra medals for different levels of pumpkin-carrying protection, and even more unique twists on the traditional charity run.
16. Beer run: A beer run or beer mile could be one of two takes: either participants run from brewery to brewery and stop briefly for samples, or runners swig a beer at specific points on the course. (Here’s how the Canada Beer Run does it!) Costumes and hilarity combine with fundraising and friendly competition – what more could you ask for?
17. Superhero run: Runners don’t need to go all out with an expensive superhero costume; you could make it a “low-budget” costume run and encourage people to put those funds towards donations instead. Again, this is a great themed run for photo ops that can help drive more donations even after the event is done.
18. Underwear run: Strip it down even further and have participants run in their undies. It’s a favorite for a reason – it’s silly, it’s freeing, and it can raise a ton of money for charity while providing both exercise and a good time. If you want to lower the speed, check out the “Underwear Walk” that #nakedespy held!
19. Santa Speedo run: It’s an underwear run with a festive twist – not only do participants wear Speedos, but they run while wearing Santa hats or beards (or both)! This one is held close to the winter months, since running in your underwear when it’s cold out is half the fun. Here’s how Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children does it!
20. Jingle Bells 5K: For a Jingle Bell run, organizers give sets of jingle bells to everyone who runs, which makes for both a festive sound and a memorable event. Be sure to include a walk option (or maybe even a toboggan pull?) for younger participants.
21. Movember: The November event has become a worldwide tradition, in which teams of men (and women!) participate to grow out their facial hair while raising money for prostate cancer awareness and research. Encourage participants to set high goals, and even provide awards for the longest moustache, most creative facial hair, and more.
22. Hair cutting: The opposite of the above involves growing one’s hair out to cut and donate to cancer charities, but it can be done as a daring fundraiser as well. Participants can also get sponsors to ensure they go through with the deed – especially if it involves shaving their head bald!
23. Tug-of-war competition: A team competition with added physicality, a massive tug-of-war contest can be a blast for everyone participating. This is an especially good team-bonding exercise for colleagues or students, and can be given extra twists like a mud pit in the middle! Be sure to get plenty of photos taken for fun social media content.
24. Golf marathon: For something a little less physical but just as fun, look at holding a golf marathon – after all, the game can be fairly long so you might as well make a fundraising event out of it! You could even encourage golfers to dress up in themed outfits or bring fun props. Here's how the Alpine Children’s Charity does its successful “Longest Day of Golf” fundraiser.
25. Fasting Day: The 30-Hour Famine may be the best-known example of this fundraiser, but you can organize it for your own charity easily (especially if you’re a nonprofit that tackles poverty or food scarcity). Challenge participants to go a set number of hours without food, but provide entertainment and games to keep their minds off their hunger! Schools are perfect for this fundraiser, which can include a built-in sleepover-in-the-gym component.
26. Challenge campaigns: If the thought of going without food for a set period of time is too much, suggest other challenge campaigns like giving up sugar or alcohol for a month. Participants can hopefully form good habits while collecting sponsors to help them stick to their goals. Check out FebFast and how it encourages people to “pause for a cause”!
27. Dragon boat race: This colorful form of boat racing is a thrill to see and even more fun to take part in – particularly if it’s for a good cause. If Dynamic Dragon Boat Racing is any indication, it’s a prime P2P event that builds community spirit and raises money at the same time. Get teams together to row and drum their way to fundraising victory!
28. Road hockey tournament: You don’t need an arena full of ice for this exciting charity tournament. Participants can gather teams together to face off in a day of road hockey games while competing to see which team can gather the most sponsors. Scotiabank’s Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer tournament is a prime example of how to pull this P2P event off with great success year after year.
29. Stair climbing: Ready to take a hike? Many major cities have tall buildings or landmarks with a ton of stairs, so why not make a fundraising event out of it? People can choose to take part in a massive stair-climb while having supporters sponsor them to see how high they can go. Check out how the World Wildlife Fund does it with Toronto’s CN Tower every year!
30. Ice bucket challenge: Why not revive an old favorite and put your own charity’s spin on it? While we all know that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a huge success, it’s easy to replicate and plenty of chilly fun to undertake. Be sure to get participants to use their social networks to their fullest extent in order to spread the word.
31. Breakfast fundraiser: It’s the most important meal of the day, and it can also make for a great fundraiser! Encourage people to donate in order to partake in a pancake breakfast with all proceeds going to charity. Plus, it’s a stellar way to bring a workplace or school community together first thing in the morning – maybe aim for a Monday to take the sting out of the beginning of the week?
32. Outdoors sleep-out: Get people to put themselves in the shoes of those less fortunate and organize a sleep-out in order to work towards understanding what it’s like to be homeless. Prince Harry and Kate Middleton both participated in a Sleep Out to benefit Centrepoint charity in London. Individuals can gather pledges to partake and to raise awareness. It's especially effective in the colder months of the year!
33. Trivia night: Why stay at home watching trivia game shows when you can support one being put on for charity? Teams can take pledges to participate and charge admission for spectators coming to watch the trivia showdown. On a smaller scale, you could put on a trivia night at a local bar and promote it around a specific theme.
34. Bachelor/bachelorette auction: A particularly fun P2P event for universities or workplaces (just make sure it’s okay with HR!), a bachelor or bachelorette auction is a way to raise money as well as schedule some unexpected date nights! If you’re looking for how to get started with this fundraiser, here’s a handy video.
35. Plane pulls: This one is an epic challenge and a memorable experience. Gather teams together and flex muscles to see how far a plane can be pulled for charity! It’s a tug-of-war no one will be able to forget. Orbis charity includes a free “Kids Plane Pull” after the adult pull so that the little ones can test their strength too!
36. Tough Mudder: Only the strong survive in this physical obstacle course that challenges people every year. Encourage colleagues and friends to pair up and seek donations to fuel their drive to the finish line. Have photographers on hand to capture all the action for social media collateral!
37. Ragnar: A Ragnar Relay is a relay run that goes on for 24 hours – yes, seriously! Fortunately, they also require big teams – 10 or 12 people – so that’s plenty of teamwork for a group of staff. You could even pair together a bunch of strangers to relay for a good cause!
38. Jump rope competition: Forget the traditional dance-a-thon and boost cardio gains with a jump rope competition! Encourage participants to ask for individual pledges from family and friends to see how long they can jump. You can give out prizes for different types of achievements: Fastest jumping sprint, longest consecutive jump, and so on.
39. Spelling bee: Brain-training fun for people of all ages. Spelling bees are quite common, so put a fundraising spin on it by having participants gather. You could even sell tickets to attend the finals! Here are some tips for putting together charity spelling bees from start to finish.
40. Team lawn bowling: For an under-the-radar event, have you considered lawn bowling? Now have you considered doing it in teams? Not only is this underrated summer sport a fun, laid-back way to spend an afternoon or evening, but it could make for a super original fundraiser. Check out how Lawn Summer Nights does it for some inspiration (hint: themed outfits!).
41. Food challenges: If you’ve seen those hot-dog eating contests on the news, you know what this one is all about. Have a food-eating contest for charity (especially good if you’re a food bank or soup kitchen) where individuals compete to see who can eat the most of something – or one oversized thing, like this Norfolk burger-eating challenge to raise money for MENCAP.
42. Dog show: People love their pets, and they love showing off their pets – so how about organizing a dog show for owners to take part in (and dog lovers to attend)? Keep it casual and fun, and have little ribbons to give out for plenty of silly categories. This would go over well for animal shelties and animal rights charities, particularly if you can tie in your own adoptable pups as well.
43. Guest speaking event: If your nonprofit or charity has celebrity support, work those connections by setting up a speaking event. Having someone notable come in to talk about the work you do and what it means to them. Charge for tickets and offer small refreshments for sale at the event, and use the opportunity to network and connect further with your community.
44. Poker tournament: Whether casual or formal, hosting a poker tournament for a night can be a creative and exciting way to raise money for your charity. You could even expand this into an entire “Casino Night” fundraiser, if you have the overhead. (Just make sure you follow your state’s gambling laws!)
45. Garage sale: Need to get rid of a few things around the house? Whether it’s spring cleaning or just an annual cleanup, having a garage sale a fun way for your charity to earn money while jettisoning various items. Have supporters bring in unwanted goods to sell, and open the sale up to the community as well – you could raise even more money and make even stronger connections.
46. Teddy Bear Picnic: Here’s one for the young and the young at heart – a picnic that raises money through entry fees and specially made baskets of food, with the caveat that attendees get to bring a favorite stuffed animal. You could also make it a tea party of sorts with different baked goods for sale. Be sure to set up a little photo booth for extra adorable pictures!
47. Track & field day: Track and field can be about more than just fitness. Competing individuals can form teams and ask friends and family to sponsor them online. Track and field days are also a great opportunity to fundraise from spectators and families. Try adding a bake sale, a lemonade stand, or hold a 50/50 raffle in-between different activities.
48. Fashion show: Any gym or field can be turned into a fantastic runway with a little bit of creative effort. Sell tickets for friends and family to come see participants (perhaps members of your staff?) model your supporters’ creations. You may even want to consider auctioning various fashion items off after the event is done!
49. Oscars watching night: It’s the glitziest night of the year in Hollywood, so bring some of that Tinseltown flavor to your supporters with an Oscars viewing party. Raise money by charging an entrance fee and selling typical (or maybe not so typical) movie snacks to eat while watching. Formal dress code should be required, or pick a specific movie theme to dress up as!
50. Jello wrestling: Ready to get down and dirty in the name of charity? Setting up a Jello wrestling match – where participants compete in a slippery pool of Jello, or sometimes pudding – is a squishy and delightful way to raise money for a worthy cause. Get participants to find supporters, and sell tickets for people to attend!
51. Personal fitness challenge: It doesn't have to be The Biggest Loser - you can challenge your supporters to gather pledges to help them reach their fitness goal. Whether it's getting in shape, dedicating themselves to lifting a personal best in weight, or simply challenging themselves to be more active, it's a goal that can easily raise money for a worthy cause. And it's even easier when participants sign up for peer-to-peer fundraising to create pages to collect donations for a favorite cause!
52. Battle of the bands: Perfect for offices or schools, this event involves people with musical prowess (or none whatsoever) getting together to put on a concert for the community (or just their own colleagues!). Charge admission to attend the show, and potentially work in a separate fundraiser (such as a canned food drive or a charity raffle).
No matter which of these ideas you choose, you’re bound to have a creative and fun fundraising event that helps make connections between people and creates a stronger community.