Fundraising Ideas You Haven’t Seen a Thousand Times Before

Donut Festival For a Fundraiser

Are you tired of the same old fundraising ideas? Is your staff burned out on selling candy bars, coupon books, or pizza kits? Well guess what, it is possible to do something different when trying to raise money for your company!

Most fundraising efforts are still stuck in the mindset of guilt: engaging the customer by making them feel bad for not giving their money to a worthwhile cause. As Dom Cobb says in Inception, though, positive emotion trumps negative emotion. So why not try something that will get folks excited rather than making them fork over a ten to get the bespectacled fourth grader off their porch? Here are some ideas to get you started.

1) Do a Reality TV Competition

Every day it seems a new reality show debuts on TV. A fun idea would be to recreate a reality show live. Perhaps you could do a simplified version of American Idol. Volunteers from your organization could serve as judges, and bonus points if they’re willing to act like a surly old Brit or a lovable popstar. Renting a karaoke machine might be the easiest way to get the proper audio and backing tracks, but if you’ve already got audio equipment and can put together a casual stage, you might be able to pull this off already!

Guests would also absolutely love a Top Chef-style cooking contest where they got to judge the winners. Use ticket sales for the event to cover the costs and add a little margin to fundraise, and you’ve got a memorable event for the volunteer chefs and judges alike. Although people like to complain about reality TV, the truth is that lots of people watch at least one reality show. Seeing something like that recreated live would draw a big crowd and likely to appeal to a broad demographic! For any reality contest, consider how you’ll handle judging, getting contestants, and donations.

2) Host a Game Show

Who’s the one with the hat?

In a similar vein, people love game shows. Family Feud and The Price Is Right have been staples of American television since the 70s. Your guests would love getting to participate in your own game show. Family Feud has a board game that can serve as the basis for a life size feud with the right hosting and salesmanship. A quick grocery run combined with some simple games can bring The Price is Right to life – a Plinko board can be DIY’d and lots of games can be recreated with paper, dice and cards.

Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune are a little more work, but quiz-themed nights are always popular. Trivia is great for any audience, and can be specialized to fit your space, organization, and cause. Many local quiz companies can run your private trivia event with very little effort from you. You can ask for donations, have teams buy tickets or get themselves sponsored. Small prizes like bar gift cards or raffle tickets will keep people excited and engaged.

Golf where?

3) New and Different Sports

Tired: Golf tournament fundraiser

Wired: Disc Golf tournament fundraiser

The problem with a lot of your standard sports-related fundraising events is that people who aren’t good at the game might not want to play. If you set up an event that’s less traditional, however, you might find people are more willing to come out for it. Disc golf is increasing in popularity across the country, and is a lot easier to play than regular golf.

Depending on the space and equipment you can gather, you could also host some other offbeat sports and games: dodgeball, croquet, yard games like washers or ladder ball, bocce ball, or life size chess. You can also invent a new sport that re-purposes standard sports equipment fairly easily, and you might find that people are really excited by your unique event! Sell tickets, offer a prize, or host a whole tournament, and let the games begin!

4) Food Eating Challenges

Every July 4th, Coney Island is home to the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, in which a group of psychopaths compete for gustatorial glory. The weekend before the Super Bowl, Philly plays host to a massive wing eating contest. The list goes on and on.

Contestants working hard to keep chickens flightless

People seem enthralled by this kind of display of physical and mental prowess. An eating contest is fairly easy to organize, and your guests will be wowed by the participants’ ability to transcend the normal human limits of satiation. In the interest of safety, however, you might want to consult a doctor and/or an insurance company before attempting this.

5) Provide A Strange Service

Everybody already runs car washes and maid services for their fundraisers. But what about a joke-writing service? You could write and send comic material to subscribers in exchange for their support. Depending on your organization’s talent base, you could try something similar with poetry, comics, or any number of creative pursuits. Plus, if you set it up as a subscription, you can ensure continued support from your patrons! Some of the most successful earners on patreon, for example, offer niche services and products. Take a poll amongst your staff and figure out what your team might be great at, such as map making, funny limerick writing, or singing cover songs on Youtube.

6) Sell Something Different

As the Girl Scouts have proven year after year, if you make a different kind of product, you can raise a lot of money. Selling candy bars or knick knacks is so worn out, people buy stuff out of obligation, not desire. Instead come up with something to sell that is unique and limited in supply. Here are a few ideas to get you started: Penguin shaped beer coozies, Astronaut themed hats, or Neon day-glo smartphone touch gloves.

7) A Social Media Campaign or Challenge

Finally, try using social media to your advantage. If you’re reaching an audience or cause with dedicated fans and volunteers, there’s probably already movements and spaces relevant to your fundraiser. And you don’t need a campaign to go viral to make a difference – not everybody is going to recreate the ice bucket challenge and that’s okay! But feel free to use that as inspiration. Make it participatory, like the 10 year challenge, planking, or the Red Nose Day, and people will be excited to show off their support.

As Depeche Mode taught us, it’s a competitive world. To stay ahead of the curve on fundraising, you need to think of services that other people aren’t going to offer. These ideas should help you separate yourself from the pack!


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