40+ Profitable Event Ideas for Nonprofit Fundraisers
When choosing an event for your nonprofit fundraiser, it’s important to keep several things in mind. Your event needs to appeal to your donors and supporters—meaning it can vary significantly if your guest list consists mostly of millennials, business professionals, or retirees. You’ll also want to make sure your activities and events fall within your budget range while raising enough money to support your programs.
Fortunately, there are a lot of profitable fundraising events you can host—and thanks to today’s traditional, virtual, and hybrid fundraisers that you can host on online fundraising platforms, you can modify these activities for practically any in-person or online audience.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the best events you can offer at your next fundraiser and discuss how you can use them to fit your needs.
If most of your supporters are physically active folks who love to get out and have some fun, a charity walk or run would be a great event to host at your next fundraiser. Depending on just how active your guests are, you might even want to make this a marathon or triathlon event.
The fun thing about this fundraising event is you can easily adapt it for a virtual or hybrid setting, as well as a traditional in-person venue. Virtual “fun runs” can be accomplished by getting people to keep track of the miles they walk or run and then sharing this information on your event website to compete against fellow attendees.
Participants can also share photos and videos of their runs which can be fun especially if they walk or run in an attractive outdoor setting. And if you’d like to make your event a hybrid fundraiser, you can combine elements of both your virtual and in-person run into a single activity.
Keeping with the “active crowd” events, an obstacle course is a great way to challenge your guests and build some fun memories that can be shared on social media. This is a particularly fun event to host for school fundraisers since you can use the expertise of your physical education teachers and set up a course in your school yard or gymnasium.
When planning the different activities for your obstacle course, consider the skill sets and interests of your participants. Popular obstacles include:
- Wall climbing
- Rope climbing
- Bag races
- Dodging water balloons
- Mud pits
- Beam walking
Adapt your obstacle course to whatever equipment and materials you have available and make sure your guests are physically fit enough to participate. Finally, be sure to have someone on hand to record the event for your future marketing campaigns!
Got a lot of golf enthusiasts who can’t wait to hang out on the field? A golf tournament can attract people of all ages and walks of life. Revenue can be collected through entrance fees and audience members can also make pledges and donations during the tournament.
One great way to attract a lot of people to your next golf fundraiser is to bring on an established golf professional who can share pro tips with the participants. Every golf enthusiast would love to improve their game, so the opportunity to learn new techniques is a major draw!
Is your nonprofit organization located near a lake or on the coast? Depending on where you’re holding your fundraiser, fun outdoor events like boat races can be a great way to attract water enthusiasts. This sort of event lends itself very well to other fundraising activities like charity picnics, and the boat race itself offers some great entertainment for spectators. Just be sure to plan for enough time to work out all the logistics.
Stair Climbing Competition
Do you or one of your partner organizations have access to a tall building with plenty of staircases? Stair climbing competitions are a great cardio workout for your fitness-loving supporters. Make this a major challenge for your competitors—maybe you can get them to try and beat a previous record set by earlier participants or offer a major prize for the person who climbs the most stairs (or sets the best time). This is a fun event people will enjoy posting on social media, so make it an activity to remember!
Dance parties are fun social events that attract plenty of people. Depending on the type of audience you’re trying to attract, you can make your dance party a social mixer and/or fit it around a fun theme (i.e., 80s music dance party). You can even bring on dance instructors who can teach groups the steps to a fun dance like an Irish group dance.
Even during the pandemic, nonprofits and charities discovered they could hold successful virtual dance parties. This was usually done by getting a reliable online platform like PayBee with excellent live stream capabilities. Guests could dance in their living rooms while their web cameras shared their moves with the other people on screen.
Today, you can offer a traditional dance party, virtual event, or even a hybrid gala that lets people dance the night away from their homes as well as your event venue. Hybrid events don’t need large venues either (since you’ll only have to deal with a limited number of in-person guests), so you’ll be able to save some money here.
Video Game Tournament
Moving away from physically active events (but still keeping a competitive edge), video game tournaments are a great fundraising event for the gamers in your organization.
There’s actually a term for this kind of fundraising: “Geek Philanthropy.” Video game enthusiasts have raised millions of dollars for various charities by getting supporters to make pledges while they livestream their gameplay over the course of several hours or even multiple days. Other video game tournaments are more competitive, allowing multiple players to participate in fun games that are live streamed for the masses.
The great thing about video game tournaments is they’ve successfully raised money for virtually any nonprofit or charity, including Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation, as well as many smaller, local organizations. These fundraising events can easily be hosted with a charity fundraising platform like PayBee’s and you can find gamers either in your own organization or in gaming communities on Twitch. Many of these gamers have already participated in “geek philanthropy” and will be eager to help support your own organization.
Board Game Night
If you want to go old school, hosting a board game night can be a low-key activity that appeals to people who just want to get together for some fun. From Monopoly to Clue to any number of more recent board and card games, you’ll be able to offer your guests all their favorite group activities. Make sure to choose games people are familiar with, offer a good food/drink menu, and establish some attractive décor and you’ve got a fundraising event you can host virtually anytime.
Everyone loves showing off their knowledge of little-known facts and participating in friendly competitions—and trivia nights let you satisfy both of these needs. You can host your trivia night at a partnering bar or pretty much any event venue, making this a very flexible fundraising activity.
Give your trivia games specific themes that appeal to your audience’s interests. For instance, you can offer a Movie Trivia Night, Sports Trivia Night, or even a Video Game Trivia Night based on what your donors are most into. Let your participants form into teams and arrange some special prizes for the winners to add to the fun of this timeless activity. Participants can pay an entry fee and you can raise additional revenue by offering a raffle drawing during the game.
Yes, yes—bingo night might be a bit of a cliché for church and school fundraisers. But that just speaks to how popular bingo still is, and the crowds it can attract. For a small fee, your donors and supporters can enjoy hours of fun as your emcee calls out letters and numbers.
To make your bingo night more fun, you can offer different types of bingo games. This includes rounds where players need to fill all the squares in a row. It can also include games where players need to fill all four corners of a card or create an “X” shape across the card. Each game can come with a separate prize, allowing the fun to last for a very long time.
Charity poker tournaments attract plenty of gaming enthusiasts, as well as people who’d like to participate in a big poker game but don’t have the big bucks to play in one. To get around this, you can offer each player a set amount of chips for a flat fee. Players can then participate in any number of poker games, including Texas Hold ‘Em, 7-Card Stud, or 5-Card Draw and the final player standing can receive a trophy or prize.
If you really want to go all the way, you can turn this into a full casino night for charity, complete with a roulette wheel, blackjack table, slot machines, and craps game. You can even theme your game night as a “Night in Vegas” or “Old West Gambling Night.” Just be sure to follow all regulations and permit requirements that may be required in your area.
Okay, let’s move back into more active group activities. Talent shows are a tried-and-true staple for school and church fundraisers. And while most people automatically think of singing and dance routines when they envision a talent show, yours can accommodate many other special skills. Consider the following fun talents to showcase on a stage:
- Martial arts demonstrations
- Stage magic acts
- Jump rope tricks
- Yo-yo trick routines
- Stand-up comedy routine
- Lip sync routine
Plus, if you’d like to make your talent show a virtual presentation, you can accommodate acts that don’t translate well to the stage—but wow outside audiences. Consider letting someone record their bike riding or skateboard stunts and then sharing it through a livestream broadcast. As long as you keep it safe, this can interest a lot of people.
If your supporters and donors love clothes and fashions, a fashion show fundraiser can be a great event to host. You can theme your show around different fashion eras or even types of clothing (such as beachwear). If your participants have access to unique cultural costumes, framing your fashion show around that can attract plenty of interest.
Bear in mind that a fashion show requires plenty of collaboration and advance planning. In addition to the usual producers, managers, and event staff, you’ll also need a team of models, hair stylists, makeup artists, model coordinators, and a seasoned lighting and sound team. You’ll also require a spacious venue to stage your show (even if you intend to make it a virtual or hybrid event), so be prepared to spend time preparing!
Concerts can attract huge crowds to charity events. And the great thing today is that you can attract even bigger audiences by hosting a virtual concert or hybrid concert event. By taking advantage of live streaming technology, you can stream your concert live for paying audience members from all over the world. And because a virtual or hybrid event doesn’t require a large venue, your costs for any in-person performers or audience members will be much lower.
You also don’t have to break your budget to get a major celebrity singer or band. Simply securing a popular local group can still bring in a lot of people. You might even consider hosting a “Battle of the Bands” event where you let multiple groups compete against each other, giving the audience even more music for their money.
Let’s check out some civic-minded (but still profitable) fundraising events. Car washes are fun events that can be put on by schools, churches, or any local nonprofit. Make sure to find a large parking lot that’s easy for cars to pull into from the main road or intersection. You’ll also want to follow any city/county environmental laws about drainage. And when you’re gathering your materials, make sure to use eco-friendly products, as well as plenty of towels, sponges, brushes, buckets, hoses, and special cleaning items like wax or window cleaner.
Your volunteers should be trained in the proper way to wash cars to keep your supporters happy. Oh, and don’t forget to advertise your event well in advance so people know when and where to get their cars cleaned!
Dog Wash Party
And as long as we’re going over cleaning activities, why not host a dog washing party? Even the biggest animal lover will appreciate the chance to hand over the responsibility of keeping their pets clean to someone else every now and then, and you can collect plenty of nice donations this way.
Host your event during the warmer months to keep the animals more comfortable. You’ll also want an event venue that’s comfortable for dog owners to wait and one that will attract plenty of pet owners — like the parking lot of a pet store or pet supply shop. Your volunteers should have experience washing dogs and keeping pets calm during their baths—and make sure to provide plenty of cleaning supplies and tools for your event.
Rounding out our civic minded fundraisers, creating an event around helping your community with neighborhood chores can be a great way to build goodwill among your supporters and a sense of fellowship among your volunteers. These chores can be anything from mowing your neighborhood lawns to helping families put up their Christmas lights. Assign a minimum donation value to each chore and create a custom work request form your supporters can fill out to get help and make their donations.
In fact, this is one fundraising event that can easily be combined with other fundraising activities. Many silent and live auctions, for instance, offer guests the chance to bid on services like yard cleaning or closet organizing. Your nonprofit will raise plenty of revenue from the auction and your volunteers will get a chance to show off their cleaning skills!
Gift Wrapping Drives
A great activity to host around the holidays, gift wrapping drives are always in great demand for Christmas shoppers eager to take one vital task off their holiday list.
This type of fundraiser is best when held at a local mall or shopping center just as people are purchasing their gifts. It goes without saying that your volunteers should know how to wrap items well, but you’ll also want to factor in the cost of the gift wrapping supplies when creating a price chart based on the measurements of each item being wrapped.
Do you have a lot of people in your organization who love gourmet cooking? Then a cooking class might be the best event to hold at your next nonprofit fundraiser. By recruiting an instructor from a culinary school or even a celebrity chef, you can attract huge audiences who would love to participate in a cooking lesson.
In today’s virtual age, you can even host cooking classes online for virtual or hybrid audiences. This cuts down on expenses since your participants will be cooking from their own kitchens instead of a formal classroom. This may also help you secure a well-known chef for your class since they won’t have to worry about travel expenses and can operate on a more flexible schedule.
Another old school event, bake sales are great activities for supporters who love showing what they can make in their kitchens. These events have long since been great moneymakers for schools, churches, and social clubs, and are a great way for the community to get together and raise funds for a common goal.
Much like any successful fundraising event, your bake sale will need someone to manage the entire event and delegate responsibilities. Have people prepared to set up tables, sell the goods, collect money, and clean up. Making a list that shows who will donate each baked good is also essential. And be sure to obey any local health codes!
Pro tip: adapt your event to fit the needs of the day. Offer hot coffee or cocoa with your baked goods on hot days, and prepare plenty of cold lemonade on warm days. If you’re offering plenty of homemade products, maybe you can sell copies of a collection of recipes to your baking enthusiasts during the sale. There are plenty of opportunities to expand your profit potential, so get creative!
Whether you choose to host a charity picnic, luncheon, dinner, tea party, wine tasting, or luau, the appeal of these fundraising activities is the same—they provide a great way for people to socialize over good food. If you’re going for the traditional in-person event, make sure your venue is a memorable place that appeals to all your guests.
You can also go virtual and host an online luncheon or dinner where guests can get their meals and drinks delivered to them by a catering service. An additional creative way to host such an event is by combining your luncheon with a virtual cooking class so guests can make their own meals in their kitchens and then share a virtual meal with everyone else. These events do come with several logistics, however, so be sure to coordinate everything well in advance.
Live Charity Auctions
Okay, here’s a classic fundraising activity that any nonprofit or charity can profit from. Live auctions can be adapted to any event—from in-person to virtual to hybrid—and appeal to all sorts of audiences.
The key to a successful live auction lies in several things. You’ll want to keep the energy level at these events high. This can be accomplished by hiring a seasoned auctioneer who knows how to excite the audience with every new item. This can also be done by keeping the audience active—for instance by creating auction paddles they can raise while bidding (modern paddles like the ones provided by PayBee also contain QR codes that make check-outs much easier).
You’ll also want to base your auction items off of your audience’s interests. Fancy vacation packages and trips might appeal to some people, but if your donors and supporters are more into memorabilia, you’ll want to adjust your offerings accordingly.
Silent auctions can be used in addition to live auctions. These auctions also provide a good way to build up interest in your overall fundraiser since they can start days or weeks before your main event. While silent auctions can be held in-person, many organizations choose to hold them online for the convenience of your guests who can bid easier on the items.
When choosing items for a silent auction, keep your audience’s interests in mind. High-end items might be great if you have a lot of bidders with deep pockets, but don’t position yourself out of your guests’ price range either. Keep in mind that many of the most popular silent auction items don’t always cost that much—from personal parking spaces to personalized menu items, sometimes the best items to offer are those that keep your supporters feeling special.
Here’s a fun spin on the traditional charity auction. Bachelor or bachelorette auctions can be a great way to raise money for your nonprofit or charity, especially if you have a lot of fun-loving singles eager to meet new people.
Like your traditional auction, you’ll need an event space, bidding paddles, an auctioneer, and an event team to manage the auction. Unlike other auctions, you’ll also need several single people willing to go on dates with the winning bidders. And you’ll also want to work with partner organizations like restaurants, coffee shops, and attractions to organize fun date venues for the winners.
Make sure to keep the comfort of your bachelors and bachelorettes in mind. Establish that the dates have no obligations outside of the planned activities and have the option of ending the date early if they feel any boundaries have been breached. As long as everyone remains respectful, this can be a very fun event for all parties.
Charity raffles can fit into virtually any event, offering your nonprofit an extra revenue building activity that’s easy to set up with online platforms like PayBee. Donors can purchase tickets online or in person, allowing for maximum participation.
Offer a fun prize that people will be willing to buy plenty of tickets to win. Trips, vacation packages, and cool memorabilia are all good options. Some organizations even offer the winner a percentage of the money raised in the raffle.
Yard sales give you the chance to clean out your house while raising money for a good cause. This is a particularly good activity for neighborhood organizations that can get multiple households to participate. Make sure you have someone in charge who can mobilize the donors and collect items such as:
- Clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories
- Books, toys, games
- Sporting equipment
- Electronics and appliances
- Furniture, bedding, curtains, rugs
- Holiday decorations
Organize your event so the sale items are arranged attractively. If certain households don’t have access to foldable tables to display their offerings, arrange for other members of your team to lend them theirs. Advertise the event in advance and let people know what cause the yard sale is raising money for. To increase your revenue streams, provide online options for supporters to donate money even if they don’t purchase any items.
If your support network includes plenty of bibliophiles, a book sale can be an amazing fundraising event to host. School and library organizations are particularly well suited to this since they have donated books and library discards to include in the offerings, but any nonprofit or charity can collect books in good condition and sell them at an event venue. These sales are popular not only with book lovers but also bookdealers, so be sure to promote your event widely online!
If you’re hosting a school fundraiser or your nonprofit deals with kids in the community, a Read-a-Thon is a great way to promote literacy while raising money for your organization. Have children and parents collect pledges from supporters based on the number of pages (or books) they read every month. Participants can log the amount of reading they’ve done each week, letting the donors know how much they need to contribute.
Everyone loves a good carnival, especially one that’s raising money for a good cause! Your carnival can be themed around the time of the year (autumn, summer), a holiday (Halloween, Christmas), or a specific organization (school, church).
The key to hosting a successful carnival fundraiser is to keep your overhead costs low without sacrificing quality. Solicit materials, time, and expertise from business and community residents while recruiting your volunteers to help plan, run, and clean-up your carnival after the event.
Precisely what you offer at your carnival depends on your imagination and resources. You can build a carnival boardwalk filled with popular games like balloon darts, ring tosses, and bowling. Volunteers can offer face painting services and manage a bake sale. If you have access to professional performers, you might even be able to put on a clown show, juggling act, comedy set, or dance routine.
It’s also very easy to work in other fundraising activities into your carnival, including live auctions and raffles. If you promote your event properly, you’ll attract a lot of people, so give them multiple ways to donate!
Here’s an activity that can be a fun addition to your carnival or a charity luncheon. Treasure hunts offer families, couples, and fun-loving people a chance to explore an entertaining venue in search of prizes. You can make your treasure hunt a holiday-themed event (i.e., an Easter egg hunt) or a more general activity like a scavenger hunt.
Secure an event venue like a park or library where people have plenty of space to break out into groups or seek out the hidden treasures individually. Give your volunteers plenty of time to hide any clues or prizes. It may also be a good idea to make the prizes coupons the participants can redeem at the end of the treasure hunt. Want an additional revenue stream? Putting on a raffle during the hunt can let even more people go home winners.
Haunted houses are great attractions to put on during Halloween. They also make a fun addition to your carnival if your audience enjoys getting scared. You can set the house up in your school gymnasium or a community center and put up a series of sheets or fake walls to create a maze-like atmosphere. Volunteers can play the spooks and monsters and if you have someone on staff with special FX makeup experience, you’ll be able to add another spooky layer of professionalism to your event.
Make sure to communicate to both your guests and your volunteers that neither the monsters nor visitors should have any physical contact while in the house. Also—and this is very important—make sure your volunteers remain hydrated throughout the event! This is very important as some of them may have to wear their masks, costumes, and makeup for several hours.
Costumed Character Meet ‘n Greets
Costumed characters always add something extra special to a community event. Everyone wants to see Santa Claus at a Christmas party and having the Easter Bunny make an appearance at a charity brunch can draw in a larger crowd. Even non-holiday events can benefit from costumed characters—just think of all the photo opportunities you could get by having a comic book superhero or fairy tale princess show up at a children’s fun day.
See if any of your volunteers are into cosplay, a fun pastime where pop culture enthusiasts dress up as their favorite fictional characters. Many cosplayers put a lot of time and effort into designing amazing costumes, so you could be getting something really special if you’re able to get a few of these cosplayers to appear at your event. Alternatively, you can rent some costumes and get your volunteers to take on the roles—who wouldn’t want to be a superhero for a day?
Hey, why should only a few people get to have fun wearing costumes? Hosting a costume party is an excellent way to raise funds for your nonprofit or charity. Aside from selling tickets to the party, you can host a costume contest where guests can compete against each other for the best costume. You can also create different party themes and get your guests to all appear as 1930s gangsters or famous fictional characters.
These events can even be virtual or hybrid activities thanks to livestream technology. People from different states can all show off their costumes online—and post photos and video clips on social media.
From masquerade masks to mud masks, hosting a spa day is a great way to offer a day of beauty for your supporters while raising funds for your organization. You can partner with local salons and spas to reserve special rooms for your event. This will give you access to special options like steam facials, mud wraps, hydrotherapy and more.
If this is too expensive to host and too pricey for your guests, you could simply host your spa day at the home of one of your event staff. This doesn’t mean you have to skimp on services either—there are companies that specialize in providing personal spa party services. Or you can simply hire your favorite spa professionals to come to you.
An even more affordable way to host your spa day is to simply do a DIY-style spa party by gathering your own beauty products, movies, games, magazines, and refreshments so your guests can have plenty of fun pampering each other.
And while we’re talking about providing your supporters with a day of beauty, why not go all the way by letting them get their hair done too? A hairstyle party can be an excellent fundraising activity, especially if you can partner with local hair salons and professional stylists and get them to make your guests look their best. This is a great way for local salons and beauticians to promote their services, and a unique way to generate funds for your programs.
Okay, now that we’ve got everyone looking their best, why not throw an event that lets them strut their stuff at a red carpet-style award gala? Even better, why not have this gala recognize the contributions your donors and supporters have been making all year?
An award gala is an excellent way to generate goodwill among your volunteers, staff, and donors and motivate them to continue supporting your programs. Make sure to go all out (or as far as your budget will allow). Produce videos that show the impact your donors and volunteers have made in the communities that your nonprofit services. Invite people who have personally benefited from your charity’s efforts to share their stories. And make sure to prepare plenty of plaques, trophies, and certificates that spotlight your most generous donors and sponsors.
Day at the Theater
Award galas aren’t the only fundraising events where your guests can get dressed up and treat themselves to a night on the town. If your supporters are theater enthusiasts, why not partner with a local theater and invite your donors and supporters to an exclusive showing of a concert, play, or other performance? To increase the feeling of exclusivity, you can arrange for your guests to get a behind-the-scenes tour of the show and meet some of the performers.
Incidentally, this is a fundraiser that can be hosted both in-person and virtually—in fact, thanks to livestream technology, you might even be able to offer backstage tours easier in virtual events.
These days, everyone can take an amazing photo with their phones and edit them into something truly spectacular with Photoshop and special software effects. So, why not turn this into a fun photo contest for your next fundraiser? For a small entry fee, your supporters can show off their most brilliant photos and snapshots and compete for a great prize. Or better yet—select the top 12 photos and edit them into a calendar that you can sell at future fundraisers for additional revenue.
Your photo contest can be themed around a special theme, possibly based around your nonprofit’s mission. You might also want to offer a Special FX photo contest or a funny prank photo contest depending on your audience’s interests and skill sets. And it goes without saying that all of these photo entries will make great material for your social media posts when advertising this and other fundraising events.
Cooking and craft lessons are both favorite fundraising activities, but what if your audience’s interests lean more toward the visual arts? Then why not recruit some of the local art teachers in your area and help your guests discover their inner artist?
There are plenty of different ways you can host this fundraiser. Perhaps you know of some local indie comic book artists who can show you how to draw favorite characters. Or maybe you can secure a painting or sculpting instructor from an art school who can lead your guests in fun art activities. Depending on your guest list, this activity can be adapted to multiple events—like a fun art booth at your carnival fundraiser or a major attraction at an art museum fundraiser.
Branded T-shirts are great for increasing awareness of your nonprofit or charity while also creating a sense of group identity among your volunteers and staff. But T-shirts are also a great way to generate revenue for your organization.
T-shirts can actually factor into multiple fundraising activities. You might create a Logo Design Contest where volunteers and community members can offer their designs for your nonprofit or charity’s logo. This logo can then be transferred onto T-shirts that you can buy in bulk (as well as your promo banners, buttons, web banners etc.). Sell these T-shirts on your websites and offer them as giveaways during group events like walk-a-thons. You can periodically update your T-shirt brand, giving more people a chance to get involved.
Who wouldn’t want to see the principal of their high school get duct-taped to the flagpole, or watch the manager of their organization walk around in a bunny suit all day? With goofy wager crowdfunding, you can make any outlandish activity a fundraising opportunity. By having individual volunteers or staff members set up their own crowdfunding pages, you can make these wagers as big or as small as you like.
It won’t be hard to get four or five people to donate $25 each to see their boss record an online video of themselves getting hit by water balloons—but you can also go big and ask even more people to help reach a higher fundraising goal to get your co-worker to adopt a new (temporary) hair color. The sky’s the limit with this fundraiser (which also offers plenty of opportunities for silly photos and videos you can share on social media), so start brainstorming!
From sophisticated luncheons to family-friendly carnivals to outlandish bets, fundraising activities can take on many different forms. Depending on your own nonprofit’s group identity, you may find some of these ideas more feasible than others—but don’t overlook the chance to try something new!
And speaking of new, you can reach many more donors and supporters for your fundraisers by adopting a user-friendly online fundraising platform like PayBee. Hosting virtual and hybrid events allows you to attract a massive online audience that can support you from different states and even different countries. It’s a great way to not only raise more funds for your programs but also to spread greater awareness of your cause and promote your brand.
If you’d like to learn more, sign up for a free demo of PayBee’s online platform today. You’ll be able to participate in a live mock auction (complete with virtual money) and see how easy our software is to use. You’ll also be able to ask all of your fundraising event questions to our team of experts who’ll be more than happy to show how our software can help your nonprofit or charity reach the next level in fundraising. Sign up for a free demo today!