Mental Health Fundraising Ideas: Mental Health Fundraisers That Promote Awareness and Support for Mental Illness

Mental Health Fundraising Ideas: Mental Health Fundraisers That Promote Awareness and Support for Mental Illness

Of all the different causes nonprofits and charities support today, increasing mental health awareness and improving care for mental health may be one of the most relevant. As people become increasingly willing to share their struggles with trauma, emotional abuse, workplace stress, PTSD, suicidal ideation and other mental issues, the need for better mental health awareness, support, and care is becoming a growing reality.

That being said, fundraising for mental health programs carries some unique challenges. With all the misinformation spread about key mental health challenges, it's important for nonprofits and charities to host accurate mental health awareness campaigns and form strong partnerships with qualified mental health professionals. Fundraisers must also be careful to treat mental health and those afflicted with mental health challenges with sensitivity. Finally, new challenges like the global pandemic have made it difficult to provide good mental care -- and raise money for mental health crisis programs. 

Luckily, the past few years have opened up new opportunities for mental health fundraising ideas. From virtual and hybrid galas to social media marketing to new twists on classic fundraising activities, nonprofits and charities can now fundraise in a host of innovative ways. This article will delve into the best practices for a mental health fundraiser and show how fundraising platforms like the PayBee system can help your charity.    

Awareness Campaigns and Health Event Activities Raise Awareness of Mental Health 

Beyond simply raising money for a crisis center or mental health program, event fundraising offers an excellent way to educate your community about the mental health issues people around them may be experiencing and reduce the stigma surrounding mental health. Thus, it is essential that your event team view your fundraiser as a way to spread knowledge while also raising money for charity programs.

Let people know the true impact mental illness can have in a community. For instance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) reports that 1 in 5 U.S. adults experience mental illness every year and that 75% of mental illness begins by age 24. By sharing this information through fact sheets and posters, your fundraisers help show just how prevalent mental health issues are -- and provide your guests with increased motivation to provide their own community support.

Be timely and relevant with your awareness campaigns. For example, if your community has suffered a tragedy caused by mental health issues or is experiencing a difficult time that is creating more mental health problems, people will be more willing to attend your fundraisers, learn about these issues, and offer support.  

Spreading mental health awareness also allows you to promote mental health resources, from crisis centers to therapy programs, which can be shared either in person or online via social media. Not only is this a great way to educate people about mental health issues and treatment, it's also an excellent marketing strategy to promote your current or upcoming fundraisers.

Community Fundraiser Walks and Runs Strengthen Charity Activities

One nice thing about a mental health event is that many of the activities you can offer have a direct link to mental health treatment practices. For instance, NAMI reports that exercise has been used to help treat numerous mental health issues including depression, anxiety, eating disorders, bipolar disorders, grief, dementia, and even personality disorders. Incorporating a fun run or walk as part of your fundraising activities is therefore be a great way to promote the benefits of physical exercise as it relates to mental health -- all while raising money for your health charity programs. 

When organizing a charity walk or run, keep the following fundraising tips in mind. Set clear goals for your volunteers and staff on how much money you intend to raise. Communicate this to all your participants, giving them an idea of how many people they need to reach out to in their peer-to-peer fundraisers and how many pledges they should aim at collecting. 

Be sure to take care of any technical and logistical issues. For instance, you'll want to use a good online fundraising platform like PayBee to assist in marketing, peer-to-peer fundraising, and communication among staff and volunteers. You'll also want to secure any necessary permits, insurance, waivers, and other legal coverage for whatever venue you choose in advance of your event. Be sure to choose a fun and appropriate venue for your walk or run based on your audience and the current climate -- both indoor and outdoor events can be fun, especially if they take place in stimulating environments like nature trails or theme parks. And don't forget to provide essentials like water, snacks, first aid kits, and portable toilets for your participants.

Promote your event online and offline. Form partnerships with local businesses that can help spread the word in the community and use PayBee's digital marketing tools to highlight your event on social media channels your audience frequents. The event itself can offer plenty of marketing opportunities if you take photos of your participants and share them on Instagram and Facebook with your hashtag so you can promote both your event and your nonprofit. 

Art and Creative Expression Workshops Offer a Lucrative and Illuminating Fundraising Event

Just as exercise has been shown to benefit mental health, art activities also create huge contribution to the minds and emotional well-being of others. Studies have shown that experiencing and making art helps access advanced processes in the human brain that deal with embodied cognition, intuitive analysis, and expressivity. Art has been shown to increase serotonin levels and improve memory. Those who engage in art therapy have also been shown to have lower stress, improved focus, a better ability to process emotion, better communication skills, and a more hopeful outlook on the future.

Clearly, art is an integral part of many therapy programs that deal with mental and emotional health. But the benefits of engaging in art therapy carry over to everyone -- including your donors and supporters. Thus, offering art shows, performances, and workshops is an excellent way to promote relaxation, optimism, and generosity, all while educating the public about mental health and the treatments available to those with mental and emotional issues.

So, what sort of art fundraiser will your donor population find most stimulating? Here are just a few possibilities:

  • Art show: If the mental health treatment programs you support use art therapy, see if you can display artwork created by clients. If allowed, share the story behind each piece and how the act of creating the painting, music composition, or poem helped clients deal with their mental and emotional issues.
  • Art auction: This could be done in tandem with your art show, provided clients are okay with auctioning off their work. Allowing donors to bid on favorite pieces of art can help raise money for your nonprofit -- and purchasing the art at your event makes its story more meaningful.
  • Performance pieces: This can range from having clients read original poems about their experiences, sing songs, or even produce full-length plays for an audience of your donors and supporters.
  • Art-a-thon: Here's an event where you can have artists create art pieces or participate in a major art project (like designing and painting a large mural) non-stop for an extended period of time (often 24 hours). This event can be live streamed, expanding your audience (who can make donations to your nonprofit online), and you can let audience members bid on the completed works at the end of the event.
  • Art workshops: Here's a way to get donors to create art while being educated about your programs. If you use teaching artists in your therapy programs, let them offer workshops to your supporters so they can see how therapeutic creating paintings, writing poems, playing instruments, or engaging in any other art-related activities can be. You'll promote feelings of wellness while illuminating others of the relevance of your work. 

Online and Social Media Campaigns Bring Mental Health Fundraising Ideas into the Digital World

The COVID pandemic showed us that in-person gatherings and fundraisers could be put on hold for extended periods of time. This was particularly challenging for mental health charities and nonprofits as the pandemic also increased feelings of depression, loneliness, and anxiety in large segments of the population.

To address this issue, many nonprofits and charities adapted to the situation by embracing new technologies. Online fundraising platforms and digital fundraising tools like those offered by PayBee provided a way to still reach out to donors through the Internet and secure their support. These online fundraising campaigns also provided a way for people to stay connected through video calls and texts, offering a much-needed way to educate communities about mental health struggles and the online resources still available to those who struggled.

Even as social distancing restrictions lifted, advances in online and social media campaigns changed the way fundraising was conducted moving forward. Hybrid galas, which offer a way for people to attend fundraisers in-person and online, now provide a more affordable way to hold galas, while vastly increasing an audience. And while people may be eager to mingle in-person again, virtual galas continue to provide a way for those unable to physically attend to stay connected -- providing benefits to everyone's mental health.

That being said, online and social media campaigns do come with a learning curve for the uninitiated, which can lead to mental and emotional stress as your team gets used to the technology. To help, PayBee offers friendly tech support and access to a partner network of auctioneers and event planners ready to make your next virtual or hybrid campaign as worry-free as possible.  

Collaborations with Mental Health Professionals Help Tell an Accurate Story of Mental Health Issues

Partnering with therapists, counselors, and mental health experts is an excellent way to provide better care and more accurate information. Not only can these professionals provide invaluable insights into how to provide needed care for mental and emotional issues, they can also help provide mental health education for your audience. This builds trust among your donors and supporters since they will see you are investing in the help of experts to better your community.

When partnering with therapists and mental health experts, provide them with a platform that will let them speak to a wide audience. Periodically host mental health workshops or seminars during the year where community members can learn more about the mental health support you are providing directly from your experts. These workshops or seminars can also be held in tandem with your fundraisers and can provide additional incentive to support your programs once your audience understands the depth of the issues you are combating.

Take advantage of the virtual communities you now have access to. Offering webinars that educate the public about key mental issues and promote the programs that provide support for mental health provides the broader community with invaluable information. And thanks to the live streaming technology, recorded videos, and video chat, it's easier than ever for people in different states or even countries to learn about mental health issues, the work your nonprofit is doing, and how to contribute to your programs.

Themed Fundraising Events Attracts the Right Audiences to Your Charity

Creating a solid theme around your mental health fundraiser helps focus the aim of your gala and allows it to resonate with your intended audience. This can be done by in a variety of ways. You could theme your fundraising gala around the type of activities you're offering. For instance, if you want to emphasize arts activities, offer an arts auction, craft workshops, and performance pieces all in the same gala.

Alternatively, you might consider creating themed events and awareness campaigns around a specific mental health issue such as anxiety disorders. Build workshops and Q&A sessions run by mental health professionals to educate guests about the signs of an anxiety disorder and the problems that come from not treating anxiety. Let people participate in fun activities used to manage anxiety, such as meditation or fun runs.

Building your fundraising gala around an empowering theme like "Coping Strategies for Workplace Burnout" can attract a lot of interest. Office workers interested in managing their own work stress attend your gala if you offer a lot of fun and practical activities for dealing with stress and anxiety -- and will be more inclined to support and promote your charity if they receive such immediate benefits.    

Taking your audience's interests into account is key to choosing a successful theme. For instance, when Australia charity North West Queensland Mental Health Network held its 2023 event to raise money for the network's activities, it hosted a "Dinner on the Field" fundraiser on a rugby field in Soldiers Field, Australia to tap into the community's interest in sports. Not only was the event's venue sports-themed, the charity also invited retired rugby sports star Joel Thompson as a guest speaker to mingle with attendees, take photos -- and talk about his own struggles with mental health and the importance of support networks. As Joel also runs his own mental health initiative, "The Mindset Project," his appearance fit the event's theme for both sports and mental wellness. The event attracted over 100 attendees who helped support the network's initiatives.   

Engaging Local Businesses and Sponsors Improves Fundraising Event Sustainability

Building partnerships with local businesses offers plenty of benefits for both parties. Not only can business sponsors help fund your events, they can also promote your galas. Meanwhile, you can promote your sponsors through your marketing materials, website, and notices on donated items.

When securing good sponsors and donations, be sure to start early. Approach businesses months before your scheduled fundraising gala and outline the benefits of providing your nonprofit with financial support and/or donations. Emphasize how large your support network is and how many people will learn about their business if you promote it on your website and event marketing. If the potential sponsors you are approaching are in the mental health profession (i.e. therapists, counselors etc.), see if they'd be interested in volunteering their time to consult on your programs or conduct a seminar at your event.

Not all sponsor contributions need to be made in gifts of money or time. Sometimes, businesses will be more than happy to donate items for your fundraiser in exchange for a promotion on your website and event marketing materials. This is particularly true if you plan to host a charity auction at your event and need popular auction items to attract guests (and large bids). For this reason, it's good to approach a variety of potential sponsors -- from mental health professionals to restaurants to department stores and even travel agencies. Every one of these businesses can provide valuable support -- and many of the owners will be more than happy to support your nonprofit once you clarify your mission. 

FAQs on Mental Health Fundraising

How do I start a mental health fundraiser?

To start a mental health fundraiser, it's important to establish your goals early on. How much money are you attempting to raise and for what purpose(s)? What type of mental and/or emotional issues do you want to share with your community -- and how will you get this information across? How will you reach your audience? Virtually? In-person? By making sure your volunteers and staff know your nonprofit's answer to all these questions, you can focus your efforts toward a common goal and create a fundraiser that truly benefits your community.

Why do we fundraise for mental health?

Caring for people's mental health is just as important as maintaining their physical health. And as people become more willing to share their mental and emotional issues, the need for mental health support programs is greater than ever. Fundraising for mental health programs helps ensure more people get the support and guidance they need.

Who are the biggest mental health philanthropists and philanthropic organizations?

Philanthropic organizations that have contributed to mental health care and research include the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation which focuses on overall well being and Bloomberg Philanthropies which focuses on substance use. In 2022, philanthropist MacKenzie Scott donated $30 million to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). To date, this was the largest contribution to NAMI in its history.  

What charities are for stress and anxiety?

There are multiple charities in the U.S. and abroad that focus on helping people with stress and anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a U.S. nonprofit that brings together mental health professionals who work to increase awareness of anxiety and depression and improve patient care through best practices and better treatments. Anxiety UK is a nationally recognized charity formed to help those with stress, anxiety, phobias, or anxiety-based depression. Other notable nonprofits and charities include the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and Mental Health America (MHA), which raises awareness of many mental issues, including anxiety.

Moving Forward

Hosting a fundraiser for mental health programs not only supports community health but also gives you a chance to educate audiences about emotional and mental health challenges that their family, friends, and co-workers may be facing. This is an excellent way to lower the stigma still surrounding mental health issues while providing services for those who need it the most.

However, assembling a successful fundraiser still requires having the right staff and equipment to turn your ideas into activities and events that will resonate with everyone. PayBee provides you with proven, user-friendly digital tools that help you create and customize any fundraising campaign, from auctions to fun runs to art workshops. Our easy-to-use app enables your staff to communicate and coordinate their activities while our marketing software promotes your events across popular social media platforms.

But don't just take our word for it. Sign up for a free demo of our platform and see for yourself how our software can benefit your fundraiser. We'll let you experience a simulated live auction that'll get your audience excited and eager to donate to your cause. You'll also be able to ask any specific questions you have to our staff and learn just how our platform can fit your nonprofit or charity's needs. Sign up today and learn how PayBee can help improve mental health awareness and funding in your community!

Start Fundraising

I am a...

Looking for...

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Charity Fundraising
Michael Jung


Latest Articles


OneCause Hidden Fees and Charges

Read Article

Navigate the world of nonprofit fundraising solutions with our comprehensive article. Decipher the hidden fees eroding your budget, and compare industry leaders OneCause and Paybee. Learn how Paybee’s transparent pricing model, practical features, and low-cost and free options empower nonprofits to realize their fundraising potential. From seamless ticketing to fully fledged galas, Paybee stands alone as the most powerful fundraising event solution. Choose clarity, flexibility, and innovation - choose Paybee.


Event Fundraising Software Subscription: From Managing Events To Maximizing Your Fundraising 

Read Article

Our guide to event fundraising software subscriptions. Learn about top platforms, such as PayBee, and more. An in-depth look at useful features, pricing structure, and benefits. Learn how to evaluate and choose the right software, use it effectively, and boost donor engagement. Whether you're a nonprofit considering subscription models or navigating customization and integration, this article provides valuable insights to raise your fundraising strategy, make informed decisions, enhance your event management, and achieve greater success in your nonprofit fundraising events.


Unlocking Creative Raffle Prize Ideas: A Dive into Winning Raffle Prizes and Innovative Ideas

Read Article

Dive into the world of creative raffle prizes with Paybee, a seamless fundraising platform. Explore diverse prize ideas, from themed baskets to high-value items. Learn strategies, advantages, and IRS reporting for successful fundraising. Elevate your charity raffle with Paybee's support for an unforgettable campaign.