Winter Fundraising Ideas for a Frosty Fundraiser in the Heart of Winter Fundraising

Winter Fundraising Ideas for a Frosty Fundraiser in the Heart of Winter Fundraising

If you've been in the nonprofit sector long enough, you know the winter season is the most profitable time of the year for most nonprofits. This is because with the holiday season, a lot of people take the time to stop and feel grateful for what they have. This in turn sparks them to also give to help others that aren't as well off. The holiday spirit takes over and the atmosphere is filled with goodwill, making it an ideal moment to tap into the generosity of individuals with some holiday fundraising.  

Then there's the corporations, foundations and larger donors that, come the end of the year know exactly what their organizations or personal pockets can afford to give. Plus they need to take advantage of the tax free benefits of giving before the new year to offset their tax liabilities. So just like average citizens, very well off donors, foundations and companies also give more at the end of the year.

So no matter why someone gives, or even the amount, it's widely understood that most nonprofits collect up to 30% of their yearly donations in the last two months of the year. And even more importantly, around 10% of that 30% comes in in the last 3 days of the year! So holding year end fundraising campaigns can definitely align with this special winter holiday spirit, making it more likely that donors will open their hearts and wallets to support your cause.

Top Fundraising Ideas for Winter

Holiday and winter themed events are always a big hit, no matter where you are in the country. Just because it isn't snowing outside doesn't mean people aren't in the holiday spirit. In fact, for those of you in hot or warmer parts of the globe, holiday themed events can be something truly unique to your supporters, so give one of our winter fundraising ideas a try, they've done well as fundraising events for charities for a long time.

Off and Online Fundraising Ideas

White Gala or Party

These is a great indoor or outdoor winter fundraising ideas. Galas are a great way to not just do your average fundraising, but to also help build a community around your organization. These galas don’t have to be sophisticated, you can even incorporate the ‘hygge’ (relaxed and comfortable atmosphere) approach. But to make it a bit more festive, have everyone wear white rather than the usual black suit and tie event. And if you do live somewhere hot, perhaps even spring for a snow machine that runs during dinner for an atmosphere they'll never forget.

You can talk to restaurants or other event spaces within your community to see who’d be willing to donate or reduce their fees for your event. Then you can place a ticket charge for the event donation that includes dinner and perhaps some sort of live entertainment. Then look though our list for some possible add-ons like an online charity auction or adopt-a-family that can be done at the same time for a larger impact. Just be aware that to set up a gala takes a bit of work, and you should start planning by February to really be prepared and ask donors to signup as soon as possible so you can can plan ever better.

Check out our virtual galas demo here to see how we can make any gala even more successful!

Holiday Charity Auction

Holiday charity auctions are always some of the best winter fundraisers and can really boost your nonprofit's profitability. For the best results, you're going to need to start planning your charity auction fundraiser sometime in October or even sooner as they have a lot of moving parts. But with a platform like PayBee at your side, the entire process can be super simple when using any of our live, silent or hybrid auction software for your event giving your organization multiple ways to fund your campaign.

Imagine hosting a live auction, perhaps even combining the auction with a white gala from above, and also taking advantage of our virtual auction capabilities at the same time. So anyone looking to get involved but just can't make it to your live auction still gets a chance to participate, and bid and donate! And all with very little extra work. And if you start planning your auction in January, by the time November or December comes, you should have a ton of items to auction off. Remember, many people will also be looking for last minute gift ideas as well as cool stuff to buy, so try to get some items donated that can fit well into the gift column.

Tweaks - Partner with local artists or artisans to include unique, handcrafted items in the auction in return for introducing their crafts to your supporters.

Chinese Silent Auction and Dinner

Everyone loves a Chinese auction, and pairing the event with awesome Chinese food gives the event a unique feel that most people wouldn't otherwise experience during the holiday season. So this idea can really make your fundraising stand out! Try partnering with a well liked Chinese food caterer for the event.

You can decorate your event accordingly and for an even more fun twist, ask attendees to wear traditional Chinese costumes and hold a costume contest with prizes. Or arrange for live Chinese cultural performances like dragon or lion dances, traditional music, or martial arts demonstrations to entertain attendees.

Silent auctions are always fun, and you can ask your donors to make a Chinese basket of their own to donate to the fundraiser. What's also great is with PayBee's auction suite of tools, you can offer your auctions to both on premises attendees, as well as virtual attendees that can also bid, creating even more donations for your organization.

Tweaks – Offer cultural workshops on things like calligraphy, tea ceremonies, or Chinese art for an added donation.

Physical Winter Event Challenges

Winter Walkathon fundraising

Think of this winter fundraising idea as more of a walkathon type event, or a live crowdfunding event. The fundraising aspect is that you gather a group of volunteers that are willing to walk, or even run a set distance in order to raise money for your organization. The basic idea is a donor sponsors the volunteer and pays them a set amount for each mile they walk. Then this money is donated to the organization, so the donor still receives a tax delectable receipt for their donation.

The best part of this fundraiser is since it's a holiday themed event, you can make your walk-a-thon meander through places that have been decorated for the holiday season, or past Christmas carolers or other holiday themed festive places. Or you can ask everyone to dress up in the ugliest Christmas sweaters they can find, or wear Santa or elf outfits. You can end the walk with a hot chocolate stand and other warm food to raise a little extra money on the event. This is a great event to build real personal relationships with your supporters. Take your fundraising one step further and set up your charity's pledge drive on Paybee so your donors and volunteers never need to leave their homes to collect the donations for your walk-a-thon.

Tweaks - Create a sense of competition by giving out awards or recognition to the participants who raise the most money, or offer  winter goodies for participants, like prizes or recognition, for hitting certain fundraising milestones.

Snow Tubing Event

Here’s an entirely family fun fundraising idea that is super easy to implement, but you’re going to need some snow for this one! Rather than sleds or skiing, why not try something safer and more fun. All you need is a hill (the steeper the better), some snow, and some tire tubes (you can even use those pool tubes). And the best part is this is open to the local community and a great way of forming relationships with new donors and volunteers.

You can simply rent out the tubes per hour or for the day as a fundraising opportunity. a opt for an all day tube pass with unlimited rides. Then try to incorporate other ways to profit like having a hot chocolate stand, or other warm food items. Promote the event as a fun day for families, including discounts for group or family ticket purchases. Or pair it with other activities like a snowman or snow fort building contest, or even a snowball fight at the end of the day.

All the parents will be grateful to your organization on how tuckered out their kids will be! It’s a simple tweak from the normal skiing or sledding events that has a lot less hassles and cost, both big pluses for your charity’s employees and volunteers, and of course your bottom line!

Tweaks - Consider partnering with a local catering company to provide food and beverages for the event, generating additional fundraising  revenue.

Snowball Fight Fundraiser 

This is the perfect way to get kids involved, and even better when holding a gala or something more adult oriented yet kids are around. You can even use this as an upgrade for parents and charge an extra fee for watching their kids so they can enjoy their own event.

But unlike your typical snowball fight, you can tailor this so it’s more like a paintball game. Divide the kids into a few teams and let them go at it. As soon as someone is hit, they’re out and need to sit on the sidelines. Depending on how many kids you have, they can be out permanently, or for a specified amount of time. Whoever is last to get hit with a snowball, their team is declared the winner.

Does your weather include 80 degree days? Use water balloons instead. You can even order only white balloons so you get an even more snowball feel.You can give out small prizes to all involved like hot chocolate and cookies as most kids would love to play just for the fun of it. And not be stuck at their parents boring fund-raising event!

Tweaks – Consider incorporating a charity element by having participants donate a small amount to "buy" extra snowballs or "lives" in the game.

Creative Winter Charity Fundraisers

Toy Drive Fundraising Events 

What would the holiday season be without toy fundraising ideas! And you don't need to have children's organization either, this can work for animal shelters and all sorts of humane type charities. It all depends on what your nonprofit is about and how you can tweak your events to align with the whole winter concept.

This winter fundraising idea can either benefit kids directly in the form of gathering and distributing toys, or you can hit up local shops and stores for new toys that you can either sell or hold raffles or auctions for fundraising. This can be a great time to host a live and online auction that kids can be a part of. You just need to make sure any online bids come with their parent's approval! Either way your nonprofit decides to go with their toy drive, it's a great idea and can involve the entire family.

Tweaks - Create an online wish list for your organization, allowing supporters to purchase items directly and have them delivered.

Holiday Elves (Services for Donations)

If you're able to combine winter fundraiser ideas, this would be perfect with either the wrapping idea or getting your picture taken with Santa Clause. Not only do you get a happy picture with the kids, but you get a chance to hire his elves to do the tasks you don't want, like cleaning out your garage, or dusting off all your ceilings. Or the extra holiday stuff they don't have time for like gift wrapping and even holiday decorating.

The idea here is to round up enough volunteers and then rent them out for a fee. You can pitch the service as a way to employee someone for a small job, while at the same time giving your customers a tax deductible donation receipt for doing so. It's easy fundraising with no cost to your nonprofit, and everyone gets what they want.

Tweaks - Create service packages that include a combination of tasks (e.g., cleaning, gift wrapping, decorating) for different donation levels. Or have your volunteers dress up as actual elves or even Mr. and Mrs. Clause.

Ornament Making Winter Events

This is a family activity and can be themed as a kids only, or family winter event. If you plan early enough, you can start gathering products all year long in preparation and just store everything until December. This way you can ask stores or even individuals for product donations, while also taking advantage of any sales that come up during the year for all the craft items you'll need, keeping the costs down and maximizing profit.

You're going to need enough space for your event, somewhere like a town hall,school cafeteria or even a church are great places and can be rented out cheaply or possibly even given to your nonprofit for free. You'll also need enough volunteers to help everyone and make sure they have the materials they need to make their Christmas ornaments. You can charge for the activity by the person, and even have prizes for the best ornaments. It would be great to live stream the event and let the ones tuning in get a vote on which ornament they like best as well. You can even involve local artists or craft experts and make them judges for the fundraiser.

Tweaks - Try making the event more environmentally friendly by using recycled or sustainable materials for all the ornaments. You can even only use trash or all natural objects like leaves, branches and flowers.

Community Engagement Fundraising Ideas 

Letters to Santa Fundraiser

Encourage children and families to write letters to Santa Claus. Then hold an event where each letter is matched to a donor. You can just throw all the letters into a bag and have Santa go to each donor and they randomly pull one out. Or alternatively you can post them onto the walls of your event, and donors can read through them and choose the one they most feel they’d like to fulfill.

Obviously each request in the letter can’t be granted, but just one that shows up on Christmas day can really change the way a child looks at Christmas forever. And while this is not so much fundraising specific, some things you can do during the event is hold a raffle, hold a dinner party or gala, or conduct a charity auction all at the same time. You can even encourage local businesses to sponsor specific letters or gifts, helping to fulfill more wishes.

Tweaks - Collaborate with a local post office if possible to have "Santa" reply to the letters, adding a magical touch. Just reply to each one from the North Pole, and have the post office stamp them, or alternately you can get a rubber stamp that looks similar and do it all yourself.

Parents Night Out

Many parents will tell you that during the holiday season, the one thing they simply do not have enough of is time. Perhaps they want time to just have a romantic dinner, some quiet time together, or even time to buy and wrap their children's gifts without prying eyes watching! So why not give them a well deserved night off?

This fundraiser is another super easy and low cost one to operate. All you need is some space and a few volunteers that really like kids. High school gyms or community centers can be great for these types of local events, and are usually willing to donate their spaces to a worthy cause for free. Once you have the space, then it's time to come up with a few activities and games to keep the kids occupied and let parents all across your community know they can buy a ticket to freedom, child freedom that is! And all proceeds go to charity to boot! Just make sure to have a secure check-in and check-out system for parents to drop off and pick up their children.

Tweaks - Offer a door to door service for the local community where you'll pick up the kids and drop them back off for a small donation. 

Christmas Eve Dinner

A lot of people are alone or are too tiered to create an actual Christmas dinner for themselves. And the alternatives are few unless you count the Chinese restaurants like in A Christmas Story. You can make this a Gala event, or a more cozy family feel event with hot chocolate and gingerbread cookies. Either way, it will take a bit of work and space. The perfect place would be a restaurant that's already planning to close for Christmas eve or day. They might be very open to make something for the day, or be willing to donate the kitchen and space just for the good press.

You can charge by the plate and try and get as much of the food donated as possible. Many big chain stores will have a lot of stock the last few days before Christmas that often goes unused. So a great opportunity to get some free stuff and give them a tax break. In addition, you can ask local chefs or restaurants to prepare a special meal, adding a gourmet touch to the event.

Tweaks - Consider offering home delivery for those who can't attend in person.

Unique Winter Fundraising Ideas 

Winter Goodies Eating Contest

Since we're on the topic of food, eating contests are some great fundraising ideas that can be tailored to anything you want. To make an eating contest festive, just think of things like Christmas Cookie Eating Contests, or Turkey Eating Contests. No matter what you decide, this fundraiser can bring in a lot of participants as well as spectators. Just look at this event that takes both food and fitness to create a fundraiser everyone enjoys.

One option is to charge each contestant an entrance fee and then use a small portion of all the fees as cash prizes. Plus this is a perfect time to set up a hot chocolate booth, or sell Christmas cookies to all involved to help boost your fundraising. If you have enough donors, you can even make this a hybrid event that is streamed in real time. Donors can watch the event from anywhere while still making donations to your fundraiser.

Another option you can choose is to use the same idea as the Walkathon model. Get your contestants to use peer-to-peer fundraising to help support your cause even further. Then you can give two prizes, one for the person who eats the most, and one that raises the most money fr your nonprofit. It's all a win-win.

Tweaks - Incorporate a charity challenge aspect, where participants can challenge friends to join and donate through a team fundraising page of their own that they ccan further share on their own social media channels.

Wrapping Paper Fundraising 

A wrapping paper event is an easy and inexpensive winter charity event that can bring in big dollars, especially the closer you get to Christmas. Parents everywhere are looking for ways to save time, and wrapping their own children's gifts isn't one of those ways. That's why this easy fundraiser is always a big hit with everyone.

Most charities can get supporters and volunteers to help out with the wrapping. And even if you fail to find someone to contribute the materials you need as a donation, they're still readily available and inexpensive to buy. It's the actual service people are willing to pay for, and pay they will, even better when they know it's for a good cause. And the best part is you can hold the event for close to the entire month of December.

Tweaks - Offer an express wrapping service for last-minute shoppers who need gifts wrapped on the spot and charge a little more for the service.

Photos With Santa 

Everyone love taking photos of happy memories. What better way to associate your organization with a happy memory than hosting a picture with Santa opportunity. This is another fundraiser idea that's easy enough to set up while also being inexpensive. And with the digital images you take, not only can you print out the image right there for the client, but you can also get an email address and send them the digital copies as well as signing them up for your newsletter and doing a little marketing at the same time. A great way to get more people to know, like and trust your nonprofit which equates to better winter fundraising!

And pictures with Santa don't need to be strictly for people. You can also have pets getting involved, or practically anyone or anything. And this is also a perfect opportunity to combine this event with others like your gift wrapping services or elf services. If you're able to secure a high traffic area like a spot in a busy mall, it's the perfect time to get in front of a lot of people who may not be familiar with your organization yet.

Tweaks - Create a holiday-themed backdrop and props for photos to make the experience even more magical. Or for better fundraising results, create different packages of images in different sizes and formats, both digital and printed formats. Partner with a frame shop that is willing to split their profits with you.


Although this fundraising idea may take a little work, it can be super effective when done correctly. The fundraising idea here is that you match a donor with a family, although neither will ever know who the other is. Rather, you make a small booklet that details the family and its members, their situation and their needs that’s well written and heart felt. You can either then send it off to the donor you feel will most connect with the family, or you can make it easier and list the family document on your website and each donor can claim the family they feel most closest to.

Once a family is paired with a donor, then you can send the family a donor document so they get a feel for the person who contributed to their well being. And if the donor so chooses, ask first, you can even include their name. This can all create quite a bond not just with your donors, but everyone involved.

Tweaks – Combine this with the Letters to Santa Fundraiser where each donor picks a letter to Santa and honors their requests to the best of their ability. Or encourage donors to involve their friends or coworkers to collectively support a family, creating a sense of community involvement. 

Tweaking Our Fundraising Ideas and Activities 

Remember, the sky is the limit when it comes to all the tweaks that can be made to an event to make it even better. Things like hybrid events (Yes, we have this option on PayBee!) can not only create a competitive auction atmosphere and raise more donations, but it can also allow anyone in the world with an internet connection to get involved as well, greatly widening your presence and fundraising opportunities.

Then there are just the small tweaks you can make like adding a raffle to your event, or simply getting some winter themed gifts as donations for prizes or auction items can all be used to make your events more fun and profitable. By reading through all of our information above and combining different aspects of the events, you're sure to come up with a memorable and highly lucrative idea for your winter fundraising.


Why is winter a good time for fundraising?

Winter is one of the best times for fundraising since most nonprofits receive up to 30% of their total donations in the last two months of the year. Plus during the holiday season, many people are more in tune with giving and sharing than in other times of the year.

How can I promote my winter fundraising event?

One of the best ways to promote your fundraiser is through social media, especially places like Facebook and Tik-Toc. Promote the event through social media and create a dedicated hashtag to encourage sharing and participation for each event no matter what time of year it falls in..

What are some low-cost winter fundraising ideas?

Some lo cost winter fundraising ideas include Parents Night Out, Santa's Elves and many more we've written about above. You do not need to spend a lot of money to host a money making event. And there are plenty of low cost and even no cost ideas above.

How can I engage donors during the winter season?

The holiday season is a great time to engage donors and make them feel special and part of something bigger than themselves. A hand written note, thank-you or Christmas card is one way to stand out to them. This is a list of some great ways to cultivate your donor relationships.

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Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.

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