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When we talk to other non-profits and charities, the #1 problem they have is finding new and exciting fundraising ideas.

Every organization should have a variety of fundraising events. Each event can cater to a different segment of their audience. That way you can engage your entire audience rather than just a single portion of it. 

Even though we here at Play It Forward focus on sports fundraisers, we still do events such as a Casino Night. That allows our supporters who may not play in a volleyball tournament or join a golf outing to still support us and connect with the rest of our community. 

Remember, your fundraising events should be more than just a cash grab, they should have a purpose whether that is to develop a sense of community, highlight a particular aspect of your mission, or simply to give your audience an opportunity to have a good time!

Here are 11 fundraising ideas that really work to help you get started…

1. Enter A Team In A Play It Forward Sports Tournament

If you know Play It Forward, then you knew this was going to be our first suggestion. After all, it’s part of what we do to play it forward to other charities and non-profits like yours.

You can enter a team in one of our sports tournaments with just a few players. You don’t even have to be good! Our tournaments are all about having fun and supporting your organization.

We provide a crowdfunding style web page for you and your players to share with supporters, friends, family and anyone else that wants to donate to your team. After you raise the small minimum amount (different for every tournament) then 80% of everything raised above that goes directly to your charity. No further work on your part, other than to show up and play.

Our sports tournaments have helped raise thousands of dollars for many different charities.

2. Start A Rewards Program For Fundraisers

You may not have the budget to hire a talented fundraiser. Even if you did, they are hard to find.

That’s ok.

Use connections that are easy to get. Local sports teams, colleges, clubs, and other places where you can find younger people who may not have the means to donate but do have more free time than your supporters who have careers and families.

Getting young people involved in your organization can give you a huge boost.

Develop a rewards program so that the fundraisers you recruit can win prizes for reaching certain fundraising milestones throughout the year. You don’t have to purchase the prizes until your fundraisers reach those milestones. So the program is self-funding with very little initial capital needed up front. Make sure that you do the math to make sure that the cost of the prizes still results in most of the money going to your organization. Over time, if your program grows, you may be able to contact retailers and even companies directly to negotiate better prices for the prizes or even get them donated. 

You do need to check your local laws regarding paying people for fundraising. Direct monetary commissions may be problematic and there may also be limits on the value of prizes you can hand out. Check with an attorney that specializes in non-profits.

The best part about this is that once the program gets going, it becomes relatively passive for the organization (especially if you have good fundraising software that lets your fundraisers have their own dedicated web page to share. 

3. Company Match Programs

Most companies have some type of matching program where you can stretch the value of your gift even further. It takes little effort to check with your company to see if they match gifts made to charitable organizations. 

This is especially important for larger donors and your more active volunteers or even board members that are regularly raising money for you or donating themselves. Many company matching programs will match the money an employee raises for a certain event even if they did not donate the money themselves. 

Start with the biggest contributors and reach out to them to educate them about the possibility their company has such a program. Then you can even help them get signed up. Offer to do the paperwork for them. The easiest thing you can do is include some language on your website or in an email you send out reminding donors to check and see if their company has such a program. 

Finally, be sure to have documentation of their contributions. Most employers need something in writing. So having a good system in place to provide this to all your donors may just have a significant effect on revenue. 

4. Work With A Local Photographer

Photographers are always looking to get their work in front of more people and grow their business. As a non-profit, you probably have a list of supporters that have donated or participated in your events.

Partnering with a photographer opens up a lot of opportunities (as well as helping you create great promo material)

Ask the photographer if they are willing to do a collaboration with your organization. For example, you could work out a plan with a portrait photographer to shoot family portraits of your supporters. Even better if you work in some kind of theme that fits with your mission. Then you can market to your entire supporter base for them for a given time frame and the profits they generate from those shoots will be split with your organization.

Both sides benefit.

The photographer gets access to a (potentially) large number of clients that they would not otherwise have been able to reach directly and those people will be more likely to book with the photographer knowing that a portion of the profits will go to your organization. You get half the profits for relatively little work other than the marketing.

This is a great way get more money from supporters that may have already donated without just going and asking for more. You are providing them with something they may value. Many will look at it as something they might have purchased anyway so they are happy to do it in a way that generates funds for an organization they love.

You also can develop a great relationship with a local photographer that may offer to cover your events in the future.

5. Make A Calendar

This one is great for any organizations that deal with photogenic subjects (nature centers, animal shelters, organizations that help children). You don’t need to be a professional photographer to capture compelling images. Even an iPhone can take great photos nowadays. Of course you can also try to find a professional that will donate their time to help you put it together.

Take those photos and find an online print provider that does calendars. Many of them make it as simple as uploading the images and placing them in a pre-designed template. You can also take it a step further and have a graphic designer create a custom design for you, but that may increase your costs. 

It helps to have a large audience that you can reach with a simple email or a post on social media then you can raise a lot of money in a very short time. 

You don’t need to even buy them ahead of time, just have the design all ready and set up an online store. You can order them as people buy them so you don’t have to worry about losing money.

6. Partner With Local Restaurants

Many restaurants have programs already established to work with local charities. Chain restaurants frequently even have information about it on their websites. The way it usually works is that your organization is given a specific day to encourage its members and supporters to come have a meal at the restaurant. They even give you flyers to hand out.

Your organization is then given a certain percentage of the total bill for every table that presents a flyer or mentions your group. The best part about this fundraiser is that it can be extremely passive, especially if you have a strong social media following that you can use to get the word out.

7. Clothing Drive

Spring cleaning is one of those things that most people do but don’t enjoy. By turning this task into a helpful fundraiser, you can incentivize people to help your charity while participating in something that most of them were going to be doing anyway.

A simple online search will turn up a number of companies that operate clothing drive fundraising programs for non profit organizations in your area. These companies will deliver a large portable storage unit to your location on a specified day, and then pay you a per-pound rate for all of the collected clothing.

Since many of these companies handle the pick up and drop off, all you need to do is actively advertise to your community that you are doing a clothing drive on that specific day. With no out-of-pocket expenses and minimal management responsibilities, this is a great fundraising program that can be easily run year-after-year in your community.

8. Bag Groceries

Most people don’t mind donating to local charities, especially if they feel that they are also getting something of value in exchange for their contribution. Teaming up with your local grocery store for a grocery bagging fundraiser is a great way to earn some money for your organization while also getting your name out into the community.

Simply pick a day with the store’s management and then arrange to have a volunteer from your organization stand at the end of each check-out line to assist customers with the bagging of their items. Bring a small, decorated donation jar to put out at the end of each aisle to collect donations for your organizations.

Since this is a highly visible and interactive fundraiser, it’s best to have your volunteers wear matching t-shirts that advertise your organization, and be sure that each is prepared to answer any basic questions that customers might have about your mission.

9. Color Run

Color Runs are very popular right now and they make great fundraisers because they can be scaled to fit almost any size or budget. Unlike larger races like marathons or triathlons, color runs have a low physical barrier of entry and make it easy for people of different athletic abilities to come out and enjoy the event.

There are many private color run companies that will organize and manage your event, typically for a set percentage of your run proceeds. While using these companies will eat into your profits, they are great for smaller organizations that don’t have the manpower to effectively manage the run, or for larger events that want to take advantage of all of the “bells and whistles’ that come along with a privately managed race.

One of the unsung benefits of color runs is that the images and video from them are huge attention grabbers on social media. Shots of a bunch of people covered in various colors is not something people see in their feeds every day and it is sure to stop people from scrolling past more than your average posts. 

If manpower isn’t an issue and your organization wants to maximize profits, you can easily purchase color run supplies online and host the event yourself.

10. Family Fun Night

Recreational businesses like trampoline parks, miniature golf courses and skating rinks are always looking for easy ways to increase traffic, especially during off-peak hours. Many times these businesses will partner up with non-profit organizations and offer reduced ticket prices if the organization hosts a fundraising event at the facility. In exchange for the discount your organization will often need to agree to sell a minimum number of tickets for the event, and you will make a profit off the mark-up price for each ticket sold.

Once the details of the event have been worked out with the business, your organization simply sets the new retail ticket price, advertises the event to your members and collects the proceeds. Depending on the activity you may be able to mix in other profit streams with the event including merchandise sales, 50/50 raffles, and concessions.

11. Wine Tasting

Wine tasting fundraisers are a great way to connect with local businesses while tapping into new customer demographics. To get started, reach out to liquor stores, wineries or local vineyards in your area. Most of these business are looking for ways to advertise and sell their products, and they will often agree to set up a tasting table and distribute free samples at your event. In exchange, invite them to bring bottles and cases of their product to sell to your attendees during the tasting.

Events like these are a win-win because the wineries get to promote their products while your organization gets to collect all of the proceeds from ticket sales for the event. Depending on the venue, you may want to add other elements to strengthen the event including live music, hors d’oeuvres, or a silent auction.

Share Your Best Fundraisers

These are just a few of the more unique or best performing fundraisers that we have seen in both our own organization and others. 

Want to receive more great resources to help your charity or non-profit grow? Join our Charity Coalition! 

It’s free and all we need is an email address to send you great resources as we develop them…

Join Our Charity Coalition

If you are part of a non-profit or charity, leave your name and email and we will add you to our charity coalition. You’ll receive emails with useful information like the one above as well as regular newsletters, announcements of about fundraising opportunities for your organization, and periodic newsletters from us. 

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Play It Forward Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization
Tax Exempt ID: 47-2435781

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