Raising money for a cause or charity can be challenging in the in the best of times, but in today’s tough climate where funds are tight for just about everyone, getting people to part with their cash calls for getting seriously creative.
Here are our top 10 creative fundraising ideas to help you bring in the bucks so you can get on with the really important things, like changing the world:
1. Get Crafty: If the success of craft website Etsy has taught us anything, it’s that people value homemade art. From glazed pottery and knitted scarves to handmade cards and collages, chances are if there’s something you love to make, there’s someone out there who would love to buy it, especially if proceeds are going toward something important. For more inspiration about how getting crafty can go a long way, check out this article on Krochet Kids.
2. Raffles: Selling raffle tickets is a standard fundraising tactic, but don’t think you need to go with the usual one or two bucks per ticket for a small prize. We say, think big. Tap into all your connections to find a high-value raffle prize that someone is willing to donate. A weekend at someone’s beach house, a free interior design consultation, a new bicycle donated by a sporting goods store…the sky’s the limit. The higher the value of the prize, the more you can sell the tickets for – ten bucks for a chance at a weekend getaway? We’d buy one!
3. Gym Sale: Who doesn’t love a good garage sale? There are plenty of people out there who love to score a deal…it’s that old, “one person’s junk is another person’s treasure” adage. But to raise serious funds, you’ll want move out of the garage and into the gym, preferably the one at your local school. Start by doing a gym sale drive, and put the word out that you’re looking for donations from the community. Offer to pick up peoples’ wares and you’ll likely get lots of takers. Then schedule the sale over a weekend, advertise everywhere, and hustle like there’s no tomorrow.
4. Dance-a-Thon: This festive twist on the classic read-a-thon or walk-a-thon challenges dancers to get sponsors to contribute money for every hour they can stand on their feet and shake their booty. You’ll need a gym, some generous DJs and bands to donate the tunes, a healthy pool of volunteers to keep the weary dancers moving, and plenty of food and drinks, not to mention participants with stamina in spades. To find out more about how these work, read about Penn State’s annual fundraiser, lovingly nicknamed “Thon,” which is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world.
5. Car Wash: Car washes as fundraisers have been around almost as long as cars have, so why not cash in on people’s desire for shiny bumpers and crystal clear windshields? To beef up your offerings and the amount you can charge, throw in a little detail action – vacuum interiors, wipe down seats and dashboards, and Windex the inside of the windows. Top off the service with a handmade air freshener (you can fill coffee filters with dried flowers or potpourri and tie them shut with a simple ribbon and voila!) and a thank you! Read here about how Jessica Markowitz uses this technique to raise money for her charity.
6. Delivery Service: Many high school clubs host a Valentine’s Day fundraiser where students can sign up and pay for someone to deliver a rose to their beloved on the big day. But why stick to the major holidays? Get creative and think about how you and your friends can offer delivery services throughout the school year. Coffee runs? Secret admirer notecards? Birthday balloons? Singing telegrams? An added bonus – these kinds of fundraisers not only raise money in the moment, but they’ll keep continued attention on your cause.
7. Pocket Change: Never underestimate the power of a penny. Because as anyone knows who’s ever socked their lose change into a piggy bank only to realize when they count it one rainy Sunday afternoon that they had more than sixty bucks in nickels, dimes, and quarters, it all adds up. Get permission from your school to place money collection boxes or jars at spots where students are liable to notice, reach in their pocket, and get rid of the coinage. Be sure to include a small sign by each collection area so people know what they’re contributing to, and collect the donations daily.
8. The Main Event: If you’ve got the passion of an activist and the organizational skills of an event planner, blend the two and create a special fundraising event for your cause. Successful events are all about bringing in an audience who is willing to buy tickets to be there, so focus on a high-value draw – a fantastic guest speaker like a newscaster, local author, or adventure photographer, or maybe a musician or band who would love to gain some exposure and do good at the same time. Once you’ve got your talent booked, enlist the help of your friends and get to work organizing – invites, guest lists, tickets, a venue, and advertising. Admittedly, this technique’s a lot of work, but the payoff can be huge.
9. Perfect Partnerships: This strategy is all about relationships, because it relies on you identifying a for-profit partner who would be willing to formally adopt your charity as a cause they’ll support. For example, if you’re raising money to support rain forest preservation, you would think about what companies or high-profile individuals have values that are in line with that mission, like a homeopathic pharmacist or the author of a book on the Amazon River. Then you’d approach them and see if they’d be willing to insert flyers for your cause in the bags of their customers or donate a small amount for every book sold.
10. Unique Product: People love to buy things that are unique, collectible, and have limited availability. Think souvenir, but one that’s specifically related to your issue. Take teen writing organization WriteGirl. Each year WriteGirl publishes a collection of writing from participating teens and sells the anthologies as a fundraiser. The books are like nothing you’ll find in a Barnes & Noble, and purchasers have the additional satisfaction of knowing they’re getting a unique keepsake while supporting a good cause (read our review of the WriteGirl anthology Beyond Words).
If you’re looking for people who can donate items — and not just money — check out our tips on asking for in-kind donations.
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