Fundraising events are a great way to bring in donations, but it can be difficult to decide what type of event will be the most effective for your cause or organization. Exciting and fun events are typically the most successful, and especially those where donors have the chance to win prizes!
In 2020, Americans charitably gave over $471 billion, which is up more than 5 percent from the year before. 69 percent of charitable giving for the year was done by individuals. The money is there—it’s a matter of finding and attracting donors and then engaging them through a powerful fundraising campaign.
There are many different options for fundraising, ranging from massive in-person events to virtual fundraisers to online gaming-based fundraising. In this article, we’ll cover seven creative fundraising ideas to help you brainstorm for your next campaign.
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Fundraising ideas to increase revenue
1. Silent auction
Silent auctions have long been a staple in the fundraising world. These can either be held as live or virtual events. Hosting an in-person event creates more of a special-occasion feel, especially if you’re planning a black-tie auction or another charity event like a dinner or golf tournament in conjunction with the auction.
However, virtual silent auctions present several benefits, such as a larger potential audience, lower overhead costs, and more flexibility. You can add to the festivities by planning live-streamed activities and entertainment to run during the virtual auction. Be sure to remind your donors that contributions are tax deductible.
For either a virtual or live silent auction, you’ll need to obtain a tantalizing array of auction-able items, plan a date and time (and venue, if applicable), arrange for entertainment and a host, market your auction and sell tickets. It can be quite labor-intensive to plan and carry out a large-scale silent auction, but they can be very effective and engaging for donors.
2. Online 50/50 raffle
An online 50/50 raffle is an exceptionally simple yet effective fundraising concept. It’s easy to plan and execute – all it takes is a few clicks! With this program, donors purchase tickets and all proceeds are amassed in a community pot. As the pot gets bigger, excitement grows and ticket sales typically increase dramatically. Then, when the raffle closes, half of the pot goes to one lucky winner and the other half goes to your organization.
With the Ascend 50/50 program, upfront costs are low, and our Customer Success team is here to assist you with obtaining necessary licenses and setting up all of the logistics. The program can be run on a repeating monthly basis, with a portion of the proceeds of the first round funding subsequent programs.
This type of online raffle-based fundraising requires very little effort and investment on your part, and the returns can be astounding. In this case example, you’ll see that the Arizona Humane Society netted over $141,000 from their first three rounds of the 50/50 program!
3. Trivia tournament
Trivia tournaments can be a fun way to engage donors, and they often feel more approachable and fun to younger donors than more formal fundraising events. To host a trivia tournament, you will need a venue, a host, and a set of trivia questions. Most trivia tournament fundraisers are pay-to-play, where donors can register as part of a small team.
It can be especially effective to host your trivia tournament at a local restaurant or brewery, as you may be able to capitalize off the patrons who just happened to be there but can’t resist a good trivia tournament. Then, in between rounds, you can make short announcements regarding your fundraising efforts and your cause. You can take your trivia tournament to the next level by making it a hybrid event—add an online component like a 50/50 raffle or a sweepstakes for those who aren’t able to attend the live event.
You could also think about hosting a simultaneous kids’ trivia event. Depending on your cause, you may be able to write fun trivia questions that pertain to your organization in order to make the tournament educational as well as fun and successful.
4. Fun run or walkathon
Fun runs and walkathons are great options since they encourage fitness as well as your cause. Your donors can use peer-to-peer fundraising to secure donations in advance of the event, which can also encourage more people to sign up as participants.
These types of events are highly visible in the community, which can generate extra buzz around your organization and cause. You can also sell merchandise at the event, such as t-shirts, hats, water bottles and so forth. This not only generates extra revenue, but it also means that donors will then represent your organization by wearing that t-shirt or hat around town for months to come—which turns into organic brand promotion for your nonprofit or charity.
Walkathons and fun runs do require some logistics and planning. You’ll need to secure a venue for the event, get any necessary permits, set up a website to sell tickets and that facilitates the peer-to-peer fundraising efforts of your donors, design and order merchandise, and enlist volunteers to help with the set-up and takedown as well as running the event itself.
Galas are versatile events that provide an excuse for donors to get all dressed up and enjoy a night out on the town. Classic charity galas involve a formal sit-down dinner, some form of entertainment, and a variety of activities that are designed to encourage giving. However, galas don’t have to be so formal—they can also involve live music, an interesting theme like casino night, stand-up comedy or other informal performance.
Galas require significant planning and investments, but they can be an excellent opportunity for you and your staff to meet with donors and connect on a personal level. You can also use the gala as an opportunity to make a short presentation about your cause, and, of course, plenty of appeals for giving. When planning a gala, ensure that your expected donations will cover the cost of the event and then some in order to make it profitable for your organization.
As with trivia tournaments, you can turn your gala into a hybrid event by adding an online fundraising component like a raffle or sweepstakes. This creates more giving opportunities and excitement, and helps engage donors who aren’t able to make it to the gala.
6. Catch the Ace
Catch the Ace is another online charitable gaming opportunity that requires little in the way of investment or planning on your part. Donors purchase tickets, and each week a winner is selected. The winner then draws a virtual card from the standard 52-card deck. If the winner pulls the ace of spades, that ends the fundraiser and the winner takes home a portion of the weekly ticket proceeds as well as part of the cumulative jackpot. If the winner does not pull the ace of spades, whatever card they pulled is removed from the deck, and they win only a portion of the weekly pot.
If the ace of spades is the last card to be drawn, the program can run for 52 weeks. As the host, your net proceeds will be 50 percent of all weekly ticket sales, less the program fees and credit card fees.
Ascend makes this program exceptionally easy to run—we’ll help you obtain licenses, announce and tease the program, and set up all logistics. Then you can sit back and watch the donations roll in as your donors get more and more excited as their odds of winning increase weekly. Case in point: The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters hosted a Catch the Ace program that ran for 24 weeks, grossed over $1.24 million and netted the organization $425,000. Their second season of Catch the Ace was even bigger; it ran for 51 weeks and the winner took home over a million dollars!
Scale up your fundraising game
Questions? Curious? Let us show you how it works.
Charity cook-offs are traditional and delicious ways to raise money for your cause. These events can be arranged for a relatively low cost, and they are great opportunities to engage your donors as well as local restaurant owners and chefs. You can hold professional, amateur, and/or kids’ divisions if you wish.
Cook-offs not only allow aspiring and professional chefs to flex their culinary muscles, but they also generate tons of delicious food and plenty of donations. Cook-offs typically work best if you come up with a theme or category for the dishes submitted (BBQ, chilli, vegan dishes, desserts, etc.) so it’s easier to judge the entries against each other.
You can either have contestants bring already-prepared dishes or have them set up field kitchens and make their masterpieces live in front of an audience. Either way, set up a voting-by-donation system to encourage giving and charge an entry fee for those sampling all of the food.
There are many different fundraising methods, but these seven ideas are some of the most effective, easy to implement, and fun for both you and your donors. Ready to get started? Schedule a call with us at Ascend Fundraising solutions today!