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11 Creative Charity Fundraising Event Ideas

Olivia James
Olivia James

Education at CauseVox

Since 2012, thousands of nonprofits have run campaigns on CauseVox’s fundraising platform. Some of these campaigns have been more traditional—such as an online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, while others break the mold.

And while there’s nothing wrong with your standard fundraiser, sometimes it’s fun to do something a bit different. That’s why you should try incorporating more events into your charity’s annual fundraising plan.

Charity events don’t just raise money for your charity, they also help to engage your supporters and bring publicity to your cause. Plus, speaking as a fundraising professional, I know how nice it is to do something new and different every once in a while.

There’s no time like the present to get started planning your next event. Here are some of my favorite creative charity event ideas.

1. Polar Plunge

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Athens Rotary Club is holding a plunge event in February and encouraging costumes, teams, and all kinds of fun for their plunge.

I’m not one to jump into a freezing cold lake, but I know plenty of people who are thrill-seekers and adventurers who would love to have a polar plunge checked off their list.

Yes, people will jump into ice cold water for your cause! Why? Partly because they love what you do, and partly because some just love all that adrenaline.

Obviously this event won’t work in warmer climates, but if you’re somewhere with distinct seasons, all you have to do is find a lake that will let you host your event. To help fund the jumps, encourage your jumpers to create personal fundraising pages online using CauseVox’s peer-to-peer fundraising software. One really effective option is to encourage fundraisers to share updates on their page leading up to the event. You know their supporters would like to see what the forecast is like as they get close to their plunge.

2. One-Day Online Fundraiser

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If you’re on a fixed budget or timeframe, a one-day online fundraiser is one of the best charity event ideas for your organization.

First, choose a day that means something to your organization or those you help. Catalogue for Philanthropy made use of Giving Tuesday Now (a national fundraising day to support nonprofits through COVID) to hype up their own one-day giving event online. Unlike many other nonprofits, Catalogue for Philanthropy used the day to raise dollars for over 200 local nonprofits in their area. 

With the help of Giving Tuesday Now’s marketing, Catalogue for Philanthropy shared information about their event and the many nonprofits it was supporting leading up to the event. They asked each nonprofit to create a fundraiser page on CauseVox, which allowed dozens of nonprofits to work together to share their unique missions and market an exciting giving day together.

3. Livestream Event

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Now that we’re in the 2020s, everyone is livestreaming. You’ve most likely already done some form of live streaming in your work in the past year or two. If you’ve held a Zoom meeting, been on Facebook live, or done any kind of video chatting, you’ve live-streamed.

There are plenty of options for livestreaming: Facebook Live, Youtube, Zoom, or any of a number of custom softwares. Plan a livestream for the end of a fundraising campaign to gain excitement and to celebrate the end, or kick off the event with a livestream.

The Autism Society of Minnesota hosted an interactive brunch livestream for their A Toast to AuSM event, holding virtual demonstrations from local chefs so that participants could follow along at home. One of the best features was that they embedded the livestream directly onto their CauseVox page so that viewers could watch and donate all in one place. 

They helped make the day successful by sharing details and exciting information ahead of time: things like the celebrity chefs who would be joining and information about raffle drawings that would happen during the event.

4. 5K/Marathon

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You may think that every charity is organizing a running road race such as a 5k or marathon, and you’re at least a little bit right. And these events are extremely popular. That doesn’t mean you should avoid them though, because they have the potential to bring in some serious income for your charity.

We’ve seen hundreds of organizations plan 5ks and marathons using our platform. One of our favorite options is taking the concept of a 5K or marathon and mixing it up so that more people can participate. That’s what I’m a HIPpy did with their Leap into Action fundraiser. They invited participants to move their bodies in any way: walk, run, bike, roll, or anything else! 

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One of the coolest things about the fundraiser is that participants could track how many kilometres they had gone on their individual fundraising page (an exciting new feature on CauseVox). Participants could complete their “race” on their own time, in their own space, which made it even easier for the organizers to manage. Of course you can also host an in-person race with all the bells and whistles too.

5. Fitness Challenge

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Running isn’t the only kind of challenge you can host. In fact, the more creative you are in picking, the more interested participants will be. You can encourage your participants to do a climb, a swim, even a bowling tournament! One of the best elements of this creativity is that you can tie the activity to your cause to make it even more pertinent.

SheJumps is an organization whose mission is to get women and girls involved in outdoor activities, and they chose to do a climb. It both raised money and fulfilled their mission.

If you want to make something more accessible, Yeah! Yoga created an incredibly fun and accessible challenge: each day participants would take a photo of one yoga pose. It got a ton of community engagement, brought attention to their work, and brought on individual fundraisers.

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6. Golf Marathon

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When the weather starts to warm up and the summer wardrobe is pushed to the center of your closet, you know that spring is right around the corner. And one thing’s for sure, many of your largest supporters want nothing more than to spend a morning on the golf course.

Golf tournaments are a great deal of fun for participants. If you think your supporters will be interested in this type of event, work with a local golf course on pricing and dates (hint: most are very comfortable working with charities to run tournaments). Leave yourself plenty of time to get teams together and market the event. One of the best parts is that it’s an activity that can be held while socially distanced.

Ask local businesses to sponsor a team, or get people to fundraise to fund their participation like The First Tee of Greater St. Louis (hint: this is a great place to use CauseVox’s peer-to-peer fundraising capabilities). Oh, and don’t forget to look into “hole-in-one” insurance if you plan to give a prize for this accomplishment!

7. Guest Speaker

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Is there a local celebrity, well-known personality, or local expert in your community that believes in your cause and can speak to it? If so, plan a guest speaker event.

Invite the community by advertising on social media, print media, email, and direct mail. Encourage your own supporters to share the event with their friends and family. Charge a flat entry fee or suggested donation for attendees.

This doesn’t have to be an elaborate night event with food and drinks (although that is definitely an option). For a low-key event, make it a lunch and learn. If you’re still working in a socially distanced situation, you can also host a speaker through a webinar to keep everyone safe, or simply offer your supporters a way to engage with you online.

8. Donation Match Drive

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Leverage your donor’s donation with a match. This is a simple, efficient, and enticing creative charity event idea to encourage people to give. On your CauseVox page you can highlight that match in your header image to make it even more obvious to donors.

To start, check Double The Donation’s website for a list of some of the largest gift matching companies.

Or, do the work yourself. Talk with major donors, your board, or local businesses that may be able to match donor dollars during a specific time frame or possibly even the entire campaign. A group of generous donors did just that for the Testicular Cancer Foundation, matching $125,000.

9. Personal Challenge

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If time is of the essence and/or you lack the resources to manage an entire event yourself, there’s still a way to encourage people to get moving for your cause. A personal challenge is something any one of your supporters can do to raise money.

Encourage participants to choose a challenge they’d like to complete (anything from a self-chosen 5k to shaving their head, and all kinds of options in between). Then, they’ll set up a personal fundraising page and encourage people to give to fund the activity.

One of the best features of a personal fitness challenge is that it can occur on your supporter’s own schedule.

Innovation: Africa has an entire page set up encouraging supporters to create their own fundraisers on their own schedule. They also offer support to ensure that fundraisers feel confident, which works through CauseVox’s templates. In the example pictured, a young man chose to fundraiser instead of receiving gifts for his Bar Mitzvah. Personal challenges can take all forms!

10. Holiday Fundraiser

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There are a number of things many families purchase during the holidays, including wreaths, Christmas trees, wrapping paper, candles, and poinsettias. Sure, folks can get all these things and more at the store, but I’m sure they’ll be more willing to buy them from your charity if it’s for your good cause. 

SOS Children’s Villages Illinois typically hold a holiday toy drive to provide gifts for the children in their villages. In 2020, they chose to change things up due to COVID and instead asked for donations instead of gifts. Their community was hugely moved by the holiday spirit because they raised over double their goal. The holidays are a wonderful time to ask for donations that fund something specific and concrete like gifts.

11. Gala or Ungala

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There’s a reason that so many organizations have an annual gala: while it can be a bit of work, it also has huge pay offs when it’s done well. A trend we’ve seen in recent years is taking your gala virtual (which we lovingly call an Ungala) or even hybrid, which can make it less work and upfront cost.

A virtual or hybrid gala provides a way for your supporters to buy a ticket, attend a livestream, donate, and even fundraise for you online. You can use a CauseVox page to ask table hosts to build peer-to-peer fundraising, or host your livestream on CauseVox.

Whichever way you choose to go, your gala can include some or all of the following elements:

  • Peer-to-peer fundraising led by table hosts
  • Silent auction
  • Live auction
  • A program with an emcee, music, performance, information about your organization, and more
  • Raffles and games
  • Food and drink
  • A fun theme
  • Ask for donations

Additional creative charity fundraising ideas can be found on our list of 101+ Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits & Charities Proven To Work.

To use CauseVox to power your charity event, check out our guide How To Plan A Nonprofit Crowdfunding Campaign.

Raise More Through Your Next Charity Fundraiser With CauseVox

Ready to make your favorite fundraising event idea for your nonprofit (or your favority nonprofit) a reality?

CauseVox helps you raise more with less effort whether you’re running an in-person event, a virtual event, or something hybrid. 

Use CauseVox to easily spin up crowdfunding campaigns, donation pages, and peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, plus integrate event ticketing and management directly into your fundraising. 

Learn more about how you can use CauseVox for your online fundraising events.

This post has been updated on 6/29/21.

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