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18 Successful (Yet Untapped) Fall Fundraising Ideas

Gia Chow
Gia Chow

It’s fall y’all. The leaves have already started to turn and in a matter of weeks, we’ll all begin decorating with hay bales, pumpkins, and mums. Before we know it, it’ll be Thanksgiving and the holidays. 

But, as a fundraiser, your job is just ramping up. That’s because fall is a busy time of year for fundraising. Sure, there’s GivingTuesday and the standard year-end push, but limiting yourself to just those two events equates to missed opportunities.

Oh and did we mention that we’re still in the midst of a worldwide pandemic with a new delta variant on the rise and plenty of uncertainty about heading back in person? Yeah, there’s a lot to keep in mind as we round the corner to the last quarter of 2021. 

Now is the time to take a good look at your plans for the final months of the year and find a fun, unique fall fundraiser that will make you and your donors feel comfortable and supported. There are no hard and fast answers about whether we can head back to in-person in the coming months. That means nonprofits need to continue to be flexible and think on their feet.

We have you covered with 18 successful- yet untapped- fall fundraising ideas for 2021 with options for in-person, virtual, or hybrid setups, so that you can respond quickly and easily to COVID no matter what happens.

1. Autumn Paint & Sip Night

Paint and sip events work for any type of organization, artists of all levels, and can easily be adapted for every season. For fall, offer picture options that include themed-subject matter like pumpkins or the changing of the leaves. For this fundraising event, you’ll need to team up with a local paint and sip store like Pinot’s Palette or Painting with a Twist that’s willing to paint it forward with a percentage of the night’s proceeds going to your cause. 

If this isn’t an option available in your area, consider securing a location to host your own paint and sip night. If you’re going the DIY route, reach out to a local artist to lead the class, and stock up on all the necessary supplies. If you need some fall-themed inspiration, pinterest is a fantastic go-to. Set a reasonable price for admission to cover your expenses and sell concessions to augment your fundraising. 

One of the biggest benefits of the paint and sip is that it’s easy to transition to a virtual event. Ask your supporters to grab a glass of wine and join you to chat using GoogleHangouts, Zoom, or Facetime. Your artist just has to log in and lead class virtually.

To make the registration and payment process seamless, set up an online fundraising page on CauseVox to track who’s signed up

Tip: Take advantage of the fall weather and host your paint and sip event outdoors (but have a contingency plan just in case). This is also a great way to get back in person without getting too up close and personal.

2. Trivia Night

Trivia nights have been growing in popularity across the U.S. You can go one of two ways here. First, try partnering with a local restaurant and a live trivia company to see if they’d be willing to host a trivia night for your organization with a percentage of proceeds going towards your cause. Your nonprofit would then be responsible for promoting the event and recruiting teams.

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Oak Hill School of California Trivia Night Fundraiser

Or, plan your own trivia night where your nonprofit is responsible for hosting and recruiting. Remember to promote heavily; you can create your own team and personal fundraising pages to fundraise leading up to the event. While this is more labor-intensive, your nonprofit would get all the proceeds as opposed to portion. Of course, don’t forget the prizes. This can be anything from a gift certificate, branded swag, or just bragging rights. To make your trivia night into a full-blown affair, have drinks and appetizers available for a fee. 

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Trivia can easily be adapted to a hybrid or virtual model. Have participants set up a personal fundraising page to raise funds ahead of the trivia night, and offer teams that raise the most advantages the night of the event. You can run the event via Zoom, or have some teams in person and others on Zoom for a cool hybrid option. Check out this full description of how to run a virtual trivia night to get inspired.

3. Pumpkin Carving Contest

Tis the season to get pumped about pumpkins. This fall fundraising idea requires participants to pay a small fee to compete. Your organization supplies the carving utensils but you can decide whether you want to sell pumpkins at the door for an additional cost or allow participants to bring their own. 

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Poncey Highland Community Garden

If you have a lot of participants (and to ensure fairness), segment participants by age. To make it even more fun, consider having a local celebrity (i.e. mayor, newscaster, elected official, athlete, etc.) come judge the contest. The winner gets bragging rights, memories, and a prized pumpkin to keep for the rest of the year!

Just as with the trivia night, you can also take this virtual by holding it in a Zoom room and having participants show off their pumpkins at the end. Or simply allow folks to carve in advance and drop their beautiful works of art off to be judged! This is another option that can easily be moved hybrid or be held outside for added comfort.

Tip: If you’re purchasing your own pumpkins to sell, consider ordering in bulk online, at a local nursery, or through big-box stores like Costco or Walmart to help keep costs down. 

4. No-Shave November

The purpose of no-shave November comes from cancer awareness. More specifically, it’s a fundraising concept that began in the 2000s to raise awareness for prostate and testicular cancer. Today, it’s a household name. When November rolls around, you can expect to see men go from clean-shaven to grizzly bears in a matter of thirty days. 

The Testicular Cancer Foundation’s Beard Patrol campaign has got No-Shave November down. In a nutshell, the dollars that participants would otherwise be spent on shaving products are donated to the Testicular Cancer Foundation.

Participants include police and fire departments, corporate teams, and citizen groups. As a testament to its popularity, in 2018, Beard Patrol’s no-shave fundraising garnered nearly $40K in just ONE month!

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One of the best parts of No Shave November is that it’s inherently virtual: your participants take part by individually participating, then sharing photos and making donations. If you’re feeling nervous about planning an event, this is a wonderful option that naturally fits online.

To adapt this fall fundraising idea for your nonprofit, just think: what’s something you can challenge participants to not do or give up to raise funds and awareness for your cause?

5. Bowl-a-Thon

Schedule a friendly bowl-a-thon for when it gets to be a bit too chilly outside. Teams of bowlers raise money to participate, either in-person or online using a fundraising platform. Work with your local bowling alley to get a discount on the venue and ask local businesses to donate small prizes to be given to the largest fundraiser and highest bowler. Get the ball rolling on your bowl-a-thon today.

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Junior Achievement of Greater Washington Corporate Partner Bowl-A-Thon

Note: the bowl-a-thon is an option that doesn’t easily translate to virtual. Since bowling requires a bowling alley, participants can’t move the activity to their homes. One option for making a bowl-a-thon more COVID-friendly is to move to an outdoor space and do lawn bowling or bocce ball.

6. Chili Cook-Off

Encourage local businesses to run their own chili cook-offs in support of your nonprofit. Better yet, pit groups against one another. This is a chance for culinary enthusiasts and closet cooks alike to shine. With deliberate planning, rules, and a judging rubric, this event is a guaranteed recipe for success. 

Attendees can cast votes for their favorites or you can invite in a panel of judges. To add to the fun, dish up awards for different categories of chili such as “best vegan”, “spiciest”, or “most offbeat”. As a prize, you really can’t go wrong with ribbons, gift certificates, or branded organizational swag. You can also get creative and offer a coveted “golden ladle” trophy (which is essentially a ladle spray painted gold) with the winner’s team name engraved.

Obviously it’s pretty tough to have a cook off virtually. Judges need to be able to taste the dishes. But if you’re trying to stay COVID safe, you can host the event outdoors for added spacing.

Tip: Promote well ahead of time! If you need help keeping track of registration or your participant list, CauseVox can now take registration fees as part of the fundraising page creation process. 

7. Football Tailgate Party

Fall marks the beginning of football season so if your community has a high school, college, or maybe even a professional football team, consider hosting a tailgate party fundraiser. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a good tailgate?

Your nonprofit would have the opportunity to invite the entire community to support your nonprofit. It’ll give them a chance to connect with your organization and learn about your cause in a fun, social environment.

So, make your tailgate flippin’ awesome by busting out the grill and your festive game gear. Attendees will gladly pay an entry fee to enjoy your football-themed hospitality!

There will be some people who can’t make it to the event but would like to contribute, so set up an online fundraising site to capture those missed donations!

Tailgating isn’t quite the same if you’re not in person, but that doesn’t mean you can’t throw a party. If you’re not headed back in person yet, throw a tailgate themed party: invite all your supporters to tailgate in their own driveway or backyard, encourage folks to get dressed up in your team’s colors, and have some programming for people to watch on Zoom to help them feel connected to each other.

8. Walk-A-Thon, Bike-A-Thon, Or Run

Take advantage of the perfect fall weather to host an outdoor event and get everyone racing for a cause! Whatever option you go with, this is a fundraiser your active supporters are guaranteed to love. 

With these events, be sure to get a headstart and plan months in advance; you want to be sure you have enough time to promote your event, secure a space, get the necessary permits, order your prizes, and recruit enough volunteers. To help mitigate costs, ask local businesses if they’d be willing to sponsor your event. You could also have custom race t-shirts designed to feature all of your teams and sponsors. 

Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to adapt a walk-a-thon or bike-a-thon for virtual or hybrid options. Just like an in person event, it functions as a peer-to-peer fundraiser, but each participant makes it happen on their own time. Participants can sign-up and commit to a number of kms that they will walk/bike/run in a certain time frame. This could be 5kms over 24 hours, 15kms over 2 weeks, or 55kms over 4 weeks – you can choose the timeframe and challenge, or let participants choose for themselves.

Participants would then raise funds from their friends and family via their own fundraising pages. You can make it hybrid by having a specific day on which people can join you to walk or run, but allow the option for participants to complete the walk on their own.

Learn more about how Mojave Desert Land Trust ran a massively successful virtual hike-a-thon.

9. Fantasy Football League 

Everyone’s thinking about football in the fall, which is why your donors will love a fantasy football league fundraiser. In addition to being familiar with the rules, your nonprofit has to be willing to commit to being the league’s “commissioner” for the entirety of the season. Then, determine an entry fee, a prize, and recruit participants to join your league. As a prize, the winner can take a portion of all the entry fees or choose to donate it back to your nonprofit. You can use no-cost platforms like ESPN or NFL to track player performance in real-time and help run your fundraiser. 

To get the word out, use peer-to-peer fundraising so that each participant can share the event via social media with their friends and family. This will increase the chances that more people will join your league or even just make a donation to help out a good cause.  Again, this is a fantastic option because it all takes place online: you don’t have to worry about finding a virtual or hybrid option at all.

Tip: Be mindful of local laws regarding sports betting to ensure that you’re operating on the right side of the law.

10. Back to School Carnival

Autumn is a perfect time to be outside, which is why planning a back-to-school carnival is one of the top fall fundraising ideas your nonprofit or charity should consider. Plus, an outdoor event is an ideal choice if you’re just dipping your toes into coming back to in-person events because it allows for more distancing.

Organize age-appropriate carnival games, incorporate a pumpkin carving contest, rent a bouncy house, and have your most artistic staff member or volunteer paint faces. You might even want to consider working with a few local restaurants to cater food for the event. 

To raise money, ask for donations, charge a fee per activity, or sell tickets for entry to the carnival. Better yet, create an online fundraising campaign for your event and have people purchase a ticket ahead of time, so you can kick-off fundraising early and raise more online!

Consider requiring masks for participants, and make sure you space out all your activities to keep it safe.

11. Signature Pie Bake-off

Pies and autumn go together like peanut butter and jelly, which makes this idea one of the sweetest fall fundraising ideas out there.

Capitalize on our seasonal obsession with pumpkins, apples, and spices with a pie bake-off and have your bakers pay a registration fee to be entered into the contest. To raise more money, invite and charge your supporters a small entrance fee to come sample all the delicious bakes. Throw in a handful of local celebrity judges and you’ve got a great competition on your hands! As a bonus, you can auction off or sell those extra pies for added revenue! 

Or, you can bring this idea online by having contestants set up personal fundraising pages, and have people vote for their favorite pie by donating to their page.

Just like with our chili cook-off, you’ll need to have at least a portion of the event in person so that judges can taste the pies. Hosting the event outside is a great option. Another way to make this event more COVID-safe is to have participants drop off their pies, then stream the judging over Zoom.

12. Oktoberfest Event 

Oktoberfest is a three week beer festival that’s celebrated in Munich, Germany from late-September to the beginning of October. Communities around the world also host their own celebrations and at any Oktoberfest event, you can expect to find brats, brews, and live music.

Try hosting an Oktoberfest party and get sponsors to donate food and drinks. You can easily sell tickets in advance online and get a portion of your participants to also sell tickets for you + fundraise with peer-to-peer fundraising.

This is an awesome fundraising opportunity, but if you don’t have the means to throw your own Oktoberfest party, then think outside the box, then try partnering with a brewery, community association, restaurant, or all the above that are already hosting parties and see if they can donate a percentage of proceeds are given to your nonprofit or charity.

13. Haunted House

Turn your office, a church, or local community space into the scariest haunted house in your town that’ll guarantee chills and maybe even a few nightmares. Attendees will happily pay an entry fee if they’re guaranteed a good scare!

As an added incentive, pass out candy to everyone who makes it out of the house. This is a great fundraising idea for schools, sports groups, and nonprofits located in an easily-accessible location. To make your life easier, an online fundraising page can be created to collect entry fees and capture additional donations.

14. Rake-A-Thon

One thing’s guaranteed during the fall: leaves. They’re everywhere!

Chances are, people in your community are spending the better part of their weekend clearing up all that waste. But you can turn this nuisance into a golden opportunity for your nonprofit by offering yard cleanup services for a either a flat fee or donation.

If you don’t have the volunteer base to do this, connect with your local churches, high school Key Clubs, or youth sports teams to recruit some extra hands.

Capture donations by setting up an online fundraising page with suggested donation tiers. Not only will you save yourself the legwork of going door-to-door, but you’ll have a good idea of the lawns that need to be raked.

The best part? Your volunteers will be working on their own outside, so you don’t have to worry about social distancing.

15. DIY Peer-to-Peer 

There’s a large degree of flexibility when it comes to making these fall fundraisers your own. Of course, you don’t have to be limited to just having season-specific fundraisers.

Don’t forget about the year-round fundraisers like DIY peer-to-peer fundraising and let individuals fundraise for you for their birthday, holiday, or personal challenge. 

The CauseVox peer-to-peer platform has everything for your fundraising needs: 

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To get started on your own DIY peer-to-peer, check out our comprehensive peer-to-peer fundraising primer

16. Pledge Now, Pay Later

In 2021, the use of Buy Now, Pay Later exploded: 56% consumers have used BNPL to purchase and receive a product immediately and finance the cost through several installment payments.

No matter what specific fundraiser you choose, one solid way to improve your fundraising this fall is to make use of pledge now, pay later (PNPL). PNPL allows donors to select or enter in a dollar amount, and commit to completing the gift through several monthly or annual installed payments.

This massive shift in consumer preferences also shows there’s a huge opportunity for nonprofits to capitalize on the trend – with 63% of respondents to the 2021 Pledge Now, Pay Later Study reporting that they’d give larger amounts and give more frequently if they were given the option.

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No matter which fundraiser you’re using, offering PNPL makes your donors more likely to give larger gifts. Plus it means you’ll be able to predict revenue in the future because you’ll know when the next installment is due.

17. Virtual Gala

While you may have historically held an in-person gala in the fall, that’s probably not on the docket for you this year. But that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your gala plans completely. Instead, you can move it online for a virtual gala! Instead of having your attendees purchase a table, you can ask table hosts to put together fundraising teams for a peer-to-peer fundraising and act as team captains.

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Bring sponsors on board and share their logos and names on your fundraising page. Your peer-to-peer fundraiser will culminate in a live-streamed program that mimics a gala. You can get incredibly creative here: share recipes with your participants so that you can all eat dinner together, encourage people to dress up, or lean into the “at home” part of the event and tell people to show up in their pajamas.

Share videos from people you have impacted with your work, add in entertainment, or highlight fundraisers who have gone above and beyond. Just remember to keep it short and sweet.

18. #GivingTuesday

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Of course, we can’t forget about #GivingTuesday can we? While it’s not quite untapped, there are also huge benefits in participating in #GivingTuesday when you put your own spin on it and make it a unique fundraiser for your nonprofit.

When you’re planning a #GivingTuesday campaign, you’ll find the most success with a few best practices:

  • Don’t just make it a one-day fundraiser, rather incorporate it into year-end or have your fundraiser end on #GivingTuesday.
  • Incorporate a day-of livestream event.
  • Get your community involved by partnering with local businesses, other nonprofits, and more
  • Turn your Givingtuesday campaign into a peer-to-peer fundraiser and raise 2x more.
  • Consider reaching out for a matching gift: your donors are much more likely to give when they see that match on the table.

Check out all our recommendations for #GivingTuesday here.

Want more fundraising ideas? View our epic list of 150+ fundraising ideas that are proven to work.

Sometimes, it’s difficult to come up with a unique fundraising idea that has the potential to be successful and fun, but fall is the perfect time for new beginnings. So, get your team of staff, volunteers, and community supporters together and use this list of fall fundraising ideas to help you begin organizing your next fundraiser. 

Raise More This Fall Season. 

With CauseVox’s easy-to-use fundraising platform, you can raise more with less wasted effort. Whether you’re looking to host a football tailgate or organize a walk-a-thon, launch and run any type of fundraising initiative without the complicated setup.  

Get started today.

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