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12 Top-Performing Fundraising Event Ideas For Nonprofits

Olivia James
Olivia James

Education at CauseVox

“What kind of fundraisng event should I run for my nonprofit?”

It’s a common question we hear time and time again. Nonprofits are always looking for unique, creative, and effective fundraising events that will help them to stand out from the crowd. 

Here’s the secret: finding the perfect fundraising event isn’t always about creating something totally new that no one else has ever done. Instead, it’s about finding the event that works perfectly for your organization and your resources. 

We’ve gathered 12 top-performing fundraising event ideas for nonprofits to inspire your next event. Some are classics, while others are more innovative. Take a look to find the right fundraising event for your nonprofit:

1. Walk or Run 

There’s a reason that the walk/run (whether a 5K or another distance) is listed first: it’s a classic. A walkathon or race is, at its heart, a peer-to-peer fundraiser. Participants raise money from their friends and family to support them in completing the walk or run.

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There are many variations on this theme that you can use to create a walk or run that’s perfect for your organization. You can host an in-person event with a set race route, or you can allow people to participate virtually in their own time and space. You can even create a hybrid option by combining the two.

We’ve even seen organizations create versions of the walk that tie neatly into their organization. Parkinson’s Nebraska used the walk concept to inspire their Walk the State fundraiser, which asked participants to communally walk the distance it would take to cross the state of Nebraska. It’s a fun idea that ties in the organization to the activity.

CauseVox also recently introduced our new activity metric, which allows participants to track their participation, whether that’s miles walked or laps swam. We’ve seen that participants get even more excited about participating when they can see their tracker tick up as they complete more miles. 

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2. Host A Gala

A gala is one of the premier fundraising events ideas for nonprofits: it’s a lot of planning, but when you do it well it’s amazingly powerful. 

In recent years, we’ve also seen many organizations taking the gala concept and bringing it online with a virtual or hybrid-event gala, or even an ungala. 

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.

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An UnGala removes the event portion of the event and is simply run through an online fundraising campaign where you invite your top supporters to join and fundraise for you (aka peer-to-peer fundraising).

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

If you want to take it to the next level, you can make your gala into a full theme event like a Murder Mystery Dinner. While the murder mystery may take quite a bit of planning to pull off (you have to have folks to play different roles and plan out each portion of the evening), it also doesn’t require huge resources. It can even be hosted at your Executive Director’s home for some extra spice. Plus it’s super fun.

Need to sell tickets for your gala? You can sell more tickets online using CauseVox’s simple online ticketing solution. Your attendees can buy tickets at different price points and also donate to your organization, right in one place.

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3. Host A Challenge

There are few things people love more than getting a bit competitive or showing their friends that they’re willing to get wild for a cause. That’s why challenges are one of the top-performing fundraising event ideas for nonprofits. We’re talking the Ice Bucket Challenge, the Polar Plunge, No Shave November. The thing about a challenge is that it can be anything: get creative! The more clearly you connect it to your cause, the better it will catch on. That’s why cancer research fundraisers that ask participants to shave their head are so viral.

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The basic idea is to create a peer-to-peer fundraiser around some kind of stunt. The more dramatic the better. Skydiving. Cliff jumping. Getting a tattoo. You’d be surprised at how fast people shell out to see their friends and family have to do something terrifying or possibly stupid. 

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These kinds of challenges illustrate the huge power of peer-to-peer fundraising. Each person who signs on to fundraise for you exponentially increases the reach of your fundraiser. Plus you get someone else to do the work for you. On top of all of that, people trust their friends and family more than they trust an organization. When someone they know makes an ask, they’re much more likely to give. The stats back it up too: typically peer-to-peer fundraisers bring in 2x as much compared to other digital fundraising campaigns.

It’s a great way to get some attention for your organization, and possibly even bring in media coverage. Don’t forget to pay attention to the registration side of things either. The right fundraising platform goes a long way when it comes to peer-to-peer fundraising. You’re probably familiar with the Frankenstein effect: your supporters go one place to set up their fundraising page, somewhere else to donate, another site entirely to register for the event, and maybe even a fourth site to get all the details. It’s clunky, it’s outdated, and it limits participation.

But with CauseVox Integrated Ticketing, you’re able to create the best experience for you and your supporters with an all-in-one solution. Your fundraisers can set up their fundraising page, buy tickets at multiple price points, and make a donation in less than five minutes from the same simple interface. It’s a game-changer for events that rely heavily on peer-to-peer.

4. Happy Hour

A Happy Hour is a wonderfully lowkey fundraising event idea for nonprofits that requires minimal planning but pays big dividends. You can run it virtually or in person, and walk away with stronger relationships and happier donors. If you’re meeting in person, choose a location that’s easily accessible. You can provide the beverages, or just rent out a room at a local bar or brewery. 

If you’re going virtual, ask your supporters to grab a glass of wine and join you to chat using GoogleHangouts, Zoom, or Facetime. In a casual setting, you can check on how your donors are doing, give them updates on your plans to navigate programming and fundraising during this time, and create a great space to unwind a bit.

Add a soft ask to donate monthly at the end of the session, and let them know the date of your next happy hour.

5. Get Your Game On

If you can create an event that people would attend even if it weren’t for charity, you know you’ve found a good event. That’s why gaming events are such a great bet. There are tons of variations on this theme, but they all come down to the same concept: get your supporters involved in a game or contest and give them extra boosts based on fundraising. It’s super fun and a great way to build community while bringing in donations.

This could be an in-person board game tournament, a livestream with a popular gamer, a trivia night, or a combination. 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. As a bonus, try to secure some great prizes from your corporate and/or local partners for the winning team.

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6. Sip for a Cause

Let’s be honest: there are few things people enjoy more than getting to drink some wine (or beer or cider) and know that it’s supporting a good cause. That’s why events like paint and sip are so popular. But you don’t have to limit it to painting: you can add wine to nearly any unique hobby.

Consider a plant and sip (participants put together a beautiful arrangement and get gardening tips from a knowledgeable instructor), a pot and sip (participants learn some basic pottery and throw a pot), or a glass and sip (participants learn the basics of blowing glass and get to make a cup or other basic item). 

If you want to stick with the basic paint and sip format, you can theme the painting to a season or concept.

Set a reasonable price for admission to cover your expenses and sell concessions to augment your fundraising. 

To make the registration and payment process seamless, set up an online fundraising page. Not only will you be able to easily track who’s signed up and paid, a fundraising page will also allow supporters who might not be able to make it to this event to make a donation instead. 

7. Risk A Little With Games of Chance

Games of chance are one way to get people really excited to participate. Whether it’s bingo, casino games, or raffles, people love to toss in a few bucks in the hopes of getting a huge payout. You can capitalize on that by running a fundraiser that relies on games of chance.

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You could host a full on casino night. There’s something about a fancy casino night or poker tournament that makes everyone feel a little bit like James Bond. And feeling like James Bond feels GOOD. Get your supporters having a great time by hosting a fancy casino evening. Invite participants to get dressed up. Charge an entry fee and for drink sales, and let attendees know a portion of the jackpot goes right to your organization.

If you want to make it a full experience, you can go all out on your decorations, add in other games like roulette or blackjack, or host raffles. This is a great place to make use of CauseVox’s new ticketing updates: offer different price points for different games packages, or create a VIP experience for those who want to go all out.

Or maybe keep it simple with a straight up bingo tournament: people will TURN OUT for bingo. Make sure you’ve got some extra special prizes for anyone who gets a blackout. 

You can also add a raffle to nearly any fundraising event to add some extra spice. It’s a great way to bring in a little extra without a ton of work.

8. Host An Obstacle Course

Obstacle courses are a wonderful fundraising event idea for nonprofits for a few reasons. People feel pretty proud of themselves for completing, they make great photo opportunities, and you just know that folks will challenge their friends so they don’t have to go it alone.

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You can tailor it to serious competitors (think American Ninja Warrior) or make something a bit more accessible geared towards kids. You don’t have to have huge resources to make it amazing either. A simple parking lot can be transformed into a spectacular course with some parking cones, baby pools, and rope.

Ask participants to set up peer-to-peer fundraisers, and consider giving them bonuses along the course for dollars raised. 

9. Create Your Own Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is a fundraising event that costs you almost nothing to run but can have huge returns. It’s also got a great bonus element that you end up with amazing photos for your future marketing. People can participate individually or in teams. You create a list of challenges: maybe they’re acts of kindness. Maybe they’re artistic challenges. Maybe they’re totally wacky and wild. Ask participants to submit photos or videos of the challenges so you can award points. Give your teams a specific length of time to complete the challenges, and you’re ready to go!

Interested in how a scavenger hunt might help you but missing the fundraising connection? Here are a few hints:

  • Donate to enter. Charge a registration fee for your hunt. Be clear about what the fees will pay for to connect with potential hunters.
  • Donate for a boost. Share hunt tips and hints with participants who donate a little more (for example: $1 buys a general hunt tip; $10 buys a specific hint on a tricky item)
  • Create a donation task. Ask your teams to create a peer-to-peer fundraising page and make one of your challenges “Raise $100”. Adjust the amount to fit your needs.

10. Dance The Night Away With A Dance Marathon

One of my favorite fundraising event ideas for nonprofits is the dance marathon.

A dance marathon event challenges teams to stay on the dance floor for the number of hours of your event. You can have individuals or teams, but ask them to create a peer-to-peer fundraising page to support their dancing. You can hold the event virtually or in person, or even do a hybrid option. Consider giving bonus incentives to people who raise the most money: maybe they get to take a break for a song, choose the music, or force someone else to dance for them.

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11. Host An Entertainment Evening

The best way to get me to attend a fundraising event is to throw an event that I would go to no matter what. An amazing concert, a top notch comedy night, or an impressive play are all good bets. If you can put together an evening of entertainment with the proceeds heading to your organization, you’re golden.

Ask supporters to purchase tickets, and include a donation ask during the program for an extra boost. If you’re looking to go virtual, you can always livestream an event and charge for viewing. Add in another level by offering a behind the scenes or meet and greet with the performers.

Speaking of performers, an evening of entertainment becomes even more powerful when you can get a celebrity to show up. Think about approaching comedians, musicians, television personalities, chefs, local radio hosts, or anyone else who might be connected to your cause. They might perform, provide some delicious bites, or act as the emcee. They’re also a great way to add on a VIP option to tickets.

CauseVox’s new ticketing tiers allow you to create multiple price points for different ticket options. This is the perfect option for creating an exclusive meet and greet with a local celebrity.

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12. Share The Talent With A Talent Show

Your community has incredible talents: allow them to show them off while raising funds through ticket purchases, food, and beverages. This event works well both in person and virtually: if you choose the virtual route you can ask participants to submit a video in advance then play each entry in a livestream.

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If you want to take this up a level, reach out to local schools, athletic groups, or interests groups to see if they’ll be a part of the fun. You can also ramp up the fundraising by asking spectators to vote for their favorite act with donations. Each entry creates a peer-to-peer fundraising page, and their supporters can vote with their dollars.

Raise More Through Your Next Fundraising Event With CauseVox

Ready to make your favorite fundraising event idea for your 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.

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