Fundraising Ideas That Work

How to raise $500 to $5000 quickly for your school, church, sports, or public service charity.


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What is the best way to raise money for my school, church, or small charity?

Philip Copitch, Ph.D.


The truth is that this question is too big to answer. It reminds me of the question, “How do you eat an elephant?” The answer is,  “One bite at a time”. This is also true for the question, “What is the best fundraiser?” The answer is… it depends on your needs and your organization.

So let’s look at some of the bite size parts of the question: What is the best fundraiser?

We are going to assume, for the sake of this website, that your goal is just and that you would like to raise $500 to $5000 quickly for your school, church, sports, or public service charity. Let’s look at some tried and true ways to get your group’s needs met.

Selling goods or services

The concept of selling goods or services to raise money for a charity is basic. It is simply sales. The goal is to ask people to buy the product that you bought for, say, $1 and sell to them for $2. By using volunteers your charity makes $1 profit. Do this over and over until you make a barrel-full of money.

Sounds simple, and it basically is, but there is a lot that goes into making profit from sales. Businesses spend millions every year to figure out the best way to sell. For your charity to make money from sales, you have to be organized, have a motivated volunteer workforce, and the willingness to teach salesmanship to that workforce. Read more about Selling goods or services as a fundraiser.

Getting sponsorships

The concept of getting a sponsor to give money, services, or product to your cause is simple. You ask the owner of a local store, restaurant, or movie house to give up their profit and give it to your cause for a day. In exchange, the caring company gets lots of recognition for being wonderful.

In reality, this is very hard to put together. What you are offering the caring company is “feel good advertising” in exchange for sponsoring your group. Thus, you are in the advertising industry, one of the most cutthroat industries in the world.

This being said, sponsorships are a tried and true method for non profits to make money.

Read more about sponsorships and feel good advertising.


Donate the kids to the fundraiser cartoon by copitch


Individual donations

Getting donations from individuals seems very easy on the surface, but it is actually difficult. It is one on one sales, and most volunteers dislike sales, even when you call it charity.

It takes a backbone of steel to get donations from people. But it also raises millions of dollars for charity every month.

Read more about “I hate to fundraise! Don’t I pay taxes for my child’s school?”

Putting together an event to raise funds

It is lots of fun, and sometimes even profitable, to have an event. These may be small and low key, like a garage sale or car wash, or extremely fancy, like a black tie ball.

One thing for sure is that events take people and time. Another is that events are hard to make profit from unless they are well planned. Annual events can quickly grow into beloved community “must do” annual events.

Let’s look at a few types of events while still focusing on earning $500 to $5000 profit for your charity.

Auctions as fundraisers

The key to making profit for your charity with an auction is to auction off donated items that are free to your group. With items that are desired by your invited guests you can generate bidding. Free means you profit from every sale.

This sounds easy enough, but there is a lot of work that goes into procuring items to auction off. Let’s look at some creative ways to up the odds of a small group making lots of money with an auction.

There are three major types of auctions, live, silent, and online.

If you are a member of a large group, with the volunteer power to pull of a "real"(big) fundraising auction, I advise that you to pick up Richard O'Keef's book, Shake the Money Tree: How to Produce a Winning Fundraising Event with a Live and Silent Auction on organizing fundraisers. Richard put a ton of experience into this book. It can save you a lot of headaches.

This website is set up to look at quick and easy fundraisers. So for the rest of us, lets look at a few fun auction fundraising ideas that we can put together this week. Read more

Dinners, lunches and breakfast fundraisers

Meals, snacks and alcohol tasting are a fun way for a small group to make money. Your organization probably has people that like to cook and most definitely have people that like to eat. Put these two groups together and you have a food fundraiser.

Food fundraisers can be very fancy, such as a gourmet dinner for 8 at a board member’s lovely home; to a chili cook-off for 1,000 in the church’s backyard. With a sound plan and a lot of leg work by motivated volunteers food events can turn a tidy profit.

Let's look at a few small group fundraiser around food. Read more:

Entertainment, fairs, or lectures as fundraisers

Specialized events, large and small, can earn money for non profits. It truly comes down to planning and lots of free people power to make an event a great fundraiser.

Even a very small group can put on an intimate event and sell tickets before hand and at the door. If the speaker or entertainer has name recognition, is infamous, famous, or controversial, your charity can make money. It does take planning, but a small group of people with limited funds can do it.

Tours as fundraisers

Tours as fundraisers are a fun way to get donations. As a charity you have to offer an exclusive, behind the scenes tour of someplace that is inaccessible and interesting to some segment of the public. Don’t panic, even your community offers such treasures. Fundraising tours for small groups don't need to be fancy, but they do need to be unique. such as, Tours of the local sewer system, tours of the local jail, tours of a working farm just out of town. Tours of a small private winery. Cemetery tours are fun during the day and at midnight. Old church tours.

In closing

In the end, you need to know your group. How much volunteer power do you have? Do you have someone(s) with good organizational and motivational skills? What resources do you have at your disposal. All of these will play a factor in deciding what is the best fundraiser for your church, school or small charity.

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Pittman & Davis
Pittman & Davis

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