7 Summer Fundraising Ideas That Actually Work

Summertime can be one of the best fundraising seasons for many nonprofits. The warm weather allows organizations to hold outside events that don’t cost a lot. Summer break for school kids also gives nonprofits that chance to entice families to participate. Check out our list of seven summer fundraising ideas that work for organizations of any size.

9 minutes read
7 Summer Fundraising Ideas That Actually Work

Summer is finally here! No more cold winter days and grey skies, it’s time to get outside and get some sunshine. Although the winter holiday season is famously the best time to fundraise, summertime should not be underestimated. Since donors are focusing on their vacations, this means that your nonprofit has to step up your game in order to fundraise during the summer months.

Luckily, longer days and warmer weather present a lot of opportunities for fundraising, especially outdoors.

At Donorbox, we’ve put together a list of seven best summer fundraiser ideas guaranteed to work and help your organization maintain a healthy boost of income during the summer:

1. Water Balloon Fight

Nothing says summer more than a water balloon fight!

This is a great summer fundraising idea, especially if you are trying to raise funds for a school or a college society. Everyone will appreciate the opportunity get outside, have fun, and cool down during a hot summer day.

A water balloon fight is also a fundraising idea with a great potential return on investment. It’s relatively easy to organize and has the potential to raise a lot of funds.

For example, you could charge an admission fee to join the fun or you could charge $1 for every water balloon.

You can organize the water balloon fight as a standalone event or as part of a bigger summer event (e.g. a party or a summer picnic).

For this event, you’ll need:

– a location where water balloons won’t cause damage and you can easily clean up afterward (try a local park and make sure you get the official permission first);

– a few hundred balloons;

– the help of volunteers;

– containers to store the water balloons in.

On the day of the event, make sure you set up a booth where participants can register for the event. You can also set up a separate booth where participants and visitors can inform themselves about the work of your organization and donate more if they wish.

Then, fill all the balloons with water and set up stations for drinking water, especially if your event is on a hot day.

Pro tip: This summer fundraiser is simple to organize, so organize it multiple times throughout the summer.

water bubble - summer fundraising

2. Ice-Cream Party

Another summer time favourite, ice creams are enjoyed by adults and children alike.

The great thing about an ice-cream party fundraising event is that you can pair it with another fundraiser like an auction to raise even more funds.

To organize an ice cream social:

– pick a location (an ice-cream shop, a local café, or a park will all do great);

– choose a time (Saturday and Sunday work well because that’s when most people have a day off);

– be mindful of the weather (you want to choose a hot day)/

You’ll also need a cool space to store the ice cream and enough space for visitors to talk and mingle.

Finally, you’ll also need volunteers to help set up the event and pass out ice cream.

To increase the number of donations, remember to set up a booth or a table where people can learn more about your nonprofit.

Promote your event on social media and distribute flyers.

Pro tip: To increase the number of funds you end up raising for your nonprofit, try and get a local ice cream shop or a bigger ice cream producer to sponsor your event.

ice cream - summer fundraising ideas

3. Open-Air Movie Screening

An outdoor movie screening is a great, family-friendly summer fundraiser that has the potential to raise a lot of funds while providing a wonderful evening of entertainment for your entire community.

An outdoor movie night is also a relatively low-stress fundraiser that can be easily used in conjunction with other fundraising ideas such as raffles, auctions and pizza nights.

To organize an open-air movie screening:

– decide on a location and a date;

– organize the venue or screen and projector;

– organize ticketing;

– mobilize volunteers to help;

– set out any food and beverages that will be for sale;

– promote the event.

Take into account the expected weather, sunset times, other events taking place in your local community (i.e. if your fundraiser clashes with other big community events). The recommended time to start an outdoor movie is 15-30 minutes after sunset.

When choosing a location, ensure you select one that is large, flat, grassy and easily accessible. Think about whether participants will have access to safe and secure toilets, and whether there will be enough parking if you are advertising to the wider community.

Another thing to have in mind is noise control if you are screening in a residential area.

For an outdoor movie screening, a couple of other things to have in mind are:

– Lightning: is there enough light for people to reach the parking after the screening?

– Power: where will the power come from and will you require any generators, extension cords, or adapters?

– Food and Drinks: will you need access to water for food stalls? Will you serve food and do you need to refrigerate it?

– Trash Disposal: do you have an adequate system in place (e.g. enough trash and recycling bins)?

– Ticketing: how do you plan to ticket? Will you rope off the seating area somehow?

– Licenses: do you understand the PPL (Public Performance Licence) requirements and do you have the proper permissions to screen the movie?

Pro tip: Make a weather contingency plan – will you cancel, postpone or hold it in another location if it rains?

movies - summer fundraisers

4. Barbecue Extravaganza

Barbecues are a great way to attract a big crowd during the summer. It’s also a family-friendly summer fundraising idea.

There are several ways to go about raising funds at a barbecue: selling barbecue plates (‘to stay’ and ‘to go’), selling barbecue sauces and drinks, organizing raffles and auctions.

You can even organize craft beer tasting, eating contests, or grilling classes in parallel.

For kids, you can organize ball and bucket toss, floating duck pond, turtle races, or whack-a-mole.

Make additional money by charging a small fee for all of these activities.

This is especially important as, if you don’t have any additional activities organized, you might come into a situation where people just get the barbecue and leave – which means you’re not utilizing your fundraising potential.

If you organize activities like these, you can also make the event a whole day thing by serving both lunch and dinner since people will have something to do in between the two meals. Another thing you can do is organize a market and raise additional money by charging vendors a flat fee to set up a stall.

In order to get an array of goods for your barbecue event, approach local butchers, grocery stores, markets, farmers, and restaurants, and ask them to donate food, condiments, and buns in exchange for you promoting them at your barbecue. Make sure there are options for everyone. Source vegetarian and vegan hamburgers and hot dogs, vegetables, and gluten-free buns. Catering to as many different people as possible helps you attract a bigger crowd.

If you organize the barbecue well in advance, you can also source additional sponsors. For large donations, you can display your donors’ logos on aprons, banners, tents, or other displays.

A very important consideration when organizing a barbecue is food safety. Make sure the food, especially meat, is of good quality and is preserved in appropriate conditions. Begin cooking before the official start time so that some of the food is ready when people begin to arrive. Side dishes such as beans, coleslaw and salad can be prepared in advance.

Make sure you have a lot of volunteers available. Ask them to arrive early on the big day. Volunteers should regularly monitor the area and pick up tables, chairs, barbecues, and trash. They can also be in charge of the music for the event. Naturally, make sure to thank your contributors and volunteers for their time and contribution.

Pro tip: Set a fundraising goal and announce it during the promotional campaign. For example, you can set out to raise $10,000 dollars for remodeling your animal shelter or school playground. This not only helps determine the level of activities for the barbecue fundraiser but also lets people know what their money is going towards (which can help raise even more funds).

barbecue - summer fundraisers

5. Swim-a-Thon

“A-Thons” are an increasingly popular fundraising concept. In the past, we’ve talked about walk-a-thons and read-a-thons, but what is a summer fundraising ideas article without a water-related activity?

Swim-a-Thon is an in-pool fundraiser where participants earn money by swimming lengths of the pool. Swimmers ask family members, friends, neighbors, or businesses to pledge a certain amount of money per length or make a flat donation in support of a team.

It’s important to note that Swim-a-Thon is a registered trademark that is owned by USA Swimming. Contact USA Swimming prior to hosting a Swim-a-Thon in order to complete a contract with USA Swimming that states certain conditions to follow.

USA Swimming will provide promotional materials for the event, which takes away a massive task off your to-do list. Use the promotional materials provided by USA Swimming to promote participation in your Swim-a-Thon.

Promote the event in your local community, especially at sport and fitness clubs, as well as on social media.

Before organizing a swim-a-thon, assess your capacity. What’s the size of the pool you will be using? How many swimmers can it comfortably fit? Could you organize several races throughout the day and then end with a race between all the winners?

Make sure that all of your participants come appropriately dressed (swimsuit, goggles, bathing cap, towel) in order to participate. If you have the time, get corporate sponsors to donate these or pay for them in exchange for logos displayed on those items.

Since swim-a-thons are essentially based on the peer-to-peer fundraising concept, you need to encourage your participants to actively collect pledges from their network, and provide them with all the support they need to do that.

swimming - summer fundraising ideas

6. Outdoor Fitness Club

After months of being cooped up inside, people are excited to get outside and get moving.

Utilize this zest and organize an outdoor fitness club.

Instead of organizing a single outdoor exercise class (which is still a great fundraising idea), go the extra mile and organize an outdoor fitness program. To make it fun, make it into a challenge.

Examples of fitness challenges include 30-Day Core Challenge, Yoga Every Day Challenge or Whole30 Challenge.

The key to this summer fundraiser is promotion, and for this particular one social media will be your best friend. Promote it on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Youtube and reach out to social media influencers. Having them publicly join your challenge will attract huge crowds. Devise a hashtag and announce it everywhere.

Have everyone who joins your challenge set personal goals that align with the fitness challenge. For a small registration fee, you will provide the exercise instructions and/or lead any physical classes. Depending on the size and reach of your organization, you can make this challenge virtual, physical, or a combination of the two.

If you make the challenge virtual, you’ll need to send detailed exercise instructions to participants’ email inboxes for the duration of the challenge, and provide motivation and incentives via rewards. A virtual challenge is perfect if your organization is very big and international. It also requires less investment on your end, and it can reach more people.

If your nonprofit is smaller or more local, a physical outdoor fitness challenge might work better. Get a local fitness expert, yoga teacher, or personal wellness coach to lead the daily exercises as a volunteer or for a small percentage of the total funds raised.

It’s very important that a fitness expert designs the exercise program since you want to prevent injuries and ensure success.

Donorbox - donation software

Turn this into a peer-to-peer fundraising by asking participants to raise money by having family and friends sponsor their efforts.

The fitness club challenge should culminate in a celebration to announce achievements of all the participants and total funds raised. This event can be a fundraiser in itself.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to include motivational posts to keep participants engaged.

walking - summer fundraising

7. Summer Excursions

As the days get warmer, more and more people look for ways to get out of the city.

A great way to respond to this need is to organize summer camping or summer hiking. This is a great fundraising idea for almost any age group, which makes it simple to customize depending on your nonprofit’s audience and mission.

This summer fundraising idea has a lot of potential. The simplest one to organize is a one-day excursion to a nearby forest or a national park. You can also organize a camping excursion. To really take it up a notch, you could add these to your hike/camping:

  • Wildflower hikes: Follow the blooms with a guide.
  • Waterfall hikes: Visit several waterfalls in one trip.
  • Mushroom picking: Pick mushrooms with an expert.

These are only some of the ways in which you can spice up your summer excursion.

With this summer fundraiser, it’s best to have a local guide who knows the ins and the outs of the planned trail. Also, make sure one person is first aid certified in case of an incident while hiking or camping.

If camping, try to have the equipment borrowed from local companies to minimize costs.

Charge a participation fee depending on the activity you choose to organize (i.e. if you choose to organize the walk, you’ll charge less than if you organized camping).

Furthermore, depending on the activity, limit the age and fitness levels of your participants.

camping - summer fundraiser

If you are looking for more fundraising ideas, we have a list of 100+ effective fundraising ideas.


Summer fundraising doesn’t need to be daunting! It’s the perfect time to enjoy the sunshine with your supporters and raise funds at the same time.

No matter what cause you’re raising funds for, you’re sure to find one of these seven great fundraising ideas helpful.

However, these seven creative summer fundraising ideas are just the tip of the iceberg. Talk with your staff, your volunteers, your Board, your supporters – what would they like to take part in? Then, follow their lead.

Remember that even the most simple fundraising idea takes preparation. Leave yourself enough time to plan the event stress-free. Have fun fundraising!

Ilma Ibrisevic is a content creator and nonprofit writer. She’s passionate about meaningful work, sustainability, and social movements. If she’s not working, she’s obsessing over coffee or cooking. You can connect with her on Linkedin.

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