35 Cancer Fundraising Ideas for Research, Treatment, & Awareness

35 Cancer Fundraising Ideas for Research, Treatment, & Awareness

cancer fundraising ideas

Nonprofits working in cancer treatment, research, and awareness can get stuck holding the same fundraisers over and over. This list gives these organizations some new ideas that can help spread the word and raise funds for their organization.

Whether you are planning an awareness campaign, volunteer network event, or a new fundraising event, this list can help you find creative cancer fundraising ideas for your nonprofit.

  1. Lunch and Learn
  2. Giving Day/Crowdfunding Campaign
  3. Create and Sell Custom Calendars
  4. Create and Sell Cookbooks
  5. Peer to Peer Campaigns
  6. Floating Flower Ceremony
  7. Lantern Release
  8. Tree Planting
  9. Angel Festival
  10. Pink Gala or Online Event
  11. Photo Contest
  12. Matching Gifts
  13. Text to Give Campaign
  14. Social Media Livestream
  15. Give Your Change
  16. Potluck Dinner
  17. Spa Night
  18. Movie Night
  19. Holiday Gift Wrapping
  20. Yoga Classes
  21. Balloon Raffle
  22. Healthy Eating/Cooking Class
  23. Art Show
  24. Craft Show
  25. Read-a-thon
  26. Paw-a-thon
  27. Adrenaline Events
  28. Fishing Tournaments
  29. No-event Event
  30. Bra Pong
  31. Dance Marathons
  32. Handyman Auction
  33. Bunco Night
  34. Miniature Golf Tournaments
  35. Reverse Raffles

Cancer Awareness Events

Awareness events have helped spread the word about the many people affected by cancer and how family and friends can help. These events also share tips on how to live healthier lives during cancer treatment. The following cancer fundraising ideas can be used to share survivor stories, health tips and honor those lost to this disease.


1. Lunch and Learn

Lunch and Learn events have found their popularity with the local Chamber of Commerce of communities. These events usually bring together professionals hoping to learn how to do online marketing or create videos or commercials. As a nonprofit, you can hold these events to share cancer survivor stories and raise funds for your organization’s work in the community.

Ask members of your organization to sign up to share their stories. Find a location that fits the event you hope to hold. If you want to have these events every week, you can look into using your local library, community center, or a small restaurant. These smaller locations may make it easier to find speakers for these events.

If you expect a larger crowd for these events, you can connect with your local colleges and theaters. You will want to have informative and entertaining speakers to keep bringing in larger crowds.

You can sell tickets to each of these cancer fundraising events, regardless of size. If ticket sales are not an option, you can also ask for donations after each speaker shares their story.


2. Giving Day/Crowdfunding Campaign

Giving Tuesday is a popular giving day for nonprofits across the world. Nonprofits raise funds for their organizations every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and spread the word online through donation links and the Giving Tuesday hashtag.

The success of this giving day has encouraged nonprofits to hold their own giving days to remember important dates in their organization. These events will likely not bring in as many donations as a Giving Tuesday campaign. Still, they can be an excellent way to honor your organization’s founders or other memorable moments.

To increase the response to your giving day, you can create a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaign to share the details on why this day is important. With Donorbox, you can customize your campaign to fit your organization’s branding. Once you have developed your crowdfunding campaign, share it with donors through emails and social media posts.

Create a hashtag for your giving day campaign and share it on all social media posts.

Pro tip: Ask your board members to create their own peer-to-peer campaign pages to tell their stories about how they got involved with your organization. Make sure they use the hashtag!


3. Create and Sell Custom Calendars

Calendars can be an excellent addition to your organization’s end-of-year campaign. You can ask for their regular donation in your solicitation letter and encourage them to purchase a custom calendar from your organization with proceeds going to cancer research or treatment.

Your nonprofit can use a calendar to share your organization’s mission and founder’s story. You can use each month to tell a different survivor story or information on each of your programs.


4. Create and Sell Cookbooks

fundraising ideas for cancer

According to the American Cancer Society, healthy eating can be a crucial factor in reducing your cancer risk. Your organization can help supporters live healthier lives with a cookbook of healthy recipes from your staff, volunteers, and donors.

A cookbook is also a great way to get your donors excited for the long haul. Start with a request for recipes to volunteers, volunteer networks, staff, and donors.

Pro tip: If you end up getting too many recipes, you can take this opportunity to promote the cookbook with a contest. Hold the competition online and ask donors to vote for the recipes they like the most. You can ask those who sent in a recipe to get their friends and families to vote. This is an opportunity to get their emails and send them a link to buy the cookbook when it is done.

After you have finalized the recipes, you can have the cookbook designed and printed by professionals or get your volunteers to help. Either way, once it is done, you can sell the cookbook on your social media accounts and mail and email a reminder to all donors that they can now purchase the cookbook they all helped make!


5. Peer to Peer Campaigns

Peer-to-peer campaigns are often used to raise funds for specific programs with short-term funding needs. The more successful campaigns have an urgency to them. A peer-to-peer awareness campaign is a little different.

The primary goal of this type of campaign is to spread the word about your organization and the work you do. Collecting donations is an extra perk.

This is another way to get donors and volunteers excited about the campaign. Before you start the campaign, contact the donors and volunteers you know will enjoy this activity. Ask them to write a letter to their community about why they care about cancer research and treatment. By providing a template for supporters to use, you can help donors with any concerns about starting. You can also provide information and pictures on your organization’s programs and how they fit your donors’ stories.

This type of cancer fundraising idea can be held throughout the year since there is not a short-term goal. It ends up being a great chance to spread the word and promote your organization to a new potential donor base.


6. Floating Flower Ceremony

Some cancer fundraising ideas honor cancer survivors. Others are meant to remember those we have lost. Cancer is the leading cause of death in the world and killed nearly 10 million people in 2020. Those who are left behind are left with feelings of grief and loss.

A floating flower ceremony is a chance for those who face this loss to honor those who have died. A ceremony of flowers or petals floating down the river represents letting go of our grief and sending love.

Your organization will have to check with local government offices to make sure you are following all local environmental laws.

As a fundraiser, your organization can charge people for the bundle of flowers or just include a donation jar and online donation options. You can hold this ceremony during another event or all by itself.


7. Lantern Release

The Yuan Xiao Festival is a holiday celebrated in China and throughout Asia. Attendees release lanterns to honor the dead.

As a nonprofit that deals with death due to cancer, this type of event can be a wonderful way to honor those who have lost their fight and those who continue the battle.

You can supply and charge a fee per lantern and set up a donation table at the event to fund cancer treatment programs.


8. Tree Planting

Another way to honor those fighting cancer is with a tree that will live on for years after all of us are gone. Planting a tree in memory of a lost one has become a popular alternative to a gravestone.

Your nonprofit can promote this environmentally friendly option by selling tree saplings to supporters so they can plant them in their own yards.


9. Angel Festival

An angel festival is when volunteers create life-size angels out of various materials. At your event, attendees will vote on their favorite angel by dropping donations into the corresponding jar. You can also hold this event online and have people donate using the link under the picture of each angel they want to win. The angel that raises the most money wins a prize.

To make sure you get enough artists, you will want to recruit teams to create these angels. It may be easier to choose and provide the materials the artists can use.

This cancer fundraising idea can be an excellent way to get a younger crowd involved in your organization’s fundraising efforts.


10. Pink Gala or Online Event

The pink ribbon has been around for years to spread awareness about breast cancer. If your organization raises funds for breast cancer, you can capitalize on this.

A Pink Gala can be anything from a fancy fundraising gala to a tea party or even an online event. You can have fun with this by making everything at the event pink and asking attendees to wear at least one pink item. If you choose to hold this event online, ask people to decorate their rooms with pink and add a picture to your social media page.


11. Photo Contest

Once again, you can add this contest to your regular annual event or hold an event for this by itself. Themes for these contests can be funny pictures, survivor stories, or another unique idea. Before starting a campaign like this, you will want to make sure you have enough interest.

Pro tip: If your organization has a strong volunteer base, especially if you have different volunteer networks across the country, this can be an excellent way to encourage healthy competition.

Once your volunteers have created and sent in their pictures, you will want to add them to a page on your website and include donation links with each photo. Donors can donate for the image they like best, and the picture that raises the most money wins.

Your organization will want to offer a prize (cash?) to the winner.


Online Fundraisers

During the Covid pandemic, online fundraisers became the primary form of fundraising for many nonprofits. As we start our everyday lives again, online fundraisers continue to grow. These campaigns can be affordable options for smaller nonprofits. The following cancer fundraising ideas can be ways nonprofits can spread the word and raise funds.


12. Matching Gifts

Corporate matching gifts are an opportunity to double your donor’s gifts. Many corporations now offer a matching gift opportunity for their employees. Unfortunately, too many people have no idea about this offer.

To encourage more matching gifts, you can create a campaign online and through the mail to encourage people to ask their employees about matching gifts. You can also include a link to Double the Donation on your donation page, where people can check their companies for this opportunity. Donorbox has partnered with Double the Donation to make this process easier for your donors.


13. Text to Give Campaign

A text-to-give campaign can be another way to bring new donors into the fold. Text campaigns have become popular with younger donors because of convenience and ease of use. This type of campaign can be added to a larger event like a motorcycle ride or 5k.

With Donorbox, your nonprofit can add a text-to-give option to any campaign in only a few minutes. After creating your campaign online, spread the word about it, along with the unique campaign ID on Donorbox and the texting number. Your donors send a text to the number and immediately receive a mobile-friendly donation link. That’s it! Now see how quickly those gifts arrive.

With our Quick-donate feature, repeating the same donation at a later point in time is a breeze! All you need to do is make them aware of the simple and easy-to-remember keywords.

cancer fundraising ideas


14. Social Media Livestream

cancer fundraising ideas

Do you have an event that most of your donors cannot attend? Is there a program at your location you would like people to see in person?

With social media live streams, you can go live from any location or event. This online option can give your donors a different view of your nonprofit and potentially increase donations and actions that may benefit your organization.

Create a Livestream event on Facebook, and promote this event on your social media accounts, emails, and even by mail. Encourage people to attend and share this event with their community.

Pro tip: You can turn a live stream event into a successful fundraiser with help from a local sponsor. Ask a local business to share this event online and give a major donation in exchange for free advertisement with your donor base. Turn this donation into a matching gift campaign and double the sponsorship amount. Add a fundraising thermometer to this campaign to show the importance of reaching your goal within the allotted time.


15. Give Your Change

Asking for donors’ change can increase your revenue without spending too much time or effort on a new campaign. Find a local shop or restaurant that would be willing to collect checkout donations on your behalf or set up a donation jar.

Since most people do not use cash when they shop, there are online options to collect change for your organization. Companies like Coin Up, Helpfreely and Benefit give nonprofits the chance to collect change from their donors whenever they shop online. Benefit allows donors to donate their change when they shop at major retailers in person as well.


Volunteer Network Fundraising

Volunteers may be an afterthought for your nonprofit. Successful organizations use their volunteers to spread the word about their organization and raise funds through creative volunteer events. The following cancer fundraiser ideas can be held by a single volunteer or volunteer network.


16. Potluck Dinner

Volunteers are often used to sell tickets, decorate, or perform other small tasks during nonprofit fundraisers. While this may be helpful during your event, are you using your volunteers in the best way?

Remember, your volunteers come with their own communities that may not know about your organization yet. Giving volunteers an option to hold their own event in their home or other location to raise funds for your nonprofit can increase their enthusiasm and involvement.

A potluck dinner is an easy event to hold at no extra cost to your volunteers. Ask them to invite their friends to bring a dish to share. While they visit, your volunteer can spread the word about why your organization means so much to them.

Pro tip: Your nonprofit can get the most out of these volunteer network events if you provide marketing materials and donation envelopes. You can even create a video to share your organization’s story.


17. Spa Night

Another home-based event volunteers can hold with their friends is a spa night to help fight cancer. Facing a cancer diagnosis is probably the most stressful thing someone can face. Offering a spa night to survivors and those currently battling cancer can be an excellent way to get your volunteers involved.

Donors can offer spa services to cancer survivors through your organization or those they know personally. They can also offer these services to their friends and family in exchange for a donation to your nonprofit.


18. Movie Night

There are several different movies about cancer survivors. Your volunteer networks can share these movies and the lives of cancer survivors with their own movie nights. These events can be excellent awareness campaigns that can strengthen your volunteer community. Volunteers can also ask for donations from movie viewers to help raise funds for your organization.

To encourage your volunteer networks to hold these events, you can provide a list of movies that share what it’s like for cancer survivors. Give them advice on how to hold an event in their home and spread the word online with their communities.


19. Holiday Gift Wrapping

The holidays are a time for giving, so holding a fundraising campaign is an easy option at this time of year. Your volunteer networks can offer their services to the community in exchange for donations to cancer research and treatment.

If your organization does not have an established volunteer network but is looking for a way to get volunteers involved, this may be a perfect opportunity.


Unique Fundraiser Ideas

Fundraising galas are ubiquitous in the nonprofit field. These events are held by nonprofits of all sizes and can be costly. The truth is that these annual galas may not be the best option for your nonprofit. Instead, nonprofits can look into unique fundraising ideas like those on this list.


20. Yoga Classes

fundraising ideas for cancer

Mission-focused events can have more long-term benefits than your usual golf outing or gala. Yoga is a great stress reliever and physical activity that has benefited many cancer survivors. Your nonprofit can encourage your donors to live healthier lives with yoga classes online and in person.

This thoughtful event may encourage donors to think about their own health and empathize with cancer survivors.

To hold this type of event, all you need is a location like home, community center, or even a park. Then choose an individual to host or lead the class. Charge an entrance fee and set up a donation bucket or link to collect gifts for cancer treatment.


21. Balloon Raffle

Adding balloons to your raffle can make it more fun and enjoyable for all ages. In a balloon raffle, each balloon has a raffle ticket placed inside. Your organization can sell the balloons for one dollar each. Once you have sold them all, have attendees pop the balloons all at once and see who has the winning ticket.

You will want the prize to be enticing enough to draw in donors. Ask companies to give an in-kind gift worth a certain amount or hold a 50/50 raffle where your organization gets half the proceeds, and the raffle winner gets the other half.


22. Healthy Eating/Cooking Class

If you have already sold a cookbook to supporters and want to take this campaign to the next level, a healthy eating/cooking class may be a great option. Find a volunteer with cooking experience and ask them to lead a class on healthy eating and cooking tips.

Charge an admission fee and set up a spot for participants to make additional donations at the event. If you have a venue you can continue to use, or your nonprofit is set up for this type of event, you can continue to hold these classes throughout the year.


23. Art Show

An art show is a beautiful way to promote local artists and raise cancer research and treatment funds. After finding a location suitable to show the artists’ work, you will want to start looking for local artists willing to donate their work. An excellent place to begin your search may be your community college, where students are excited to get started on their careers.

To incorporate a theme and your mission in the show, you can ask artists to include the color associated with the cancer type you research, like pink for breast cancer.

Tickets can be sold to your art show to raise funds. You can also turn it into a larger event with the addition of food and alcohol. Remember to always include a place where people can make an extra donation if they choose.


24. Craft Show

Another way of promoting local artists is with a craft or hobby show. It may be easier to find people willing to donate items like quilts, crocheted scarves, and mittens, or hand-made jewelry. Finding people willing to purchase these items may be simpler as well.

Once again, you will want to find a location to showcase these artists. This cancer fundraising idea can be done at a local park if the weather is good enough. If you are holding the event outside, tickets may not be the best way to collect funds. Ask for donations from visitors in addition to raising funds through sales.

Remember to ask artists to find a creative way to include your mission to fight cancer into each craft if possible.


25. Read-a-thon

Everyone has heard of a marathon, but not everyone is interested in taking part. For those less inclined to run over twenty-six miles, a read-a-thon could be a unique way to raise funds for your organization.

Supporters can start their own peer-to-peer campaign to collect donations based on how much they read. This online campaign can be done during any season, but summer is usually when more people have the time to relax and read a book. Summer reading contests are also a common activity for children, so you can start your own reading campaign and get a younger group of supporters active in your organization to fight cancer.


26. Paw-a-thon

Paw-a-thons are the same as a regular walk-a-thon with the addition of a furry friend. Your supporters with pets will appreciate this opportunity to socialize with other owners. Remember to ask attendees to use a leash.

You can sell merchandise like t-shirts, hats, and collars with your mission printed on them at this event. You can also charge a sign-up fee for all of those taking part.


27. Adrenaline Events

cancer fundraising ideas

For donors interested in taking more risks in life, an adrenaline event may be just the way to get their attention. This type of event has become popular with organizations fighting cancer.

Skydiving and zip lines can be costly, and people may not know where to sign-up for these activities. Your organization can work with local companies who are trained and insured to run these activities and collect a percentage of the ticket cost or ask for a donation from event attendees.


28. Fishing Tournaments

There are many girls-night events out there but fewer fundraisers that guys want to be involved in, so why not try a fishing tournament for guys and girls.

A fishing tournament can be a fun way to enjoy the good weather and raise funds for your nonprofit. All you need is a lake, river, or pond. At this event, your organization can charge competition fees, get sponsors, and even include a vendor fair for those who came to watch.


29. No-event Event

Your gala may not be bringing in the excitement it once was, so instead of dropping it altogether, you can turn it into a non-event.

This cancer fundraising idea is a fun take on the regular gala, where you get supporters excited about not attending a big event. Your organization can send out non-invitations with a date, time, and the donors’ address to attend. As you get closer to the non-event, you can send out emails and social media posts to catch their attention.

Send tips on how to get ready for the non-event. These tips can include pictures of comfy pajamas and the best popcorn ideas. On the night of the non-event, ask donors to share photos of their celebrations.

To raise funds, ask for donations on the night of your non-event. This non-event can be made into another online giving day for your nonprofit.


30. Bra Pong

Carnivals have always been a popular idea for fundraising. If you already have an outside event or are looking to get more people active in your organization, a Bra Pong can be a mission-focused event for organizations fighting breast cancer.

This game is exactly how it sounds. Build a board that uses bras to catch the ball. Be sure to use the brightest well-designed bras you can find. Ask supporters to donate to play and give small prizes to the winners.

Pro tip: The prizes can be another way to promote your organization’s mission. Print your mission and a cancer ribbon on a small toy that goes to all winners.


31. Dance Marathons

Dance marathons were very popular during the 1920s and 30s. These events were contests where couples would dance for hours to win a cash prize. Some of these marathons could last for a month. Your dance marathon will only last a night but can still be an exciting way to raise funds for your organization.

Fundraising for this type of event can be done in several ways. Once you have a location and entertainment finalized, you can ask supporters to pay a small fee to participate in the contest. You can also sell tickets to watch the competition and sell concessions to all attendees.

You can also get contestants to collect pledges based on how many hours they dance.

The winner of the contest is the couple that lasts the longest, so be sure to have a prize or two on hand for these exhausted couples at the end of the night.


32. Handyman Auction

Bachelor auctions are a well-known fundraising event where each bachelor comes with a dream date for those who bid the most. This event can be fun, but wouldn’t you rather bid on someone to fix up your house?

A new take on this popular auction idea is a handyman auction. Event attendees bid on the handyman on stage who offers the skill they most desire. One handyman may be a plumber who can build you a new bath, and another can fix up your backyard. You do not have to find professionals for this auction, just a few guys (or girls) with some expert skills.

Add this fun cancer fundraising idea to your current gala, or turn it into a new fundraiser with food and drinks. Your organization will make money from the bidding, and tickets can be sold to the show.


33. Bunco Night

Bunco is a popular dice game, mainly with women, where attendees form teams to play. During the game, each player rolls the dice to earn points. Once you have a winner, the players move to another table and start again. Players can join with a pre-determined team or sign-up to be placed with other individuals.

It is best to find a large open venue for this type of event. Charge attendees a ticket price to play and include food and drinks for the teams. There will not be much interest to watch this event, so you are reliant on the players for funds.

Find a few creative ways to raise more money while these teams play by giving them extra points or chances for each donation they make to cancer research.


34. Miniature Golf Tournaments

Golf tournaments tend to be over-done and too expensive for many of your donors to attend. Another option to appeal to a larger group is a mini-golf tournament.

Contact a local business to use their mini-golf field for your fundraiser. See if you can make a deal where a percentage of the ticket price goes to your organization in exchange for free advertisement with your donor base.

At the event, offer prizes and find small ways to raise funds at each hole. This event is another excellent way to get young families involved in your organization.


35. Reverse Raffles

Raffles are always a winning choice. They are also easy to understand. You buy a raffle ticket, and if your number is called, you win a prize. A reverse raffle is a bit different.

With reverse raffles, everyone buys a ticket, and if their number is called, they are eliminated from the contest. The person still holding a raffle ticket at the end will win half of the raffle money collected, and your organization will keep the rest.

This type of event can be very lucrative if held over and over. Your organization can also gain a lot of attention for this event as the raffles continue and the winnings get larger. Similar events held by other organizations have shared the names and amounts of the winning raffle with the local press to get their community’s attention.

Before holding this event, be sure to check local laws and raffle restricts to see if it is legal and affordable in your community.

Pro tip: Be sure to say that the winner must be present to receive their winnings. This way, you can keep the crowd there during the whole game. Another way to keep people interested is to ask the final ten players if they want to stop the game and split the winnings or keep going to just one winner. This will get the crowd more excited and involved.


Conclusion

Nonprofits that raise funds for cancer research, treatment, and awareness are always looking for new fundraising ideas. The above list is just a start for you to think outside the box this year. If your organization is looking for more online fundraising ideas, check out our blog. Nonprofits are always on the lookout for affordable online donation platforms. If you would like to learn more about Donorbox, visit our list of features.

Kristine Ensor is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience working with local and international nonprofits. As a nonprofit professional she has specialized in fundraising, marketing, event planning, volunteer management, and board development.

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