It’s only September, but we can already feel the Christmas spirit in the air. Christmas is all about love, family, kindness, and giving. But for fundraisers… it’s also about thinking of and executing creative and effective Christmas fundraising ideas.
In our Thanksgiving Fundraising Ideas blog post, we talked about the importance of fundraising during November and December. These two months make up what is commonly called the Giving Season for the nonprofit community. As the holidays near, people feel encouraged to give more generously than during the rest of the year.
Around 25% or more of all annual giving in the U.S. occurs during the last three months of the year. An estimated 43% of higher income donors (from households earning greater than $200,000) donate more during the holidays.
Some 40 percent of all individual charitable donations are made in December. For many charities—such as Teach for America, which received 80.5 percent of all individual donations for 2012 in December, and Save the Children, which raked in 68.6 percent of donations in that same month—end-of-year fundraising is the difference between a successful year and financial hard times.
With this in mind, we’ve assembled a list of our 15 favorite Christmas fundraising ideas.
15 Christmas Fundraising Ideas
1. Matching Gifts
Christmas is the ideal time to ensure your donors’ gifts are matched. By using this Christmas fundraising idea, you can increase the size of your donations significantly!
Large corporations often have matching programs set up. This means they will donate the same amount of money that you raise on your own. Contact various Human Resources departments of these corporations and see if you can get a corporate partner to match donations you receive during holidays.
It’s unfortunate that many nonprofits miss out on this amazing fundraising opportunity, so make sure that you don’t! Ensure that your marketing efforts highlight the matching program to your supporters and donors.
2. Gift Wrapping Party
This is an excellent Christmas fundraising idea, especially if you’re a local nonprofit, a faith-based organization, or a school. Many people enjoy wrapping gifts for holidays, but there are also many people who would gladly pay to have someone else do it!
How to Organize a Christmas Gift Wrapping Party (Actionable Tips Inside):
- Get several volunteers on board.
- Schedule a day close to the holidays during which people from your local community can come and get their gifts wrapped.
- Try and get wrapping supplies donated (e.g. by Target), so you maximize the donation amount.
- Make the atmosphere festive and inviting with some Christmas decor, carols, and lights. Charge a small amount for every gift wrapped.
3. Soup Party
During cold winter months, who doesn’t love a hearty warm soup?
Organizing a soup-themed fundraiser is a great way to get everyone together while the weather is chilly. Get volunteers or individual members of your community to contribute with pots of homemade soup, and then charge attendees for samples. Try to get your volunteers to cook soups in as many different flavors as possible.
This is amongst the best Christmas fundraising ideas for schools.
4. Ugly Sweater Party
Very few things say Christmas like ugly Christmas sweaters!
A lot of people have a Christmas sweater lying around, so this is a fun and easy Christmas fundraising idea.
Make it a contest that participants pay to enter into – and may the ugliest sweater win!
You can also get your social media followers on board and have them donate to the campaign.
The “Ugly Sweater Campaign” invites supporters to sport their unbecoming tops to raise funds and awareness for Stand Up To Cancer, a nonprofit that raises funds for new treatments and therapies.
5. Polar Plunge
The ultimate winter activity, Polar Plunge is guaranteed to heat up your Christmas fundraising efforts! Many Polar Plunge event organizers have discovered that people love the daring aspect of doing something they wouldn’t ordinarily do, especially if it’s for a good cause.
Polar plunges can help raise funds for your nonprofit in the following ways:
– Participants pay a flat entrance fee.
– Participants solicit donations through pledges. The pledges will often pay for the amount of time (in minutes or seconds) the plunger lasts in the water.
We recommend the second way as it generally gathers a larger amount of donations.
Start recruiting participants at least several weeks in advance, and if possible, get a couple of local celebrities to participate.
Due to the nature of this particular Christmas fundraising idea, mobilize medical volunteers in addition to marketing, finance, and logistics volunteers.
Make sure to heavily publicize your event with flyers, press releases, and a social media campaign.
Ski-a-thons are an amazing fundraising idea for winter sports lovers and snow enthusiasts out there. Organize a one-day long skiing event. Ski-a-thons are a perfect wintertime alternative to marathons.
Use peer-to-peer fundraising to allow your participants to collect donations, but also consider creating sponsorship packages like Boys and Girls of Ottawa did here.
7. Winter or Christmas-Themed Fundraising Day
A winter or Christmas-themed fundraising day is a fun and simple Christmas fundraising idea. Organize a “Bobble Hat Day”, a “Christmas Sweater Day”, or a “Christmas Mug Day”. People can wear/bring these to work, raise awareness about your cause, donate, and fundraise. You can offer different levels of involvement.
What’s great about this idea is that it can incorporate a lot of the fundraising techniques we talked about before on our blog: from ‘text to give’ to peer-to-peer fundraising and online campaigns.
8. Christmas Cookies Bake-Off
Baking events are an almost guaranteed fundraising win.
Organize a bake-off, a bake sale, or even a Christmas Cookies Swap.
Christmas Cookies Swap is a very interesting way to make everyone’s life easier during the holiday season. The idea is to have people bring in several dozens of their favorite homemade Christmas cookies. Everyone takes one of each, and then every participant leaves with a box of a dozen of each cookie to take home.
This is another Christmas fundraising idea that is particularly useful for smaller nonprofits, churches, or schools. If your nonprofit is bigger, and you have access to a large network of volunteers, you can organize several of these events across a couple of days in multiple cities.
This event can be combined with a lot of other fundraising activities: selling warm winter drinks, inviting a celebrity baker (cookbook author or food columnist) to demonstrate some tricks, selling baking supplies etc.
You could even partner with local businesses such as specialty wine shops, delis, bakeries, and trendy hot spots to offer even more food-related items for sale. You can charge a stand fee or just get a percentage of the profits.
9. Storytelling Campaign
We talked a bit about the importance of storytelling in our How to Turn your Social Media Followers into Donors blog post.
Compelling stories, especially ones accompanied by videos and photos, can really set your Christmas fundraising efforts into motion.
Smoky Mountain Meals on Wheels, from Maryville, is a small nonprofit with no social media experience. They used the power of storytelling to raise $12,000 in 12 days. They created a Christmas campaign just for Facebook (12 Seniors of Christmas), which aimed to sponsor seniors on food assistance waiting lists.
Design a Christmas campaign you could run using stories of people your nonprofit organization helps. Whether you pick 7, 10, or 12 stories, the important thing is to use compelling stories and share them widely.
What made this particular campaign so successful?
- They used powerful stories that tugged at our heartstrings.
- There was a clear call to action.
- The need was clearly identified and specific.
- The posts were consistent and updates to donors were frequent.
For $3/meal you can provide a hot meal to someone needing it. Just $60 a month sponsors a senior.
This Christmas fundraising idea is great for nonprofits of all sizes!
10. Holiday Soiree
Holiday soiree sounds fancy. The truth is, you can make it as fancy as you wish. It can be a small get-together or a full-blown gala dinner.
Host a nice dinner party and invite all of your closest supporters, your board, volunteers, donors, local businesses, etc.
People expect to attend at least several dinners and dinner parties during holidays, and many prefer this atmosphere to the Santa Village or Polar Plunge, so this idea is great for nonprofits of all sizes.
Work with local restaurants, museums, galleries, orchestras, to secure the space, food, and entertainment. Charge per person/plate to keep costs manageable on your end. You can pair this soiree with an auction or a raffle, but you can also organize it as a stand-alone event.
Also… eggnog, hot chocolate, mulled cider and wine – who wouldn’t want to attend?
Don’t forget! Gratitude matters, so make sure you express it during this dinner.
11. “Offset Your Christmas”
This Christmas fundraising idea is a great way to attract the ever-increasing conscious consumer. More and more individuals are worried about the environmental footprint of Christmas: the Christmas tree, wasted food, excessive shopping, just to name a few big issues.
The good news is…with a little bit of effort, a lot of people can be helped!
- You can organize a “set an extra space at the table” campaign where people can donate money to feed one person at a virtual Christmas table. Modify this concept to suit your nonprofit’s mission.
- Run a “tree twinning” campaign. Environmental charity Climate Stewards invited supporters to ‘link their Christmas tree to a tree in Ghana’ for £10.
An interesting version of this concept popped up just two days ago in London, UK. A pop-up store has just opened, and in this store, every single purchase made goes towards an item for a refugee. The items are delivered via one of the 80+ projects Help Refugees work with across the world. The cheapest item costs only a couple of dollars, but there’s also an option to buy the entire store for $500.
You leave the shop with empty bags, but a full heart!
12. Donating Christmas
This Christmas fundraising idea has enormous potential! Donating one’s birthday has been quite popular, so encourage your supporters to donate their Christmas this year!
Mobilize a network of fundraisers who will, through peer-to-peer fundraising, fundraise for your nonprofit. They can ask their friends, family, and their wider network to donate to your charity instead of purchasing a Christmas gift.
You could also link Christmas to New Year’s Resolutions. Design a campaign which gives people an opportunity to donate their Christmas gift in order to help someone achieve their New Year’s Resolution (e.g. sponsor a child’s New Year resolution to go to school). Alternatively, you can run the campaign by encouraging people to “get a head start on their New Year’s Resolutions” by donating to causes they care about.
13. Christmas Decorations
What’s a Christmas without Christmas decorations? It’s, at least, a much less twinkly event!
There’s a lot you can do with Christmas decorations when it comes to fundraising.
- Offer Christmas decorating services to locals or local businesses in need of decorating. Recruit volunteers and collect small donations in exchange for the decorating work.
- Have a group of volunteers collect unused and unwanted Christmas donations from around the local community and then resell them at a Christmas show or a charity shop (or at one of your events).
14. Christmas Cards and Carols
It’s said that the idea of Charity Christmas Cards started around 1950 when nonprofits began to realize the potential the cards offered for fundraising. Although it’s not innovative, this idea withstood the test of time and is still very effective.
People will be buying cards this holiday season. In fact, although it might seem counterintuitive, more and more people are choosing handwritten printed cards over emails or instant messages.
As a nonprofit, you can opt for:
- Designing your own Christmas cards and selling them online. These can have a general Christmas theme or be tailored to your own nonprofit (e.g. animal-focused cards for animal shelters etc.) If your budget allows, commission your own artists and photographers to produce a suitable design for the cards.
- Allowing your logo to be used on commercial cards. This is a more hassle-free option, but you do receive only a percentage of sales (and you often share the card with other nonprofits).
- Creating your own handmade cards. This is an excellent option if you’re a smaller charity with a few dedicated volunteers ready to cut and place stickers and images. This is also a great option for schools as kids can get involved in crafting.
Christmas carols can be another effective Christmas fundraising idea. This type of fundraising event is perfect for religious group choirs, high school clubs, local music talent, and family and friends. Rally your supporters, then empower them to do more than just sing for a cause by making them fundraise on your behalf. Set up a crowdfunding campaign that will allow them to share their personal fundraising pages with friends and family.
You can also let your audience control your ‘playlist’. Let the members of your community know they can text a keyword to receive a message with a mobile-friendly form they can use to add their song of choice for the caroling. You can either have the caroling at an event or have your choir(s) go door-to-door.
15. Santa’s Village
Finally, we can’t possibly conclude this list without Santa Claus. Consider creating a “Santa’s Village” where, after paying a fee, children can get a picture with Santa. You can also have two different fees: one for a photo with Santa, and one that also includes a gift from Santa.
In Santa’s Village, you can also sell hot chocolate, hot cider, and other Christmas treats and drinks. Also, selling wreaths, candles, and decorations can make the entire experience more enticing and help you collect more funds.
16. Last Hour’s Pay
If you’re looking for a work-appropriate Christmas fundraising ideas and you’re struggling to imagine your co-workers painting baubles or baking – this one is for you!
As a gesture of generosity, ask your colleagues or have your fundraisers ask their colleagues at work if they’ll be kind enough to donate their last hour’s pay before Christmas to your nonprofit.
This allows for simple and straightforward giving – which many appreciate during the hectic holiday months. Whether you want to go all out and dive into peer-to-peer fundraising – where each one of your fundraisers has their own donation page and/or a campaign, or you want to do it more low-key – the range is wide and the opportunities are plenty!
17. Christmas Tree Disposal
When holidays start coming to an end, after countless family dinners, gifts, and events, people usually want to dispose of their Christmas trees. Since this is generally a ‘pain point’ for so many individuals, this Christmas fundraising idea guarantees success.
To raise funds, offer a Christmas tree disposal/recycling service. You will need a truck/van and a way to recycle the trees. Charge a fee for the disposal of the trees.
Not only is this service very affordable and convenient for those looking to dispose of their trees, but it’s also very environmentally friendly. Christmas tree recycling is a simple way to have a big impact after the holidays have come and gone.
Instead of picking up the trees, you can also set up collection points. A good location could be a community park accessible for most residents of your local community. This tends to draw in high participation rates.
At each collection point, mobilize volunteers to collect and sort discarded trees. From there, you can run the trees through an industrial chipper and transform them into mulch.
Everyone will appreciate the opportunity to solve a problem while at the same time doing good and ending the holiday season on a positive note!
18. Christmas Treats
Selling Christmas treats, albeit not a new idea, can definitely bring in a lot of funds during the holiday season.
Especially if you’re a local nonprofit, arranging to set up a stall in a mall or at your town square/shopping street shouldn’t be an issue.
Sell roasted chestnuts, mince pies, hot chocolate, Christmas pudding, or other Christmas/cold weather treats to people passing by. This will enrich the experience of the passers, as well as add to the overall Christmas feel.
Finally, you can set up an additional donation box for anyone who’s feeling a little bit more generous that evening and wants to give more.
19. Letters to Santa
Christmas is a special time of the year, but it’s arguably the most magical for children. There are as many Christmas traditions as there are families, but writing letters to Santa is one of the most popular ones.
You can really get creative with this Christmas fundraising idea. You can create 4-5 letters that people can choose from (prices usually vary from $5-$10). Naturally, those ordering the letters should be able to customize the name the letter is addressed to.
If you’re running a stall at a fair or at a Christmas market, you can also set up some tables and a box so that kids can write a letter to Santa and post it. Parents or guardians can pay (either ahead of time or on the day) to have their child receive a personalized return letter from Santa. Have the children write their name and address clearly to make sure that Santa knows where to send a letter back! If you opt for this idea, make sure that you charge more since this service is more time-consuming.
20. Bauble Decorating Competition
Exceptionally suited to schools, colleges, and community organizations, this Christmas fundraising idea is one of the most fun ones out there.
Think of a prize (perhaps one per age group – depending on the target audience of your nonprofit). Consider charging $3 per entry if everyone is bringing their bauble from home or $6 if you’re going to provide the bauble.
Ensure that the baubles are plain (white, solid color, or transparent) to allow the participant to express themselves creatively. Make sure each entrant has a name tag for their bauble.
Choose your judges – it could be the principal, a professor, parents, captains of the local high school or a local celebrity.
Each entrant can take their bauble home after the competition and put in on their own tree or, if you want to win extra community points, you can use all the baubles from the competition to decorate your school/library/community tree.
Alternatively, you could get a couple of your volunteers to offer ‘personalised baubles’ service at malls/fairs/markets. Charge donors per bauble to have the baubles personalized by the volunteers.
An entertaining Christmas fundraising idea will help generate more donations for your cause, especially during November and December. If you want to make the most out of your fundraising this holiday season, try a combination of two or more of the ideas presented above. We hope we’ve inspired you to come up with an idea of your own as well.
Get working, enjoy the holidays, and don’t forget your Donate page! Carry through the emotional impact of these events and campaigns to your website and make sure your supporters can donate online. Make that donation system straightforward and effective. Check out Donorbox.
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