16 Nonprofit Fundraising Event Ideas To Inspire Your Event Strategy

Events have evolved into strategic tools that nonprofits can use to create inspiring experiences, connect to their supporters, and generate revenue through ticket sales. The following 16 effective fundraising event ideas will inspire your event strategy for adults and children alike. You can also checkout our video to see how Donorbox Events can help boost your event ticket sales!

8 minutes read
16 Nonprofit Fundraising Event Ideas To Inspire Your Event Strategy

Our world is increasingly driven by experiences. In addition to raising funds, events have evolved into strategic tools that nonprofits can use to create inspiring experiences, connect to their supporters, and generate revenue through ticket sales. Using event marketing to drive your fundraising strategy is a sure way to bring in the needed funds for your nonprofit organization.

Donorbox Events is a simple and robust event ticketing solution for organizations. It lets you create online event pages, set ticket-buying deadlines, add unlimited ticket tiers, add tax deductibility for each tier, accept donations, embed the ticketing form on your website, and much more! Watch this short video to discover all Donorbox Events has to offer.

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First, let us have a look at the 16 most efficient fundraising event ideas to raise more money and engage your attendees.

16 Effective Fundraising Event Ideas for Nonprofits

We put together a list of 16 creative fundraising event ideas for nonprofits to inspire your event strategy. From events designed to speak to all ages to fitness challenges, there is something for everyone to choose from in this list of effective nonprofit event fundraisers. We also have a bonus section at the end to help you boost your event strategy with ticket sales.

1. Run or Walk

Starting with the basics. Walkathons, runs, bike races and other similar, active fundraisers are some of the most lucrative event fundraisers out there.

Walks and runs are exceptional at capitalizing on massive networks of supporters to raise money. With these events, participants usually ask their networks to give a certain amount based on the total number of miles completed. You can either have your participants set up their own fundraising pages and raise funds by reaching out to their networks with peer-to-peer fundraising.

Move for Samos made it easy for anyone to fundraise on their behalf with a button right on their crowdfunding page. They let their participants choose which activity they wanted to do, meaning there is something for everyone!


Screenshot of an organization using Donorbox peer-to-peer to raise funds for their active fundraiser.

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2. Obstacle Course

To make a standard race more interesting, organize an obstacle course. Obstacle courses are much more exciting and rewarding for those who take part in them, and this tends to increase participation and raise more funds.

Design a race that includes obstacles like rope and wall climbing, walking on a beam, bag races, running through sprinklers or pools of soapy water, climbing stairs, dodging water balloons filled with paint, mud pits, jumping through tires, and more.

You can run the obstacle course in a few ways. You can require a minimum raise for each team to participate or charge participants individually. Don’t forget to prepare a prize for the winning team!

3. Movie Night

Cozy and effective – movie nights. Movie nights can be adapted to suit the varying needs of many different nonprofits out there. Start by choosing the movie – a classic or a new release generally works well (choose a seasonal one if appropriate). Then, proceed to fill in the movie license applications.

Choose the right space for your screening. Whether you organize the event in the cinema or you put up a screen and speakers in another location (e.g. a school or a park), make sure your space is adequately prepared and set up.

Charge for entry and raise even more funds by selling popcorn, candy, and drinks.

Learn more in our How to Host a Successful Movie Night Fundraiser blog!

4. Barbecue

A barbecue is a great fundraising idea to attract a big crowd. There are several ways to go about raising funds at this family-friendly fundraiser: selling barbecue plates (‘for here’ and ‘to go’), selling barbecue sauces and drinks, organizing raffles and auctions, and more.

To utilize the fundraising potential of barbecues, organize activities that will entertain both kids and adults.

Reach out to local butchers, grocery stores, markets, farmers, and restaurants, and ask them to donate food, condiments, and buns in exchange for promoting their business at your barbecue. Make sure there are options for everyone. Source vegetarian and vegan hamburgers and hot dogs, vegetables, and gluten-free buns. And don’t forget to consider food safety!

Recruit volunteers to regularly monitor the area and pick up tables, chairs, barbecues, and trash.

5. Alumni Networking Event

Raising money for your fraternity or sorority? Or trying to think of a fun way to bring people together to support your mission?

Hosting an alumni networking event helps people with similar interests and backgrounds connect. It’s a great professional opportunity for them – and it’s a great fundraising opportunity for your organization.

Provide food and drinks and sell tickets to your event, the way this chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa did on their Donorbox Events page. We love that they included all the necessary information – along with a warm welcome – on their Events page!

A fraternity organization's Donorbox Events page.

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6. Live Artist Event

To add some pizazz to your fundraising, liven it up with live art! Think live music, artists working in real-time, performances, and anything else to add artsy flair to your event.

Pair the live artist event with a gala dinner or an auction. The live artistry will entertain the guests and encourage them to have fun and mingle.

Raise funds by selling the art pieces being made or art services being offered or let guests make donations in their own time. A donation kiosk is the perfect fundraising tool for an event like this. Learn how the Donorbox Live™ Kiosk app turns a tablet and card reader into a powerful donation magnet in this blog.

7. Dance Class

Dance classes are popular with people of all ages. Reach out to several dance instructors in your area and see if one of them would like to donate their services for a class benefiting your organization.

Then, promote the event on your social media channels and in your community. Charge a fee for attending the class and raise some funds while everyone’s having fun!

Alternatively, ask a local workout spot to host an exercise class (e.g. spinning or hot yoga) and help promote your fundraiser. Charge an extra fee for entrance to this special one-time class.

8. Coffee and Cupcakes

This great fundraising idea is sure to be a hit. Set up a coffee and cupcake stand in a busy area (e.g. campus, the business district in your town, or a busy street) in the early morning hours. Make sure the information about your nonprofit organization and your fundraising campaign are clearly visible.

Sell hot coffee and delicious cupcakes, and keep the profit for your organization. To get the most out of this fundraiser, get a local café to donate free or discounted coffee and cupcakes to your cause. Have volunteers serve the coffee and cupcakes.

Check out our blog on how to raise more with a nonprofit point-of-sale system.

9. Cook-Offs

A nonprofit fundraising classic, cook-offs are fun and engaging! They are entertaining, cater to a wide audience, and have a relatively high return on investment.

Pick a theme (e.g. chili, ramen, bolognese) and plenty of willing participants. Bonus points if the theme somehow relates to your cause! Charge a small entrance fee and sell tickets to raise funds.

To make the event even more enticing to potential attendees, recruit local chefs or food connoisseurs to attend or judge the competition. You can also get the local chef to host a class in his kitchen (or rent one) and end the lesson with a lively and intimate group dinner.

10. Theatre for a Cause

Partner with a local theatre and have them put on a special fundraising performance. This is a win-win fundraiser! You get to raise funds, your donors get to see a theatre performance, and the theatre builds its brand image and attracts a new audience.

Alternatively, ask the theatre to donate part of the profits from a special performance. If you don’t have a local theatre, or you think your audience would prefer something different, try planning a “cinema for a cause” screening at the local cinema. Follow the same approach to raise funds.

11. Guided Tour

For the knowledge buffs amongst your donors, host a tour of local historical places and noteworthy landmarks. Recruit someone knowledgeable in history to lead the tour for you. If you’re organizing the tour in spring/summer, a guided tour outside (touring the landmarks) could be a good option for your nonprofit. If the weather isn’t on your side, organize the tour within a museum or a gallery.

You can also organize a guided tour in nature (e.g. a mushroom tour or medicinal herbs tour), an ‘alternative city tour’ (showcasing street art, different subcultures, etc.), or any other tour that you think would be of interest to your donors and supporters.

Sell tickets to raise funds, the way this organization did for their historic homes tour.

Screenshot of an organization's Donorbox Events page selling tickets for a historic homes tour.

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12. Personal Challenge

Get creative with this peer-to-peer fundraiser. There are countless challenges your supporters can perform to raise money for your nonprofit. Challenges are fun and engaging, making them one of the most effective creative nonprofit event ideas.

Personal challenges can be anything from a vow of silence for 24 hours, cutting or dying hair, fitness challenges, adventure challenges (e.g. skydiving or bungee jumping), not spending any money for a whole day, or going offline for a week.

Personal challenges bring awareness to your cause in an inventive way and their ROI (return on investment) is high.

13. Pet Show

This fundraising event is a phenomenal way to get everyone involved, including four-legged friends. First, choose which kinds of pets you will allow in your show. Then find an appropriate location to host everyone. Outdoors locations will work best for dogs, whereas indoor locations are better for cats.

Consider holding the event in the spring or fall when the weather is neither too hot nor too cold. This is an especially great idea if your organization is an animal shelter!

14. “Break the World Record” Party

With this unusual fundraising event, you are guaranteed to raise money for your cause. Look through various world records and find one your organization – and your supporters – can break!

Whether you choose: “Most Items Kicked Off People’s Heads in One Minute,” “Most Ice Cream Scoops Balanced on a Cone,” or “Most People Getting a Face Massage” – fun is a given!

Depending on which record you choose to break (and how many people will join), make sure you find an appropriate location. Ensure there are good music and food and invite local media to cover the event.

15. Trivia Night

Trivia tournaments are relatively easy to pull off. All you need is a venue, a host, and some interesting questions. Try framing your trivia categories around your cause so that your tournament is both entertaining and educational. To spice it up, arrange a seated dinner or organize a raffle.

Charge for entry (charge per person or per team), and raise additional funds by selling food and drinks. During the evening, make a number of donation appeals.

Discover more ways to raise money in our trivia night fundraisers blog!

16. Grab a Box

This is a fundraising event with a lot of potential. Get multiple boxes and fill them with a variety of items – ranging from affordable and going all the way to luxury items.

To get the most out of this fundraiser, get out there and network! Have businesses donate items and experiences (e.g. trips, vouchers, perfumes, clothes, bags, and more). Go to the dollar store and purchase some inexpensive items to add more to the boxes, too.

Charge a flat fee per box. No one should know what they’re getting! The participants will be excited to potentially get their hands on some of the more expensive items for a less expensive purchase price.

Bonus Resource: Donorbox Events, The Simplest Way to Sell and Manage Tickets Online

Donorbox Events is a simple-to-use, comprehensive event ticketing platform, designed specifically to assist nonprofits in selling and managing fundraising event tickets. You can issue tickets with the tax-deductible value mentioned and ask purchasers to share any specific information that might be helpful for you. You can even let them donate to your nonprofit right from the event page.

And the best part? Events automatically generates tax-deductible ticket values, reflecting both fair-market price and tax-rate values in the ticket prices. All ticket and receipt delivery is automatic, too, saving your team valuable time. Learn how to create an event-ticketing form on Donorbox in this guide.

Watch this demo video to see this platform in action!

Get Started With Donorbox Events

Wrapping Up: Your Next Fundraising Event

When it comes to keeping your donors and supporters engaged, the possibilities are endless. Amongst those, events are some of the most effective and interactive fundraising ideas out there.

Get inspired by the examples above and choose those that best match your nonprofit’s mission, speak to the interests of your target audience the most, and fall within your budget.

This list is meant to serve as a jumping-off point for your research, so don’t forget to do your own brainstorming! How can you add your touch to something like a pet show or a guided tour? How can you make these your own?

At Donorbox, we strive to make your nonprofit experience as productive as possible, whether through our online donation system or through resources on our Nonprofit Blog. Subscribe to our newsletter for a curated collection of blog posts delivered to your inbox every month.

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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