14 Easy & Creative Thanksgiving Fundraising Ideas

Everyone knows Christmastime is the season of giving, and the time of most nonprofits’ primary fundraising campaign. The fact that a significant amount of all annual giving happens in the last three months of the year means organizations should find ways to make Thanksgiving part of their annual campaign as well! In this article, we discuss the three ways to include the spirit of gratefulness in your campaign and offer a list of effective Thanksgiving fundraising ideas.

10 minutes read
14 Easy & Creative Thanksgiving Fundraising Ideas

Thanksgiving in the U.S. serves as the unofficial start to the holiday season. It’s also a day that is focused on gratitude, with many people giving thanks for what they have and reflecting on how they may be able to give to others. In other words, this time of year is an excellent time to reach out to donors, who may be looking for ways to make a difference.

Donorbox is a powerful fundraising software that is super simple to setup and attracts more recurring donors, and to help you get started, we’ve compiled creative Thanksgiving fundraising ideas that will help you take your fundraising efforts to the next level.

First, let’s take a look at the three key principles that drive success when fundraising around Thanksgiving. Then, we’ll dive into several ideas to give your Thanksgiving fundraising a boost! 

3 Key Principles of Thanksgiving Fundraising

1. Connect with existing donors

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to connect with existing donors. Mobilize volunteers to write thank-you notes to all those who have donated over the course of the past year or two – handwritten letters or cards are best, but an email works as well. You could even engage your board of directors and have them make some calls to donors thanking them for their support. If you have the budget and the capacity, consider hosting a Thanksgiving dinner or other donor appreciation event.

Whatever you do at this stage, try to just say ‘thank you’ and not ask for more donations. This shows that you care about your donors and the impact they have and that you are truly grateful for their support. There will be plenty of time later to make the ask!

This is also not to say you should only thank your donors on Thanksgiving. Appreciate your donors throughout the year, and embed the spirit of gratitude into the very fabric of your organizational culture.

Other interesting ways to thank your donors include – 

  • Send them photos from the field.
  • Invite them for a tour of your organization.
  • Ask major donors if they would like to get involved on a deeper level (e.g. serve on a board).
  • Send them a thank you letter written by someone the donation helped.
  • Embed an interactive infographic in your thank-you emails.

2. Showcase stories

Giving is essentially an emotional decision – we donate when we feel a strong emotional connection. Showcasing individual stories about your organization’s beneficiaries is more powerful than throwing statistics around! People are more likely to give to help people (or animals or places) than to serve your organization. Don’t have a beneficiary story to share? You can also share stories from the viewpoint of a dedicated volunteer or longtime donor, empowering them to speak about why they support your mission. 

Consider including one of these impact stories in your thank-yous, or send out a Thanksgiving email featuring a video of one of your stories. A video featuring several donors, volunteers, and/or staff members saying ‘thank you’ in honor of the holiday can be extremely powerful!

3. Work with the sentiment of gratitude

Gratitude is a positive emotion and is one that most of us experience during Thanksgiving. Many researchers have also found that gratitude positively affects generosity and willingness to help. Bartlett and DeSteno showed in their research on gratitude and prosocial behavior that people experiencing this powerful emotion typically spend more time helping others.

The key this Thanksgiving season is to work with the sentiment of gratitude to increase giving, but without manipulating or guilting your donors into making a gift.

A good way to do this is to be thankful to your donors, as described in the first point above, reminding them of what they helped you achieve the previous year. To amp it up and make it more personal, be sure to segment your donors, then thank them via the channel and with the messaging that most resonate with them. 

Finally, ask your supporters to give tastefully, focusing on warmth, community, and cheer, not guilt because of all they have.

Thanksgiving Fundraising Ideas to Use in 2023

Now that we’ve gone over the principles surrounding fundraising during the Thanksgiving season, let’s jump into some Thanksgiving fundraising ideas! But before that, we’d like to share with you the Donorbox video that talks turkey about Thanksgiving fundraising! It’s a fun and quick way to learn a bit about fundraising during this season and some great tactics to help you raise more.

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1. Thanksgiving meal for those in need

If you are a food pantry, soup kitchen, or other organization looking to solve the food insecurity crisis, consider raising funds to directly support a Thanksgiving meal for your beneficiaries. Start fundraising a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Ask your donors to give the equivalent of a turkey or a side dish so that all families in your community can enjoy a delicious holiday meal.

Take a look at Feeding Kids Cleveland County’s Community Meal Thanksgiving Table fundraiser on Donorbox, which is raising funds to do just that.

Example of a Thanksgiving Fundraising Idea on a Donorbox campaign

Get started With Donorbox

2. Thanksgiving giveaway on social media

Engage with your donors and supporters by offering a Thanksgiving-themed giveaway on social media. Partner with a local business and offer a discount coupon or a gift card with every donation. Bonus points if you can make the prize something your donors will want for Thanksgiving or the holiday season ahead, such as a grocery store gift card, holiday decor, or an evening out on the town. 

This is an excellent way to generate buzz on social media, reward your donors, and encourage giving. It’s also a win for the partnering business, as well as a way to foster local business partnerships. 

3. Holiday gift drive

With Christmas and other gift-giving holidays just around the corner, the weeks around Thanksgiving are an ideal time to launch a holiday gift drive for kids and families in your area. While you may still want to collect physical items for this drive, you can also ask for monetary donations from those who do not have time to shop or are not able to make it out to your location. 

Here’s an example of an online campaign hosted by Heartland Hope Mission. In their donation form, you can easily see how much is needed to support families of varying sizes with holiday meals and gifts. We especially like how they used an impactful story and image to encourage donors to give in support of their neighbors!

Heartland Hope Holiday Fundraiser 2023

4. Turkey Trot

Organizing a 5k, 10k, or marathon run can be a profitable Thanksgiving fundraising idea. Design a campaign and incorporate crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising methods into it.  Let participants set up peer-to-peer fundraising pages to collect donations for racing and encourage them to share their pages across their social media accounts. They’ll simultaneously gather more donations and promote the race, increasing sign-ups.

Encourage your runners to dress up – there’s nothing funnier than seeing a turkey cross the finish line! – and reward the best costumes. You could also reward division winners (or anyone crossing the finish line) with cinnamon rolls or other snacks! 

Pro tip: Save time and money by hosting a virtual 5k instead! Runners participate whenever they want (typically within a set time frame defined by the hosting organization) and you don’t need to worry about blocking off streets, purchasing decorations, or any other of the many tasks and expenses associated with an in-person race.

5. Thanksgiving bake sale

This Thanksgiving fundraising idea is a seasonal twist on a traditional fundraiser. Bake sales are the go-to fundraising events for many schools and faith-based organizations like churches (read more church fundraising ideas here). To make this bake sale seasonal and relevant, the baked goods should be fall-themed or Thanksgiving-themed. Think apple pies, crumbles, and anything pumpkin spice.

Your bake sale can be held the traditional way – in person – or you can choose to host a virtual bake sale. Either way, we recommend hosting it within the week leading up to Thanksgiving so that donors can purchase items to serve on the big day!

For an in-person event, simply ask your volunteers to bake a number of goods that you can offer donors for purchase. Then, sell your treats in a high-traffic area of your location or partner with a business in your community – like a bank or a store – that sees a lot of people. You can collect cash donations or – even better – accept payments via cards, smart devices, or digital wallets with a donation kiosk.

Here is how you can organize a virtual bake sale:

  1. Get several great bakers on board who can bake seasonal favorites.
  2. Each baker selects the treat they will be baking for the sale and commits to specific numbers of those treats they can bake (e.g. 20 apple pies or four dozen pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies).
  3. You promote the sale online, and your marketing directs people to a dedicated landing page. This page should contain goods for sale, their prices, images, and donation links.
  4. When donors make a selection, you send them a confirmation email and inform the baker.
  5. The baker then makes the selected goods, and you ship them out. You could also organize a pick-up time and location if your donors are local!

Pro tip: Use Donorbox Events to sell items for your virtual bake sale. List each item available (pies, cookies, etc.) as separate ‘tickets’ on your online ticketing form. You can then set a quantity limit for each ‘ticket’, allowing only a certain amount of each item to be sold. Plus, donors will be able to see how many of each item is left, creating a sense of urgency and encouraging more purchases!

6. Thanksgiving raffle

This Thanksgiving fundraising idea is a fun one! As the weather gets colder, people start dreaming of exotic tropical getaways (or winter wonderlands if they are snow lovers).

This makes Thanksgiving the perfect time to host an online raffle for a vacation and other large prizes. Advertise the raffle on social media, email, and through digital ads. You can offer one major prize, like an all-expenses-paid trip. Or, present donors with three or four options to keep it exciting and appeal to various audiences. Donors can either buy one raffle ticket and be entered to win all prizes – the more they purchase the more chances they can win – or you can use a Donorbox form to allow donors to choose the raffle they want to enter.

Take a look at this example from Tri-League. They offered a package of raffle prizes – donors could give $10 to purchase one entry or $25 for three entries.

Example of an online raffle done with a Donorbox form - a great Thanksgiving fundraising idea

Bonus: Stuck on what to offer donors in your raffle? Check out this list of 10 fundraising raffle ideas!

7. Fall Foliage Tour

The colors of fall – red, orange, and yellow – are provided free of charge by nature, which makes this a cost-effective Thanksgiving fundraising idea.

Many people love going on day trips this time of the year to enjoy the scenery. So, plan a fall foliage sight-seeing trip and advertise it locally¡ This type of event is particularly popular amongst the elderly population, so make sure you advertise it to retirement homes and senior centers.

Rent a bus and a driver (or have someone from your organization drive), and plan a route. Just make sure the scenery is colorful and there is a spot for lunch on the way! 

You can sell tickets to cover the cost of gas as well as a light meal, or simply ask for a freewill donation and have attendees cover their own lunch.

8. Gift baskets

The holiday season is all about giving, and gift baskets are amongst the most frequently given gifts. They also make for great hostess gifts when attending a Thanksgiving meal in someone else’s home! 

Create your own gift baskets to sell, preferably designing several different ones to fit different buyer profiles and budgets (e.g. wine baskets, artisanal baked items, or body care packages). There is also the option of raffling off a few baskets with bigger ticket items. Perhaps one basket may have a $50 gift card and another an iPad! 

9. Pumpkin or mums sale

Nothing says fall time like pumpkins and mums (short for chrysanthemum). That is why this fall fundraising idea is perfect for fall and Thanksgiving!

Host a pumpkin or mum flower sale to benefit your nonprofit by ordering these items in bulk from a local farmer. Then, sell them at your offices or other public spaces (like a farmer’s market) at a higher price to raise money.  

If you’re hosting a harvest fest (more on that below) or you’d like to decorate your office or place of worship for the season, ask donors to purchase pumpkins or mums in honor or memory of a loved one. Use them as fall decorations for your event or over the course of a few weeks. Then, allow each donor who participated to take a pumpkin or mum home.

11. Harvest Fest

Make the most of the fall harvest and Thanksgiving season and arrange a Harvest Fest or Fall Festival for your group. Set up sales of local produce or treats that are particularly in demand around this time of year. This is also a great opportunity to invite area crafters to sell their hand-made goods, like seasonal decorations, quilts, clothing, jewelry, and more. 

Find and make contact with a local farmer who is willing to sell you a large quantity of seasonal produce (e.g. apples). At your fest, you can sell apples, other produce, corn on the cob, apple cider, and other seasonal food and drink. You can also bring in food trucks or other vendors!

If you really want to go all out, rent some bouncy castles, inflatable slides, and any other activities you can think of, then use a donation kiosk to sell tickets to these attractions and bring in more funds. 

12. Yard cleanup

All that fall foliage makes for an amazing day trip, but many people spend a lot of time clearing leaves during the fall!

Offer yard cleanups in exchange for donations. Mobilize your volunteers to do this. If you don’t have a volunteer base, consider partnering with a local school. This is also a great project for a church youth group

Just be sure to have all the supplies you need on hand, including extra-large yard bags, rakes, yard gloves, and bag stands.

13. Candle Fundraising

Candles are a staple of home decor for fall and winter. They are also a great gift to others. A candle fundraiser, therefore, is an excellent way to raise some additional funds this Thanksgiving.

Yankee Candle partners with nonprofits to sell candles and share the profit. Your donors will have over 150 items to choose from, priced from $6.00 to $28.00. Choosing Yankee Candle Fundraising gives your supporters a product that they recognize, and you get to keep 40% of the profit, with no material costs invested.

Here’s another way to sell candles if you can source them from other places e.g. local markets and sellers. The nonprofit below uses the Donorbox donation page to sell candles and raise funds!

14. Corn Maze

Corn mazes are a fantastic and family-friendly fall fundraising idea, perfect for Thanksgiving and the weeks surrounding the holiday.

You can choose to create your own maze or obstacle course in a large open space using purchased hay bales, corn stalks, or other materials. Or, you can partner with a local farm that has an existing corn or hay bale maze, and ask if you can host a fundraising event for a single day of their season.


The last three months of the year are typically when nonprofits raise the majority of their annual funds! From Thanksgiving onwards, generosity skyrockets, causing people to be more generous with their time and money to help support causes they care about.

Use the ideas presented here – combined with the principles we shared – to host your own Thanksgiving or fall fundraiser. And, if you are looking for more ideas, we have this mega guide of 100+ fundraising ideas for nonprofits as well!

Donorbox has the tools you need to take your Thanksgiving fundraiser to the next level. Our many features include customizable donation forms, crowdfunding pages, and peer-to-peer campaigns, plus event ticketing software, a donation kiosk app, and so much more. Sign up today to get started for free!

Be sure to also check out the rest of our Nonprofit Blog to find more tips, guides, resources, and more to help you on your fundraising journey, throughout the giving season and beyond.

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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