How To Come Up With Creative Fundraising Ideas (+5 Ideas To Get You Started!)

Stuck in a rut? These creative fundraising ideas and tips will help you shake things up.

Galas and golf tournaments are time-tested ways to raise money for your nonprofit. But if you’re relying solely on traditional fundraising methods to generate donations, then you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to engage new donors that diversify your revenue streams.  


By embracing creativity and innovation in fundraising, you can make your organization stand out in a sea of charitable causes. Below, we’ll walk you through the steps to come up with creative fundraising ideas that work for your organization. We’ll also share six fundraising ideas you can use for your next event. Let’s dive in!  

How to come up with creative fundraising ideas

1. Consider your donors’ preferences and interests

Traditional fundraising events like galas and auctions often cater to a specific demographic — namely, older and more affluent individuals. But different demographics have different motivations, interests, and preferences when it comes to engaging with nonprofits. Understanding these differences is key to coming up with innovative and effective fundraising strategies.  


“There’s a shift of wealth that’s happening from the Baby Boomers to Gen X and Millennials,” explains Cassidi Jobe, founder of Summit Future Foundation, a youth transition service agency in Kansas City, Missouri. “It’s one of the largest transfers of wealth that we’ve seen in a very long time. So there’s got to be a change in your fundraising approach as well.” 


Of course, age isn’t the only — or even the most important — characteristic that can shape philanthropic behavior. You’ll also want to think about factors such as: 


  • Geographic location 
  • Income & education  
  • Background  
  • Interests 
  • Values  
  • Lifestyle 
  • Giving history 


This information helps you to understand your donors and how they make giving decisions so that you can create fundraising initiatives that resonate with them on a deeper level. 

2. Survey your donors 

Not sure what types of events would resonate with your target donors? Ask them!  


If you keep an email list of your supporters, now is the time to send out a survey exploring preferences and interests regarding fundraising events. Ask them what types of events they would be excited to attend and what activities they would find engaging and meaningful. For better results, segment your email list by shared characteristics like location. 


You may also consider establishing an advisory board, like Summit Future Foundation’s Young Professionals Board, to provide input on event ideas, marketing strategies, and community engagement efforts. 


“The development of our Young Professionals Board was really centered around having that younger voice in our philanthropic outreach,” explains Cassidi. “They get an opportunity to sit on a board to develop their leadership skills, and they are responsible for planning one fundraising event per year. This year, they’re hosting a pickleball tournament.” 

3. Target overlooked demographics

Another way to get creative with your fundraising efforts is to expand your idea of what the “ideal donor” looks like. Cassidi emphasizes the importance of looking beyond conventional demographics and identifying niche groups that may be overlooked in your current fundraising efforts.  


“We had a board member who is the father of a child with a disability, and he was like: You know, we’re never really part of these conversations, but there’s a lot of dads out there,” explains Cassidi. 


Cassidi’s team came up with the idea to host a bourbon tasting, complete with games, entertainment, and a chance to win exclusive bourbon items. Attendees even had the opportunity to mingle with former Kansas City Chiefs & Royals ambassadors and players.  


This event is a great example of how nontraditional fundraising events can appeal to demographics that may not typically engage with traditional fundraising methods. This approach not only increases fundraising potential but helps you cultivate meaningful relationships with a wider range of donors, ultimately strengthening your connection within the community. 

4. Consider the ‘shareability factor’

Outside-the-box fundraising ideas have the potential to go viral on social media and generate buzz within the community. This increased visibility can lead to greater awareness of your nonprofit’s mission, as well as inspire others to get involved or donate. 


As you’re evaluating potential fundraising ideas, think about whether someone would want to invite their friends or share about it on social media. Having experiences at your fundraisers like a DIY photo booth, or even a professional photographer, provides easy ways to encourage attendees to share about (and show!) the fun they had at your event. Events or campaigns that spark enthusiasm and encourage participation are more likely to capture the attention of your target audience and amplify your message across various online platforms.  

5. Leverage your data to demonstrate meaningful impact

If the idea of planning a completely new event sounds overwhelming, consider reimagining one of your existing events instead. With a few simple tweaks, you can breathe new life into a tired fundraiser.  


Leveraging data to demonstrate impact is a powerful and creative fundraising strategy that enables you to showcase your achievements, build donor trust, and inspire continued support for your mission. The best part is, this works for any type of fundraising event — even traditional events like art auctions and galas.  


Summit Future Foundation, for example, continues to host their annual Capture the Future Gala, which remains their most successful fundraising event to date. What sets this gala apart, however, is their innovative approach to demonstrating impact. 


“We’re able to provide our attendees with really clear impact information — not just the number of people that we’ve supported, but the life outcomes that they’ve achieved,” says Cassidi. “We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback about the graphs and information we share.” 


If you’re not sure where to begin, check out this article on fundraising KPIs to demonstrate your impact or this one on free design tools to market your event. Next, let’s look at some creative fundraising ideas and inspiration.  

Creative fundraising ideas

1. Bourbon/craft beer/food tasting

Partnering with a local brewery or distillery can provide a unique venue for an evening of networking and philanthropy. Or, if you’d prefer to avoid alcohol at your events, consider hosting a food tasting instead. For instance, a chocolate tasting makes for a sweet way to connect with new supporters and generate donations for your organization.  

2. Pickleball tournament

For a twist on the traditional charity golf outing, consider organizing a pickleball tournament. Pickleball has surged in popularity in recent years, attracting players of all ages and skill levels. By tapping into this trend, you can create a fun and competitive event that appeals to a wide audience. Plus, donors will be eager to invite their friends to join in on the action and support your cause. 

3. Murder mystery dinner

A murder mystery gala is a thrilling and interactive fundraising event that puts a unique twist on the traditional gala format. Instead of the typical dinner and speeches, attendees become part of an immersive theatrical experience where they must work together to solve a fictional murder. The combination of suspense, drama, and social interaction makes for a memorable evening that guests will talk about long after the event is over. 

4. Paint jam street art event

Why not inject some creativity into your fundraising efforts with a paint jam street art event? Invite local street artists to create live art installations during the event, while attendees mingle and bid on their favorite pieces. It’s a fresh take on the traditional art auction, offering a dynamic and interactive experience for artists and art lovers alike.  

5. Polar plunge

Forget the 5K — for a truly exhilarating fundraising experience, consider organizing a polar plunge event. Participants brave the icy waters in support of your cause, making memories and raising vital funds in the process. The polar plunge is not only a great winter fundraiser but also a fantastic way to build community spirit and camaraderie. 

Keep learning and improving your fundraising efforts

We hope these tips and event ideas have inspired you to get creative with your own fundraising efforts. If you would like to learn more, check out our fundraising archives 

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