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Great Fundraising Ideas for Non-Profits

Updated on November 27, 2016

Was it $100 or $1,000

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What is the right fundraiser for your Non-Profit organization?

Fundraising is something my family has been doing since my kids started school. There are many different types of organizations needing to raise money, such as, school PTA's and PTO's, high school organizations, youth sports teams, boy scout troops, cub scout packs, girl scout troops, Pee Wee Football, and many more. There are even more companies willing to lend a hand or donate to a good cause.

I have been involved on the parent's side with juggling four fundraisers at the same time, as a PTA President and Travel Softball coach on the organization side, and most recently as a volunteer raising money for a silent auction. What follows is what I have learned over the years, so that you may make some good choices. I hope you find some good ideas here and good luck with your fundraising event.

Fundraising Step by Step

Finding the best fundraiser for your organization

So you've decided your organization needs a fundraiser, what do you do next?

Well, the first thing is to determine your fundraising goal, are you raising hundreds of dollars, thousands of dollars, or tens of thousands. The one thing to remember and what I recommend is to stop raising money when you reach your goal. The last thing you want to do is over fundraise and diminish your returns in years to come.

Once you've determined your goal, you need to look at the fundraisers where you can raise 75-90% of the money needed for the organization, this will be your base fundraiser. This fundraiser is active to almost everyone in your membership base and is usually a fundraiser where you make at least 50% profits. Think of candy sales, cookie dough sales, wrapping paper sales, Girl Scout Cookies, and Boy Scout Popcorn.

Next comes the all-year fundraisers. These take the form of major companies wanting to help out schools and communities and usually can raise a couple of thousand dollars throughout the year. Think Box Tops, Campbell Labels, Meijer Rewards, these are fundraisers where you are purchasing things you already do and clipping labels or flashing a card to get the reward.

Finally, comes the fill in fun raisers, usually netting hundreds of dollars. These are car washes, restaurant nights, present wrapping. These are great if you are coming up short on the fundraisers above or need something to fund a certain event, like a 5th grade party, band trip, or a one-time purchase of equipment.

When picking your fundraiser always look at the time it takes your organization to put on the fundraiser vs the reward you get out of it. Gift Cards or Scripts are a great fundraiser if you have a large base who is willing to buy gift cards for their everyday purchases. We ran this through my school's PTA, and brought in about $1000 over the course of the year. However, it burned out the people who were doing this week after week, in addition, to make that $1000 pushed about $100,000 through our organization which you have to declare as income. That level puts you in the "must hire an external auditor" thus cutting our profits in about half. In this case, the reward was not worth the effort.

Fundraising Opportunities

My Favorite Fundraisers

Box Tops for Education - If a company taped a dime to a package, wouldn't you take it off and put it in your piggy bank? That's exactly what this is and the trick is to getting your organization to do this in mass. At the school where I was the PTA President, our program brought in about $3 per child. We partnered with a local McDonald's who gave us Free Happy Meals, and for every 25 box tops a student brought in, we would give them a Free Happy Meal. In my family, we have a special box where we put all of the labels and about once a month we gather them all up and send them in. Getting Grandparents and Aunts and Uncles to help as well also gives it that extra boost. This fundraiser needs a coordinator to fill out the paperwork and send in the box tops. The coordinator will spend about 4 hours per month.

When running a Box Tops program, run a Campbell's, and Tyson program at the same time. Box Tops will be the most profitable, but as long as they are collecting labels, people will normally do them all.

Run Walk Fundraisers - My school recently started hosting a 5K as a fundraiser. This has become a great event not only from a money perspective, it also promotes activity and healthy kids. Although the first couple of years we were just hoping to break even, we were able to bring in $5,000 with 400 runners. It's a lot of work, so be prepared, however, it comes with a bigger payoff than just the dollars.

Restaurant Fundraisers: There are two types of restaurant night fundraisers, those that require you to bring in a form identifying you as part of the organization fundraising, and those that don't. The restaurants usually do this on a Tuesday or Wednesday and not on the weekends. You help them generate traffic to their restaurant, they help you with a donation. Our particular Wendy's provides us with a costume and we'll get one of the PTA officers or even the school principal to dress up as Wendy. We'll also have someone dress up in our mascot costume. At these events, we'll also have a tattoo station or face painting run by the PTA. Of course, not all restaurants participate, so ask the manager, and be flexible with your days. More Restaurant Night Fundraisers: Chuck E Cheese, Sweet Tomatoes, Fudruckers, Dominos Pizza, KFC, Boston Market, Chipotle, Chili's, Max & Erma's, Subway, Sonic, Steak N Shake, Panera Break, and Pizza Hut - One-day during the week, usually need to present a form when ordering. Special tip: Try to have on a night before a day off.

More Profitable ways to Fundraise

Charity Car Wash - 100% profit, what else can you say. Find a gas station, church, or other organization that has a hose and a bucket. Get a lot of people to help wash cars and charge $5 (which is less than most car washes) and your setup to go. Put people on the streets in bathing suits to attract your donors and watch the cars roll in.

Kathryn Beich - There are the ones that make you the most money. 50% of what you bring in you keep and the kids like it because there are prizes. Find an organization that will divide up your orders for you, the last thing you want to do is separate out each order. Some companies will even ship to your donors door, which leaves you with less work. You will need a coordinator, and I would also suggest a kickoff during an assembly to get the ball rolling. The kids do most of the work by calling their relatives and going to their neighbors. Parents can also take the order form to work.

The Bakeless Bake Sale - Not everyone likes to buy items from a catalog or participate saving box tops or going to a restaurant on a particular night. For these parents it is necessary to run a bakeless bake sale. The bakeless bake sale is just as it sounds, nothing to bake, just a well worded plea for a donation that satisfies a donors need to participate and contribute to your cause. (Thanks to commenter mneil for the suggestion.)

More great Fundraising Ideas

Campbells Labels for Education - Same concept as Box Tops, Redeem points for merchandise.

Market Day - Monthly fundraiser, Order on-line or receive orders by a specific date, and pick-up is on a certain day. Most everything is frozen, so be sure to have pick-up on the same day the order is delivered or you will need a freezer to keep the product in.

Otis Spunkmayer Cookie Dough - Profitable, Order Forms

Tyson A+ Labels - Same concept as Box Tops, redeem labels for money.

Old Cellphone or Old Inkjet Cartridges - Programs allow you to turn in old or used products for cash.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts Fundraising

Who can you resist buying cookies and popcorn from cub scouts or girl scouts in uniforms?

Girl Scout Cookies: At $4 a box nowadays, this is getting harder. The best place is still the office, tack that order form to the wall and everyone who passes usually signs up. Of course, you have to have relationships with your office mates, or it doesn't work very well. I've never been one to go around and ask my co-workers, as they do have their kids, grand kids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, and everyone else asking them as well. The latest is setting up a table at a local supermarket (yes, you need to get their permission) and selling as people come out. Who can resist that 7-year old in her girl scout or brownie uniform?

Boy Scout Popcorn: Something I've gotten into recently, its about the same as the girl scout cookies, and uses all the same tactics. Again, who can resist the 8-year old boy in his cub scout uniform? By the way, don't forget to put out a donation bucket for those that don't want to buy, and see the kids and remember when their kids were in scouts and decide to put $1 or $5 into the bucket.

Another way to encourage your scouts to fundraise, is to provide an incentive. Our cub scout pack creates a pie contest. Every scout that sells $500 or more, is allowed to push a whip cream "PIE" into the face of a uniformed leader. This is great fun for the scouts and parents.

Texas Hold'em Fundraiser

How to raise $5,000 in one night

With the explosion of poker over the recent years, I knew it wouldn't take long for those innovative folks to start holding Texas Hold'em tournaments as a fundraiser. This is an offshoot of what once was called Vegas Night. The nice thing about this fundraising idea is that you can raise a lot of money in one night with a minimal amount of effort and capital.

Here's what you need to know:

1. Make sure you know the gambling laws in your state, anything to do with gambling including a raffle usually requires some sort of permit when raising money. Make sure you get that permit, as the last thing you want is the police breaking up your fundraiser and confiscating the money.

2. Get someone knowledgeable in Texas Hold'em to create the rules for the night. The questions you will need to answer are, what is the initial chip outlay, are there any re-buys, how often do the blinds go up, when are their breaks, how do you keep the tables balanced, how do you determine who sits at what table and what position each player sits at, who is the final judge in case there is a disagreement, are there dealers or are the players dealing, what happens when a card is flipped up on the deal, and what to do when you run out of time at the end of the night and still have players left.

3. Make sure you have enough poker chips. This will be a factor in your cost of the fundraiser.

4. You won't be able to do this at a school. The best place is an American Legion Hall, Lions Club, or Veterans Hall. There will be a rental hall fee which is another cost to your fundraiser.

5. Supply cards, potential two decks per table. Make sure the decks are different colors so the cards can't get mixed up.

6. Have the people you are fundraising for supply food for your guests. If you wish, you can sell beverages, but it may be best to supply free non-alcoholic beverages.

7. Have fun, as it is all about the charity..

One recent Texas Hold'em fundraiser I went to had 50-60 players at an entry of $75, did a 50-50 raffle, and had re-buys up until the first break. The tournament lasted 6 hours and had 3 players left at the end and paid 5 places. All-in-all everyone had a great time and we raised over $2500 in one night.

Reader Feedback

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    • williamslaw profile image

      williamslaw 3 years ago

      Wow, those are a lot of good ideas. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image

      tcoverly 4 years ago

      The COMEDY & ILLUSION FUNDRAISING SHOW allows you to keep 100% of the profit! Book a show. Invite the community. You keep 100% of ticket sales. More info - www.DestroyIllusions.com.

      Want to sell out the show? Shhhh ... here is the secret (who says magicians don't tell secrets) ... Just have a few students perform as my opening act and during intermission to launch second half of show! :)

      This is one of the easiest fundraisers today! Raising thousands for schools, churches, colleges and charity events.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      @anonymous: I really have no idea how I got on this site.But I am actually starting a fundraiser for Relay for Life ..I will be setting up the site just for this purpose.I am looking forward to getting this on the run!!!!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have a great way to earn money for schools...Tupperware fundraiser!!Earn 40 Percent of your sales.

    • poorwendy lm profile image

      poorwendy lm 4 years ago

      Selling candy door to door worked well enough for us during choir. So long as we don't do it during a hot weekend.

    • profile image

      rosignoll 4 years ago

      I recently found out about Voucherry and signed up to see whatâs all about. First, I had to complete the sign up form and choose my favorite cause. Now, at each purchase Iâm making on Voucherry or from their partner stores, my favorite cause is getting a donation. I invited my family and friends too, because they support the same cause and for each of their purchase, a donation is made too. Seems that these days is very simple to do good.

    • waldenthreenet profile image

      waldenthreenet 5 years ago

      Appreciating your topic. Commuity TV and Community Radio tools can be value added to this task on hand as well. Congrads on your Squidoo level. Conversations helps among lensemasters on related topics. THanks.

    • PennyHowe profile image

      PennyHowe 5 years ago

      Wow! Lots of great ideas. Thanks.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 5 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      More great ideas for Scouts to earn cash :)

    • tainlaulence profile image

      tainlaulence 5 years ago

      Great ideas.This is the first time I heard the girl scouts

    • OUTFOXprevention1 profile image

      OUTFOXprevention1 5 years ago

      Great ideas! We're always looking for interesting ways to raise money for PASBi.com and other charities!

    • profile image

      lilPinkfairy288 5 years ago

      Great lens to try to help others.

    • goo2eyes lm profile image

      goo2eyes lm 5 years ago

      thanks for sharing the fundraising ideas to help the schools, teachers and students. it's really noble to help others. chapeau! angel blessed.

    • PennyHowe profile image

      PennyHowe 5 years ago

      @Kiosks4business: Yes, I agree. Thanks for the great info. Running a golf tournament is also a good way to raise money. Make extra money by selling Mulligans. Add more pizzazz to your mulligans using these unique and hilarious mulligan golf cards. Check them out here and take advantage of the free ones. http://www.mulligangolfsite.com Wishing you all much success with your fund raising.

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 5 years ago

      Great ideas!

    • BusinessSarah profile image

      BusinessSarah 5 years ago

      Very comprehensive -- a lot of great fundraising tips and ideas presented here. Well done!

    • Formosangirl LM profile image

      Formosangirl LM 5 years ago

      I processed the Box Tops last year. It's surprising how fast they accumulate. It's called the power in numbers. Don't throw them away. Drop them off at any nearby school, if you don't have school age kids.

    • profile image

      L_Andersen 5 years ago

      Thanks for some very interesting fundraising suggestions. Maybe one other area that could be worth exploring more is for the school or PTA to sell Christmas cards, aprons, nametags, or similar items produced by pupils. This works in addition to the bigger one-off events that is mentioned very well in this lens.

      One good overview for this could be:

      http://www.slideshare.net/mynametags/fundraising-w...

    • plaidlunchbox profile image

      plaidlunchbox 6 years ago

      Thanks for some great ideas! We use several of these at my son's school, and my favorite is the Box Top for Educ. Another one that we use is www.myfrugalfriend.com This is a site that gives a cash rebate for online purchases. The school has an account, and then refers parents & other supporters to sign up under them. The parents AND the school get a little cash back for every online purchase.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image

      UKGhostwriter 6 years ago

      Nice caring lens - good luck with all your endevours!

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