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Fundraising Ideas During Tough Economic Times - (Part 2)

Updated on August 30, 2016

A good fundraiser means minimal outlay with maximum return.

As I stated in my earlier hub, Fundraising During Tough Economic Times, the key to successful fundraising is to follow these basic principles:

Tell people WHO you are representing, WHAT does your fundraiser consist of, and WHY you are raising funds. During these times of economic struggles that are effecting just about everyone in your community, ask the question, “How can we provide something they need, while raising the funds our organization needs?”

Listed below are fundraisers that are tried and true. Listed by the amount of initial financial outlay. And we all know a good fundraiser means minimal outlay with maximum return. These are fundraisers that will “give back” while helping you reach your goal.

Car Wash Fundraisers
Car Wash Fundraisers | Source
Minimum outlay with maximum return.
Minimum outlay with maximum return. | Source

$ 5.00 and up fundraisers

Car Wash

I put this under the $5.00 and up categories because we have never set an actual price on a car wash. Working with a girl’s community service club, we scheduled at least one car wash a year, simply because the girls loved it. We prearranged a date and time with a local business, brought buckets, sponges and towels. The girls made signs with who, what and why information, called a few friends - mainly boys - to come get their cars washed, and the fun began. As people pulled in and asked, “How much for a car wash?” we simply said, “We are just taking donations, and we suggest a $5.00 donation.” Not one person ever gave us just $5.00, we received anywhere from $10.00 to $50.00 and averaged $500.00 per car wash. At one such fundraiser we had a line of cars waiting and had to turn away the last two. Cash outlay for this fundraiser - $3.00 per bottle of car washing detergent, this will vary by the number of cars that are washed.

Pancake breakfast or Dining for donations

Your organization can partner up with your local Applebee’s, Pizza Hut, Little Caesars, or Chuck E Cheese for fundraising. Check out the links below for information on these fundraising ideas.

Spaghetti Dinner - Minimum outlay with maximum return.
Spaghetti Dinner - Minimum outlay with maximum return. | Source
Raffles, Raffles everywhere
Raffles, Raffles everywhere | Source

Spaghetti Dinner

Initial cash outlay will depend on how many dinners you pre-sell. If you have an ambitious group that can make a mean plate of spaghetti, you might want to take this on. I suggest you take orders before you start cooking to minimize your cash outlay and leftovers. Partner up with a local church, community center, or senior citizens center with a kitchen, and are willing to let you use the ficility to hold the event.

A suggested menu would be, Spaghetti with meat sauce, salad, bread and a drink. (Ice tea is suggested) Price for a plate could easily run between $5.00 and $8.00. Profit will vary with the cost of supplies.

Variations on this fundraiser is limitless, I’ve seen Bar-B-Q plates, Rack-of-Rib sales, Boston Butt sales, Chili Dinners, etc.

Raffles, Raffles Every Where

Now here is where it can get a little sticky. The state in which I live does not allow gambling, and yes, raffles are considered such. But we’ve found an interesting way around it using simple semantics.

Instead of a raffle, we allow people to “donate” for a chance to win – whatever it is we are “giving away.” Here are some of the more successful “give away” items we have had.

1. Paintings by a local artist are always successful. He donates the painting and a local framer donates the matting and frame. Donations are accepted for $3.00, and a date is set for a drawing. Several hundred dollars are raised with minimal effort.

2. The most successful, by far, was the 4-Wheeler my company “gave away” one year as fundraiser for Relay for Life. Donation opportunities were offered at $5.00 each or 5 for $20.00. The tickets / donation receipts were professionally printed and numbered and the local dealership sold us a very nice 4-Wheeler at cost. An announcement was posted on the local cable's community bulletin board and in the newspaper. People were calling and coming into our office "donating" like crazy. After all our cash outlay was covered, we were able to donate $8,000.00 to our local Relay for Life.

3. After such a rousing success, the company decided to have another “give away” the next year. A 52”, Flat Screen, HD T V was the chosen item. The “donation” opportunities were the same, 1 opportunity for $5.00 or 6 for $20.00. Announcements were placed on the cable bulletin board and in the newspaper, but we were disappointed that the interest had dropped dramatically from the year before. When approached, most people said they had enough T V’s and didn’t need anymore. Not to mention, the economy was starting in it’s downward direction. None-the-less, after all our expenses were covered, we still managed to donate just under $6,000.00.

4. Third times a charm? Well just this last year we were discussing the merit of having another “give away” due to an even more strapped economic climate. Oddly enough, people started calling and asking what we were going to “give away” this year? So after some brain storming we realized we needed to offer something that people would NEED. The decision was made, that due to our rural location, a utility trailer would be a good choice. Again the “donation” opportunities were the same and although we had a mediocre response, we were able to donate right at $6,000.00. Plus we had an added blessing that I wrote about in the hub titled, In Search of Miracles.

I’ve been involved with raffles for everything from giant stuffed bunny rabbits for Easter, to hand sewn quilts and even gift baskets for Valentine's Day. So raffles, or “give a ways” can be very successful if you choose your items wisely and advertise well.

Holiday Fundraising

Holidays can be both a good time for fundraising and a challenge. People are looking for decorations and gift items, as long as, they are quality items at a reasonable price. Below I give some websites that give both quality and good prices for fundraising.

There are services your organization can provide as fundraisers as well, such as gift-wrapping and holiday decorating assistance. Prices can be set or donations accepted, either way the main investment for your organization is time.

Check out the items on the left and some of the links below to get you on your fundraising way.

Fundraising for a cause

This is one of the fundraising areas very dear to my heart. I have been involved with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life event for over 10-years. I have been involved with every kind of fundraiser from “give a ways” to golf scrambles as well as auctions and beauty pageants. If you are involved with a specific cause, this website has just about everything you could want for your fundraising activities.


Fundraising - So easy - even a dummy can do it!

Fundraiser’s that have gone badly and why

I have listed many good fundraisers and, to be honest, there are simply too many to name them all. There are wonderful hubs here on Hub Pages by people who have had great success, books and items you can order from Amazon, and of course you can simply GOOGLE the topic.

I want to close this series out with a few fundraisers that did not go well for various reasons. I share these with you so you will not make the same mistakes and be discouraged, disappointed or left owing money instead of making money.

Rememberthat this series of articles have related to fundraising in difficult economic conditions, and that is lesson number one. Always assess your community and the financial climate and abilities of the people. We all tend to have visions of grandeur and want to do something bigger and better than what was done before. Sometimes bigger and better turns into a big blunder and embarrassment for ourselves and our organization.

It's my party and I'll cry if I want to.

I’ll start with my own big blunder. I had read with excitement and enthusiasm about a fundraising dinner held in another city. This was an invitation only, black tie affair, that included a catered meal and some kind of quality entertainment. I was sold! We don’t have a lot of “culture” here in our area - I did mention we live in a rural area didn’t I? – And so I thought this would be a big hit, something different and upscale. I made all the enquiries into venues and caterers. Even went so far as contacting a promoter and paying a retainer for a professional comedian to provide the entertainment. I purchased rather costly stationary and printed out beautiful invitations informing the “invited” that the cost of the fundraiser dinner would be $100.00 per plate. - Did I mention that this is a small rural area? - I sent out the invitations and waited with great expectation to see the RSVP’s and hundreds of dollars roll in. I had done my homework and knew that if a mere 150 of the doctors, lawyers and business owners I had invited attended, there would be a $3,000.00 profit to donate to Relay for Life. I waited, and waited, and I received two RSVPs. My stomach was tied in knots and I couldn’t sleep for wondering what I was going to do, and how I would pay for all of this if no one showed up.

Sadly, a week before the event was to take place a tornado tore through a town just 12 miles away. The high school took a direct hit, killing 8 students and one adult, it then skipped over our town and tore through another community 6 miles away. Our entire area was devastated and in shock. All activity was suddenly focused on clean up, rebuilding and mind numbing grief.

The dinner was canceled with no expectation of payment to the venue or the caterers. The comedian was very understanding and did not hold me to the signed contract, although I did forfeit the $500.00 retainer and, of course, the cost of the invitations.

What did I learn from this? First of all I learned that I live in a small rural area, and you can’t bring big city ideas to a small town. I did NOT assess my town, the people, or their interests, and it cost me over $500.00. Worse, I did not raise the money I had so wanted to for such a worthy cause.

Who dropped the ball?

Another group had, what seemed to be, a unique fundraising idea. They sold numbered softballs for $100.00 a ball. Individuals, or groups of people who divided the cost between them, purchased a fair number of balls. The plan was, that on a given date, all the softballs would be taken up in a helicopter and dropped onto a local baseball field. The ball landing closest to home plate was the winner. The prize was advertised as $5,000.00 in cash.

The day came, the balls were dropped and the winning ball was identified. The winner was presented with his $5,000.00 and the organization that sponsored the fundraiser was embarrassed to donate a total of $1,200.00 to the cause they were raising money for.

What was the lesson learned? First, the law states that the sponsoring organization must pay the winner the amount promised to him. Although they were hoping he would turn around and donate at least half, back to the cause they were representing, he was not obligated to do so, nor did he.

Again, we have a case of big ideas without assessing the community and what they are willing or able to do. Be very cautious about the amount advertised as the “winning prize,” the goal is to raise money for a good cause, not to give the bulk of it away as the prize. It might have been better if it was advertised as a $1,000.00 cash prize and the balls sold for $50.00 each.


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    • profile image


      2 years ago

      Hello Miss jkim,

      I was wondering if you have any tips for individual fundraising, my daughter started a fundraising campaign with CrowdRise after I lost my career as an Ophthalmology Technician due to severe sudden illness. Now that my husband is the only one working, we are struggling to pay for my medical care, prescriptions, and the household bills. Unfortunately, all of the help I thought would be avaliable for this type of situation does not exist, the majority of the programs are geared toward single parents and children. My health is declining rapidly because I can't afford treatment, and the thought of leaving my husband and children behind makes me sick to the stomach. So needless to say, I'm desperate to earn money for my healthcare, hopefully you can point me in the right direction.

    • miss_jkim profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Wow sunkentreasure, words escape me. Thank you for sharing these beautiful words of wisdom.

    • sunkentreasure profile image


      6 years ago from RUIMSIG, SOUTH AFRICA


      To go to the ends of the world

      to help a stranger

      To give someone incredible kindness

      they will never forget

      To treat animals and all of nature

      with respect and compassion

      These are the things that give life true purpose.

      To value your special uniqueness

      as a beautiful child of God

      To elevate your mind

      with the higher value of integrity

      To upgrade your living environment

      planting seeds to enrich the soul

      To give a child caring devotion

      so they feel they are loved

      To rise above your circumstances

      with faith in the power of God

      And with the purity of healing love

      in your heart

      your life will know no boundaries.

      © Bernard Levine

    • miss_jkim profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago


      Glad you enjoyed the hub. I hope you can use some of the ideas and have many prosperous fundraisers.

    • TroyM profile image


      7 years ago

      Thanks for the list of fundraisers.Great ideas...Yes, It's right that to take every negative from our life and build positives from them.

    • miss_jkim profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      I wish you the best in all of your endeavors, elija_god. Take every negative from your life and build positives from them. This is how one learns and grows.

    • elija_god profile image


      7 years ago from Abuja, Nigeria

      wowo, thank for the info, i now know that i can do anything honest to success in life and i must minus shame from my life

    • miss_jkim profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Glad to be of help. Any way our schools, and worthy organizations, can raise the money they need, is good. Good luck to your school's efforts.

    • DonnaWallace profile image

      Donna Wallace 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you for the list of fundraisers. You have some wonderful ideas, and they will be very useful for our school.

    • miss_jkim profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Thanks Katiem2,

      We are starting a new season of fundraisers and I'm sure we will use some of these again. If we come up with some new ones I'll be sure and share them.

      Good luck to your schools.

    • katiem2 profile image


      8 years ago from I'm outta here

      Great ideas, our schools need a shift in fundraising ideas, thanks for the fundraiser tips in this tough economy. Peace :)


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