Creative Fundrasing Strategy

by Sam

Raising money for a good case is getting more and more difficult due to the economical situation. here some creative ideas to help you with your fundraising strategy.

Nowadays, with the economical situation as it is, raising funds for a church, charity or other NGO (Non Government Organization) is more difficult than ever. These article aims to show you another approach to fundraising by converting each member of your congregation or group into a standalone fundraiser. It was originally developed for our own Church, but why should we be the only ones that benefit from it? Just adapt it for your own needs and situation. The fundraising basics are always the same, no matter if you want to raise money for your church's soup kitchen or for the animal shelter of your local human society. For the ease of reading, I will use in this article mostly terms like church and parish, if you are of another faith or none, please don't be offended, it simply makes for a better word flow than piling all the terms together in one / political / correct / string / of / related / words and / or similar ;-) So, off we go, to explore creative fundraising for whatever type of charity you might support:

The Basic Idea

People already actively involved in a charity are already giving what they can, time or money or both. Trying to raise more money amongst those that already give is therefor often futile. The point of fundraising for charity shouldn't be to drive your supporters into poverty but instead to distribute the burden of running a charity evenly. This is especially true if your core group is rather small. So, here the first point in thinking about fundraising in a creative way. Instead of raising money inside your group, make each member a fundraiser in his or her own right. This can be done by giving them ideas, support and feedback plus by establishing regular support meetings for mutual exchange and encouragement

Fundraising Basics

Click image for more details!
Fundraising For Dummies

The Set-Up

Each church member has friends, colleagues, relatives and / or acquaintances that are not members of his / her regular congregation. BTW, if that is not the case, something is really wrong with your church and you have other problems to care about than fundraising! But I digress...

Each church member therefor can organize successfully small to middle sized fundraising events in their own social circles. If somebody has never done fundraising before, this can seem like a daunting task. The 'trick' is to keep it small and manageable to start with and to grow with experience, rather than to grow with exhaustion ;-) Further down you will find some ideas to get started, but let me recapitulate this first point again, because it is so important:

Start with a small fundraising event and grow from there. Don't exhaust yourself by starting with too big a set-up only to never do another fundraiser again!

Decide on a Charity to support

As stated before, I hope you not only have friends from one social circle (work, church, volunteer group) but from many. Whilst sometimes it can be perfectly ok to fundraise amongst many different people for one single cause, sometimes it might make more sense to combine two or three (I don't recommend more) causes in one fundraiser. For example:

"Fundraising Fun Fair

All proceeds will be equally divided between our local church and our local animal shelter. Everybody welcome, no entrance fee."

Chances are, that people find so easier a cause they can identify with. That is called practical psychology ;-) Additionally you might even gain volunteers to help in the animal shelter amongst the 'church crowd' and volunteers to help to mow the churchyard amongst those that don't come normally to church – a nice side effect. After you have decided which charities you want to raise money for, you now have to decide on

What kind of fundraiser to do

If it is your first ever fundraiser / event you organize, only one thing matters:

  • 'Start small, small is beautiful!'

Yes, I do know that I repeat myself here ;-) But it is not only about 'small', it is also about how difficult / scalable your fund raising event is. For example:

  • Organizing an event for 20, that consists of a talk by an invited speaker and refreshments served by you is relatively easy.
  • Organizing a cooking course “Learn how to make Sushi” for the same number of people is not.

Do yourself a favor and keep your first ever fundraiser easy and fun! And as we are on it, keep it to something that you are really familiar with and that you can do easily. If you just have learned yourself to make Sushi, it might be a bit early to teach others ;-)

  • On the other hand, if you are a fluent Spanish speaker, it shouldn't be to difficult for you to start a 'learn Spanish for your next holidays / vacations' group.

Fixed Donation or open box?

That is another point you have to consider. You will need to know in advance how many people will attend your fundraiser, but you also have to decide if these people will pay a fixed (ticket) price to attend or if you count on their generosity and simply put up a box where donations can be deposited. Pros and cons:

Pro Fixed Price

  • If you need to cover costs for speaker, material etc a fixed price makes sure that you get at least your expenses back.
  • It is easy and less confusing for people to just pay a fixed price.

Cons Fixed Price:

  • Few people will give more then the indicated amount.
  • People have the feeling that they “pay for something” and have more expectations that “all will be perfect” and are less forgiving when something goes wrong.
  • Some people will simply not attend because it is too expensive for them.

Pro Donation:

  • People are more generous, at least in my experience, when you ask for a donation.
  • Less pressure on you, that all has to be perfect just because people “pay for it”.
  • Everybody that is interested can attend.

Cons Donation:

  • There is always the risk that you don't cover your initial costs. This risk is small in my experience, but it does exists.
  • People can feel watched as to how much they give and can feel awkward because of this.

My personal take

I generally prefer to run fundraising events on a donation base, allowing everybody to give according their possibilities. In my personal experience, more money can be raised this way.

When running a fundraiser on a donation base, it is important to make this clear with the invitation. The box or bowl for these should be visible but not “observable”. It can be also a good idea to hand out simple white envelopes in which people can put their money / checks and which in turn can then be placed in the box / bowl. The envelope system avoids that people will feel “awkward” and observed, when placing their donation in the box.

Fundraising and Outreach

Apart of raising money for your chosen charity, another charity, a fundraising event is also a possibility to reach out to those that don't know much about your cause. Please bear in mind that a fundraiser is not an Evangelization event, still there is certainly a place for explaining why you raise money for this particular cause and what it means personally for you. A good place to do this is in your short “Welcome everybody!” speech and / or at the end of the event. Have also little leaflets handy that people can take with them and that give more information about the cause you are fundraising for – including bank details.

So, that should cover the basics, now down to -finally, finally- finding what to DO actually for your first fundraiser:

Fundraiser ABC - Basic decisions

Sit down with a piece of paper, or before the computer, and ask yourself a few questions like:

What am I really good at?

The better you are at something, the easier it will be for you and the more enthusiastic will you be to share it.

Whom do I know that has interesting skills and is willing to share them?

Sometimes it is more important whom you know, then what you can do yourself. Inviting somebody to share their own talents, leaves you also free to concentrate on welcoming and catering, rather then trying to do everything yourself.

What are my friends / colleagues interested in?

It doesn't matter how great the offer is, you have to find something that people are interested in! Don't offer apples to people that want to buy pears for example. Or, don't invite people to a chamber concert if the majority of the people you know is tone deaf ;-)

Will the raised money be shared with another charity and if yes, which?

After you have decided this, put it right on the invitation, so that people know what they sign up for.

Will people pay a fixed amount or will you work on a donation base?

Another point that belongs on your invitation, allowing people to bring enough cash or their cheque books. If you decide on donations, your invitation is also the place where you can give hints about a suggested amount of money. Remember to remind people that their is no upper margin to their donation ;-)

Include refreshments

Always include some form of light refreshments, people are more generous if they are fed and watered well ;-)

Numbers, helpers and where to hold your fundraiser.

These three go together, the more people you invite, the more likely it is that you need people to help you. If you hold the fundraiser in premises that are not yours, you also have to check if the owner of said premises is comfortable with the whole fundraising idea taking place.

Practical Fundraising Ideas:

To get you started, I have added some fundraising ideas below. Please feel free to adapt them to your needs and situation:

Sponsored walk, cycle ride, haircut, weight loss or other task

The idea is simple, you decide on a task you want to complete and invite people to sponsor you. After you have completed the task, people will pay you the amount they have pledged for. You can celebrate the completion of said task with those people. Especially great for sponsored hair cuts or weight loss parties! Or simply report back to them after you finished your “Iron Woman Triathlon” and hunt down the money. The important thing here is to keep track on who has pledged how much money for what and to get it from them. Apart of this, it is one of the easiest fundraisers to organize and to scale. There is not really a limit on how many people sponsor your marathon!

Guided Visits / Tours

Know something that others don't know? Zoos, galleries, museums or simply the hidden corners of your town or city make for great guided tours. Set a time and date and entertain people with your knowledge. In case of an outdoor event, have a plan B ready for bad weather. Remember when it comes to time / length that it is always better if people say: “Oh, it is already over? What a pity!” then “Grace God, we have finally finished!” If you do a guided tour or visit to premises that you don't own and / or that are not free to the public, make sure that the owner of said premises is informed and ok with the idea. Especially places that have their own tourist guides, might get unfriendly when they sense competition!

Jumble / White elephant sale

Have a lot of things in the attic, cellar etc you don't need anymore? Make a garage sale. Invite people to bring / donate stuff they want to sell. Provide light refreshments to keep people happy and on site. You need time, space and helpers to pull this one off. Consider also what you will do with items that have not been sold, especially if you have asked others to donate items to the sale. You don't want to end up with even more stuff that clogs up your cellar or attic. A great location to do such a sale would be the school your children attend or the meeting room of your club or association. Or your own drive way or garden. Just make sure you have some shelter available in case of bad weather.

Cloths / Toys / Book sale and exchange

That one is especially great when you have children and know a lot of other parents. Instead of buying new clothes for their fast growing offspring, they can bring things the kiddies have grown out of and buy nearly new stuff for great prices.

Meal / Cake / Marmalade / Jam sale

Are you a great cook or pastry chef? Do you know a lot of people that are too busy to cook or bake, but enjoy homemade food? Make a batch of “ready for the oven / microwave food” or “homemade cakes like from Granny” and sell it to them. Be careful when it comes to food safety and allergies.

Talk with cheese and port

Know somebody that knows something? Invite them to give a talk to your friends and serve light refreshments. This is an easy to organize fundraiser that is ideal for beginners. Remember, it is better that people regret that the talk was too short than to be bored to death because it is too long!


Ideal time for this would be in late fall / autumn when people are hunting for Christmas presents. Or in January when people want to loose their unwanted presents.

Talent Show / Circus for kids and adults

Invite your friends and their kids to a talent party and give them the possibility to entertain others with their skills whilst you provide the refreshments. Prepare some prices and let the public vote who was the best, funniest, most creative etc.

Themed Picnic

Invite people to a themed picnic party that you prepare. You provide food and drink and they turn up dressed up accordingly to the theme. Prepare games, plays and a tombola / lottery for extra income ;-) Have a plan B for bad weather.

Bridge, Bingo, Quiz Nights and other games

Challenge your friends and / or colleagues to a game, provide refreshments and have fun!

Sport (soccer, cricket, football, bowling competition)

On the same lines as above. Get together a few people for a sporty competition and perhaps a picnic for the spectators. Football / Soccer are always great magnets.

Ethnic Food or cooking course

Can you cook some unusual dishes and / or teach others to cook them? Organize a “food from...” party or a cooking course. If you decide on a cooking course you will need a big kitchen or garden, in case you want to show people how a real American, Australian or South African BBQ is done.

Music, concerts, painting

Show off your artistic skills, or, even better, invite others to join you. Give a concert or make a little exhibition of your paintings or photographs.

Selling your skills

Can you cut hair? Sew clothes? Are you a computer wizard? Consider to donate your skills in exchange for a donation to your fundraising efforts.


Do people continuously ask you if you know a good hotel or B&B where you live? Why don't you donate your hospitality skills, and your guest bedroom, from time to time in exchange for a donation to the charity that you support? Keep it occasionally, so that it can't be considered a business as that is liable to taxes and all kind of health and safety measures.

Feedback and Comments:

This is by no means a finished article or guide to fundraising. It is more a work in progress that depends on your feedback for getting better and better with each day. What ever you can contribute to share with others will be appreciated by everybody. Especially interesting would be to have short testimonials about fundraising events you have organized, new fundraising ideas and “Things I wish I would have known before I did my first fundraiser!” Looking forward to reading your ideas!

Updated: 07/05/2012, Sam
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Sam on 10/14/2012

Great to hear that it worked so well for you!

belinda342 on 10/13/2012

My church once desperately needed to double it's available charity funds. Using the talents Bible story as a base, they distributed the money between the congregation--even the children got a small amount to keep them involved. Then it was everyone's responsibility to double their money and give it to the drive.

It was a resounding success and many of your ideas were done. Some people who didn't want to go to a lot of effort, used the money to buy lunch food and placed the money they would have spent on eating lunch out in the fund. Some people brought back 10 times the amount they were given and more! I don't know of anyone who didn't at least do the minimum doubling.

Sam on 08/24/2012

Glad you found it useful Katie. SY

katiem2 on 08/23/2012

Very nice tips, our schools have cut so many things back fundraising for extra- curriculars are a must.

Sam on 07/06/2012

I completely agree Jo! People tend to get 'donation deaf' if asked over and over again to give for the same cause, SY

JoHarrington on 07/06/2012

My mother runs a playgroup and we raised a lot of money last week. It was the town carnival, so they had both a tombola stall and a float. Being a playgroup, they had the 'cute' factor in their favour, as little kids dressed up on a float tends to cause a lot of 'awwwws'.

One tip that I would add though is not to over-do it. There's a local school here, which has taken to asking for donations three or four times a week. The parents (some of whom have smaller ones at the playgroup) have reached saturation point. They're now refusing any demands and, indeed, putting it in the playgroup box.

Bad for the school, great for my mother!

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