non-profit fundraising ideas needed
March 21, 2005 12:02 PM   Subscribe

My wife is on the board of a non-profit organization. We live in a retirement community that has all kinds of fundraisers,plays, fun runs etc. We need ideas for an annual fundraising campaign that is different, will grab new attention and attract substantial local donations annually.
posted by pablogrande to Society & Culture (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You can do a nudie calendar like those old biddies in England did. I'm sure that will 'grab new attention'.
posted by spicynuts at 12:04 PM on March 21, 2005

Beauty pageant? It could be silly at a retirement community.

Auction off time with a person? Auction off "dates"? Mentor time? Go into a college or something and offer time with seasoned business people in your community..lots of young student entrepreneurs would kill for that kind of time.

A carnival? Not original at all, but a great way to raise community awarness?

Sell candy bars? Girl scout cookies? Wrapping paper? Pies?

Get a bunch of recipes together from people involved in your organization and bind them together in a cookbook. Sell the cookbook for $30 or so to raise funds.
posted by tozturk at 12:09 PM on March 21, 2005

We need more - what kind of npo?
posted by jmgorman at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2005

It's pretty hard to come up with one idea that will do what you need. Every nonprofit is feeling the pinch right now and if an idea works, chances are it's been done to death. I don't mean to discourage you, just to point out that it might be better to think in terms of several smaller fundraisers than one big one.
posted by cali at 12:21 PM on March 21, 2005

Beauty pageant? It could be silly at a retirement community.

Tozturk, I hope you mean "silly" in the positive sense. But then pageants are kinda silly (in the negative sense) anyway.

Pablogrande, what about a dance-a-thon? Could be interesting, esp. if there's a big age range in the retirement community. Music could range from big-band swing to 1960s pop "oldies."
posted by scratch at 12:28 PM on March 21, 2005

Scratch, I do mean silly in the positive sense.
posted by tozturk at 12:33 PM on March 21, 2005

Our church recently threw together a "White Elephant Auction" for tsunami relief. With only about 50 bidders showing up, we raised $1300. It was only advertised within our church (300 members) and friends & family. In a larger community it could have raised much more. As a white elephant, virtually all the donated items were new items that the people didn't want. With a little more lead time, I think we could have gotten local merchants to kick in some items as well. I thought the whole idea would bomb, but everyone really had a good time. Offer a dinner with it, and you could make even more.

Also, we generally do it for free at our church, but we've found that variety shows and classical music concerts put on by our members draw a lot of people. For a good enough cause, I'm sure you could sell tickets (you'd be surprised how many people have a flute in the corner of the closet and would love an excuse to get it out).

I like the idea of a beauty pagent-- put a lot of emphasis on the "talent competition" and you essentially end up with a pretty good variety show. I would include the gents as well as the ladies, and maybe try to draw in a "ringer" or two (i.e., local celebrities as contestants). Or maybe just let the celebrities be the judges.

Good luck!
posted by Doohickie at 12:47 PM on March 21, 2005

it might be better to think in terms of several smaller fundraisers than one big one

One of the side benefits of cali's idea - say, a smaller event once every four months or so - is that there's less of a "make-or-break" atmosphere for each event, so there's less stress and disappointment - which leads to volunteer burnout - if the first event doesn't go as well as you'd hoped. Any campaign needs time to build.

Just be sure you brainstorm the hell out of fun, new, creative ideas to get the word out. I've had some experience organizing similar events, and am often stunned at the way advertising is left as an afterthought, or is done in a dull and unexciting way. Make sure you spend serious time working on promoting the event, using unusual methods that might actually spark some interest.
posted by mediareport at 12:50 PM on March 21, 2005

I like silent auctions - you can solicit items and services from local businesses and from individuals. You could get someone to donate three hours of spring cleaning work, babysitting, grocery shopping, or a home-cooked meal, dinner out with a group, cooking lessons, a trip to a play or movie, etc. This seems to work pretty well to involve individuals and entice them to give of their time for a very short commitment. It's best to run it when there's something else going on that will drive traffic to the auction, so perhaps you could piggyback on another event.
posted by Coffeemate at 12:51 PM on March 21, 2005

Casino nights are popular for small fundraisers. For a more established non-profit it may be time to start having annual black-tie galas at some price per plate (usually $150 to $1,000 depending upon the organization and target audience). Someone gets honored, cocktails and dinner are served with a band or dj and perhaps some donated items are auctioned off.
posted by caddis at 12:53 PM on March 21, 2005

Host a wine tasting. You can either buy the wine or try and have it donated by local wine distributors.

You raise money by selling tickets to the event.
posted by bowline at 12:56 PM on March 21, 2005

Doohickie's post reminded me of a surprisingly profitable fundraiser I went to once that has become an annual event. It was billed as a "birthday party for JS Bach" and was basically an organ concert in a church with cake and coffee. There was a big turnout, and since the space and organist's time were donated it made a fair amount of money. No reason why the idea couldn't be adapted to another composer/musical style.

The key with smaller events is to reduce overhead to nothing so eveything you take in is profit. Also, keep in mind how many volunteer hours it will take. If it's easy to put together, people are more likely to help again the next year.

On preview: depending where you live, permits and licensing for a public wine tasting can be prohibitively expensive and/or difficult to get. Getting a restaurant or wine shop to host it (in exchange for bottle sales to attendees) will save both the cost of renting a space and the hassle of permitting.
posted by cali at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2005

Put together a band. Seems like half the old-timers in my neighborhood play instruments -- a bunch of them get together and jam (with a few rehearsals beforehand!) at a local corner bar every once in awhile, half the neighborhood shows up, and we all have a blast.

Meanwhile, get the ones who are good cooks to do a buffet, have the ladies with the most attitude serve drinks (childen/grandchildren of the residents can augment the waitstaff), make it as un-stuffy as possible. Encourage hooting and hollering over polite clapping.
posted by desuetude at 1:15 PM on March 21, 2005

I'd also encourage you to think of attracting donations as a year-round job unrelated to a specific event. My mom's church periodically offers free financial planning for seniors (donated by church members). Although they specifically do not suggest it in any way, since they started the program "legacy" gifts to the church have increased substantially.
posted by cali at 1:17 PM on March 21, 2005

Response by poster: These is some GREAT brainstorming! We raised a low 5 figure amount with a pretty massive amount of work for our first fundraiser. We're looking to produce at $25,000 to $50,000 annually. I am a salesman so I could care less about how difficult the times might be. I want to keep highly motivated and passionate people involved and strong success keeps winners interested. I appreciate the input. Keep the ideas coming please!
posted by pablogrande at 2:48 PM on March 21, 2005

Response by poster: Oh , the non-profit is a center to help special needs adults to be useful and avoid institutionalization.
posted by pablogrande at 2:56 PM on March 21, 2005

If you do a talent show, play, or something else that involves a program, you may have some success selling ad space in the program.
posted by Medieval Maven at 3:02 PM on March 21, 2005

blind date for single pensioners? (blind date being a dating program on uk tv where one man (say) would ask questions to three women (hidden behind a screen) before choosing one for a date.
posted by andrew cooke at 3:46 PM on March 21, 2005

This is from a professional:

Fund raising events are better awareness raisers than fund raisers. The best way to raise money for a cause is to have people who are passionate about the cause, ask their peers for support.

I worked on a series of four fund raisers that raised about $20,000. It took three months of continuous work. During that period of time, a board member and I asked two different people for support and the result of those thirty minutes of work were gifts of $6,000 and $5,000 with a promise that is we come back next year, the gift will be duplicate.

Fund raisers are like planting annuals in the garden, fund raising, called development, is like planting an orchard.

You identify prospects, then qualify them, then educate them, then ask for support, then thank them, then continue a relationship.

Go to Board Source (googel it) to find great material for development.

If you don't believe me, just do the math, how many $100 tickets did I have to sell to match my two asks. And when the event was over, the ticket purchasers were not involved in my cause.
posted by leafwoman at 4:25 PM on March 21, 2005 [2 favorites]

I run two large non profit organizations (Mental Health) with budgets of over $16 million--leafwoman is right, right, and right--you have to decide whether you want money or visibility--both are legitimate goals but require very different strategies/tactics Good Luck
posted by rmhsinc at 4:34 PM on March 21, 2005

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