3 Great Unusual Fundraising Ideas

Three Great Unusual Fundraising Ideas

When small and midsized non-profits are looking for new fundraising ideas, they are usually given ideas that require a lot of work for only a little return. Things like carwashes, rummage sales, and spare change collections can raise money, but often take a ton of work in return for just a few thousand dollars of fundraising profit.

If your charity is looking to raise money from new sources or through new strategies, a wants to maximize return for the time invested, try one of these unusual fundraising ideas:

#1 Multi-Level Fundraising

What happens when you cross multi-level marketing with raising funds for your favorite charity? Multi-Level Fundraising! Set up a fundraising committee for your group, and task it with a dollar goal. If you need to raise $10,000 and recruit 5 members for the committee, each of the them is responsible for raising $2,000.

Then, each of these members go out and recruit people to raise money for your organization. Let’s say one of your group members finds 3 additional people to help. With 4 people raising the $2,000 (the original member plus the 3 new recruit) each of the people in that “downline” only needs to raise $500.

The goal here is to have lots of people out raising a small amount of money each, which adds up to a big haul for your organization, with lots less work (each member of your fundraising committee is responsible for motivating and tracking their own “downline.” Two levels is good, three levels would work, but anything more than that would likely get too complicated. (For this idea, be sure to use the tips from How to Make Your Fundraising Efforts Go Viral).

#2 Sell a Service

Of the three unusual fundraising ideas we are presenting today, this one is probably the most “mission-driven” (the one that is most closely tied with your organization’s mission). Here’s how it works:

First, figure out what services your organization provides. Try to have at figure out at least three distinct services, and no more than five. Be sure that the services you select include both smaller and larger items, in terms of cost.

For example, a homeless shelter may come up with “providing meals, providing a place to sleep, and providing pro-bono medical care.” A church may come up with “offering adult education classes, providing child care during services, and sponsoring mission trips.”

Then, come up with a ballpark amount of how much it costs you to provide that service to one person (round the number off for simplicity). For the homeless shelter example, this may look like: feeding one person for one day, $10; proving a place to sleep for one person for one night, $25; providing basic medical care for one homeless client, $100.

Finally, go out and “sell” these services to your donors by asking them to sponsor one service for one person (or more). For example, a donor may buy medical care for two homeless clients for $200. These “sales” can take place via personal asks or letters, but I have found that the best way to sell services is to set up a table at all of your fundraising events.

#3 The Unbelievable Experience

Schools have been using this unusual fundraising idea forever, so why not extend it to your (non-school) charity?

The basic premise is that donors will be able to participate in a unique experience, once enough has been raised. School principals will often run this type of fundraiser by promising that the school principle will shave his head, or wear a chicken costume for a day, or run twenty laps around the school singing show tunes, but only if the kids raise $10,000 for new school computers or library books or a new school van.

Why not take this idea and make it work for your non-profit? Figure out how much you need to raise, and translate it into tickets that you need to sell. If you need to raise $10,000, then say you need to sell 200 $50 tickets. Next, figure out what experience you are going to offer. In order to work, it’s gotta be good. Will your board president shave their head? Let her kids throw cream pies in her face? Eat bugs? Be creative…

Then, design a free or cheap event around the experience, and sell tickets. Tell your volunteers and donors, “We’re having a barbeque event on July 1st. If each of you sells at least 3 tickets for a total of 300 attendees, I’ll wear a chicken costume to the event and let the entire board through eggs at me.” (Or something equally silly).

How about you? What unusual fundraising ideas have worked for your school, church or charity?