Nine Fundraising ideas for nonprofits

by | Mar 13, 2023

Fundraising ideas for nonprofits are one of the more exciting ways to add needed momentum to your mission. 

The idea behind nonprofits is to support the public good. With over 1.3 million nonprofits in the United States, there are countless organizations available to provide shelter, medical assistance, and education, you name it! While this all sounds nice, there is a nagging question. 

How do these organizations have the money to operate? 

Even though nonprofits are not concerned with earning a profit, money is necessary for their success. Nonprofits need funds for the day-to-day services they provide, as well as to cover employee salaries, office space, and other administrative expenses. 

Fundraising ideas for nonprofits to fuel the mission

So, how do nonprofits make money? Common ways include donations, grants, and fundraising. This article will explore the latter in greater detail. 

Below are 9 fundraising ideas for nonprofits:

  • Sporting event

This could include a 5K, charity golf tournament, bowling event, tennis tournament, and many others. Your nonprofit may be able to partner with the facility the event is being hosted at, such as the golf course or tennis courts, to get discounted playing rates. However, keep in mind that hosting charity tournaments can be very expensive. It can be helpful to obtain sponsorships to offset costs. 

  • Auction

Attendees bid to win items, and the proceeds will go to your organization. Auctions are popular because the prizes are attractive to attendees. If your nonprofit is small, it may seem overwhelming to think about hosting an auction. Fortunately, auctions can be large or small, and hosting your auction online can be another way to cut costs. To choose items to auction off, you should consider the profile of your donors, such as age and the size of their donations. You should use this information, as well as following current trends, to come up with a list of items. 

  • Bake sale

The logistics of hosting a bake sale is often easier than some other fundraising ideas because most, if not all, of the items to be sold are donated. People may donate cookies, cakes, or brownies. Your organization will need volunteers to facilitate the event and sell the items. Instead of a bake sale, similar food-related events you could host include a chili cook-off or barbecue.

  • Themed gala

A gala is often an annual event that raises a lot of money and allows for donors to mingle with your nonprofit’s staff. Hosting a gala can require a lot of planning and costs, but the funds you raise can make it worth it. Also, while a gala is often thought of as a formal black-tie event, you can host a more informal event to cut costs. Having a theme for your gala can make the event seem more attractive to attendees. 

  • Craft fair

This is similar in concept to a bake sale, since the inventory is all donated. Many crafters want to raise the visibility of their own small business, so they are often eager to participate in this type of event. The proceeds from the sold items go to your nonprofit. While hosting a craft fair can seem fairly straightforward, keep in mind that you will need to find a location and determine the layout of the vendors. 

  • Benefit concert

While hosting a benefit concert may sound intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. A benefit concert is when you host a performance of either one or more performers to raise money for your nonprofit. It can range in size and expense. You will need to book acts to perform, and for most nonprofits, a reasonable approach is to ask local musicians. Musicians will often be eager to perform at this type of event because in addition to raising funds for your organization, it is a way to increase the size of a musician’s audience. Money can be raised through ticket sales, concessions, and merchandise. 

  • Trivia night

Trivia nights are popular due to their entertainment value for existing donors and the overall community. It is relatively inexpensive to organize a trivia night, but you will still need to select a venue, determine a format, and come up with trivia questions. The planning can seem difficult, but after the first time, it will be much easier to plan similar events in the future. 

  • Email/Social media

Email and social media campaigns can be highly effective, and relatively easy, ways to raise money. When sending a fundraising email, make it personal, provide testimonials of your organization’s impact, and include a call to action. For social media campaigns, tell the story of your organization, be consistent, and use hashtags. 

  • Virtual event

Consider hosting events virtually to reach a greater audience. Many of the events previously discussed, such as a gala or auction, can occur in an online format. 

Fundraising ideas will impact your accounting

When raising money through fundraising, you need to consider how this affects your nonprofit’s accounting. The way revenue and expenses are recorded can differ for GAAP purposes and tax purposes (Form 990). 

When selling tickets to a gala or benefit concert, the ticket price is often higher than normal due to the added contribution. For tax, this excess amount is reported as a contribution, and for GAAP, it can be reported as either a contribution or special event revenue. When a venue donates space for your event, such as a golf course or concert hall, under GAAP you will report the fair market value of this donation. It will not be reported on Form 990. 

If items are donated to be auctioned off, you will need to report this as contribution income at fair market value. These are just a few examples of best practices when accounting for fundraisers, and there are also many others

The Charity CFO can help you sort out the accounting considerations of hosting a fundraiser. Specializing in nonprofits, we can be a helping hand to boost your nonprofit’s success. Schedule a free consultation today. 


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