The success of a nonprofit organization lives and dies by how much money it accumulates through fundraisers. While you could certainly sell raffle tickets or host a benefit luncheon, patrons respond to innovative, enjoyable fundraisers more than the same old events they've attended in the past. Gather your board of directors to brainstorm potential fundraisers that are less-often hosted, such as a themed gala, a community fundraiser or an online auction.
Throw a Themed Gala
Rather than host a one-size-fits-all event, theme your benefit gala for a night of fun. Options include a 1920s murder mystery dinner, a red carpet awards night or an evening of Broadway, complete with a performance from a group of amateur thespians. Don't overlook any details, such as theming the entryway -- whether it's with a Hollywood-themed photo walk or a faux marquee. However, incorporate important details of your mission by adding "did you know" factoids on the back of cocktail napkins, placing donation slips on the dinner tables, and adding the logo of your nonprofit to any photos that are taken.
Host a Community Rummage Sale
Whenever a family wants to make some spare cash, they host a garage sale, and your nonprofit can do so also. Ask supporters of your charity to donate items that they want to get rid of, whether it's baby toys or extra furniture languishing in their basement; price it all to sell and set up a massive rummage sale in your nonprofit's parking lot. If you don't have your own building, ask a local church or community center if you can borrow their parking lot for an afternoon. Ask everyone who donates an item to also donate an hour or two of their time to help sell the items. When your event is over, do your own part to pay it forward by donating the items that don't sell to organizations that need them. For example, if you have leftover baby clothes, give it to a women and children's shelter; if there's a dog bed or cat scratching post left, send it to the local humane society.
Sometimes it's tricky to get people to actually attend an event; instead, host your fundraiser online. However, if you move it all online, you lose part of the obstacle of fundraising. Take a page from eBay's book and create an online auction. Solicit donations from local businesses and ask a web-savvy supporter to design an auction page for you. Add an option for the winner of each auction to pledge an extra few dollars to the organization. However, online fundraisers only work when they're well-publicized, so make use of social media, newsletters and word-of-mouth to ensure your supporters know about your fundraising campaign.
Consider what the most ardent supporters will do to raise money for their charity of choice; for example, the ice bucket challenge that rounded the globe in 2014 raised a bevy of money for one national organization. Consider a similar challenge on a local scale, such as challenging city celebrities -- TV anchors or prominent businesspeople -- to shave their heads in honor of a children's cancer charity or families to wear one T-shirt for an entire week -- without washing it! -- to support the homeless. They can either donate a certain amount to get out of the challenge, or they can bet with their family and friends that they will be able to complete it -- and whomever loses the bet has to donate.
Kelsey Casselbury has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Penn State-University Park. She has a long career in print and web media, including serving as a managing editor for a monthly nutrition magazine and food editor for a Maryland lifestyle publication. She also owns an Etsy shop selling custom invitations and prints.