Think outside the box! And don’t make it a dreary business. These should be the first rules to employ for unique fundraiser ideas. You don’t want your volunteers or donors to find the fundraising just another copy-pasted idea with no soul and creativity. Otherwise, you will lose both your helping hands and your sponsors to other organizations that don’t mind spicing things up a little bit.

However, mixing up fundraising strategies sounds brilliantly fun until you actually take a pen and paper and brainstorm for ideas. It looks like the world has seen it all already, from dance-a-thons to publishing cooking books to George Clooney pledging a few hours of his time with the winning supporter of the Hillary Clinton cause.

Vying with these wacky ideas is no easy task. So we’ve decided to turn some of the classics on their heads and play the reverse to your expectations with our next 5 creative and unique fundraiser ideas.

5 Unique Fundraiser Ideas – Must Try Spin-offs on Classic Fundraisers

1.  A Fundraising Gala Event with Hot Dogs

Holding a 'fancy' barbecue is one of the best unique fundraiser ideas

La-di-da fundraising events should have long gone out of tune. For instance, it makes little (common) sense to raise money for fighting poverty, for example, and at the same time spend thousands of dollars on some fancy-schmancy Swedish buffet at the Hilton.

Instead, why not invite your donors to a high-end barbecue with all the finest hot-dogs and beer ‘bouquets’ money can buy? We trust people will not only appreciate the irony in your statement but also the fresh air and the company of other do-gooders like themselves.

Also, don’t shy away from telling your donors the intent behind your event. You are raising money for a mission, not a cocktail party. Be honest. You can’t go too far wrong with telling the truth.

2. Walk the Extra Mile

A mile in her shoes race

How far are you willing to go on the road to unique fundraiser ideas? If you want to adopt this next you, be prepared for some marathon brainstorming.

Races are commonly employed as fun fundraising ideas. But the most entertaining of them all use themes or tools as a way to experiment. One such example features the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Wisconsin organizing a cross-dressing race. Their mission is to combat domestic violence. In order to garner awareness, support and money, they came with the ingenious idea of having their male participants race in high heels.

Apparently, it also fulfilled a secret, underground wish of men to wear the incredibly uncomfortable but sexy shoes. How else to explain that in its second year more than 600 people entered the fundraising race? Granted, it might also be that humans are inherently generous and well-intentioned at heart.

3. Direct Action Fundraising

Link your donors to your mission as one of the unique fundraiser ideas

The ideal that should stand behind any contribution of money towards a good cause is that you, as the donor, can track your ‘goodwill investment’ to the intended destination. If you contribute financially to improving education for children in a remote African village, for example, the nonprofit organization that works as the intermediary should provide a tangible connection between you and your money.

However, most of the times, things are differently. You simply can’t know where the money is going, so all that’s left is to trust the middle-man.

Direct action fundraising connects donors to the nonprofits’ goal. You may think it’s the common strategy among NGOs, but in reality these so not link their requests for money to a specific cause. The trick is to raise the empathy of your donors towards your mission.

For example, do the accounting to the letter. Then interact with your donors and show them the math – you need $30 to buy the remaining construction materials for a winter shelter, you ask for $30. This kind of honesty will enhance donor interest, trust, and loyalty to your cause.

4. Garden Gnomes Pranks

Garden Gnomes kidnapped from gardens as unique fundraiser ideas


We had you at ‘garden gnomes’, we know. You may have heard of the traveling gnomes’ tradition. It goes early back to the 1800s so it’s essentially an antic. All the more reason to love it.

It’s essentially a prank by which you steal and return a garden gnome ‘to the wild’. That translates to taking the dwarfish humanoid creature with the pointy hat on a trip around the world, photograph it at famous landmarks, and then tease the completely dumb-founded owner with the photos.

It may sound a bit cruel, but do not worry. No garden gnomes were ever hurt during one of those pranks. What is the connection to my unique fundraiser ideas, you may ask. A prank such as this may be a little risky, but if you know your donors or the community targeted by your nonprofit, you have a possibility to evaluate their sense of humor and see how far will cheekiness carry your cause.

There are two scenarios in which pranks involving garden gnomes can turn into a fun fundraising event:

  1. You steal the garden gnomes and ask for a reward in exchange for their safe return. Make sure your donors, and especially the police, know it’s all a prank perpetrated in the name of a good cause. People love their gnomes so they’ll get the big money out to once again decorate their gardens. Also, you can offer some snapshots or photos to prove to the owners their gnomes were treated kindly.
  2. You purchase so many gnomes Walmart will run out of their entire season collection. Or, even better, you can enlist their support and just borrow the gnomes. Then you make it rain with gnomes. That means people will find their front yards invaded by white-bearded garden statuary. Afterward, you offer your volunteers’ services to remove the ‘gnome pest’ before they multiply. It’s a known fact, one gnome begets another.

5. A Dog Show to Remember

Hot Dog Dogs as unique fundraiser ideas

No one can resist the cuteness of either children or dogs. Number 5 of our unique fundraiser ideas focuses on the latter. All the better if your mission is to build an animal shelter or save street dogs which have been deserted by their owners, since your donors will feel closely connected to the cause.

After all, with an estimated 80 million dog owners in the United States, this can prove to be a hit event. For this fundraising idea, you can start by spreading the word of a dog show. It can be preceded by a dog wash, if your volunteers are up to multitasking in one day.

Then, once the owners and their four-legged friends have arrived, deal the challenges. They can be anything ludicrous from waggiest tail to best Hot-Dog costume to ‘shaving your furry friend’ race. Either way, this fundraiser will be a treat!

Finally, tapping into a boundless imagination is the secret to finding unique fundraiser ideas. Such display of originality will prove your nonprofit can break through the clutter and engage in deep development efforts. Revealing your fun and creative side will gain your cause the financial admirers and supporters it needs.

Image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5