Non-Profit Fundraising Ideas

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If a t-shirt fundraiser is not for your non-profit organization, then you should be able find other great non-profit fundraising ideas in this article.

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What’s in a T-Shirt?

T-Shirts are much more than casual clothes for the torso. They have the ability to transform themselves into walking billboards, instant team-builders, temporary art, philosophical statements, and smile-inducers. More than that, a t-shirt has the potential for instantly branding your organization or business. Anyone who sees your logo on a t-shirt will know immediately what your group is all about, and that those who wear it are part of a team with shared goals and values.

Fundraising with T-Shirts – Why it Works

Non-profit organizations gravitate to custom t-shirts as a non-profit fundraising device for good reason: It is one of the best ways to get your message across. And today’s crowdfunding technology gives consumers the ability to sell their custom t-shirts without paying for them. Offering your group’s t-shirts for profit online will make money, because you don’t have to invest anything at all. Only the buyer pays. Using this system, you can be 100% positive that you will make a profit, rather than losing big or little bucks to fundraising investment.

The Benefits of a T-Shirt Fundraiser Campaign

  • You can start for free – All you need is 25 true believers to start the presses. Your organization pays nothing.
  • Donors get something nice for their money – Unlike straight cash donations, your donors get custom t-shirts for their donations, not just receipts.
  • Easy automated sales – Simply register your t-shirt campaign, and then let your potential customers know about it. We do the rest for you. Your non-profit organization will pick up the proceeds without bothering with time-consuming details like printing, shipping, accounting, and tracking inventory.
  • The profit odds are with you – Our proven online crowdfunding campaigns can offer a profit of $10 or more per t-shirt sold. Get yourself a stunning custom design, and your profits will increase accordingly.
  • Group psychology – Everybody loves being part of a clan, especially if that clan is a non-profit organization. Your t-shirt brings your customers into the fold, making them members of a dedicated team. This is the psychological reason why fundraising with t-shirts has been so effective for so many groups.
  • Bonuses, prizes, and incentives – Smart NPOs use their organization’s custom t-shirts to reward people for coming out to their events. They’re wonderful incentives, prizes, or mementos for any such occasion.

Use your T-Shirt Campaigns Wisely – Combine them with Fundraisers

Combining your group’s online t-shirts sales campaigns with real-life profit-raising events is one of the most powerful ways to rake in the dough for your organization. Take a look at the creative fundraiser ideas below to kick-start your imagination.

Non-Profit Fundraising Ideas

Art shows with silent auctions – An art show is a great money-making format, because artists will provide their work for free, just for the chance to show their art.

  1. Set a date for your art show, then lock down a free venue. Good location possibilities include a highly trafficked park, a local church basement, an actual art gallery, a school’s art wing, or a popular restaurant.
  2. Get your list of helpers together, making sure you have plenty.
  3. Source your exhibitors for art to display. Use good common sense to complete this step. Some non-profit groups lend themselves to art shows displaying only children’s paintings. For others, artwork by college students is more appropriate. If you can get some professional artists to donate some of their pictures, so much the better.
  4. Advertise widely, using all methods available for free. Online marketing opportunities are abundant, and every bulletin board in the area should sport your announcement, as well as the free classifieds. Be sure your artists and all your members spread the word as well.
  5. Run the art show as a silent auction by putting a piece of paper on the wall next to each work of art and attaching a pen on a string. Buyers will bid by signing their names and writing down their bid amount. The buyer who bids the most wins the piece of art. Your group keeps a percentage of the sales proceeds.
  6. Your donation box can become a cornucopia during one of these events. Don’t be shy about passing it around!

Block parties – Neighborhood get-togethers offer some of the longest-lasting rewards for the non-profits that host them. If you plan your block parties well, you will be able to sell entry tickets, because the event will have an attractive atmosphere, non-stop music, several food and drink stands, local artisan sales tables, and fun for the whole family.

If you prefer producing a smaller party, you can still reap benefits. Chief among these is simple good will. The good will of your neighbors is an asset you cannot buy, because it’s priceless, and it lasts.

  1. Set the date and find the perfect place for your block party. Potential venues to check out include a local shopping center parking lot, a lawn at a luxury rental community, a park, or a big cul-de-sac.
  2. Enlist the help of many members in your organization, and any other organizations that may be willing to lend a hand. It is always better to have more help than you need than not enough help, so try to arrange for one volunteer per every projected ten attendees.
  3. Make a list of necessary tasks and assign them. This list should include items such as printing and putting out posters, setting lights and sound systems, selling tickets, and public address announcements.
  4. Organize food tables to attract people to the party and keep them there a while. Many of your local restaurants will be happy for an opportunity to connect in such a positive way with their local clientele. If your organization is well-known and popular, you should even be able to charge them a small fee for their party locale. Ask the restaurateurs to bring their own display tables, equipment, and food, and to handle selling all their sales themselves.
  5. Arrange for some free entertainment to create a festive atmosphere. Music makes a party, so find a way to either rent the equipment you need in order to provide recorded music that’s loud enough outdoors, or line up a few local performers who would jump at the chance for free exposure.
  6. Check with your city hall or equivalent to make sure you comply with local permit regulations.
  7. Advertise online and all over the neighborhood. Start well before the event, so that it will be a sure-fire success.
  8. Be sure you assign volunteers to do the necessary cleanup after the party.

Lectures and demos – Offer a free lecture or demonstration related to your organization’s field. This is mainly a way for your group to strengthen its public-relations footing, and it can pay big dividends in the future. Naturally, you should also put out a donations box, the cornerstone of all fundraisers for non-profit organizations.

  1. Decide on the lecture or demo subject. This depends strictly on your group’s talent pool. Perhaps several of your members are studying martial arts, which can be easily demonstrated. Maybe someone’s family contains a semi-celebrity who would be an automatic attraction, or an inspirational speaker who can deliver an interesting talk for free. Put out the call among your members, their families, and your mailing lists. You may be amazed at the fascinating possibilities that come back.
  2. Find the best space for this event, a place with few distractions and good parking. Schools, libraries, gymnasiums, YMCAs, and clubhouses are all likely venues.
  3. Market the event well by saturating the venue’s environs with posters, publishing it online, and announcing it with social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
  4. If your lecturer or demonstrators offer something that interest just about everyone, you can charge a small fee for the event, such as five dollars. Otherwise, you may not be able to charge admission, but you can certainly put out a donation box, or have a volunteer hold it at the exit door when the event is over.

Online auction sales – Set up an online auction business for your group and sell used items. The key to online auction success is to gather articles to sell that cost you next to nothing. There are many excellent ways to do this:

  1. Tell your fans and members about your new fund-raising business online and ask them to donate the clutter around their homes for you to sell.
  2. Haunt the local thrift stores regularly for discounted items in good condition.
  3. Attend yard and garage sales in your neighborhood and ask for a discount to help your good cause. You will have more luck if you buy many items at a time, instead of a few.
  4. Carefully follow the directions that are posted on your auction site, and then check in every day to make sure you keep your sales flowing. It’s important to run your online business correctly, even if you don’t sell much some months, because they post a rating for your reputation, and customers will respond to it in kind.

Garage sales and yard sales – Finding ways to sell gently used articles is one of the most popular non-profit fundraising ideas. These sales require little to no cash investment, minimal prep time, and few volunteer workers.

One Statistic Brain Research Center study estimates that there are 500,000 garage sales every month across the nation, attracting more than two million buyers per month. People love a bargain, but they love a treasure hunt even more.

  1. Fix the date and time. Statistics show that the most successful times for these sales is on a Saturday from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm.
  2. Determine the location. By all means, consider the likely weather conditions during that time of year.
  3. Run a collection drive for resale items. This step can be as simple as asking each of your members to fill up a large plastic bag with things in their house that they are willing to donate for the occasion. Decide on a single collection point for the items.
  4. Confirm a group of volunteers who will help run the garage or yard sale, putting tags on everything, answering questions, and selling the items. There is always more to do than you think at these events, so enlist more people than you think you will need.
  5. Get the word out. Allow at least one month for the word to saturate the region, using all your online and offline skills. Include the creation and posting of at least six directional signs to attract the attention of drivers and passersby and show them the way.
  6. Plan to be at your sale early and stay there late. It’s not a good idea to leave items for sale unattended, so ask all your volunteers to bring a sack lunch and consume it at their station.
  7. Dealing with cash: Garage and yard sales require a cash box with ample change to last throughout the day. The easiest way to deal with cash sales is to set up a single location where all the customers pay.

Themed races or walkathons – Choose the newest big fad for your theme and charge all the participants. A good example could be the “Zombie Runs,” fundraising events that have spread like wildfire across the nation.

Races and walkathons lend themselves perfectly to online non-profit fundraising ideas, combining the event with a t-shirt crowdfunding campaign.

You should know that mounting a successful walkathon usually requires months of research and preparation on the part of its producers. Although some such events make thousands of dollars for the charity involved, others clear only around 50 cents out of every dollar they take in, according to, and the capital outlay investment will usually be high. Nevertheless, walkathons can be very high-level fundraisers.

The good news is that, once you have actually accomplished a “thon,” the next one will be a lot easier.

Host a Trivia Night – Get people out to a local restaurant for an evening of trivia. This idea works well for very small groups. The restaurant sells food and drink in exchange for lending you the space. This event should cost your NPO next to nothing, and has the potential of becoming your participants’ favorite monthly, or weekly, activity.

  1. Find the right restaurant. Much of your success for this fundraising activity rests with this first step. Choose a place that is nice, but not very busy, one that has a large area your group can take over for the game. Talk to the owner to work out the details. Since you will be bringing in a good amount of consumers, they should not charge you for the use of their space.
  2. Gather the trivia questions. You can find them online, make them up, or use a Trivial Pursuit game.
  3. Enlist a good emcee. Your master of ceremonies should be personable and smart. Your emcee will use a microphone to organize two teams of participants, ask the trivia questions, and generally keep the ball rolling.
  4. Arrange for a sound system, and a volunteer to set it up and break it down at the end of the evening.
  5. Advertise heavily, starting at least one month before your first Trivia Night.
  6. Post one or two volunteers at the door to sell admittance to your special trivia event. You should also consider selling advanced tickets, especially if you think it’s possible that the number of participants may exceed the number of available tables.

Stage shows – A well-planned, entertaining stage show can make your organization a pile of money in very little time. Follow the steps below to mount a money-making production.

  1. Choose fun entertainment that does not depend on expert entertainers. A good example is a lip-sync show, and a perennial favorite is a piece of children’s theatre. Both types of shows are easier to mount than you may think. A lip-sync show consists of about 25 karaoke-type song tracks, played over the theatre’s sound system, while the performers pretend to sing. Write a few words for an announcer to say between each song, to tie it all together. For children’s theatre, free scripts are available, or you can simply have the kids act out fables, fairy tales, or stories. These can even be pantomimed, while a narrator reads the story.
  2. Your best bet for making money on a stage show is to have a cast with many members. Your ticket sales will skyrocket, because every performer will attract their family and friends to the show.
  3. Be extremely frugal with your expenditures, leaving most of your sets and costumes to the imagination. A good tactic is to invite your cast to make their own costumes and props.
  4. Find a venue that will charge you very little. Some community theatres and churches will allow you to produce a stage show at no cost to you. All you need is a stage and some lighting.
  5. Set the dates. Usually, three nighttime performances and a matinee are fine, assuming the theatre seats about 200 people.
  6. It is best to turn the direction of a stage show over to a volunteer who has some experience. If you can’t find an experienced director, be sure to research the basics before you dive in.
  7. You will also need at least two volunteers backstage, one to act as “stage manager,” and one to keep track of everything else.
  8. Arrange for ticket sales and publicity. If possible, ask the people at the theatre for help.

You might also be interested in some of these fundraising ideas that we recently published.

All-Occasion Money-Making Suggestions

  • Text donations acceptance – By accepting text donations on an iPhone, you provide the perfect way for people to donate. Announce it on every flyer, brochure, webpage, poster, and business card your organizations puts out to the public. Accepting money via texts is easier, faster, and more accurate than handling money. There are many free apps available online that will allow you to send or receive money using your iPhone for texts. They call it “point of sale” software, also known as POS. One popular app, Cash Pro, comes from Square. You can read all the details here, explaining why Square POS solutions are beautifully designed for use by nonprofit organizations.
  • Hugs for a dollar For a good cause, who could resist? To make this more interesting, have your volunteer “hugger” dress up as a friendly clown.
  • Fortune telling – Reading palms and tea leaves is another easy way to make a buck during a fundraiser. Just have your fortune teller dress the part, learn the basics in time for the event, and set up a card table with a candle and two chairs.
  • Raffles - Everyone has something they can offer for free: cook and serve a special dinner, read a story out loud to a shut-in, give a two-hour tennis or golf lesson, pet sit for a day, etc. You can also raffle off objects, and even half the raffle money!
  • Sell balloons with pithy sayings or jokes on a piece of paper, folded inside – In this fun version of the raffle, people buy balloons during one of your fundraisers and enjoy the balloon’s contents as well.
  • T-Shirt fundraiser campaigns Hook up your profit-raising events to your online crowdfunding programs to augment both your t-shirt sales and your events attendance.
  • Old-fashioned lemonade stand – Nobody will pass up a table with fresh lemonade for sale, especially if the sales people are a couple of adorable kids. Lemonade stand sales have worked for centuries, and are a nostalgic addition to almost any type of fundraising event.

The Bottom-Line Truth about Non-Profit Fundraising Ideas

There is really no way to predict the success of money-raising plan.. Naturally, the bigger the support base, the bigger the net profit will usually be. For example, the yearly net proceeds of a professionally organized Walkathon might easily end up in the six-figure range. On the other hand, a small non-profit group of poetry lovers, well, not so much.

With some smart, dedicated organizers, however, your events and t-shirt fundraiser campaigns should be able to come out well into the black.

Let your Light Shine

The most consistently successful approach to fundraising is the one of integrity. Non-profit organizations trying to do good things deserve help, and will receive it if they can:

  1. Let people know about the group.
  2. Find a way for people to give.

There is no shortage of good people on the planet, people who love to give and remain open to opportunities to help out others in need. Show your potential fan base your group’s positive goals, and then invite them to jump on the bandwagon by joining your next t-shirt fundraising crowdfunder campaign!