How To Start A Fundraiser: An Ideas Guide For Beginners

How To Start A Fundraiser: An Ideas Guide For Beginners

In the world of fundraising, whether it’s for charity, your local school or a community organisation, the focus is usually on coming up with new ideas so you can keep your efforts fresh.

When thinking about how to start a fundraiser, it’s fine to have a go at chocolate sales and fifty-fifty raffles, but if you want to truly excite and inspire it’s important to focus on creating new ideas.

The value of creating excitement can’t be overestimated – it’s vital.

Excitement makes people feel involved even if they’re not actually volunteering and brings forth word-of-mouth marketing that you’ll never match otherwise.

The best way to get that ‘buzz’ is to come up with a creative fundraising idea, but how do you come up with that idea in the first place? And how do you avoid something going horribly wrong?

Innovative Ways To Create An Idea

How To Start A Fundraiser - Committee

How you get your ideas is as important as the concepts you choose to work with. Here are some ways to get you started.

From the web:

We live in the Internet Age and that means we can get anything from a Google search.

While you can simply go to a fundraising site like Fundly and scroll through established fundraisers for ideas to steal, one way to get some exciting ideas that will get your volunteers and community equally excited is to issue a ‘Search’ challenge.

The way this works is simple: Send out an email with a list of keywords (ranging from generic ‘fundraising’ type words to words more specific to your goals) and ask everyone to hit the Web and come back with five great ideas. Here’s some awesome online fundraising ideas to get you started.

From a committee:

Don’t yet have a team of supporters or volunteers? One of the easiest ways to get people invested in and excited about your fundraising efforts is to offer them a spot on a special Fundraising Committee dedicated to coming up with crazy, fun ideas.

The key here is to make this a true honour – give committee members special privileges, throw them an exclusive VIP activity only they can attend (or give them control over the invite list). Make it special.

When it comes to fundraising committees, it’s important to limit the terms of support. This is not just to keep the ideas and enthusiasm fresh and special, but to avoid burn out and Negative Nellys.

From a Contest:

Bring a little game theory to your fundraising and hold a contest – people send in ideas for fundraising and the winner gets a prize.

The prize aspect (plus bragging rights) will get some people involved who normally pay no attention to your cause.

It’s also a fun community event that serves as stealth promotion. Basically, everyone will be chatting about your activity before you even begin.

How To Avoid A Fundraising Disaster

How To Start A Fundraiser - Plan

The key to success in any endeavour is always going to be the process. Random exertions and unplanned activity don’t get anyone very far at all – whether it’s on a sports field or in a conference room.

You have to channel and shape the energy you give towards a cause and, with fundraising activities almost exclusively run by volunteers, that goes double.

Whether the idea is easy or complex, the crucial aspect is planning. Without a plan, without a process, your idea will not only be ineffective, it will start becoming unnecessarily hard.

Even the simplest idea can go off the rails spectacularly. A few of the common ways simple plans go wry include:

  • Everyone assumes it’s so easy no one has to actually do anything.
  • Initial success in the heat of an announcement and the rush of enthusiasm means no one follows up and everything comes to a screeching halt. This is particularly common with online fundraising, where the burst of announcements on social media results in a spike of donations, then fades to nothing.
  • Because the idea is so simple, no training is offered and volunteers start working at cross purpose, each with their own ideas of how to apply the plan.
  • A lack of budget results in spending far more than you anticipated because no one was centrally planning. You end up with duplicate purchases; not being able to get the best possible price on materials and other resources; and wiping out donation gains with expenses.

The good news? You can avoid almost all of these problems with a process.

No matter how simple your idea is, a lack of central planning can ruin things. Even simply sending out a call for donations can go awry if you don’t coordinate mailing lists and ensure you’re not sending out duplicates or missing entire sections of the local population.

Every fundraising plan should include the following components:

  • A written overview: A document that can be handed out to everyone detailing the how, why, where, and who of the plan.
  • Designated managers: No matter how small your group is, delegate and designate. People work better when they have clearly defined roles to play.
  • A budget: Know ahead of time how much money you’re starting with, how much you’ll have to spend to stage your fundraising, and how much you expect to raise (being conservative). Try to anticipate every cost.
  • Central authority: Someone ultimately has to make the hard decisions and resolve the conflicts. Make sure everyone knows who that someone is.

The more planning you do, the more successful your event or activity will be – this is the immutable law of fundraising. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if your idea is simple enough, you can just ‘wing it’ – it will never work.

Ideas are the bedrock of just about every human endeavour. You can’t accomplish anything without some smart ideas. And you can’t implement smart ideas without smart planning.

Best of luck with your next fundraiser. Be sure to let us know how it goes!


Eli is Canvas Factory's resident blogger and social media buff. She has a passion for art, craft, design, fashion and photography. She loves to explore the joys and challenges of family life, relationships, motherhood and pet ownership. Eli finds it's more funny to poke fun at herself than others. She's travelled extensively and considers herself a citizen of the world.

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