Unique Nonprofit Fundraising Event Ideas to Stand Out

Unique Fundraising Events: Boost Donations & Engage Donors with Creative Ideas

June 20, 2023

If your nonprofit hosts one or more fundraising events, you know that it’s easy to become predictable with the excuse that “we’ve always done this.” And long-time fundraising events have merit and are often steeped in tradition. But as a nonprofit professional, you know that innovation is key to raising more dollars for your cause. It’s time to unleash your creativity for a fundraising event that stands out, connects with donors in new ways, and raises dollars for your cause.

The good news is that nonprofits have a ton of options when it comes to unique fundraising events that inspire donations and spread awareness of your mission. Each of these ideas can leverage attendee registrations, sponsorships, and other add-on components to bring in dollars. Here are five out-of-the-ordinary types of nonprofit fundraising events.

Artistic & Culinary Experiences

Both art and food have a way of transcending differences, removing barriers, and rallying diverse groups around a common cause. Your nonprofit can leverage this unifying power to bring your community together for an art or food-themed fundraising event, such as:

  • An art auction featuring works donated by artists connected to your cause. Consider putting out a call for artists in the months leading up to the event date and provide a theme for the works. Attendees can support your cause by purchasing one-of-a-kind artwork.
  • An art festival where local artists can show off their pieces, explain their work to attendees, and donate a portion or all of the proceeds to your nonprofit.
  • A wine, coffee, or beer tasting event or festival, or even combine this option with the art-focused ideas above. If you have a good relationship with a local vineyard, coffee roaster, or brewery, you might even propose a special vintage, roast, or brew just for your nonprofit or event.
  • An adults-only or family-themed cooking or baking experience with a local restaurant or chef.
  • A cooking contest or bake-off might attract local foodies and aspiring chefs to share their best dishes.

Sports & Challenge Fundraisers

Capitalize on your donors’ competitive nature with a sport-focused or physical challenge fundraising event. Nonprofits have a ton of options and flexibility with this type of fundraiser, including:

  • A charity golf tournament. According to GolfStatus, golf tournaments attract an affluent demographic that’s attractive to sponsors and has a propensity to give. Golf is also super popular, making it a great opportunity to attract new donors and supporters through a pastime they enjoy.
  • A road race. This could be broadened into a run/walk that offers varying distances to draw in more participants and families.
  • A bike race or trail ride. This promotes exercise and appeals to individuals and families alike.
  • A walk-a-thon or dance-a-thon (or any other a-thon). This peer-to-peer style fundraiser asks participants to collect pledges from their family, friends, or colleagues for achieving certain milestones, such as a pledge of $20 for every mile walked or hour danced.
  • A volleyball, tennis, dodgeball, or pickleball tournament. If there’s a sport that’s popular with your local community, jump at the chance to involve avid players, educate them about your organization, and raise money in the process.

Themed Events

A themed, immersive fundraising event is a great way to catch the attention of new donors and your community at large while establishing your nonprofit’s brand. A classic example is a black-tie affair, such as a gala or even a masquerade ball. Carry out the event’s theme by asking attendees to dress in elegant attire or costumes and enjoy a night of entertainment, auctions, and other fundraising activities. That being said, you don’t need to use a high-end theme to have a memorable event! Flex your creative muscle with other fun themes that focus on:

  • Major holidays or seasons. For instance, host a Winter Wonderland fundraiser around the holidays.
  • National “day” celebrations. Hold an ice cream social on National Ice Cream Day or a golf fundraiser on National Golf Day. There are days for just about everything, so find one associated with your cause and build an event around it.
  • Special occasions, like a birthday party for your nonprofit on its incorporation date or an anniversary of a major initiative or partnership.

Technology-Driven Fundraising Events

Innovative technology has made nonprofit fundraising events easier to plan and execute, but with a caveat—you’ll want to make sure whatever technology you use is built for the type of event you’re holding to ensure it runs smoothly. The best solutions are those tailored to your event type or theme! For instance, if you’re hosting a golf tournament for charity, make sure you use a solution that’s made for golf specifically and can function properly with the nuances of the game.

Technology has truly opened doors for innovative new formats and types of fundraisers that engage people in different ways:

  • Augmented reality. Host a virtual reality fundraising event, where attendees can bid on items in an auction, watch entertainment or speakers, and make donations from their homes using technology.
  • Online gaming. Get gamers involved through an online tournament that leverages an online gaming platform with donation capabilities.
  • Crowdfunding campaigns. These encourage your network of supporters to make generosity go viral.

Impactful Collaborations & Partnerships

Your fundraising events can also celebrate your nonprofit’s partnerships and even forge new connections with businesses. These collaborations are a win-win—they enhance your fundraising impact and give your nonprofit the resources you need to succeed, while businesses get positive brand lift and exposure and provide employee satisfaction. In-kind donations from a strong partner can be leveraged as a unique component of your fundraising event. If you’re holding a charity golf tournament, you could collaborate with a giving partner to offer special incentives to sponsors or leverage a donation as an auction item.

Wrapping Up

The main point to take away from the above information is this: don’t be afraid to be creative! Nonprofits have options when it comes to new and unique fundraising events. Whether you go the artistic route, host a sports tournament, try a new themed event, leverage technology, or build new partnerships, embrace your own creativity and innovation to build on these examples to create a meaningful impact from your fundraising events.


Jen Wemhoff, Communications Manager at GolfStatus

Jen Wemhoff accidentally discovered her passion for nonprofits in college. An internship while earning a degree in Communications from Doane University led to a 20 year career in the nonprofit sector, where she found a strong desire to be part of something bigger than herself. Her vast nonprofit experience includes roles in marketing, fundraising, and direct programming. When Jen came to GolfStatus as Communications Manager in 2020, she was struck by the power of the sport to raise money to power nonprofit missions. She tells GolfStatus’s story across platforms and channels and develops educational tools and resources to help nonprofits tap into golf’s giving power. Jen, her husband, and two daughters call Lincoln, Nebraska home.


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