Wednesday, March 18, 2009

5 Creative Fundraising Ideas & A Wildcard

Here are some of the more creative fundraising ideas I've seen this season. Let me know yours!

1. Online Pool: The best example I have seen of this is the “Madness for a Cure” March Madness bracket/pool at CBS/Sportsline ( lets you manage fantasy/bracket style pools for various sports. Anytime there are major playoffs, you can set up a pool at CBS/Sportsline and charge an entry fee to your participants. Half of your proceeds will go to the pool winner, and the other half to your event.
  • Advantages: This sort of thing goes viral fairly easily: ask your friends to send it to their friends and coworkers. It’s not just asking participants to donate money, and people don’t have to feel like they know you to support you through this method.
  • Challenges: Technologically a little complex (setting up PayPal, domain names, etc.). Administering the pool might involve some overhead. Getting the word out.
  • Profit: $10 per person (half of a $20 pool entry fee)
2. Wine Tasting “Championship”: Host a wine tasting event. Participants bring a bottle of wine (specify red or white) and pay a $10 fee to obtain a ballot. Also put out a basket and flyer for other donations. Obscure the bottles in a wine bag with a large number on each one. Provide participants with a small notepad and pens. Serve light h’ors d’ouevres as you officially taste each wine together. (Pour small tasting portions, that way there will be plenty left over for people to go for their favorites.) Participants take notes on each wine and at the end, vote on their favorite. The person who brought the winning wine gets half of the entry fee. The other half goes to your event.
  • Advantages: Easy to set up and coordinate, not much more work than a regular party. Quick way to make some money in one evening. You may also get additional donations from attendees.
  • Challenges: The size and scale of your event can be limited, depending on where you host it. If you don’t want to have to host it in your home (or it’s too big to host in your home) see if there’s a neighborhood clubhouse where you can hold the event.
  • Profit: $5 per person (half of a $10 ballot fee)
3. Guest Bartending: Meet with the manager of your favorite local hangout/watering hole and see if they will let you and a couple of other team members work as guest bartenders for a night. Be sure to wear TNT t-shirts. You work for tips that will be donated to TNT. Get agreement from the management to put out a basket/flyer accepting donations. Bring along business cards for your event and extra flyers. All tips and donations go to your event.
  • Advantages: Great way to publicize your event while you get donations. Lots of fun, and you may get additional donations/leads for fundraising.
  • Challenges: You have to be ready to go into customer service mode! If you are at all uncomfortable doing a service industry role, this probably won’t be fun for you.
  • Profit: Variable (but 100% of your tips can go to your event)
4. Gimme 5 Campaign - (aka "Pimp my Ride" or "Pimp my Run"): Send an email to your closest friends, those who have already been ardent supporters of your event. Write up an email using the example below and ask them to email it to their friends, focusing on people that they know you haven't already asked for money. If you have a picture of your honored teammate, use it here. Emphasize your emotional connections to the cause. People will only forward this email about someone they don't know if they connect emotionally to it.
    Subject Line: Gimme 5

    Hi everyone! I wanted to send out this email on behalf of my good friend Sue Smith. I have known Sue for X years, and she has really outdone herself this year. You see, Sue is running a marathon to raise money to fight leukemia and other blood cancers! If you know her like I know her, this would be astounding news to you; her love for ice cream and martinis is legendary, as is her dislike of gyms. But Sue has taken on this challenge for her friend Samantha. Samantha is only five, and she's a precious little girl who is battling leukemia right here in Springfield. Samantha needs a bone marrow transplant, and Sue is bravely running to make sure you all know about Samantha, and to help find a cure for her.

    So I'm asking you to "Gimme 5" for Sue and Samantha:
    - 5 minutes of your time to visit Sue's page at to read about why she's doing this and more about Samantha.
    - 5 dollars to her cause. Click on the donation link on her website and donate just $5 (less than the cost of a meal at McDonald's!) to her event. And if you want to give more, that's great too!
    - 5 friends of yours. Forward this email on to 5 friends, and ask them to do the same to help out Sue and Samantha!
  • Advantages: Easy to do, no out of pocket costs.
  • Disadvantages: It really all depends on your friends to "go viral" with this. I'd suggest you send this on to people who you know love to forward stuff, and ask them to make sure they send it on to people who forward them stuff all the time.
  • Profit: Variable, $5 per person who chips in.
5. Create a Public Relations campaign for your event: This is a good one if you like to write. Put together a “press release” for your event. Read this article on writing a press release and this article on how to think like a reporter. Write up a generalized press release and distribute it to every local news organization you can find.
  • Local television stations, including cable access stations
  • Local newspapers, the big ones and the small regional city/town/county ones
  • Local radio stations and magazines
  • Your HOA newsletter, bike or running shops, YMCA, gym
Create a good all-purpose draft and then tailor a brief intro letter for each organization. If you’ll be sending it electronically, fancy it up with the TNT logos, etc. and make it a PDF with a free PDF converter.
  • Advantages: Little to no monetary investment. Can be done in your spare time. Pretty simple to execute.
  • Disadvantages: While you don’t invest money, you’re investing time, and possibly a fair amount of time if you don’t know how to do this already. If you’re not comfortable with writing, it can be intimidating. The return on your investment may end up being minimal.
  • Profit: Highly variable (could range from nothing to a lot, and you can also get other publicity/sponsorship opportunities from this)
And here’s a wildcard fundraising idea, thusly named because I’m still trying to hammer it out. If you have done this successfully, please leave a comment about how you did it so we can all benefit!

Guitar Hero/Rock Band Battle of the Bands – Rocking for a Cure
If you or someone you know has Guitar Hero or Rock Band, host a tournament! Teams of 3 form bands and compete against each other. Each participant pays a $10 entry fee. Bands “battle” each other, with each band performing one practice song and one Competition song. The band who posts the highest score in each round wins the round. You can score this in a bracket form (if you have lots of bands) or with an overall winning score.

The entry fee is split, with half going to the winning band, and the other half going to your event.

I haven’t yet figured out the advantages or challenges for such an event, but some questions that come to mind:
  • Getting an even distribution of band members across teams.
  • Registering participants ahead of time – You don’t want to have to handle all of that during the event.
  • What to do about no-shows. Do you collect payments prior to the tournament?
  • What’s a good number of participants for this event? You don’t want it to go on for hours and hours.
  • If you limit the number of participants to keep the actual competition down to say, 3-4 hours, do you make enough money off the event?
  • Where to host the event? It can be done in your home but would likely be more fun/profitable/easier to manage in a public place like a restaurant.
I hope that you find these ideas useful. If you choose to raise money using any of these ideas, please leave a comment or contact me and tell me your experience with it.

Good luck and GO TEAM!

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