21 Creative Fall Fundraising Ideas
Fall is the time for gathering. Be it around a fire, dinner table, or football field, fall has a way of bringing us together to celebrate abundance. With so many popular autumn activities, this season is a perfect time for your organization to host a fall fundraiser. Get your creative juices flowing with our list of fun fall fundraising ideas.
1. Harvest Dinner
Organize a dinner featuring local chefs and businesses. For example, serve a sample of beverages from a local brewery, or liven things up with a local musician. Sell tickets for a seat at the table and attract sponsors by offering to promote their brand on event paraphernalia and on your donation and registration pages.
2. Pumpkin Carving Contest
Donations can come in the form of a registration fee to enter the contest. Then, either partner with local farmers for pumpkins or ask guests to “Bring Your Own Pumpkin (BYOP).” On top of registration fees, the competitions can raise money every year to support OSD through a silent auction, and with food, drink, and merchandise sales. We can also receive donations outside of the event, asking those who can’t attend to make a donation online.
3. Halloween or Thanksgiving Run/Walk
A well-organized run/walk could be your most successful event of the year. Raise money for your organization with a spook-tacular 5K or a turkey trot (a well established Thanksgiving day tradition for those of us not on kitchen duty).
You can even organize a virtual 5K with our online fundraising platform. Virtual 5Ks ask participants to register to run a certain distance on their own. To make it exciting, this is often in exchange for a T-shirt or finisher’s medal. This is a great way to scale the impact of a physical event and give our supporters the option to participate no matter where they are.
4. Grape Stomp or Winery Tour
‘Tis the season to stain your feet purple. Pair up with a nearby winery and sell tickets for both a tasting and entry into a grape stomping competition. According to the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, where they host the annual World Championship Grape Stomp, the contest consists of teams of two. While one team member uses their feet to squish grapes in a barrel, the other assists the flow of the juice into a jug by cleaning skins away from the screen and pushing juice to the pipe. The first team to fill the jug is the winner.
This event is a great example of a fall peer-to-peer fundraiser because it’s fun for participants and onlookers alike. Empower participants to leverage their network for donations and ask stompers to fundraise a minimum amount for entry.
5. House Party
A house party can be a great way to interact with your supporters face to face and humanize the work of your organization. Host a costume party, set up a haunted house, or organize a fall foods potluck. Sell tickets, snacks, and refreshments for a donation. Attendees can even donate to enter an apple bobbing or best-dressed competition.
6. Pie Eating Contest
Appeal to a local bakery for donated pies, and offer publicity for their business in your communications, pamphlets, and online event page. Recruit a volunteer MC to amp up the theatrics and ask participants to either start a peer-to-peer fundraiser or donate a minimum gift amount for entry.
7. Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Believe it or not, you can have contestants race in giant, hollowed-out pumpkins on a body of water for a prize. We’re not kidding. Instruct supporters to create teams, raise donations for their entry, and then have a representative from each team race enormous pumpkin boats. In addition to the pumpkin race, you can also host a festival with crafts, activities, and concessions.
8. Harvest Festival
If you want to host a fall fundraiser that attracts large pools of supporters, channel Leslie Knope and host a Harvest Festival to raise awareness and donations for your cause. Sell tickets for admission and booth space to vendors. Ask for sponsorships in exchange for brand promotion on event T-shirts, merchandise, or even within the festival name.
If your city already puts on a festival, reach out to the festival officials to form a partnership, or rent a booth and design an activity related to your cause to engage the crowd and ask for donations.
9. Chili Cook-Off
Sell tickets to both cook-off competitors and attendees who simply want to sample the chili. Appeal to prominent chefs to register for the competition or to sit on a judging panel. Large sponsors could also sit on the panel, or you can ask attendees to cast votes.
Along with the traditional awards for categories like “spiciest,” “vegetarian,” and “best overall chili,” include creative options for desserts or side dishes. Make sure to engage all attendees with family-friendly games, booths, and refreshments. Don’t forget to fork over a trophy and bragging rights to first place.
10. Football Tournament
With the football season underway, fall is a great time to host a football tournament. Ask participants to start a team and recruit friends, and then tap into their networks to raise a designated amount to compete.
Expand your event’s potential by creating multiple divisions for groups of supporters. For instance, participants can register for the competitive, casual, or kids division.
Mix it up: Instead of traditional football, hold a powderpuff tournament with female players and male cheerleaders, or even a quidditch tournament for Harry Potter fans. Don’t forget about your spectators—sell hot mugs of butterbeer to warm up the crowd.
11. Orchard Walk
Partner with a local orchard and sell tickets for an apple picking walk. For example, the Apple Holler Family Farm in Wisconsin holds an annual orchard walk to benefit the MS Society. Registration to the event includes a 1-mile tour of the farm and a bag of apples, and a T-shirt. They also host an apple-themed breakfast and a raffle at their event as well.
12. Back-to-School Pancake Breakfast
Does your organization work to help children or education programs? Serve up some pumpkin-flavored flapjacks to raise money for your cause and celebrate the back to school season. Ask local grocers and farmers to donate ingredients and materials and rally your volunteers to participate as chefs.
13. Edgar Allan “Poe”try Night
Coffee shops and quaint pubs are great locations for this type of event. Appeal to community favorites for event space and sound equipment. Charge for entry and invite volunteers to sign up and read frightening classics. Have a competition for the best performance, and take a poll or determine the winner through the crowd’s response. Increase the reach of the event by encouraging performers to create a peer-to-peer fundraising page before the event and raise a certain amount before the show.
Learn how to maximize the reach of your event with this worksheet:
14. Take a Hike
National Take a Hike day falls in November. Organize an afternoon adventure and ask participants to register ahead of time. Provide goodie bags, travel guides, and event T-shirts that feature sponsors. Weekends during the holiday season book up quickly, so make sure to reach out to supporters with a save-the-date email a few months in advance.
Put on a play featuring local talent, or have a smaller backyard show featuring your staff or volunteers as the actors. Macbeth is often a crowd pleaser this time of year, with all the “toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble.” Sell tickets to the show and concessions at intermission.
You could also have a “Double, Double” Film Feature. Host a double feature screening at a local theatre, drive-in, or your own venue with donated equipment. The fall favorites list is endless. Dead Poets Society, When Harry Met Sally, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Scream, Hocus Pocus—take your pick.
16. Homecoming-Inspired Dance-a-Thon
Host a high school-themed dance and have everyone dress up for “homecoming.” Single dancers or partners can sign up and get sponsored to dance by the minute or hour. Keep energy levels high with snacks and refreshments so dancers can raise as much money as possible.
As an added incentive, offer “homecoming” T-shirts and other branded gear at different levels of time. Three hours of dancing earns a T-shirt, but six hours of dancing earns a T-shirt, a water bottle, and a sweatband!
17. Fall Trivia Night
Rent a sound system and hold this event at a local watering hole or community center. Create a registration page so teams can register ahead of time and give prizes to both the team with the most correct answers and the team that raises the most money through their peer-to-peer fundraising page. Ask fall-themed questions about Sleepy Hollow, the history of Halloween, pie ingredients, or movie and song quotes. Example: What are Adam Sandler’s favorite kind of pants in his famous Thanksgiving song?
18. Bonfire Event
There are a lot of great reasons to host a bonfire in the fall: the homecoming football game, s’mores, Guy Fawkes Day. Collect pallet donations from local businesses and be sure to partner with your local fire department for safety regulations. Sell tickets ahead of time and recruit volunteers to ensure a safe, fun-filled evening.
At all of your fall fundraising events, even the ones without a defined ask, make sure to keep attendees in the know about your nonprofit’s current campaigns and ventures. This is a great time to introduce your offline supporters to Giving Tuesday and share how important the online giving day is for your organization.
Made popular by several Habitat for Humanity chapters, a rake-a-thon typically involves asking for a suggested donation in exchange for volunteers to rake your yard. While you can reach out to donors and homeowners by going door-to-door, an online fundraising platform would allow your organization to collect donations ahead of time and help you organize your list of lawns to rake.
20. Oktoberfest Pub Crawl
Work together with a handful of breweries and charge for participation in the crawl. Consider selecting pubs already embracing a fall theme with their drink menu (think pumpkin ales, ciders, mulled wine) and ask participants to break out their lederhosen to put a fun spin on this classic event. Create T-shirts branded with your organization’s logo to help raise awareness for your cause while participants make their way through the route.
21. Punkin Chunkin Fundraiser
Traditionally held in early November, a Punkin Chunkin is an opportunity to get one more use out of that holiday jack-o-lantern. Competitors build trebuchets and enter them in a competition to see who can launch their carved pumpkin the farthest. Charge a team entry fee, and incentivize participation with an awesome prize, like branded swag and tickets to your next event.
However you decide to embrace the season, look for ways to reach as many people as possible. If you decide to hold a physical event, your reach doesn’t need to be limited to the number of people who can physically attend. Hosting an event that incorporates a peer-to-peer fundraising component, for example, is a great way to reach more donors and educate individuals who are new to your cause.
Classy is a social enterprise that creates world-class online fundraising software for nonprofits, modernizing the giving experience to accelerate social impact around the world. Since 2011, fundraising on the Classy platform has doubled each year—resulting in thousands of nonprofits collectively raising over half a billion dollars. Based in San Diego, CA, Classy is trusted by organizations of all sizes, from the fastest-growing nonprofits like Team Rubicon and The Trevor Project, to some of the world’s largest social organizations, such as Acumen, Robin Hood Foundation, and Shriners Hospitals for Children. Classy also hosts the annual Classy Awards to spotlight the innovative work nonprofits are implementing around the globe. Backed by prominent technology investors, including JMI Equity, Mithril, Salesforce Ventures, and Bullpen Capital, Classy has raised $53 million to-date in growth capital. OSD has been a Classy and advocate client since 2015.