20 Creative Fall Fundraiser Ideas
Fall is the time for getting together to celebrate abundance and gratitude, whether around a fire, dinner table, or football field.
With so many popular activities, autumn is a perfect time for your nonprofit to host a special event that takes you closer to your annual fundraising goal.
To get your creative juices flowing, we’ve organized a list of top fall fundraising activities for supporters of all ages. And once you’re finished here, these 77 fundraising event ideas are a great next stop in your reading journey.
1. Pumpkin-Carving Contest
There’s no better symbol of the fall season than the pumpkin. For your pumpkin-carving contest event, encourage attendees to contribute a registration fee or commit to a fundraising minimum to earn their spot in the competition. Partner with local farmers for pumpkins or ask guests to “bring your own pumpkin (BYOP).”
A great example is the annual GUTS pumpkin-carving competition that raises money to support the Make-A-Wish Foundation through a silent auction with food, drink, and merchandise sales. GUTS also asks for online donations from those who can’t attend.
2. 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 spooktacular 5K charity run or turkey trot (a well-established Thanksgiving Day tradition for those of us not on kitchen duty).
You can also easily organize a virtual 5K with an online fundraising platform. Ask participants to register to run a certain distance by themselves or with other participants, usually in exchange for a T-shirt or finisher’s medal. This is a great way to scale the impact of an in-person event and give your supporters the option to participate no matter where they are.
3. Harvest Dinner
Organizing a dinner at a local restaurant to bring people together for an evening of conversation and connection is another great way to fundraise. Serve a sample of beverages from a local brewery or liven things up with a local musician. Then, sell tickets for a seat at the table and attract corporate sponsorships by offering to promote their brands on event swag, your donation site, and registration pages.
The Emilio Nares Foundation does a great job promoting these perks to potential sponsors on its Harvest for Hope event page.
4. House Party
A house party can be a great way to interact with your supporters face-to-face and show them how much your nonprofit appreciates their dedication.
Not only is this great for donor stewardship, but it can also serve as an opportunity to showcase your nonprofit’s work. Host a costume party, set up a haunted house, or organize a potluck with seasonal food. And for a donation, sell tickets, snacks, and refreshments.
Elevate the party (or any other event on the list) by adding a costume contest, especially if you host the event near Halloween. Then, invite people to dress up in their favorite costume, assign judges, and have them pick from a list of categories, like spookiest or funniest costume.
5. Chili Cook-Off
Selling tickets to cook-off competitors and attendees who want to sample the chili is another fundraising home run. Appeal to local chefs to register for the competition or form a judging panel. Corporate sponsors could also join the panel. Just don’t forget to ask attendees to cast votes.
Along with the traditional awards for categories like “spiciest,” “best vegetarian,” and “top overall chili,” include creative options for desserts or side dishes. Be sure to engage all attendees with family-friendly games, booths, and refreshments.
A great example is The Arc Greater Hudson Valley in New York, which hosts an annual chili cook-off to support its cause. The entry fee is a recommended donation of $15, and a local restaurant hosts the event. Reveal the winners from the specific chili categories on the fundraising page.
6. Pie-Eating Contest
Local bakeries can donate pies (pumpkin pies are abundant this time of year) in exchange for publicity in your marketing, print promotions, and online fundraising page. Recruit a volunteer emcee to amp the crowd and ask participants to start a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign or donate a minimum gift amount for entry.
You can combine this event with another seasonal favorite by hosting a bake sale. Raise more funds by selling baked goods while the spectators watch the pie-eating contest.
7. Giant Pumpkin Regatta
Believe it or not, you can have contestants race in giant, hollowed-out pumpkins for a prize—no kidding. Get supporters to create teams, raise donations for their entry, then have a representative from each team race enormous pumpkin boats. Be sure to take plenty of photos to post on your nonprofit’s social media channels.
In addition to the pumpkin race, host a festival at a pumpkin patch with crafts, activities, and concessions. This is a great way to involve community members and raise local awareness for your good cause.
Need an example of what a Giant Pumpkin Regatta looks like? Check out the annual West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta event hosted in the city of Portland, Oregon, for inspiration.
8. Fall Festival
If you want to host a fall fundraiser that attracts large numbers of supporters, organize a harvest festival for awareness and donations.
Charge a small fee for admission and booth space to vendors. Then, ask for sponsorships from local businesses in exchange for brand promotion on event T-shirts, merchandise, or co-branding the festival name.
If your city already hosts a festival, contact the festival officials to form a partnership, or rent a booth and design an activity related to your cause to engage the crowd where you can solicit donations.
9. Football Tournament
With football season underway, fall is a great time to host a nonprofit football tournament. Invite participants to start a team and recruit friends, 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 example, participants can register for the competitive, casual, or kids division. Then, encourage teams to make their jerseys to show off their creativity.
This is also the perfect time for community members to tailgate before and after the tournament. You could grill hot dogs and hamburgers to sell and project televised football games on an outdoor big screen.
In addition to the competition on the field, teams can compete to raise the most money in a crowdfunding campaign. Create a donation page for each team where they can ask their supporters to donate money for your good cause. For inspiration, check out this list of football fundraising ideas.
10. Orchard Walk or Hike
You can also partner with a local orchard and sell tickets for an apple-picking walk. Tickets could include a tour of the farm, a bag of fresh fruit, and an event T-shirt. Consider hosting an apple-themed breakfast and a raffle at your event as well. These raffle ideas can help take participants’ experiences to the next level.
If you don’t have access to a local orchard, fall is also a great opportunity to host an outdoor hike. Organize an afternoon adventure and ask participants to register ahead of time. Then, provide goodie bags and travel guides with local trails. Weekends during the holiday season book quickly, so reach out to supporters with a save-the-date email in advance.
11. Grape Stomp or Winery Tour
‘Tis the season to stain your feet purple. Pair up with a nearby winery and charge a small entry fee for a tasting and a spot in a grape-stomping competition.
According to the Sonoma County Harvest Fair, host of 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 in flowing the juice into a jug. The first team to fill their jug is the winner.
This fundraising event is a great example of a fall peer-to-peer fundraiser because it’s fun for participants and onlookers alike. Remember to empower participants to leverage their network for donations and ask stompers to fundraise a minimum amount for entry.
12. Back-to-School Pancake Breakfast
Does your organization work to help children or education programs? If you want to run a school fundraiser, serve up some pumpkin-flavored flapjacks to raise money for your good cause and celebrate the back-to-school season.
Partner with a local high school for a venue. Ask local grocers and farmers to donate ingredients and materials. Then, rally your volunteers or students to act as chefs.
13. Movie Night or Backyard Theater
How about hosting a double feature movie-night screening at a local theater, drive-in, or DIY film screening at your venue with donated equipment, like a projector and big screen? The fall favorites movie list is endless.
- “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”
- “Hocus Pocus”
- “When Harry Met Sally…”
- “Dead Poets Society”
- “Knives Out”
Instead of a movie night, you could also put on a play featuring local talent or have a smaller backyard show featuring your staff or volunteers as the actors. Sell tickets to the show and concessions at intermission.
14. Homecoming-Inspired Dance-a-Thon
There’s nothing like a high school-themed dance to have everyone dress up for homecoming. This is similar to a walk-a-thon event where participants try to dance as long as possible.
Single dancers or partners can sign up and get sponsored to dance by the hour. Keep energy levels high with snacks and refreshments so dancers can raise as much money as possible. And don’t forget to play some fall-themed music.
As an incentive, offer themed T-shirts and other branded gear at different intervals throughout the event. For example, three hours of dancing earn a T-shirt, but six hours of dancing earn a T-shirt, a water bottle, and a sweatband.
15. Bonfire Event
There are plenty of great reasons to host a bonfire in the fall: the homecoming football game, s’mores, and Guy Fawkes Day. Collect donations from local businesses and partner with your fire department for safety. Then, charge an admission fee ahead of time and recruit volunteers to ensure a safe, fun-filled evening. Just don’t forget the marshmallows.
For all your fall events, be sure to inform attendees about your nonprofit’s current fundraising campaigns. This is a great opportunity to introduce your offline supporters to Giving Tuesday and share how important the online giving day is for your organization.
16. Fall Trivia Night
How about renting a sound system and holding an in-person trivia night event at a local community center to raise money for your cause? Create a registration page so teams can register ahead of time and give prizes to 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 the fall season, “Sleepy Hollow,” the history of Halloween, or scary movies. Here’s a sample question: What is the first day of autumn called? (Answer: The Autumn Equinox.)
17. Edgar Allan “Poe”try Night
Coffee shops and pubs are great locations for this spooky yet creative event. Appeal to local businesses for event space and sound equipment.
You can charge for entry and invite volunteers to sign up to read frightening classics. Then, have a competition for the best performance and take a poll or determine the winner through the crowd’s response. Increase the event’s reach by encouraging performers to create a peer-to-peer fundraising page and raise a certain amount before the show. Be sure to provide peer-to-peer fundraising tips to your supporters to set them up for success.
Record videos of each reading to share on your social media channels and get people to vote for their favorites online.
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. This is the perfect fall fundraiser event because leaves fill every yard during the fall season.
While you can reach out to nonprofit donors and local homeowners by going door to door, an online donation website would allow your organization to collect donations ahead of time and help you organize your list of lawns to rake.
19. Oktoberfest Pub Crawl
Working together with local breweries or bars and charging for participation in the crawl is another great way to fundraise in the fall. Consider selecting pubs that offer a fall-themed drink menu (think pumpkin ales, ciders, mulled wine).
Then, encourage participants to wear lederhosen or Halloween costumes for a fun spin on this classic fall event. Create T-shirts branded with your nonprofit’s logo to raise awareness for your cause while participants make their way through the route.
20. Punkin Chunkin Fundraiser
Traditionally held in early November, a Punkin Chunkin is an opportunity to get a final use out of that Halloween 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 a prize, like branded swag and tickets to your next event. This is another perfect opportunity to capture unique videos to share on your website or social media channels.
Which Fall Fundraising Ideas Will You Try?
However you decide to embrace the season, look for ways to personalize your experiences for your target supporter base, lean into technology to cast a wider attendee net, and brainstorm how to encourage existing supporters to tap into their networks to attract new faces to your cause.
Hosting an event that incorporates a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, for example, is a great way to reach more donors and educate individuals new to your cause. For even more inspiration for the entire year, explore our guide, A Year of Creative Fundraising Ideas.
Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien
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