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15 Cancer Fundraiser Ideas to Create a Bigger Impact

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Published January 6, 2023 Reading Time: 9 minutes

Fundraising events allow nonprofits to build awareness and raise funds for their cause. However, many organizations get stuck in a rut of using the same ideas year after year. We’re here to help you avoid that slump with ways to raise more for those affected by cancer. 

Fortunately, we have plenty of unique cancer fundraiser ideas to reignite engagement with your nonprofit. We invite you to step outside the box to attract community members far and wide. We’ll be with you every step of the way as you strive to meet and exceed your fundraising goal.

Below, we’ll walk you through 15 of our favorite cancer fundraiser ideas. We’ll also show you ways to personalize your fundraisers to better align with your brand and organization. But first, let’s get into the details of why these cancer fundraising events matter. 

How Cancer Fundraising Events Help Build Awareness for Your Nonprofit

Fundraising events offer dozens of opportunities to engage with your donors. Everything from your marketing messaging to your signup pages and thank-you receipts provide a chance to communicate your mission and create long-term donor relationships.

Yes, the funding is important, too, but each cancer fundraising event delivers more value than just the final donation amount itself. It helps build awareness for your brand, attract recurring donors, and even source new volunteers. 

According to The 2022 Fundraising Event Experience Report, 91% of fundraising event attendees will likely take further action with a nonprofit after a positive fundraising experience.

Sometimes, fundraising events become even bigger than the brand and the mission. For example, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started as a simple and easy fundraising idea and expanded to become a viral phenomenon that raised more than $115 million.

Here’s how you can engage donors during different stages of your own fundraising events, while continuing to promote cancer awareness to new audiences:


Along with creating a nonprofit social media plan, encourage donors to join your event by sending nonprofit newsletters via email, publishing blog posts, creating website banners, and launching pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements. Use branded messaging, illustrations, and landing pages to make it a high-quality, informative brand-building experience.

While the goal is to drive attendance and participation at your upcoming event, take the opportunity to share other ways supporters can help raise money for cancer treatment and research. First impressions matter, and this might be your only chance to turn someone’s intent into action.


Getting participants to your event is just the beginning. You want your attendees to participate again and continue supporting your cause. 

Encourage attendees to spread the word to their family members and loved ones to inspire them to get involved. Better yet, they might even start fundraising on your nonprofit’s behalf with enough motivation. 

Consider providing free branded swag to participants. This could include posters, notebooks, t-shirts, pens, and cozies.

Ask event participants to subscribe to your email and SMS lists to get updates on future opportunities. This strategy provides your nonprofit with the information it needs to follow up with attendees, increasing the chances of earning repeat support. 

Post Event

Reach out to all your donors and participants after the event to express your thanks and share updates on the results. Prepare a donation thank you note to let them know the progress you’ve made in reaching your fundraising goal, and communicate the good that their time and fundraising efforts made possible. 

Communicate upcoming events they can join, and be proactive about asking for recurring donations or future volunteers.

Personalize Your Fundraising Event to Align With Your Mission

You want your cancer fundraising event to reflect your nonprofit‘s brand. If your fundraising idea lacks originality or a branded experience, it could be confused with any other charity for cancer. While you might get donations, you’ll miss out on building brand awareness and acquiring repeat donors.

Here are a few ways to personalize your upcoming event to align with your mission and make it unique:


Add your brand’s logo and colors wherever possible. For in-person events, this might be on banners, swag, and decorations. Online, it might be digital banners and fundraising page branding. You could even add QR codes to your promotional material to give users another way to join your event or make a quick donation.


Be intentional about your messages, notifications, taglines, and calls to action (CTAs). Words matter, and a memorable message might stick with your donors and participants more than the event itself. Consider the following taglines and how they clearly communicate the brands’ mission:

  • “Helping Preserve the Places You Cherish” — LandChoices
  • “Stay Close…Go Far” — East Stroudsburg University
  • “Whatever It Takes to Save a Child” — U.S. Fund for UNICEF
  • “Improving Life, One Breath at a Time” — American Lung Association
  • “Because the Earth Needs a Good Lawyer” — Earthjustice
  • “Finding a cure now…so our daughters won’t have to” — PA Breast Cancer Coalition
  • “Filling Pantries. Filling Lives.” — Houston Food Bank

Great fundraising ideas might get your donors in the door, but powerful taglines and messaging get them to stay.   


It’s best to choose cancer fundraiser ideas that target a specific demographic. For example, you might hold an event for young daughters and their moms, or you might do a silent auction better suited for adults. The more targeted your demographic, the more effective your messaging can be. 


Your fundraising activity must be relevant to your brand and its mission. For example, promoting cancer research with a hot dog eating contest might be strange. Or it could be off-brand to host your fundraiser at a specific church and potentially alienate members of other faiths.


You want your donors and participants to remember your fundraiser. The memorable component can come from the experience, or from a take-home memento like a branded t-shirt. Think of ways you can leave donors with a lasting impression. 

Other ideas could include:

  • Fireworks at the event
  • Donor awards
  • A surprise, like a special guest
  • Live music
  • Pictures of the cancer patients and their families impacted by donations

15 Unique and Effective Cancer Fundraiser Ideas

1. Tree Planting

 A tree planting event is a great way to give back to the planet and the community while raising funds for cancer research and treatment. You could sell saplings to donors to plant in their yards or host an event where you plant new trees in a park or around a community building.

If gardening is your passion, you could expand this fundraising activity to sell flower bulbs or even host gardening workshops. The workshops could teach participants how to grow trees or other plants, and a component of the workshop might also include educating attendees on the importance of your nonprofit’s meaningful work.  

2. Scavenger Hunt

Organize a scavenger hunt to get participants engaging with your nonprofit and its members in person. You might partner with local businesses and promote their products or services in exchange for prizes.

Choose scavenger hunt items or places that’ll help build awareness for your nonprofit‘s cause. For example, if you hosted a tree planting event in the past, you might have that be one of the locations participants visit. It provides an additional opportunity to explain how your organization helps cancer patients through a variety of different fundraising events and opportunities. 

3. Group Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor activity where participants use GPS coordinates to hide and seek containers (caches). These caches often have a register (for recording the name and date of your finding) and sometimes small prizes. 

Hide geocaches that have branded keychains, bracelets, and other small prizes, as well as promotional material for your nonprofit. Organize a group geocaching event where participants can go and find them.

Since geocaching is a more niche activity, it’s a fantastic event for teaching newcomers to the activity how it’s done. You’ll spend plenty of time together hunting for these hidden caches, giving you additional opportunities to discuss your nonprofit and its impact. 

4. Virtual Auction

Partner with local businesses to collect items for a virtual auction. Hosting your auction virtually means you won’t have to worry about a venue, food, drinks, and the like—you can just focus on the donor experience and building awareness for your nonprofit.

Use fundraising software that’s purpose-built for broadcasting virtual and hybrid events. For example, you can use Classy Live to engage your participants with the following features:

  • Auction agenda
  • Mobile auction bidding
  • Virtual tables
  • Live leaderboards
  • Donation notifications
  • Chat
  • Polls
  • Breakout rooms

5. Walkathon

Walkathons have always been a go-to fundraising method, especially for health-related nonprofits. Why? Because they work. You host the event, and participants secure donation pledges from their friends and families based on the distance they walk. 

An event like this helps you build awareness with a broader audience. While you’re engaging the actual participants at your event, you’re also gaining exposure to the individuals your participants ask for pledges.

Have members of your nonprofit walk with participants and talk to them about your role at the organization and how it has impacted your life. Sell concessions and commemorative t-shirts to raise additional funds and help attendees remember your good cause

6. Wellness Classes

Host wellness classes in exchange for donations. You could do these in person, online, or with a hybrid model. Offering attendees the option to participate however they feel most comfortable allows you to engage a broader audience.

Your wellness classes could take several forms:

  • Yoga 
  • Spinning 
  • Cooking
  • Nutrition
  • Zumba
  • Lifting
  • Meditation

You could even do all of the above and spread them out over the year, providing a different experience every month. See which classes your supporters are most interested in joining and repeat them a few times throughout the year. Getting their buy-in before ensures your events are better attended. 

7. Movies at the Park

Show movies at the park or get a spot at the local drive-in movie theater. Admission fees for the film could act as your fundraiser, or you might provide the experience for free and ask for donations (and make money from concessions).

You could also encourage your organization’s volunteers to host these events in their communities or at home. They can act as ambassadors for your nonprofit to spread awareness and raise money for your mission. 

8. Lantern Release

Lantern releases have traditionally been held to honor those who have passed. They’re a beautiful, symbolic way to celebrate the lives of lost loved ones or recognize those who are still fighting the battle against cancer. Host a lantern release and supply lanterns in exchange for a donation. 

9. Livestream

Go live from any location or event to elevate your cause to an online audience. For example, you could livestream the tree planting event, lantern release, walkathon, or scavenger hunt to connect with your digital audience and empower them to contribute to your fundraising effort

10. Giveaway

Hosting a giveaway is a great way to get your supporters excited, or you might just incorporate this element into any of your other events. Get sponsorship from local businesses to obtain items, and use these giveaways to encourage participation and build your audience. 

11. Corporate Matching Gifts

Encourage donors to see if their corporation will match their charitable gifts. Many corporations offer this benefit, but employees aren’t always aware of it or fail to remember when they make a donation.

12. Round-Up Partnership

Partner with local businesses who are willing to ask their customers to round up their purchase for a charitable donation. This is a passive way to raise funds for your nonprofit, and it also helps expose your cause to a new audience. 

13. T-Shirt Fundraising Campaign

Find a designer to create a t-shirt that supporters can’t resist. You can sell these shirts to your local community at events, online on your donation website, or during virtual events. T-shirts are easy to make and yield a high return on investment, especially when you buy them in bulk.

14. Charity Concerts

Book a venue and find local bands and musicians to perform. Some venues will offer reduced rates for nonprofits, so do your research before choosing a location.

Charity concerts give you a stage (literally) to talk about your nonprofit to an engaged audience. Musicians who are survivors (or know survivors) can also speak to their personal connection to the cause, influencing their fans to contribute.

15. Small Business Fundraising Nights

Host a night where you promote small businesses in your community and encourage shoppers to support them. You might even provide a free childcare service to allow parents to shop around without distraction. Partnering businesses can donate a portion of all their proceeds to your nonprofit, making it a win-win situation for everyone.

Ways to Further Engage Attendees at Your Live Event

Live events have evolved over the last few years, and more nonprofits are now taking their fundraising events online. Here’s how the 1,000 respondents to our 2022 Fundraising Event Experience Report attended fundraisers between January 2020 and February 2022:

  • 26% attended a 100% in-person event
  • 21% attended a 100% virtual event from home
  • 20% attended in person, but the event had a virtual component as well
  • 19% didn’t attend an event
  • 15% attended from home, but the event had an in-person component as well

With so many attendees joining virtual events, it’s important to optimize your experiences for a remote (or partially remote) audience. Here are a few ways to engage your live-event attendees:

  • Simplify registration: Make it quick and easy for interested participants to register and join your event
  • Stream live events: Stream all of your in-person events online to expand your audience and engage more donors
  • Add engagement features: Take advantage of real-time leaderboards, chat, donation notifications, speed networking, polls, social media, and more to engage your audience
  • Make it easy to donate: Empower your donors to contribute in less time (and fewer clicks) by simplifying the donation process and expanding the payment options 
  • Host virtual-only events: Eliminate any fear of missing out by taking the entire experience online. This puts everyone on the same level and provides a different experience for all your participants

Streamline Your Donations With Classy

Ready to take your cancer fundraiser idea from concept to reality? Let us help you make it happen.

Classy Live is our go-to product for powering your virtual, hybrid, and in-person event experiences. It’s built around improving supporter engagement and increasing your donations, and it has all the features you need to create memorable event experiences.

Visit the Classy Live product page to see how our nonprofit event software can power your fundraisers.


The 2022 Fundraising Event Experience Report

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