Elizabeth Chung

Cool and Creative Fundraising Ideas to Kick Off the Year

Here at Classy, the beginning of 2014 was an exciting time. Within the first three months of the year, we watched hundreds of campaigns take off, some of which have been truly creative, unique, and fun. And when the successes of certain campaigns align with their level of creativity, it can be quite inspirational.

Below are three creative nonprofit fundraising ideas that kicked off the year with their best foot forward. Use some of these ideas to amplify your own current campaign efforts, or keep them in mind when planning your next fundraising campaign.

Blood:Water – Save a Drink, Save a Life

Since their launch in 2004, Blood:Water has worked alongside African grassroots organizations to tackle the HIV/AIDS and water crises. They have impacted nearly one million people in eleven countries by providing technical, financial, and organizational support services for HIV-infected persons and for safe water. With their 2014 Save a Drink, Save a Life campaign, they invited fundraisers to experience the massive change one drink can elicit in another person’s life.

And they made it personal. The campaign asked participants to give up (or match the cost of) a drink, like coffee for instance, for 40 days. The accumulated funds then go on to support water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in Zambia. Blood:Water even created a mobile app to help users record the drinks they save or match. With the Save a Drink Tracker app, fundraisers were able to have a hands-on approach to personally tracking their daily impact on the Save a Drink, Save a Life campaign. Through the sacrifices of coffee, soda, and iced teas alike, the campaign raised over $95,000!


Challenges are motivating. Allowing supporters to individualize their connection to your cause is key. While there are many ways to do this, giving fundraisers a specific challenge can intrigue them and drive their personal investment in your mission.

Whether you ask them to make a change to their daily routine or give up a simple luxury, a small challenge can serve as a creative fundraising idea, go a long way in increasing engagement, and demonstrate the tremendous impact supporters can help make possible.

Go above and beyond. No matter the nature of your campaign, providing your fundraisers with a little something extra can help keep them deeply connected with your organization. While mobile apps are an exciting feature, something as simple as an interactive Tweet chat, instructional video, or even a phone-call can go a long way to empower your fundraisers and create positive emotional connections that will strengthen loyalty and support.

Vs. Cancer Foundation – Baseball Vs. Cancer

Founded by a childhood cancer survivor in 2012, the Vs. Cancer Foundation is committed to saving children’s lives through a creatively athletic outlet: baseball. By empowering athletes and communities to fund childhood cancer efforts, the nonprofit’s first annual Baseball Vs. Cancer initiative impacted over 40,000 children battling cancer. After a winning 2013 campaign, Baseball Vs. Cancer is back for 2014 – and is smashing!

Leveraging the power of team fundraising, they partner with college baseball programs and student athletes to raise funds through activities like shaving their heads, participating in home run derbies, and hosting tournaments. To make it easy for teams to adopt the mission, Vs. Cancer pre-creates the team fundraising pages, personally emails them out, and provides a one-page instruction sheet on how to join the team.

With these resources at hand, participants can easily launch their fundraising initiatives, and tremendous ones at that. (One team brought in roughly $40,000 from a single event). These efforts have made significant progress towards the campaign’s year-end $500,000 goal. Only a few months into the year, Baseball Vs. Cancer has already raised over $400,000!

The Takeaways:

Be Proactive, Increase Participation. Supporters can hesitate to fundraise for many reasons, but the top causes usually stem from a feeling of inadequacy or lack of time. Remove these obstacles and make it easy for fundraisers to adopt your mission as their own. Whether you proactively create fundraising pages, supply design resources for personal fundraising campaigns, or offer a tips sheet for getting started, providing the right resources and encouragement can help supporters feel empowered to launch their own fundraising efforts.

buildOn – Super Bowl Sunday 5K Race

buildOn aims to break the cycle of poverty through service and education. By mobilizing afterschool service programs and building schools in developing countries across the globe, their programs generate both domestic and global impact. Although hosting nonprofit events is nothing new to them, we thought their spin on an annual sporting tradition made for a particularly creative fundraising idea: a Super Bowl Sunday 5K Race.

While most people were busy buying nachos, wings, and beers, buildOn supporters were instead gearing up to run a 5K – in the fog and rain, no less! The race’s motive was to raise funds to build a school in Malawi, and over 100 supporters participated. While there was no entrance fee to join the race, each participant was asked to fundraise a minimum of $250 to help reach an ultimate goal of $50,000. There were different benefits for those who were able to raise more than the minimum, such as t-shirts, copies of buildOn founder Jim Ziolkowski’s book, and a IOU for framed photos of the school in Malawi once it is complete. The race exceeded its overall goal, ultimately bringing in $53,000!

The Takeaways:

Leverage peer-to-peer fundraising. Events tend to incur high overhead, and charging a flat fee to register can curb your fundraising abilities. In addition to (or instead of) a registration fee, you can ask attendees to raise a certain amount to gain entrance into the event. And because participants can ask friends and family to support their efforts, they can raise ample funds for your cause. To successfully implement peer-to-peer fundraising in your event, make sure that the process for combined registration and fundraising is as simple and easy as possible.

Draw inspiration from what’s happening around you. A creative fundraising idea doesn’t have to appear out of thin air. All kinds of social events and trends can be spun into opportunities to fundraise for your cause. Try putting a twist on real world events, pop culture, holidays, or social media trends. You might be surprised at what can be used to advance your mission!

Hopefully these unique campaigns have jumpstarted your creative juices. Whether you’re planning a time-based campaign, year-long initiative, or one-day event, a fun and creative fundraising idea is waiting to be seized!

Have an Idea for a Fundraising Campaign?

Image Credit: Carissa Rogers


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