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34+ Creative Summer Fundraising Ideas

Two little girls swimming in the pool with sunglasses on

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Published April 13, 2023 Reading Time: 11 minutes

It seems like summer is always right around the corner—we’re either deep in it or desperately planning for it. Fortunately for your nonprofit, with summer fundraising ideas, the only limit is your imagination.

With warmer temperatures and longer days come extra opportunities to engage your donors, volunteers, and supporters. 

Whether looking for summer fundraiser ideas for kids, adults, or the whole family, here’s a list of 34 fundraising events that will help your nonprofit turn everyone’s favorite warm-weather activities into an opportunity to give back.

Use these summer fundraising ideas to raise more for your good cause, strengthen your relationships with supporters, and show your community how easy it is to have fun and make a difference.

The Best Summer Fundraising Ideas

1. Beach Volleyball

Set up a tournament and ask teams to fundraise to enter. After all, there are few better ways to enjoy the sun and sand than beach volleyball. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties raised over $26,000 during a joint volleyball tournament in New Jersey. The tournament offered tiered incentives and prizes to motivate participants to meet their fundraising goal and required participants to raise a minimum of $75 to enter.

2. Surf Competition

Hold a surf competition and ask participants to fundraise in addition to registering. Surfers can secure pledges from their family, friends, and local businesses for each wave they catch throughout the day.

Consider hosting an event that caters to all levels of expertise, like the “SoCal Surf Dogs” event hosted by Urban Surf 4 Kids. This nonprofit is so good at putting the fun in fundraisers that fun is even in the vision statement:

“Urban Surf 4 Kids is a unique outreach organization that works with orphan youth and foster kids. Using water sports as a catalyst, we teach kids how to first have fun and then give back to their communities and neighborhoods through local service projects.”

Name a fundraiser that will draw in spectators faster than a dog on a surfboard. We’ll wait.

dog on surfboard surf fundraiser

Your Guide to Registration With Fundraising Campaigns

3. BBQ Dinner or Cook-Off

Get ready for a summer fundraiser idea that requires an appetite: rent or donate equipment and host a BBQ dinner in your organization’s parking lot. Have a ticket sale for meals, then spice up the event by asking participants to pay a small fee to compete for the best local BBQ sauce in town.

Another option is to take a note from Anthony Rizzo’s “Cook-Off for Cancer” and gather local restaurants and chefs to compete against each other. Sell tickets for guests to taste and vote for their favorites.

Pro Tip
Drum up excitement for the event by sending out social media updates to remind attendees when to arrive and where to park. Don’t forget to include humorous tips as well, like “Our BBQ dinner is BYOT (Bring Your Own Tums)!”

4. Pool Party

Partner with a local YMCA, hotel, or cause champion to host a casual pool party. This great summer fundraising idea lets you gather your supporters in a fun, relaxed environment.

Charge for entry and plan an engaging activity for your guests. For example, you might arrange a pool volleyball or basketball tournament and partner with your venue or a local business to offer a prize to the winning team. Prizes can be anything from a free day pass to the pool, a hotel night stay, or even an offer to host a birthday party at the same venue.

Other potential pool games include:

  • Underwater scavenger hunt: Drop weighted, nonglass items at the bottom of the pool and have participants dive for treasure.
  • Floatie race: Have each attendee choose a pool raft, then paddle from one side of the pool to the other.
  • Synchronized swim competition: Encourage teams to get creative and choreograph an underwater routine, then have each team participate in a dance-off in the water.

5. Fourth of July Party

Host a BBQ in someone’s yard or a local park and ask your supporters to bring a friend. What better reason to throw a party than to celebrate our nation’s independence?

Charge an entry fee for unlimited food and drink and accept additional donations at the door. If you’re hosting in a public space, obtain proper permits and have a crew clean up your site.

6. Summer Field Day

This outdoor fundraising idea is a win-win for everyone. Parents would love the chance to tire their kids out at a good old-fashioned field day this summer. 

Ask for a minimum donation, and be sure to host classic family-friendly events like:

  • Wheelbarrow races
  • Sack races
  • Three-legged races
  • Egg-and-spoon races
  • Water balloon toss
  • Games of capture the flag
  • Tug-of-war

And who’s to say you can’t host a field day for adults? Use team-based registration to create a throwback-themed event. Bonus points for teams that go all in on the nostalgia and show up wearing gym clothes from the ’70s or ’80s.

7. Swim, Bike, or Run-a-Thon

cyclists riding on road

Offer different swimming, biking, or running route options to engage multiple skill levels for these summer fundraising ideas. You might even consider hosting a walk-a-thon for the non-competitive types.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be required, but you can encourage participants to raise different amounts before the event by offering various incentives to “unlock.” 

For example, you might congratulate folks who raise $100 with a T-shirt, folks who raise $500 with special race gear, and folks who raise $1,000 with fun event perks, like special parking and goodie bags.

Consider creating a peer-to-peer fundraising element by empowering your supporters to fundraise on your behalf. They might ask for pledges from their families and friends based on their performance or direct donations to support your organization.

How wear blue: run to remember Grew P2P Revenue by 21% YoY

8. The County Fair

Contact local fair officials to see how you can get in on the festivities. There are many outdoor fundraising ideas to tap into with such a big event, so keep an open mind and prepare some options to present to officials. 

Could your organization help run one element or event in exchange for recognition and possible donations? For example, you might offer to co-host a silent online auction or raffle.

swings at the fair

9. Disc Golf

Bring this summer fundraising idea—also known as Frisbee golf or frolf—to your town, register participants with a fundraising event model, and offer prizes for top performers to boost attendance.

10. Summer Fun Run

Organize a 5K charity run in the summer to boost race attendance. Be sure to start the race earlier in the morning to avoid the heat and have volunteers hand out water, ice, and ice pops to keep everyone cool.

11. Eating Contest

Look no further for event inspiration than Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, where past top male and female participants ate 72 and 41 hot dogs, respectively. Get creative with your food of choice and ask participants to create personal fundraising pages. Strawberry pie, hot dogs, ice pops—the possibilities are endless.

12. Cornhole Competition

Consider this backyard game that, depending on your location, may go by another name—bags, baggo, beanbags, beanbag toss, Chuck-0, corn toss—but today, we’ll call it cornhole. Cornhole is a great fundraising summer activity to design an event around because it’s affordable to host and easy to scale. 

Depending on your budget, you can purchase, build, or ask your community to loan you cornhole sets (made up of two boards and two sets of bags).

Don’t forget to provide food and drinks and offer a series of prizes for participants who make it to each bracket, with the grand prize being a custom cornhole set.

13. Summer Concert

Work with local venues and musicians to build a lineup and sell tickets for your benefit concert. You might offer swag bags to anyone who fundraises $500 or more or a shirt signed by all performing artists for those who raise over $2,000.

14. Film Showing

This summer fundraising idea puts a fun spin on movie nights. Host an outdoor movie screening in a public park or work with local businesses to secure a large enough area to host a drive-in. Sell tickets, popcorn, and candy to attendees and ask for a suggested donation at the gate. Consider showing summer blockbusters like National Lampoon’s Vacation, Jurassic Park, and The Avengers.

15. Farmer’s Market Booth

 borough market

Reach out to local farmers’ markets for the opportunity to host a booth at one of their events. This popular summer outing could increase your exposure and allow you to engage with your community face-to-face. 

Promote upcoming outdoor fundraising events, distribute materials, and collect donations as you educate shoppers on your programs.

16. Day Camp

Give parents a break and throw a day-camp retreat. Charge for admission and put on a day of arts and crafts, swimming, hikes, and a campfire. Consider partnering with a local day camp to arrange a day that sponsors your nonprofit organization.

17. Outdoor Exercise Class

Use a public park or beach to arrange an outdoor fitness class, like yoga or a boot camp. Partner with local gyms and studios for equipment and recruit instructors to lead the exercises. Offer a range of classes and activities.

Ask attendees to pay a registration fee in advance and register for each event they will attend so that you can secure enough space and equipment.

Depending on the scale of your event, you can either host one class, a series of events throughout the summer, or a large one-day event. For example, the San Francisco-based Movemeant Foundation hosts an event called “We Dare to Bare,” which includes a range of classes, activities, booths, and workshops on celebrating self-love and encouraging openness and confidence in girls and women.

We dare to bare
Pro Tip
Cement your event in your mission to really resonate with your supporters. The Movemeant Foundation is an organization focused on empowering girls and women by providing resources and opportunities to use physical activity as a way to build confidence, so the main theme of its event is encouraging body-positive feelings and being comfortable in your skin.

18. Sandcastle Contest

Remind everyone that sandcastles aren’t just for kids. Sand sculpture competitions are another great way to host a beach event for organizations that call the coastlines home. 

Ask contestants to pay and register for the event beforehand and give them a set amount of time to complete their entry during the actual contest. If possible, work with city officials to block off parts of the beach. Serve drinks and snacks and let attendees vote for the winner.

19. Summer Adventure Scavenger Hunt

Try a summer adventure scavenger hunt. After all, summer is the time for adventure, and what’s more adventurous than a scavenger hunt? This summer fundraising idea might take a bit more planning on your part, but with the right preparation, you can deliver an experience your supporters will never forget. 

Work with local businesses to set up an “Amazing Race”-style quest and leave clues and challenges around your city for contestants to hunt down and complete. Ask registrants to sign up in teams and raise a minimum entry amount.

20. Summer-Themed Bar Crawl

Run a bar crawl with local breweries and put a summer spin on it. Entice community members to come out and find their new favorite summer brew by advertising the stops and featuring beverages ahead of time. 

Charge for entry and ask breweries or bars to donate branded merchandise that you can sell at the businesses. Or simply ask each location to donate a portion of the day’s profits in exchange for free publicity and a guaranteed rush of patrons.

Take it to the next level and encourage donations at each stop by having pay-to-play bar games, like darts, pool, cornhole, or shuffleboard. Bonus points if you can recruit local celebrities to attend and partner with an attendee for a game!

21. Hiking and Camping Excursion

Run an event with fewer upfront costs like hikes and camping excursions. Lead your group of participants on a guided tour and camp as a group at a public camping site. Ask event registrants to bring their own equipment and pay a registration fee. In exchange, provide an informative tour and things like goodie bags, refreshments, event T-shirts, and dinner.

22. Food and/or Drink Festival

Host your version of the famous wine, beer, and food festivals that line the streets all around the country. Perhaps there’s a certain type of food or beverage your geographic area is known for that you could highlight. Coordinate with local restaurants, chefs, supermarkets, wineries, breweries, and beverage distributors for corporate sponsorships and sell tickets in advance.

fish and chips

23. Art Show

Ask for donations from local artists and host an art walk or auction. Sell tickets for guests to come and browse your exhibit. Artists who don’t want to donate their work may feature it for a showcase fee. You could also partner with a local food vendor or food truck to draw in and accommodate a larger crowd.

You might also consider incorporating online fundraising into this event by creating a digital art show. This allows you to involve people in and outside the community who cannot attend your event in person (which is normal during a busy summer).

Use a platform like Classy Live to create a hybrid experience that engages in-person and digital attendees. Make it easy for online donations with dedicated donation pages and donation forms

24. Car Wash

Host a good old-fashioned car wash as a classic summer fundraising idea. Advertise your event ahead of time on social media to let the local community know what hours your staff and volunteers will accept customers. Request a suggested donation and offer different service levels, such as wax or a towel-dry.

25. Summer Solstice Clambake

Break out the fire pits, large pots, and melted butter for a clambake to honor the summer solstice, which takes place on the longest (sunlight) day of the year. Charge a donation fee for this summer fundraising idea in exchange for good eats and a good time. Speak with local vendors for food and equipment donations.

26. Geocaching 101

Ask for a small fee for participants to join a geocaching 101 class. Provide a half-day event where you teach the basics of geocaching and take your group to locations where they can find real-world geocaches. Show them the online system and give them tips on creating geocaches.

27. Ice Cream Social

Host an ice cream social for your nonprofit organization and invite members of the community to attend, get to know your mission, and make a small donation. Provide an abundance of ice cream, and don’t skimp on the chocolate syrup.

28. Miniature Golf Tournament

Host a miniature golf tournament for kids, adults, and families. You could partner with a local miniature golf facility or create a backyard-esque course. Ask participants for a small entry fee and give a portion of the proceeds to the winner.

29. Bake Sale

Bake treats at summer venues and events to sell them a bit easier. While you can always set up a stand at your local park, try to pair your bake sale with other events in the community:

  • Soccer games
  • Festivals
  • Concerts
  • Fourth of July
  • Church

30. Fantasy Sports League

Create a fantasy sports league. After all, sports don’t stop when school does, and there’s always a fantasy league you can start—whether that’s the summer Olympics or an international soccer tournament. Get all participants to chip into the pot for entry, then give a portion of the money to the league winner.

31. Tailgate Party

Set up an organizational booth and BBQ at your local sporting event—whether that’s a professional, college, or even high school game. Use the opportunity to meet members of the community, ask for donations in exchange for some food, and sell your nonprofit’s swag.

32. Sports Tournament

Invite kids to form a team and join a local sporting tournament. You could host a tournament for anything from soccer to basketball to tennis. Charge teams an entrance fee and provide the necessary fields, equipment, and referees. 

33. Community Yard Sale

Invite members of your community to donate items for a yard sale. While you’ll make money from selling items, you’ll also meet valuable members in your area and spread awareness for your cause. Make this a hybrid event by allowing remote participants to find and purchase items. 

Get Your Hybrid Event Toolkit

34. Book Club

Host a monthly book club to engage members of your audience that might not enjoy fun in the sun. Since people travel frequently during the summer (and take their books with them), make it a hybrid experience by using Classy Live to power your virtual and in-person events.

Provide refreshments for a small donation or ask for a small fee to attend a discussion from a local (or not-so-local) author. 

Even More Fundraising Ideas

With the right fundraising initiatives, this summer could be your organization’s best yet. Summer fundraising ideas like these are a great way to combine favorite events and an opportunity to give back. 

To determine which type of event or campaign would be most successful for you, consider your target audience carefully. Your outdoor fundraising ideas should resonate with your supporters and give them an opportunity to develop their relationship with your organization.

Your Nonprofit Hybrid Events Toolkit

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