25 Creative Summer Fundraising Ideas
We’re not sure about you, but we’ve got the summer itch. You know the feeling—that tingly sense of excitement knowing the warmer days are just around the corner. Sunshine and sand are calling our names, and with them come a number of holidays and reasons to celebrate the beautiful outdoors and each other.
When it comes to your nonprofit organization, summer fun and fundraising go hand in hand. It’s time to leverage the fact that school’s out and everyone’s looking for something exciting to do with their free time. With your help, favorite summer activities become opportunities to give back.
Use these summer fundraising ideas to raise top dollars and strengthen your relationships with supporters.
1. Beach Volleyball
There are few better ways to enjoy the sun and sand than beach volleyball. Set up a tournament and ask teams to fundraise to enter. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties used their volleyball tournament in New Jersey to raise over $26,000 for their organization. They 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
Surf’s up! Hold a surf competition and ask participants to fundraise for entry. Or, host a surf-a-thon, like Urban Surf’s annual event and open the day up to all levels of expertise. Surfers can secure pledges from their family, friends, and local businesses for each wave they catch throughout the day.
3. BBQ Dinner or Contest
This summer fundraising idea requires that people come hungry. Rent or have equipment donated and host a BBQ dinner in your organization’s parking lot. Sell tickets for meals, and spice up the event by having participants pay a 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 eat and vote for their favorites.
4. Pool Party
Whether you partner with a local YMCA, hotel, or cause champion, a casual pool party can be a great summer fundraising idea that gathers your supporters. Charge for entry and plan a fun event for your guests. For example, you might arrange a pool volleyball tournament and partner with your venue or a local business to offer a prize to the winning team, like a free night at their hotel or a gym membership.
5. Fourth of July Party
Everyone loves a good themed-party, and what better reason to throw one than to celebrate our nation’s independence? For this summer fundraising idea, host a house party and ask your supporters to bring a friend. Charge an entry fee and accept donations at the door for anyone who joins in.
6. Summer Field Day
Parents will be thrilled for 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 events like a wheelbarrow race, sack race, three-legged race, egg-and-spoon race, water balloon toss, and games of capture the flag, and 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.
7. Swim, Bike, or Run-a-thon
These types of active events are awesome summer fundraising ideas. Breathe California’s Bike For Breath event offers three route options to engage multiple skill levels. Fundraising isn’t a requirement, but participants are asked to raise at least $250 and given incentives to shoot for even higher.
8. The County Fair
Reach out to local fair officials to see how you can get in on the festivities. Could your organization help run one element or event in exchange for recognition and possible donations? For example, the fair might accept entry fees to a specific show or competition on behalf of your organization and ask your staff to volunteer in exchange.
9. Disc Golf
Also known as Frisbee golf, this increasingly popular sport has new courses opening all over the country. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital recently developed a partnership with the Professional Disc Golf Association and the greater disc golf community to host a Disc Golf Charity Invitational. Bring this summer fundraising idea to your own town, mirror the Invitational’s registration plus fundraising event model, and offer prizes for top performers to boost attendance.
10. Summer Fun Run
While you can organize a 5K any time of year, the summer weather is bound to boost race attendance. Be sure to start earlier in the morning to avoid the heat and have volunteers hand out water, ice, and popsicles to keep everyone cool.
11. Eating Contest
Look no further for event inspiration than Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, where the 2015 top male and female participants ate 62 and 38 hot dogs, respectively. Get creative with the food of choice and ask entrees to raise a minimum dollar amount to compete. Strawberry pie, hot dogs, popsicles…the possibilities are endless.
12. Cornhole Competition
Cornhole is another favorite summer activity your organization can design an event around. The High Fives Foundation asks cornhole enthusiasts to come out to watch or compete in their Cornhole and Cocktails event. Their competition consists of 32 teams in a single, timed elimination-style game. All registrants are also entered in a raffle for the chance to win a series of prizes, including a cornhole set.
13. Farmer’s Market Booth
Reach out to local farmer’s markets for the opportunity to host a booth at one of their events. This popular summer outing could increase your exposure and give you a chance to engage with your community face-to-face. Sell raffle tickets, distribute materials, and collect donations as you educate shoppers on your programs.
14. Film Showing
This summer fundraising idea puts a fun spin on movie nights. Host a 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. Possible summer blockbusters include: National Lampoon’s Vacation, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Marvel’s The Avengers.
15. Summer Concert
Work with local venues and musicians to build a lineup and sell tickets. The Love Hope Strength Foundation’s Red Rocks Rocks event offers swag bags to anyone who fundraises $500 or more, and a guitar signed by all performing artists for those who raise over $2,000.
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 organization.
17. Outdoor Exercise Class
Use a public park or beach to arrange an outdoor fitness class, like yoga or a boot camp. Recruit a volunteer to lead the exercise and ask for a requested donation from attendees. In fact, you could even create a series of events throughout the entire summer. Consider tapping into a network of local fitness instructors who might be interested in donating their time to your organization and can switch off hosting classes.
18. Sandcastle Contest
This summer fundraising idea reminds everyone that sandcastles aren’t just for kids. Sand sculpture competitions are another great way to host a beach event for organizations who call the coast lines home. Ask contestants to pay and register for the event ahead of time, 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
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 amount to enter.
20. Summer-Themed Bar Crawl
Run a bar crawl with local breweries and put a summer spin on it. Entice participants to come out and find their new favorite summer brew by advertising the stops and featured beverages ahead of time. Charge for entry and ask registrants to secure pledges from donors who agree to contribute a certain amount for each bar crawlers makes it to at the event.
21. Summer Hike and Camping Excursion
Hikes or camping excursions are great ways to run an event with less upfront costs. 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, event T-shirts, and dinner.
22. Food and/or Drink Festival
Host your own version of the famous wine, beer, and food festivals 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 sponsorships and sell tickets in advance.
23. Arts Show
Ask for donations from local artists and host an art walk or auction. Sell tickets for guests to come 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, such as a food truck, to draw in and accommodate a larger crowd.
24. Car Wash
A good old-fashioned car wash is 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 be accepting customers. Request a suggested donation and offer different levels of service, such as wax or a towel-dry.
25. Summer Solstice Clam Boil
A clam boil is just one of the many possible summer fundraising ideas to honor the summer solstice, which takes place on the longest (sunlight) day of the year. Break out the fire pits, large pots, and melted butter, and charge a donation fee in exchange for good eats and a good time. Speak with local vendors for food and equipment donations.
With the right fundraising initiatives planned, 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, carefully consider your target audience. Your events should resonate with your supporters and give them an opportunity to develop their relationship with your organization.
What are your favorite ways to fundraise in the summer? Let us know in the comments below. For more inspiration, explore our fundraising ideas resource center.