25 Creative Summer Fundraising Ideas

10 min
Image of sunglasses on a beach
Ellie Burke
Ellie Burke

We’re not sure about you, but we’ve got the summer itch. We’re so close to outdoor activities, watching fireworks, and eating BBQ that we can almost taste it. What better way to harness that excitement than to start planning your summer fundraisers?

Whether you’re looking for summer fundraiser ideas for kids, adults, or the whole family, we’ve got a list of 25 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 top dollars, strengthen your relationships with supporters, and show your community how easy it is to have fun and make a difference.

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 have 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 in addition to registering. Surfers can secure pledges from their family, friends, and local businesses for each wave they catch throughout the day.

Or, host 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 fundraiser that it’s included in their mission 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

Free Download: Anatomy of a Registration with Fundraising Campaign

3. BBQ Dinner or Cook-Off

This summer fundraiser 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 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, but include humorous tips like “Don’t forget our BBQ dinner is BYOT (Bring Your Own Tums)!”

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 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 offering to host a birthday party at the same venue.

Other potential pool games include:

  • Underwater Scavenger Hunt: Drop weighted, non-glass items at the bottom of the pool and have participants dive for treasure
  • Floatie Race: Have each attendee choose a pool raft and 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 each team participates in a dance-off in the water.

5. Fourth of July Party

What better reason to throw a party than to celebrate our nation’s independence? For this summer fundraising idea, host a BBQ in someone’s yard or a local park and ask your supporters to bring a friend. Charge an entry fee for food and drink and accept donations at the door for anyone who joins in. If you’re hosting in a public space, then make sure to obtain proper permits and task a crew for cleaning up your site.

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. 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

Image of cyclists on shoreline

For these summer fundraising ideas, consider offering different route options to engage multiple skill levels.

Fundraising doesn’t have to be a requirement, but you can encourage participants to raise different amounts before the event by providing various incentives that are “unlocked.” 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 $1000 with fun event perks, like special parking and goodie bags.

Read Next: How the Pelotonia Cycling Event Raises Millions for Cancer Research

8. The County Fair

Reach out to local fair officials to see how you can get in on the festivities. There are many options 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, 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.

ferris wheel at fair fundraiser

9. Disc Golf

Also known as Frisbee golf or Frolf, this increasingly popular sport has new courses opening all over the country. Bring this summer fundraising idea to your own town, use a registration with 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.

Read Next: 16 Free Resources to Organize a 5K Charity Run

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 the food of choice and ask entrees to create personal fundraising pages. Strawberry pie, hot dogs, popsicles…the possibilities are endless.

12. Cornhole Competition

Depending on your location, you may know this backyard game by another name—bags, baggo, beanbags, beanbag toss, chuck-0, corn toss—but today, we’ll call it Cornhole. Cornhole is a great 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).

Check out this post by Cornhole Worldwide for everything you need to create your own Cornhole competition, including a customizable bracket. The competition will be elimination style so that it moves along quickly and those left standing at the end have a crowd of spectators to cheer them on. 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.

child playing cornhole event
Photo Source: Shaw Air Force Base

13. Summer Concert

Work with local venues and musicians to build a lineup and sell tickets. You might offer swag bags to anyone who fundraises $500 or more, or a guitar 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 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, Jurassic Park, and Marvel’s The Avengers.

15.Farmer’s Market Booth

Image of patrons at a farmer's 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 give you a chance to engage with your community face to face. Promote upcoming 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 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 to recruit instructors to lead the exercises. Offer a range of classes and activities and have attendees pay a registration fee in advance as well as registering 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, encouraging openness, and confidence in girls and women.

movemeant foundation event

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 their event is encouraging body-positive feelings and being comfortable in your own skin.

18. Sandcastle Contest

This summer fundraiser 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 coastlines 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 breweries or bars to donate branded merchandise that you can sell at their location. Or, simply ask each location to donate a portion of their day’s profits in exchange for free publicity and a guaranteed rush of patrons.

An additional way to encourage donations at each stop is to have 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

Hikes or camping excursions are great ways to run an event with fewer 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 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 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 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.

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 Clambake

A clambake 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.

clambake table setting
Photo Source: Sally Vargas via Simply Recipes

Even More Fundraising Ideas

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.

For more inspiration, explore these additional posts on fundraising ideas:


This post was originally published in June 2016 and was updated for timeliness and accuracy. 


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