12 Fall Fundraising Ideas Inspired by the Back-to-School Season

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By Robert Carnes
mother and daughter searching fall fundraising ideas on laptop
Published September 23, 2021
Reading Time: 7 minutes

A change in season means new fundraising opportunities for your nonprofit. Springsummerwinter, and fall each open the door to unique occasions and celebrations. Even football season comes with its own set of activities.

Fall is an advantageous time for nonprofits because students are heading back to school. This provides a chance for your organization to rally supporters around your cause in new ways. Increase donations and expand your reach this back-to-school season with these fall fundraising ideas.

1. Host a Homecoming Event

To capitalize on the natural energy that comes with the start of a new school year, host a homecoming event to kick off the fall season.

Many schools plan similar events, so partner with these institutions to boost your fundraising. You could ask that a portion of homecoming football game tickets go toward your nonprofit, or you could organize a virtual tailgate event to raise money creatively and safely.

Coordinate with the school’s football team or marching band to mobilize the students to get involved. Meet with team representatives, listen to their ideas, provide them with your professional expertise, and make decisions on how your homecoming event will look.

Take your homecoming fundraiser to the next level by pitting multiple schools against one another to see who can raise the most money—similar to the Food Bank For New York City’s 5 Borough Challenge.

​2. Throw a Back-to-School Night Party

Finish summer vacation with an exclamation point by hosting a back-to-school bonanza event. Combine the fun of summer break into one last hurrah with something as simple as an outdoor movie, or as extravagant as an inflatable obstacle course and carnival games.

Partner with local organizations to offset the costs and stay within your budget. Ask local businesses to sponsor your activities or provide snacks for your movie night. Recruit volunteers to run each area and encourage them to spread the word about your event in the weeks leading up.

3. Partner With Local Businesses

man and woman shopping at a clothing store

Fall is an opportune time for local businesses to drive sales and attract new customers. Partnering with a nonprofit like yours is a great way for them to grow awareness and generate positive publicity.

Find local stores to partner with, like restaurants or clothing boutiques, that would agree to give a portion of their proceeds from a particular day or weekend back to your organization. These partnerships draw in more foot traffic for the store, helping to support their business goals, while also demonstrating to the community that they are aligned with your mission.

Promote your partnership to boost exposure. This could mean announcing the details on social media or posting flyers around college campuses and local schools to spread the word. Be sure to include the event details in your newsletter, and don’t be afraid to send out a targeted email a few days before to remind donors of the date, time, and location.

​4. Arrange a Campus Pop-Up Coffee Shop

College students are no stranger to caffeine. Set up a simple pop-up coffee shop on campus to attract new donors, boost visibility, and help students survive their early morning lectures.

Communicate with the college administration before you set up shop. Assuming they’re supportive of your cause, they might even be willing to help spread the word about your charitable coffee.

Promote your coffee shop on social media, since that’s where the college-age demographic looks to for news and notifications. Tag the college you’re partnering with and use a few applicable hashtags to increase the chances you’ll pop up on the students’ radar.

4. Organize a Run or Walk Event

Charity run and walk events are some of the most common and successful fundraisers for nonprofits across the country. They give supporters the opportunity to challenge themselves and work toward a physical goal while simultaneously supporting a cause they care about.

Remind people that they can engage at any level they feel comfortable with. Make your event equally accessible to everyone, from experienced runners to those who prefer to leisurely participate, to open the event up to a larger audience.

Partner with local schools to make these events even more successful. Look into hosting the event at a local school’s track or football venue. Consider partnering with a school’s cross country team to help raise awareness and potentially volunteer at the race to encourage attendees—after all, they know a few things about running.

5. Coordinate a Group Hike

group hike

Racing isn’t for everyone. Give these folks another way to support your cause by organizing a hiking excursion centered around fundraising. The fall is a particularly great time of year to get into the woods.

Find a local patch of wilderness in a nearby park or mountain trail. Connect with the park authorities to ensure the safety of your participants, then map out a path to explore. You can coordinate a group hike for local supporters, or invite supporters from across the country to hike virtually at a trail in their area. To raise more, encourage hikers to secure a pledge per mile they hike or collect donations through a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign leading up to the event. 

Make-A-Wish’s Trailblaze Challenge is a great example of how a nonprofit is leveraging these outdoor endurance events. Several of their local chapters host Trailblaze Challenges during the fall season. These hikes are in excess of twenty miles, and they energize outdoor enthusiasts to participate year after year.

6. Launch a DIY Peer-To-Peer Fundraising Campaign

Tap into the creativity of local students to build their own peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

DIY fundraising (sometimes called evergreen fundraising) is essentially peer-to-peer online donation campaigns that can last all year long. The goal is to allow supporters to create their own theme for a donor event, whether that’s a birthday, a wedding, or a sporting event.

Encourage them to form fundraising teams among the different clubs and sports to fuel a sense of healthy competition. A key to this is providing each team with an easy-to-follow fundraising toolkit to ensure they can spend more time fundraising and less time worrying about the administrative and technical aspects of collecting donations.

Livestrong provides a good example of this with their DIY fundraising page. They offer ideas for how to rally donors, like celebrating a milestone, hosting an athletic event, or throwing a party.

7. Set Up a Rivalry Competition

Fundraising competitions don’t have to happen within just one individual school. Your nonprofit can capitalize on the power of school rivalries by challenging neighboring students to compete against one another to see who can raise the most money in a set time period.

Besides bragging rights, be sure to come up with an incentive for the winning school. This could be something simple, like a free pizza lunch, but it will have more impact if it relates specifically to your organization.

Duke and North Carolina’s school newspapers organized a similar fundraiser to tap into their heated rivalry on the basketball court, but channeled this competitiveness for good.

​8. Partner With Philanthropy Groups

volunteer picking up trash

Many academic clubs and organizations are required to have a charity partner that they fundraise for during the year. In colleges, most fraternities and sororities have a particular organization they support. In high schools, leadership clubs like Key Club, National Honor Society, or National Beta Club typically do the same.

In addition to fundraising, many of these groups also require their members to have a certain number of annual volunteer hours. Take advantage of this opportunity by connecting with schools to increase the visibility of your cause and potentially form a partnership with a particular club, or begin promoting volunteer opportunities that a younger audience would likely find enjoyable.

Nurture the relationships with these volunteers to steward them into lifelong supporters, and encourage them to spread the word about your organization to their fellow club members and students.

9. Hold a Dress Down Day

Dress Down Day fundraisers allow students and teachers who are typically required to wear school uniforms to dress casually on a specific day when they donate or fundraise on behalf of your organization. To make the most of this experience, you’ll need to work directly with the administrative office at schools with designated dress codes.

These campaigns work well especially because they create instant FOMO. Students can see which of their peers gave to your cause (and which didn’t), motivating them to get involved next time.

​​10. Put on a Trivia Night

A contest of knowledge only seems fitting for an educational environment. Your trivia night could be organized at a school or local restaurant and involve as many members of the community as you’d like.

Competitors pay a set fee to enter the trivia tournament, which can either be used in part as the prize money for the winning team or individual or put toward your organization’s fundraising goal. If you choose the latter, you could offer another incentive to the winner, like tickets to a school athletic event or premium parking for students.

Pull together some fun trivia questions, possibly including some questions related to your organization or cause.

Pro Tip: Reuse these questions in your online marketing to engage supporters, especially on social media.

11. Arrange a Scavenger Hunt

kids at school looking at toys

Create a list of school-related items for students to track down, like highlighters, rubber erasers, or even an apple. Host a school-wide competition to see who can track down every item on the list the fastest.

You could even host the contest virtually, requiring students to snap photos of their finds and submit them on a designated page or share on social media with a particular hashtag.

If you’re an education-related charity, invite the students to donate the collected items as in-kind gifts.

12. Sponsor a Pep Rally

Get in touch with local schools about potentially sponsoring a pep rally for the upcoming sports season.

Ride the wave of school spirit by pitting the classes against one another to see who can raise the most money. The numbers can be tallied up and announced at the event.

Cap this off by sending a representative—staff member, volunteer, or a beneficiary of your organization—to speak at the rally. This is also a great way to build brand awareness among the students and teachers.

Get Started With These Fall Fundraising Ideas

There are nearly endless ways to fundraise during the fall season. Capitalize on the momentum of students returning to school to help you elevate your cause, increase brand awareness, and expand your reach. Pick a few of these fall fundraising ideas to try out and learn which ones you want to recreate year after year.

Posted in Fundraising

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