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33 Fundraising Ideas for Schools and Colleges

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By Jess Woloszyn

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Published May 4, 2022 Reading Time: 11 minutes

The list of potential fundraising ideas for schools is massive, like the results when you find one that resonates. We want you to see the impact student fundraising can have even quicker. Below, we made it simpler to sift through the best ideas for your next student charity event, campaign, or fundraiser.

Explore nonprofit fundraising ideas specific to schools, from elementary to high schools, and ideas that are sure to thrive on college campuses.

Fundraising Ideas for Elementary Schools

Let’s start by diving into the best ideas to get little ones involved in fundraising. Explore these safe and fun ways to give elementary school students the chance to express their generosity.

3 young students in class

1. Bake Sale

Gather students and their families to create something delicious. Create a signup list to ensure you have a wide variety of baked goods to sell in exchange for donations. You’ll give students a chance to express themselves through unique recipes and have something for anyone passing by. Make sure to advertise well throughout the school for the best chance at attracting hungry customers.

2. Talent Show

Showcase the talent of each unique student to attract a crowd and boost the visibility of a nonprofit you’re passionate about. Set up a space to host people, or get creative to host it virtually with a set price per ticket sale that helps you achieve your fundraising goal.

Not only do the kids get to express themselves in new ways, but people also get priceless entertainment that they’ll remember for a lifetime. You might just find your most highly-anticipated annual fundraising event if it goes well.

3. Letter Writing

If you’re looking to brighten someone’s day, letter writing is a great fundraising idea for schools to spearhead with younger students. You could write letters to thank volunteers at a specific organization for their time or write to beneficiaries who would love to hear words of encouragement.

Another approach to letter writing could be engaging a class of students to write letters to invite their families and friends to donate to a special cause, explaining the good work it would support.

4. School Supply Drives

One simple way to bring students right into the action is to let them pick out their favorite school supplies to donate to a family or child in need. You can collect everything from pencils to notebooks and unique stickers to contribute to an organization that can distribute them in an impactful way. A school supply drive is a great fundraising idea for the back-to-school season.

5. Magic Show

For this audience of youngsters, auction off some online magic lessons or organize a few volunteers to host a magic show to which you can sell tickets in exchange for donations. You could also hire a magician and increase the fun by inviting students and parents to enjoy the performance together.

6. Ice Cream Night

An ice cream fundraiser is a fun way to get creative and enjoy a classic treat. Host a make-your-own sundae bar with all the fixings at a set price per participant. Another approach is to partner with a local ice cream shop for a fun pop-up stand to attract more supporters.  Split contributions between the cause of your choice and the ice cream provider to make it a worthwhile event for everyone involved.

A few ice cream stores that support fundraisers:

Fundraising Ideas for Middle Schools

As students get a bit older, find new ways to step up the engagement and interactivity of your fundraising ideas to spark new passions for giving back.

Fundraising Ideas for Middle Schools

7. Color Run

It doesn’t get better than running for a good cause through a course full of color. The Color Run is an excellent source of inspiration for schools to recreate with their students. Get each student to fundraise individually and contribute to a larger goal for the chance to win prizes and climb the fundraiser leaderboard.

Fun Fact: You can create the famous color powder that fills the air and turns runners into a colorful masterpiece by simply mixing cornstarch and FDA-approved dye.

8. Dance-a-Thon

Another way to keep students moving and motivated to give back is to host a dance-a-thon. Spin up a great playlist and encourage passionate students to come together to dance for a set period, collecting donations through peer-to-peer fundraising for every hour they stay on their feet. Announce donations as they come in to inspire dancers to keep going and build natural moments for social sharing to spread the word quickly.

9. Partnership With a Local Theme Park or Arcade

Get students excited about a night out at a local arcade, amusement park, bowling alley, roller rink, or other entertainment zones by promoting how the proceeds will benefit a nonprofit cause. It’s a fun way to help students step outside of their schools and enjoy time with their friends and family.

10. Trivia Competition

Similar to a poetry contest, consider putting your students’ memories to the test with a themed trivia competition. Encourage students to form teams and fundraise together leading up to the big night. Ask teachers to come up with a list of trivia questions for your event and motivate them to volunteer to be hosts.

Fundraising Ideas for High Schools

Before college, bring high school students together in a meaningful way around causes that invite them to be a part of something much bigger while keeping them interested in participating.

Fundraising Ideas for High Schools

11. Obstacle Course Event

Tap into that competition element even more with a fun obstacle course to challenge students to rally around an important cause. With each signup, have students recruit their family and friends to donate on their behalf and cheer them on as they navigate the twists and turns you create for them.

12. Community Service Hours for College

Nonprofit organizations are always looking for volunteers. Host a volunteer fair or pair students with local organizations needing support. Exposing high school students to new causes will make it easier for them to complete extended community service hours, bolstering their college applications and strengthening their connection to meaningful causes.

13. Pancake Breakfasts

Partner with a local restaurant or take over your school’s kitchen with student volunteers to make and serve pancakes at a set price per plate. Encourage them to tell their families and friends about the tangible benefits of each ticket sale to motivate participation. Pair that with a nice cup of coffee, and you’re in business.

Some restaurants participating in pancake fundraisers include:

14. School Clothing Sales

School pride presents an excellent fundraising opportunity. Capitalize on the sentimental value of clothing representing high schoolers’ last stop before college. Consider selling school hats, jackets, shirts, scarves, socks, and more at sports events throughout the year. Another way to attract customers is through a physical merchandise catalog. Entice more sales by making it known that a percentage of sales will benefit a cause that impacts your local community.

15. Beach Day

As the end of the year approaches, there’s no better way to kick off summer than with a good beach day. Invite students to miss classes for a day in exchange for a donation. Increase the impact by offering an additional option to dedicate their time to a beach cleanup.

Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Schools

Learning on the go is an unexpected perk of remote learning environments. We can’t forget virtual fundraising ideas to help you engage students both near and far.

Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Schools

16. Virtual Races

There are so many ways to host a charity race online to bring in support from entirely new networks of donors. Give students the freedom to choose where they’ll race and invite family and friends from all over the world to join in the fun. Virtual event software makes it easier to create consistency for anyone who’d like to participate.

17. Viral Video Challenges

We’ve already seen how trends take off on TikTok and Instagram Reels to boost views. Video challenges can be an exciting and cost-free way to get the word out about a cause and engage students to participate from anywhere. Create a challenge related to the reason you identified, such as doing 10 pushups in 30 seconds to support local firefighters or juggling fruit to a trending song to help  a local food bank. Have participants record themselves completing the challenge and tag others to do the same.

Include specific caption copy and hashtags that bring awareness to your supporting cause. Don’t forget to include a donation link to inspire immediate action.

18. Twitch Livestream Event

Head over to Twitch to livestream a gaming tournament, cooking class, music performance, or another live event to raise money for a charitable cause. Twitch is a great tool to unlock the power of community online and reach more people.

Fundraising Ideas for College Students

When students mature into college, the world of fundraising opens up to include more significant ideas that foster deeper connections among groups and organizations.

Fundraising Ideas for College Students

19. Short Poetry Contest

A no-cost high-reward fundraising idea for colleges is a short poetry contest. Have students sign up to read an original poem to an audience of people who vote for favorites. It’s a great way to boost confidence and unlock hidden talent.

20. Device Drive

Especially after schools purchase new tech to accommodate remote learning in 2020, there may be an opportunity to collect unused devices to benefit those in need. Host a device drive to gather electronics and donate them to a local library, business, or healthcare facility to provide patients with a distraction that keeps them entertained.  As schools return to in-person learning, now is the time to put a plan to gather everything from Bluetooth headphones to laptops and more.

21. Tie-dye Event

Tie-dye made a comeback at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic when everyone was looking for a fun activity to fill their time. It’s a trend that never goes out of style and a cool way to bring high school students together for a ticketed event that benefits a good cause.

Sell tickets to students and their friends to reserve their spot and cover the cost of supplies. Suppose you want to keep registration costs as low as possible. In that case, you can ask staff members to donate supplies like dye, light-colored clothing, gloves, and rubber bands.

22. Outdoor Movie Premier

It’s easier than ever to access fresh content with today’s streaming services. Find a large lawn or local park on campus, set up an outdoor projector, and layout some blankets or chairs for attendees to relax in. Invite students to come together and pay admission to watch a new release or classic film while supporting an important charitable cause. You can even throw in popcorn sales and refreshment packages to boost fundraising dollars.

23. Pet Therapy Room

There is nothing like the calming nature of an animal, which makes pet therapy a thoughtful way to ease stress and anxiety on campus. Especially for animal-related or mental health charities, hosting a room of friendly animals available to play with for an hour at a set price will pull in supporters.

To arrange a pet therapy room, you can reach out to a local shelter or pet therapy organization. This one’s a great idea around finals or other high-stress milestones throughout the year where a release right on campus seems priceless (plus the animals get some love too).

Fundraising Ideas for College Sports Teams

Sports teams have a unique opportunity to tie their competitive spirit and engaged fans into a fundraising machine for good.

Fundraising Ideas for College Sports Teams

24. 5K Race

Get competitive with a 5K race near campus. Instead of charging for participation, encourage each runner to commit to a fundraising goal. Simplifying registration will allow anyone who wants to participate to easily engage their family and friends, which helps you reach people outside your campus walls. Reach more donors and make the event accessible to more participants all at the same time.

25. Tournaments

In the same vein as a 5K, a tournament that doesn’t necessarily rule people out based on athletic ability. Have fun with a frisbee throwing tournament, a tremendous bowling challenge, or even a Jeopardy-style knowledge tournament. You can have teams compete to raise the most.

26. Partner With Local Businesses

Every campus has a hot spot where students go to grab a bite, hang out, or meet up. That makes partnering with local businesses a powerful strategy to reach students and raise money for a cause your team is passionate about.

Start by agreeing on which portion of the proceeds from a particular day will be donated. Brainstorm how you’ll spread the word leading up to the event. You’ll be collecting donations from a transaction students already love while simultaneously boosting brand awareness for the business with every new customer your fundraiser brings through their door.

17. Host a Giveaway

Get your fans involved firsthand by sharing a nonprofit that means a lot to your team, then offer a season pass to games or team merchandise to the donor who raises the most for that cause. Set participants up with a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign that makes it easy to call on their inner circles for support and see who’s making the leader board each week.

Fraternity or Sorority Philanthropy Ideas

Philanthropy is a pillar of Greek life, so check out these fun approaches to your next sorority or fraternity event on campus.

four people talking

28. Ticketed Fashion Show

Partner with student designers or a local boutique to host a fashion show. Have students model their clothing or accessories to boost brand awareness and charge a set amount for tickets to attend. A great playlist, food and drink vendors, and some social media buzz can get people excited to participate for a night away from studying.

29. Hold a “Win-a-Date” Auction

Get ready for the laughs and maybe even a love connection with a “win-a-date” event. Partner with another fraternity or sorority to put together a ticketed auction for potential dates with a roster of eligible individuals.

These usually ask each eligible individual to get up on stage and share their personal interests and proposal for a date. Then, the audience is welcome to bid on that date until you have a winner. The more diversity you get in your lineup of potential people to go on a date with, the more money you can raise.

30. Late-Night Food Delivery

Between studying late and ending a night of fun at an hour when most food facilities aren’t open, a late-night food delivery fundraiser could be your ticket to raise significant donations.

Choose to make a massive batch of grilled cheese, waffles, and baked goods, or take the simple route with some snack packs. Advertise late-night delivery to students in dorms or nearby housing for a set price. The service cost adds a value that you can charge more for, and any associated tips contribute to your fundraising goals.

31. Coffee Shop Pop Up

Gather all the fun add-ins to create your signature coffee bar on campus or at a local college event to raise money for a cause you care about. Get creative with a special menu that pulls in customers who want to try something new in their morning routine. Social media is a perfect avenue to showcase your creations and get the word out.

32. Greek Life Carnival

Partner with other greek life organizations at your college or university to host a carnival. Have each organization build a booth, game, or activity to lighten the load and build a fun event for people to attend. The best part is that more organizations come together as a community.

You can choose a single cause to allocate ticket and participation revenue to or disburse the funds evenly between set philanthropic organizations tied to each greek life organization. Consider hosting a small competition to see which organization can bring in the most attendees to benefit everyone in the end.

33. Alumni Night

Invite proud alumni to return to their alma mater to see what’s new. Make them feel special with an alumni night for graduates within your fraternity or sorority and their families. You could host a dinner, a brunch, or a gala-type event at a ticketed price that helps them give back to a cause they once were highly involved in themselves.

Bring Fundraising Ideas for Schools to Life With Tech

You likely have one or two ideas you’re most excited to execute. Before you plan, consider how you can bring your next fundraising event to life with tech that simplifies the process.

Spin up a great playlist and encourage passionate students to come together to dance for a set period, collecting donations through a peer-to-peer fundraising platform for every hour they stay on their feet. A Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Platforms

Make it easy to set up a more extensive fundraising campaign for your idea and manage donations with ease through:

  • Customizable and mobile-responsive individual fundraising pages
  • Simple social sharing to attract other students
  • A leaderboard to bring the fun and motivation of competition
  • Automated thank you emails to those who make it possible

Campaign Templates

Once you find what works, repeat the campaign across schools or annually with a template that unlocks:

  • Consistent branding across campaigns
  • Time savings each time a new campaign needs to go live
  • The ability to streamline changes across multiple campaigns at once

Hybrid, Virtual, or In-Person Event Platform

Turn ticket-based fundraising ideas into seamless events fit for any audience through:

  • A simple registration process
  • Silent auctions and mobile bidding
  • Text-to-donate functionality
  • A live fundraising thermometer to engage students

Modern Checkout Experience 

Include these payment options to avoid losing out on fundraising dollars:

  • Venmo transactions
  • PayPal transactions
  • Digital wallets like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Microsoft Pay
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Make Checkout a Breeze with Modern Payment Options

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