You’ve tried it all: social media vacations, daily meditation, waking up with the sun, and drinking a new tea every day. You’ve also tried eating all the chocolate, binge-watching Love Is Blind, and treating yourself to a mani-pedi even though it’s a Tuesday. Nothing helps—you still feel glum. The fact is times are stressful. We live in a complex world, and we’re plugged into every disquieting update and ominous headline, every hour of every day.
We don’t have a solution (maybe try eating even more chocolate?), but we thought this might be the perfect occasion to discuss feel-good fundraisers! These are fundraisers that will put a smile on everyone’s face. When your supporters open their email, they won’t massage their temples and groan, “Not another fundraiser!” Instead, they’ll smile and say, “Plans for Friday aaand it’s cheaper than therapy? Hurray!”
So take a deep breath and consider hosting some fundraisers that will make your supporters whistle a happy tune, forget their troubles, and, hopefully, feel a little extra generous.
Upbeat animal fundraisers
Whether you’re a cat, dog, or moose person, interacting with an animal friend has been proven to decrease cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and improve your mood. That makes animal-centric fundraisers a great jumping-off point if you’re looking for feel-good fundraising ideas. Let’s pop an allergy pill and grab some milk bones!
1. Adorable animal yoga
We had to lead with this. After all, it’s a classic of the feel-good event genre. Attendees get those yoga-licious endorphins bolstered by the squee-ability of being surrounded by the cutest critters. Find a yoga teacher to volunteer their time, then partner with a local farm, animal shelter, or your buddy with eight cats for the furry friends. Goats, puppies, lizards, or guinea pigs—as long as they don’t bite, they can animal yoga.
2. Puppy photobooth
Everyone loves a photobooth, and adding some animal companions only makes it better. You provide the photobooth, props, and puppies to make your supporters’ photos go viral. No puppies available? Alpacas also make excellent photobooth companions and look quite dapper in a hat.
3. Oktoberfest dachshund dash
Watching dogs race? Cute. Watching very squat wiener dogs attempt to race? Remarkable. All you really need is some treat-motivated dachshunds—or any other short-legged, adorably clumsy pooches. To make it a true Oktoberfest celebration, take over a park or a parking lot, sell veggie dogs and beer, and get ready for a perfect afternoon. If you can get your hands on doggie lederhosen or dirndls, get ready for fundraising glory.
This is one peer-to-peer fundraiser that’s sure to warm hearts and bodies. And no, we’re not suggesting you ask your supporters to cuddle their entire social network. Instead, the fundraisers are your supporters’ pets, and they set up P2P fundraising pages with the donation incentive being pet cuddles. Donors give money to pet, cradle, shnoogle, or otherwise interact with a pet; pet parents choose the day it all happens—maybe your nonprofit hosts a cuddle party, or maybe it happens on an individual basis. Just make sure all the pets consent—especially the cats!
Positive peer-to-peer fundraisers
People are meant to be around other people, so fundraisers that bring folks together and foster a sense of community top our feel-good fundraising list. Happily, peer-to-peer fundraising is a perfect fit for that human need for companionship! It’s profitable and personable, generating revenue for your organization and empowering your supporters to connect with their network for a good cause. Plus, it grows your nonprofit community, bringing new donors into the fold—and bringing you greater joy, too.
5. Spring walk-a-thon
Walk-a-thons are a classic P2P fundraiser for a reason—they’re fun, they build community, and they get everyone outside and moving. Spring is our favorite walk-a-thon season because the flowers are blooming and the weather is brisk but beautiful. Add to the fun by providing your fundraisers with lemonade and light snacks. If you want to make things a bit more entertaining for the spectators, ask everyone to wear their fanciest hat.
For those who prefer to stretch their fingers instead of their legs, an art-a-thon is ideal. Just like a walk-a-thon, supporters raise money from their friends and family—but this time, they’re unleashing their inner artist rather than their inner athlete. Maybe everyone’s participating in a sponsored communal mural for 10 hours. Alternately, each fundraiser could choose their own art project, post a photo on social media with your campaign’s hashtag, and tag 10 other folks to participate. Either way, it’s great motivation for aspiring artists and a great source of funds for your nonprofit.
7. D&D night
Games are fun, and nerding out is even funner. Chances are most of your supporters have never indulged their inner child in a rousing round of Dungeons & Dragons. Luckily, you can help with that. You provide the dungeon master; your supporters secure the donations to fund their epic introduction into the world of D&D. Perhaps you reward the ones with the most donations with extra-high-quality armor or an invisibility cloak. Who knows, you may end up with a regular game night fundraiser!
8. Give in, don’t give up
We've all heard about fundraising challenges that reward folks for giving up sugar, caffeine, wine, or cheese. But during trying times, giving up things that bring us joy often backfires by making us sad. Why not host a peer-to-peer fundraiser that embraces slightly less-healthy habits? Supporters who love coffee collect pledges in exchange for visiting a new coffee shop every day for a month, while cake-lovers bake a different cake each week.
Exuberant outdoor fundraisers
Getting some fresh air is one of the best mood-boosters out there, so it stands to reason that taking your fundraisers outdoors will clear your supporters’ minds and lift their spirits. Here are some creative, no-walls-allowed fundraising ideas.
9. Fairy garden building workshop
Invite supporters young and old to get in touch with their inner child by hosting a fairy garden workshop. Meet somewhere with lots of trees and provide plenty of natural materials to build a fairy village. Make sure all your supplies are eco-friendly and biodegradable—fairies are allergic to plastic!
10. Foraging walk
From dandelion greens to fiddlehead ferns, you’d be surprised how many edible ingredients grow right in your neighborhood! Hire a foraging expert to lead supporters on a foraging walk. Then, send everyone home with recipes to use their bounty.
11. Stargazing and s’mores
Instead of another night around ye olde television, invite families to an evening outdoors, with s’mores, hot chocolate, and stargazing. Encourage everyone to share their best stories for the group and turn off their phones (or turn on a stargazing app). As long as you have plenty of blankets and plenty of treats, your event will leave everyone starry-eyed.
12. Farmer’s market tour
Partner with a local farmer’s market by having a volunteer give donors an inside look at the market before it opens. Have each farmer give a brief introduction, share unusual ingredients, and then end the tour with a local cooking demonstration and coffees all around. If your nonprofit’s cause is related to food access or the environment, this fundraiser can also provide a great learning opportunity.
13. Plant sale
Sure, being in nature is good for us, but bringing nature indoors also gives your mood a boost! Ask local nurseries and your supporters to donate plants. Then, hold a potting event outdoors with a plant sale later in the day.
14. Gulliver's Golf fundraiser
Is the golf mini or are your donors giants? Show your supporters that they'll always have a huge place in your heart by hosting a giant golf fundraiser. Yes, it'll be at a mini-golf course, but with a little perspective shift and imagination, your donors can be big and give big.
Cheery foodie fundraisers
Now, we’re not saying you should eat your feelings like we do—but desperate times call for extra deliciousness. Everyone gets pumped over food-centric fundraisers, so here are a few new ideas to add to your gourmet repertoire.
15. Dessert potluck
Nothing brings folks together like a potluck, and nothing makes folks happier than dessert! Combine the two for a sweet evening of community—literally. Guests pay a suggested donation and bring a dessert (or three) to share. You could also ask everyone to bring recipe cards, available for $1 each. Be sure to provide coffee to delay the inevitable sugar crash!
16. Brunch crawl
We can all agree that brunch is pretty much the greatest. How can you make it even better? More brunch, of course! Organize a brunch crawl, with different local restaurants and bars serving small bites and drinks. Participants walk from one spot to the next, sampling delectable dishes. Ask a charismatic host—maybe a local comic or drag queen—to lead brunch-goers from one location to the next while keeping them entertained.
17. Infused foods class
18. Cannabis-infused foods class
If it’s legal where you are, you can host a cannabis-infused foods class! We have a feeling everyone will be in a really (reaalllyyy) good mood afterwards. Don’t forget to make a very chill playlist in advance.
19. Blind-tasting bingo
Everyone gets a bingo card and a blindfold. Then, each participant tries a variety of bites and tries to identify the main ingredient in what they’re eating, check them off on their card as they go. The first one to get four in a row wins—but if anyone falsely identifies a food, it’s on to the next round. You’d be surprised at how difficult it is to identify a potato when you can’t see it!
Optimistic at-home fundraisers
If we’ve learned anything over the pandemic, it’s how to be calm and content at home. For those who are homebodies—or need an excuse to stay in for an afternoon—here are some sure-fire ways to raise funds and raise spirits from the comfort of home.
20. Hygge kits
Hygge, the Danish term for that warm-and-fuzzy feeling you get from being at home, snug as a bug in a rug, is something we should all aspire to. For this fundraiser, sell hygge kits, carefully curated to cultivate coziness. You might include candles, a great book, tea bags, a simple mug, and a small plant.
21. Organizing party
Maybe we’re just old, but few things can beat the joy of a perfectly organized shelf. Get yourself an organizing expert—there’s sure to be one on your board or among your volunteers—and host an at-home workshop on how to organize closets, counters, and drawers. You provide the Martinelli’s and prosecco; your supporters provide the photos on social media of their spick-and-span spaces afterward.
22. Custom recipe exchange
What can you do with mashed potatoes, half a cucumber, and five cans of low-sodium beans? We have no idea, but a chef might know! Partner with a local cooking school (unless you know a retired chef who wants to donate their time) to provide bespoke leftover recipes to your supporters. For a fee, they send a list of all their unwanted leftovers and unused pantry ingredients; within 48 hours, a student-chef sends a few recipe ideas to save the day. You could also sell a PDF of all the recipes to raise extra funds. Expired food? Depressing. Inspired food? Thrilling!
Feel-good fundraisers: Key takeaways
- Fundraising isn’t just about generating revenue; it’s also about building awareness of your organization and fostering a happy, committed community.
- To make supporters want to attend your fundraising events, focus on creating a unique experience that taps into people’s hobbies and interests.
- Peer-to-peer fundraising is a great way to raise extra funds, build community, and grow your donor base.