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Young At Heart: 24 Fundraising ideas for youth-focused nonprofits

August 1, 2022
4 minutes

Ahh, sweet memories of our first fundraising forays... Remember when you were just a baby fundraiser and you toted the UNICEF box around at Halloween? Or you sold cookies or wrapping paper? Or your school held a craft fair or bake sale?

We knew those spot-on stewardship skills had to come from somewhere—You've basically been practicing your appeal since preschool! Now it's time to pass the torch to a new generation of youngsters and light that do-gooder fire with a list of young-at-heart fundraising ideas.  

  1. Real-life video game. Choose a popular video game like Roblox or Minecraft and host a pay-per-entry, interaction-heavy event that encourages costuming, vendors, and even roundtable simultaneous gameplay.
  2. Family field trip. Get the whole family in on the fun! Choose a location, any location—water park, historical site, or open field for picnics—load everyone on a bus, and make sure to have permission slips signed!
  3. Field Day festivities. It's all fun and games when you hold a field day. Sell tickets to join individual competitions or just ask for a donation at the door. Make it accessible by eschewing traditional three-legged races for a water balloon toss or spelling bee.
  4. Authority-free figures. Rules, shmules! Give kids the opportunity to go rule-free for a day at school. They can be late to class, "forget" to turn in their homework, or talk loudly in the library!
  5. Virtual history walk. Choose a famous historical walk like the Underground Railroad and break it down into short daily walks. Each day, have kids walk that distance and listen to a recording detailing events related to that section of the journey. Family and community members can sponsor kids for each day they participate.
  6. Bring a kid to work day. Doesn't have to be YOUR kid! Expose youngsters to a new-to-them profession by letting them shadow your work for a day. Then make a donation to the organization of their choice.
  7. Try a new sport. Roller derby, quadball, ultimate frisbee, chess, competitive dominos! Get a local to give an introductory lesson, record the session, and ask community supporters to donate toward expanded access for your sweet youngins.
  8. Cooking class. Learning to make eclairs or mille-feuille sounds like an exercise in anxiety to us, but if a 7th grader were to teach us? ...it would be precious. Much better than our desserts would be, for sure.
  9. Schoolyard Junkyard sale. Like a garage sale, but better because it's at the school. At the end of the school year, there are tons of supplies in the classrooms that just get tossed. If your community allows it, host a sale to get that equipment into hands of people or organizations that need it, and get some money to the school.  
  10. Fix-It Fair. Kids are always breaking things. A Fix-It Fair has a goal to fix things. Seems like an obvious match! Especially if you can connect older folks with handy skills and school-age kids who want to learn how to do stuff themselves.
  11. Fashion show and tell. Who doesn't love a fashion show? Hold a nighttime open house with finger foods, music, and the main event: a fashion show where each model explains their look or brings out an item of interest at the end of the catwalk.
  12. 'zine. Harkening back to days of yore, we loved our 'zines. Printed on plain ol' paper—colored paper if we could swing it—stapled by hand, and full of our angsty brain vomit, they were an accurate reflection of our youth. In stark contrast to the perfection-obsessed Yearbook Committee, a 'zine would be a great grassroots fundraiser.
  13. Class quilt raffle. Purchase a t-shirt for each class member and take a day to decorate the t-shirts to reflect each kid's style. Sew them together into a quilt top and stuff it full, then raffle that bad boy off and bring in wads of money!
  14. Adult prom. Lose the jaded attitudes and get hyped for a night of high school innocent fun. Bring on the band and the punch and chaperones and corsages!
  15. Secret Sweeties. Everyone loves to get mail. Turn your littles into a fundraising mail factory by having people pay to for a handmade card or care package mailed to someone they love.
  16. Academy Awards. Whether your school is an "academy" or not, you can still hold an Academy Awards fundraising event. Glitter and glamour, awards and speeches, all tied together by an entertaining emcee.
  17. School year calendar. Calendars of cute kids are always a bestseller, but they usually run January to December. Kick this calendar into another level by running it through the school year instead, and adding school-related dates and reminders.
  18. Family scavenger hunt. Get families to work together—to bring in donations to your organization! Put together a list of items to find, activities to complete, and photos to send in for a small prize.
  19. Babies and puppies adoption event. There is nothing, NOTHING, cuter than kids and puppies. Get the kids to take pictures with puppies and advertise a joint dog adoption and school or community center event. (Only the puppies are up for adoption!)
  20. Stylish Salon. This one's not for the faint of heart! Set up a group of school-age kids as stylists to give your event attendees pre-gala makeovers—hair, makeup, nails, accessories, shoe shine. Or have smaller kids help attendees decorate a mask for a masquerade party.
  21. Kids Emcee the Gala. Kids can host it all! Plan an event where the school band plays, and kids act as ushers, photographers, and maestros of ceremonies. It'll lend some fun to an otherwise-boring event!
  22. Team hike. Take a hike! Yep, we said it. But seriously, this is a pledge-worthy activity. Break into teams and tackle a hike in successive sections. Earn those pledges!
  23. Night under the stars. Sleepover time! Give the kids exactly what they want: a night with their friends. Host a campout if the weather's good or find a local planetarium if the weather makes camping a no-go.
  24. Kickball tournament. Make your own March Madness! But take it in a new direction with kickball. Break kids into teams and set up brackets with a supercool prize for the tourney winner.

Youth-focused fundraising ideas: FAQs

What are some fundraising ideas for small schools or other places for children?

From babies to kids to young adults, in schools, sports programs, camps, or youth mentoring, fundraising can make a world of difference, one child at a time.

And when it comes to kids, your strongest strength is the kids themselves! It takes a lot of willpower to deny the cuteness of big eyes and a sweet "pwease" plea. So tap into fundraisers that make the most of the adorableness at your fingertips—think family activities, arts and crafts, and swag that draws on that imperfect backwards handwriting that all kids seem to have.

What are some easy fundraising ideas that benefit kids?

Children are a lot of work themselves, so don't overcommit yourself when it comes to the fundraisers themselves. Let the kids shine in family friendly events like reading challenges, science fairs, or handmade craft sales.

P.S. Don't rely on your teachers or school staff to take the lead on fundraisers! They spend all day with your kids; give them a break!

How do you raise money for school, youth organizations, or sports programs?

Recurring, annual events and sales that people can rely on are a great way to raise money for schools, sports programs, camps, or youth mentoring. Because kids progress through grade levels or age-based milestones, they're always looking forward to the next dance, championship, or graduation.

What are some ways for my organization to raise money during COVID?

With COVID surges striking regularly, your fundraising will flourish online or outdoors, especially during scheduled school winter and summer breaks. With a Zoom account and a social media strategy, you can share your efforts even farther and wider than you could IRL.

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