100+ Easy & Cheap Fundraising Ideas (+ Free Fundraising Ideas)

July 6, 2023
12 minutes
Red coins with wings fly across a green sky with pink clouds. We can't tell if they're attacking or coming to the rescue.

A lot of us have grand fundraising aspirations. A masked gala. A murder mystery dinner cruise. A labradoodle silent auction. But while these prodigious fundraising ideas may bring in mucho moolah, they'll also cost your nonprofit quite a bit of change. Instead, why not focus on cheap fundraising ideas? You'll raise some much-needed funds, and you won't have to sell all your old beanie babies (wait, is that a great fundraising idea? We'll get back to you). If you're convinced, read on for fundraising ideas that won't break the bank.

The 68 best cheap fundraising ideas

Today only,* we're sharing our best cheap-and-cheerful fundraising ideas. Check ‘em out—they're cheap at twice the price.

*Okay, okay, these ideas will last all week. And maybe all year. And probably well beyond that. But still, you should jump on them ASAP!

Our favorite cheap fundraising ideas

Looking for a deal? Or maybe a steal? We're kicking things off with a few of our favorite cheap fundraising ideas.

1. Change drive to drive change

Every penny counts, so start collecting those coins with a change drive. Gather volunteers to decorate donation jars; then, distribute them at local businesses, asking shop owners to encourage customers to donate their change. You'd be surprised how quickly a few quarters can add up!

2. Spend-nothing challenge

This fundraiser saves you money and doesn't cost your supporters an extra cent—technically speaking. Ask your supporters to spend no money for one whole day. That means no grande soy lattes, no grocery runs, and no artisanal bath salts (it's hard, we know). Instead, ask them to give whatever they would have spent to your nonprofit organization. Gamify the experience by issuing a double-or-nothing challenge: if they do spend money, they donate double that amount of money for charity!

3. Pet rock adoption

Once, they were all the rage. Now, they've been forgotten. Well, no more! Gather a bunch of rocks. Write up a little adoption card for each one with their name and interests. Hold an adoption event. If any rocks don't get adopted, please, please don't send them to a farm upstate.

4. Li'l Sebastian impersonator

Remember the Harvest Festival in Parks and Rec? Yeah, those were the days. Hosting your own Harvest Fest would cost a pretty penny, but you can capture the magic by hiring a tiny horse to woo your donors. If he's lucky enough to look like Pawnee's prized pony, Li'l Sebastian, your investment will pay off big.

Cheap fundraising ideas for 2023 (new!)

It's 2023, and the more things change, the more we want to live in a blanket fort forever. Since that's not possible, let's check out some shiny new cheap fundraising ideas for 2023, including a few easy food fundraising ideas!

5. Build-a-butter-board

Charcuterie boards are so passe; instead, the people want butter boards, all smeared with fresh-cream dairy and dotted with herbs and edible flowers. Have folks BYOB (that second “B” is for “butter”) and teach them to become TikTok stars.

Bonus Butter Brainstorm! Making butter is super duper easy and a great project for kids. Support your local dairy and cottage bakery by inviting them to sell their wares and encouraging supporters to shake, whip, and wash their own butter and then chow down on that creamy magic with fresh bread.

6. Rice fest

International relations have been complex in 2023, but one thing countries all over the world can agree on is that rice is delicious—and cheap! So, have a big ol' potluck of rice dishes from across the globe, from jollof to paella.

7. Taylor Swift's Eras tour

Didn't get tickets to the Eras tour? Join the tear-stained club. In time such as these, we suggest having your own Tay-Tay fundraising event. Curate a playlist, and break out your old American Girl doll to do an Eras-esque show, setting up a tiny stage and swapping costumes throughout the night. Too creepy? Make popcorn, turn out the lights at the local high school gym, and turn the volume up to 11.

8. Avocadon't toast

It's 2023, and everything is expensive! Why blame tax loopholes for billionaires when you can blame everyone's penchant for $12 avocado toast? That's why we're proposing avocadon't toast: an event showcasing many a toast, none of which are topped with avocado. Try ricotta with peaches or hummus with chili flakes, ya big spender!

9. Tanghulu

Yet another food-based fundraiser! You'd think the increasing price of food would steer us in another direction, but it seems that people like eating (and that previously noted price increase just makes it more difficult!) Tanghulu is just sugar, water, and fruit—it doesn't get easier than that! Make your tanghulu in advance or set up a kitchen station and deliver fruity creations to order!

Bonus idea: If you're involved in a brunch fundraiser, set up an attended tanghulu station in place of the chocolate fountain! You'll still have fruit and fun, with less mess and stress.

Cheap fundraising ideas for 2024 (even newer!)

“Those ideas were cool, but I'm really tired of hearing about ChatGPT, and I need the Writer's Strike to be over so I can find out what happens on Severance!” you exclaim. “I need cheap fundraising ideas for the future.” You ask, we answer. Here are our best new-fashioned fundraising ideas for the world of tomorrow.

10. Total eclipse of the sun

For the most part, the future is a big ol' question mark, but thanks to astronomers, we know there will be a total solar eclipse on April 8, 2024. According to almanac.com, it will be “the most watched celestial event in our lifetime.” Order some custom eclipse glasses and host a watch party in your local park.

11. Cyborg body part swap

We don't know what 2024 will bring, so maybe we'll all be cyborgs! If so, it'd be fun to host a fundraiser where everyone can borrow each other's mechanical limbs for a day or two.

12. Taylor Swift's international Eras tour

The domestic tour may be over, but 2024 is bringing us the international Eras tour! Huzzah. And maybe by 2024, you'll be able to get your hands on a Tay-Tay hologram? We're just spitballing here.

Easy & cheap fundraising ideas

So you're short on cash and short on time—welcome to the world of nonprofits, friend. We see you, and we've got plenty of cheap aaaand easy fundraising ideas. Put away that credit card and set a timer for 15 minutes—you can do this!

13. Puppy kissing booth

For a donation, lucky folks get to smear some organic PB on their face and let adorable doggos lick them. You can include a kitten cameo, but make sure everyone signs a waiver first—sometimes, a scratch is a lot like love.

14. Singles swap

Whoops, that came across a little more risqué than expected! Though technically setting singles up makes for cheap and easy fundraisers. Aaaannyway, we meant a clothing swap, but everyone only brings their single pieces of clothing—a lonely sock, a solitary boot, or a solo glove. “Why?” you ask. The right question is “Why not?”

15. Chick naming contest

Adopt some chicks (you can get the boys for free, and if you don't know why, we're not explaining it to you #childhoodtrauma) and host a fundraising contest to name them. Winners get to take home their li'l Chicken McBuckfaces.

…wait, did we get confused with the easy no cost fundraising ideas thing? Cheep cheep!

Also: difficult & expensive fundraising ideas

Now that you're well rested with a full coffer, you're probably thinking, “Those ideas were so cheap and easy! I'm ready for difficult and expensive.” Of course you are! Here are our top incredibly challenging and ridiculously overpriced fundraising ideas.

16. Truffle charity auction

You'll need a trained truffle dog or pig to hunt for the truffles, most of which are in far-flung locations around the globe. Then, you'll need a really good lawyer to bail you out when you try to smuggle the truffles back home. Yeah, it's a ton of effort, but have you ever had truffle mashed potatoes? #worthit

17. Fundraising cruise

Don't you just hate it when donors leave your event early? Well, we've got a solution. Host a fundraising cruise! Three days of charity auctions, three nights of galas, and no one gets to leave. Par-tay!

Cheap twists on trending fundraising ideas

We love a bake sale or trivia night, but also … it's been done. And since nonprofiteers are all magical unique snowflake revolutionaries, we think you deserve something new. Something different. Something extraordinary. (But also, something that's still easy and cheap.)

18. Hybrid baked goods sale

We all love a cronut or a brookie, but you can take it a step further. Assign each would-be baker 2-3 different desserts. Then, leave it to them to mix up a new taste sensation. We'd pay a small fortune for a cannolimisu (it's a cannoli-tiramisu hybrid) or a brûlée'd churro.

19. Movie trailer-a-thon

Who has the attention span to sit through one movie, let alone three or four? Host an event for our no-attention-span times with a movie trailer-a-thon. All you need is a YouTube account. Line ‘em up and get watching. Perhaps pause after each one so everyone can yell whether they want to see it or not.

20. Yard sale trivia night

If you're bored of the same old fundraisers, why not combine them for something new and exciting? For example, a yard sale in the dark, and you have to answer a trivia question about each item before you can buy it. Get it wrong and donate an extra 10%. Don't forget the flashlights, and don't forget to deliver leftover items to the recycling center!

Unique cheap fundraising ideas

Want to break free from the trends and step out of the shadows? Here are a couple of truly avant-garde fundraising ideas.

21. Toe wrestling contest

It's a thumb wrestling contest but with toes. Make it fancy (but keep it cheap!) by offering pre- and post-fight DIY pedicures. Toe-tally unique, huh?

22. Cheese stick Jenga

Stack those cheese sticks, then pull one out at a time to build your cheese empire ever taller, until it all comes crashing down. You could try cucumber Jenga, French fry Jenga, or carrot stick Jenga. Don't forget to take lots of pictures!

23. Opposite Day

On Opposite Day, you do the donating …Unless your donors break the rules. Set up some random rules and hold donors who sign up accountable. If they make it through the day as goody-two-shoes rule followers, you'll donate to the nonprofit of their choice. If not, they've got to pony up.

Cheap fundraising ideas for schools

If you're looking for quick fundraising ideas for schools, you probably don't have the funds for a live production of High School Musical or a Sixteen Candles-themed gala. Close the wallet, step back, and try your hand at these cheap fundraising ideas for schools.

24. Art sale

Selling kids' art is a surefire way to raise funds out of your school gym—and the only cost is the art supplies. You can ask the art teacher to host a one-day workshop for each class; then, have an opening night party during which you display all the art in the gymnasium. This is one fundraiser that's sure to sell out. After all, parents have to buy their children's art or else they'll be paying therapy bills forever!

25. Historic tour

Get a volunteer from a local museum or historic site to give kids and caretakers a tour of the town in exchange for a donation. Maybe they'll even wear an historically accurate costume!

26. Marathon ask-a-thon

The best cheap fundraising idea for schools is to have kids ask, repeatedly, in their most annoying voice, “Please? Please? Now? Now?” They have so much stamina! It's worked on us many, many times, and it's almost completely free. (You'll pay with your sanity.)

Cheap college fundraising ideas

It's no secret that a college education comes at a premium. But here's the good news: you're investing in your future! Oh, and also, you can offset a (very) small percentage of those costs with our cheap college fundraising ideas.

27. Coffee and donuts sale

Wait until finals, buy a bunch of day-old donuts at the local Wawa, and brew a pot of strong coffee (buy it on clearance). Then, sell them to bleary-eyed students who have no time to get breakfast and no time to sleep.

28. Song cameo

$10 gets you a 30-second video of the athlete, singer, fraternity member, professor, or club member of your choice singing. Be sure to pick something with a lot of high notes!

29. Lip sync for your life

We're quoting the immortal RuPaul here, folks. Host a lip-sync fundraising competition at the school gym where aspiring non-singers get on stage and give it their all. Make it a bracket, with winners facing winners until you have the supreme chanteuse. And if you haven't seen Drag Race, get thee to a television, pronto.

Cheap fundraising ideas for kids

Whether you're raising money for kids or trying to get your kids primed for a career in nonprofit fundraising, we've got you covered with a variety of cheap fundraising ideas for kids.

30. Clean-a-thon

Clean up your town and raise money for a good cause with a clean-a-thon fundraiser! It's like a walk-a-thon, but everyone needs to wear heavy-duty gloves and bring hand sanitizer. Make it a peer-to-peer fundraising effort with supporters pledging a certain amount for every bag of trash collected—and bonus donations for recyclables making it to the recycling center instead of the dump!

31. Santa, Hanukkah Harry, Kwanzaa Kenneth, or Solstice Sally

Every kid loves to meet Santa Claus, but we're keeping things inclusive here. Have a few teachers or parents dress up for the holidays and offer phone photos. Happy Festivus to the rest of us!

32. Jellybean hunt

Kids pay an entrance fee to spend a fun-filled afternoon searching for jellybeans and other prizes. Make sure nothing's toxic or a choking hazard for local fauna!

33. Potato hunt

Kids pay an entrance fee to spend a fun-filled afternoon searching for potatoes and other root vegetables. The grand prize? The rutabaga.

Also: cheap fundraising ideas for kid goats

You've got some cheap fundraising ideas for kids, but what about the other type of kids? Yep, we mean baby goats. They have needs, too!

34. Goat yoga

Because every yoga class is better when you have goats jumping on your back. All you need is a pastoral setting and some friendly kids!

35. Llama yoga

Like goat yoga, but much more painful and with more spitting. Still, the photos will look amazing on Instagram.

36. Lawn care

Gather your goats, bring them to an overgrown lawn, and let them tidy up the place. You can thank them by including a few blackberry bushes in the mix.

Cheap adult fundraising ideas

Enough with all those kid-centric fundraising ideas! Let's consider some cheap fundraising ideas geared toward the older set. After all, fundraising ideas are like a fine wine or a crumbly cheese, just getting better as the years go by.

37. Face painting and faerie hair

Here's a pro-tip when it comes to cheap and easy fundraising ideas for adults: what's good for the kid is good for the grown-up, so give those inner-children a chance to run free! Start with a face-painting and faerie hair booth for adults. They will line up around the block, ready to show off their glittery locks and butterfly faces.

38. Jell-O shot hunt

Adults pay an entrance fee to spend a fun-filled afternoon searching for plastic Easter eggs … but they're filled with Jell-O shots instead of jellybeans. Make ‘em veg-friendly with agar agar and alcohol-free with plain ol' Jell-O.

Cheap gala fundraising ideas

Did those mature ideas make you think of your annual fundraising gala? Did that, in turn, make you think of the exorbitant costs of anything and everything gala-related? Just like Scarlett O'Hara turned her curtains into a gown, you can create something magnificent out of (practically) nothing.

39. Comfy gala

If there's one thing the last three years taught us, it's that sweatpants are pants and hoodies can be glam. Host a comfy gala where everyone wears their work-from-home finest and everything on the menu can be made in a microwave or toaster oven. While you're at it, remind your guests that they didn't need to pay for a snazzy ensemble … and those funds could be put to better use for your cause.

40. An evening under the stars

Most public parks let you rent a big space for a whole day for $100 or so, picnic tables included. Do a butter-and-bread-and-cheese-and-fruit spread, buy wholesale flowers to decorate, and break out the $20 disco light when the sun goes down.

41. Decorate with food

For a spring soiree, you can scoop out a watermelon and use it as a vase. For a Tuscan evening, pile tables with oranges and greens. It's cheap, it's in season, and everyone will really enjoy taking home the centerpieces later.

42. Dress rehearsal

This one assumes you're already splashing out for a gala or fancy dinner party. So fancy, in fact, that you need to do a run of show ahead of time. You know, to work out any kinks, short-circuit snafus, evaluate accessibility factors, practice the audio and video.

Who said that a dress rehearsal can't be its own fundraiser, though? Plenty of people would buy an entry ticket for a shorter, more family-friendly, less-fancy “gala”. Invite adults to bring their kids in full fantasy getup, serve ugly pancakes or spaghetti, have outlandish speakers—anyone got a mermaid tail?—and cheer for progress toward the overall fundraising goal.

Now, for some no-upfront-cost fundraising ideas

For another spin on things, here are some fundraising ideas with no money down, best ideas in town. That's right: it's time for all-you-care-to-eat, no upfront cost fundraising ideas.

43. Cutest plant contest

Dogs and babies seem to get all the attention these days, but no more! Host a plant contest, encouraging supporters to submit photos of their cutest little succulents and shrubs. You charge to submit a photo and/or make a donation for each vote. Ask the winning petunia's plant-parent to post an acceptance speech once the contest's over.

44. Sock puppet tour de force (part 1)

Are we really telling you to fundraise with old socks? When you're looking for no money down fundraisers, you do stuff like host a sock puppet decorating workshop (online or in-person.)

45. Sock puppet tour de force (part 2)

Volunteers put on the entirety of “Phantom of the Opera” starring the sock puppets. If your audience doesn't like musicals, you can go with “Hamlet” instead.

46. Sock puppet tour de force (part 3)

Now that they're famous, auction off the sock puppets (with their consent).

Even more low-cost fundraising ideas

WE KNOW. You're like, “How do you have so many amazing low-cost fundraising ideas?” And we're like, “Well, it's 2:00 AM and inspiration struck after our fifth espresso!”

47. Chopped competition

In Chopped, chefs get a basket with out-there ingredients and compete to make the most palatable dish. This is a great low-cost fundraiser for a food pantry—have participants use food that expires that day to avoid food waste and save funds. Charge an entry fee for participating or for tasting the delectable creations.

48. Bad wine tasting

Wine tastings are a popular entrance fee fundraiser, but who's got the funds for all those pricey bottles? Not us. Instead, embrace your lack of money and wine knowledge! Buy all the bottom-shelf wines and have someone who knows absolutely nothing about vino host a tasting. This Manischewitz definitely has notes of gouda and Kleenex…

49. Speed friending

How many times have you heard people moan, “It's so hard to make friends nowadays!” And they're right. Why not be a part of the solution by hosting a speed-friending event, where donors sit and chat with many potential friends for 30 seconds each? At the end of the night, everyone writes down who'd they'd most like hang with and swaps contact info accordingly.

Cheap and easy Giving Tuesday fundraising ideas

So many ideas, but one question rules them all: What do you for Giving Tuesday, the fundraising day to end all fundraising days? Try these.

50. Two truths and a lie

For every donation, a different staff member—ED included—will tell two truths and a lie. Encourage your supporters to play along throughout the day.

51. ASMR marathon

This time of year is stressful for a lot of people, and sometimes, yoga and chill just doesn't cut it. Instead, pair your Giving Tuesday with an all-day, livestreamed ASMR-a-thon. You play the TikTok videos of whispers, crinkles, and hums; your supporters feel all tingly-calm and so, so primed to give.

52. Alternative fundraising thermometer

Fundraising thermometers are a great way to show your progress during any campaign, and they really get the adrenaline pumping (and the gifts flowing) for 24-hour campaigns like Giving Tuesday. But what if you swapped that thermometer for a coffee cup that slowly fills or a pizza where every $1,000 adds a slice? Bonus points if your idea is on theme with your cause.

Cheap, easy, and quick end-of-year fundraising ideas

Giving Tuesday is over. You came, you raised, you conquered. Now, you need more than cheap and easy fundraising ideas—you need cheap, easy, and quick fundraising ideas because You. Are. Tired. Get on board with these triple-threat end-of-year fundraising ideas, then go take a long nap.

53. Nap livestream

As we've established, you're tired. Share your tiredness with the world with a nap livestream. Play some soothing music or the sounds of a burbling brook.

54. Peer-to-peer nap-a-thon

We're still really into this napping thing, so what if you made it a P2P fundraiser with a nap-a-thon? Fundraisers pledge to take a 20-minute nap every day for the month of December. Every day, they post pics of their pre- and post-nap set-up, encouraging supporters to follow along on their nap journey. Even better? The pets can join in.

55. Upcycled decorations workshop

Host a decorating party for the holidays, but everyone just brings in whatever they have lying around and puts glitter on it. Unused charging cables + glitter? Garlands. Toilet paper tubes + glitter? Ornaments. Five broken pencils + glitter? Five-eighths of a menorah.

The best free fundraising ideas

Well, you'll still be paying for the internet, and time is money, so technically there's no such thing as a free fundraising idea? But these ones come pretty close. We have some stellar fundraising ideas for free, while supplies last.

56. 53/47 raffle

Yeah, we mixed up the typical 50/50 raffle because we're rebels like that. Sell tickets to your raffle with the winner receiving 47% of the funds and your nonprofit getting the rest. Do your own Rebel Without A Cause impression and change the numbers to reflect stats that are key to your mission.

57. 34/33/33 raffle

Now we're just getting wild. It's like the raffle above, but 34% goes to you, 33% goes to the winner, and 33% goes to another nonprofit organization because community over competition! A free fundraiser with a side of free warm-and-fuzzy feelings? We'll take several.

58. Playlist fundraiser

Anyone can hold a peer-to-peer fundraising playlist in which sponsors pay to add songs to a fundraiser's playlist. This works especially well in conjunction with a 5k or a step challenge, but you can also introduce it as a way to jazz up supporters' summer road trips. Finally, a way to make everyone listen to the 10-minute version of Tay-Tay's classic “All Too Well. Which brings us to another idea…

59. Terrible playlist fundraiser

Sure, introducing a friend to new music is fun. But isn't it more fun to introduce a friend to music you love but almost everyone else hates? As a bonus, a terrible playlist might inspire your runner fundraisers to run faster, as they desperately try to cross that finish line before Phish begins their next jam session. (But seriously, some Phish songs are great. Just give ‘em a chance!)

Free fundraising ideas for schools

If you read those cheap fundraising ideas for schools and thought to yourself, “Okay, big spender,” then we apologize and promise to do better. We'll start with these free fundraising ideas for schools.

60. Eco-art competition

Families bring in a bag of their garbage (nothing sticky or smelly, please and thank you), and then everyone makes upcycled art! Sell entry tickets and auction off the finished pieces.

61. Improv comedy night

Invite kids to tell their best jokes live on stage. We prefer this one for the under-10 set—you never know what they'll say next, but it's guaranteed to be funny.

62. Ice cream flavor contest

Partner with a local ice cream shop for this free school fundraiser. Every kid submits their dream ice cream flavor and everyone votes. The ice cream shop sells the winning flavor for a limited period of time, with a percentage of sales going to your school. Mmm… we love a scoop of Oreo-Cheeto-marshmallow topped with Sprite whipped cream.

Easy no-cost fundraising ideas

Kick back, relax, and try out these easy free fundraising ideas.

63. Hike ‘n' bike

Chart an exciting course for fundraisers to use their wheels and their heels. Everyone bikes to a trail, then everyone hikes it. And then everyone has a nice cold beer because that sounds exhausting. Make it a race, a peer-to-peer fundraiser, or even a virtual event where everyone shares their pics online.

64. Scream-a-thon

Life is stressful, isn't it? But never fear; we're here to help. Get out that stress and raise money for a good cause by hosting a scream-a-thon. All you need is an empty field or vacant lot where your donors can stand and scream their lungs out. Whew, that felt good!

Bonus: If someone has access to an old punching bag, or a gym with great acoustics, get in on that action!

65. Fermentation class

Stock up for winter with a fermentation class fundraiser. All participants need is a starter and some basic ingredients, most of which they'll already have in the kitchen. From kombucha to sauerkraut, everyone will leave feeling healthy and virtuous.

Also, the worst free fundraising ideas

There are a lot of ways to fundraise for free, and some of them are truly terrible. Oh, you still want to learn more? Cool, cool.

66. Amateur piercing night

All you really need to pierce ears is ice, a needle, and a potato. But also… that's not hygienic, and it's a terrible, terrible idea. We all saw that scene in “Grease.” Don't do it. Go to a piercing parlor, please.

67. Fish petting zoo

Take everyone to a lake so they can pet all the fish in exchange for a donation. (Disclaimer: wild fish don't like to be pet, and petting them is not particularly satisfying. Trust us, we've tried.)

68. Blindfolded obstacle course

It sounds adventurous, doesn't it? But when have you ever seen Indiana Jones wear a blindfold as he escapes from certain doom? Never, that's when. Getting your donors bowled over by a boulder isn't the way to get more donations.

6 cheap things to sell for a fundraiser

So you just want to do a good old-fashioned fundraiser, where you get some things, sell them for a profit, and donate the extra funds. We respect that. Here are our favorite cheap things to sell for a fundraiser.

1. Cookie dough

First on our easy things to sell for fundraising list is a classic for a reason: cookie dough. And here's our top tip: make it without eggs because 90% of your buyers are eating it right from the tub.

2. Pet treats

Easy to make and easy to sell! And sure to be a hit with your not-super-picky target audience.

3. Decorative pinecones

How are they different from regular pinecones, you ask? We're not at liberty to say.

4. Candles

Fact: you can never have too many scented candles. Never.

5. Jam

Maybe throw in some chutneys or pickles or krauts while you're at it.

6. Hugs

Preferably from a consenting sloth. They have long arms.

Also: 5 expensive things to sell for a fundraiser

What?? One of your donors just won the lottery and donated it all to your nonprofit but they asked that it all goes to the development team? Guess you'd better start selling some super-high-end items at your next fundraiser. Here's what we'd sell. (And, incidentally, what we'd buy.)

1. Teacup pigs

Most of them will grow to be 300 pounds, but they sure are cute for a few months!

2. Mattresses

You sleep on it every night, so invest in a good one. Your back will thank you.

3. Boats

Once all your donors have boats, they can host fundraisers on their boats. So much winning.

4. Cookies covered in gold leaf

Maybe add some Dom Pérignon to the batter for good measure. And make sure that gold is ethically sourced!

5. Parking spots in Manhattan

Tell us the truth: how did you find them? We've been driving around the block for the last three hours.

Ok, now that we've blown your mind with all the kooky, unexpected cheap fundraising ideas in our minds, we're gonna take a closer look at some classic, simple, cheap fundraising ideas. Maybe a new perspective will rejuvenate these stale standbys into sweet, successful fundraisers.

Book sale: an inexpensive fundraiser

People still read books! Yeah, we live in an immediate gratification world, full of technology that feeds us information, summaries and angles and agendas. But books are still—and always will be—an art form of their own. So don't sleep on books. 

Some ways to freshen the classic book sale:

  • Focus on a type of book—kid's books, hardback books, heck, sell good ol' encyclopedias!
  • Customize covers. Or bookmarks. Or bookbags. Or bookstraps. Sell discount cards and add a random book to every purchase.
  • Choose a book that relates to or personifies your nonprofit. Like a book mascot. Buy used (college bookstores may have lots), write your own Cliff's Notes-style summaries with notes and related thinking questions.
  • Buy out a library. Libraries often have tons of books for sale. Work a deal to take books off their hands and host your own book-and-baked-goods sale. 
  • Write the book! Seriously, you know your mission. Write about it and self-publish. Link to the book on your website. 

Yard sale: another simple and popular way to fundraise

Or garage sale. Or alley sale. Rummage sale! They've been done every which way, from community-wide to online garage sale to our yard-sale-trivia-night suggestion in this very article. So how can you keep it simple and cheap and infuse some interest?

What about a traveling yard sale? Set a schedule for 3-4 locations in one day. Renting a big truck is NOT cheap, but if you have supporters with trucks or big vehicles, have them load up and meet buyers at each location for the planned period of time. Then move on to the next community center or school gym and end it all at a recycling center.

What about renting a booth at your local flea market? If you have a swap meet that's permanent, you can rent a booth for a month or more and see what happens. Otherwise, just jump into the weekly farmer's market, antique mall, or similar. 

What about (somehow) convincing a personal storage facility to partner with you? Sell you the unclaimed storage units at a discount and allow you to host a rummage sale if you'll haul away and clean out the units? Sounds cool to us!

Envelope fundraiser: an easy and personal way to fundraise

Who doesn't love a money wall?! Literally no one doesn't love a money wall. So, how can you spin it—or do you need to?

Hear us out: Maybe don't. Maybe it's perfect as-is, like our pets. 

Hmm. In case you're not convinced, we put on our wild-n-wooly thinking caps for a few alternatives to the classic envelope fundraiser. 

  • Take it social. We've seen it before: an envelope fundraiser on social media channels. Online donation forms make it easy peasy.
  • Spin it around and instead of donors just putting money in the envelope, put a lil' sumthin in the envelope for them to take out: a bookmark, a sticker, entry ticket to your bake sale, a gift card, heck, even a compliment. 
  • ...then add an unexpected element: Truth or Dare, maybe! Don't just ask them for money, dare them to do the ice bucket challenge and tag you or share why they're motivated to spread their love with your org
  • ...or make it a scavenger hunt! Offer a small prize to donors that can deliver whatever you send 'em out there to find. Heck yes, it'll be a fun activity!

Bake sale: sweet treats make a great fundraiser

Sweet—or savory? Either way, success tastes great. As we all know, people love food. And they love going home with a plastic baggie filled with cookies or fudge or any sweet treat. So give the people what they want! And let's come up with some ways to make this simple, classic fundraiser even richer and more delicious. 

You know what else people love? Bargains. And VIP status. Offer people a discount card or a gift certificate they can buy in advance that'll get them a percent off or an extra goodie or one of those plates that comes with a cup so they have a hand free to nibble.

The name of the game is themeing! Turn sports teams, flavors, dietary restrictions into sweet treats. Get inspired by a book or TV show. Or something related to your mission, volunteers, or even your org's colors. 

Charge admission to your bake sale. Is it AYCE? Or do entrants get one delicious treat with entry fee? This is the type of thing your online fundraising platform should make easy for you. Don't overthink it; don't make it difficult.

Did you know that recipes on headstones is A Thing? Yeah, like people have their signature dishes, complete with recipes, engraved on their graves. Have your team of volunteers choose something from the @ghostlyarchive IG account and get to cooking.

Raffle tickets: a fun and simple way to raise money

When you're raising money for charity, keeping it fun is one way to keep the dream alive. And raffles are a sooooper fun, inexpensive fundraising idea.

Can you combine the envelope fundraiser with a raffle ticket fundraiser? Put a random number of raffle tickets in each envelope. The thrill is that no one knows how many tickets they'll get!

Tickets on tickets on tickets! Sell entry tickets to your raffle ticket fundraiser to win tickets. Tickets to what, you ask? That's your department, friend.

Make your raffle the simplest and easiest with a simple form online. Online donation forms have it all over the donation box every single day. Do a split, like we've suggested earlier in this article, and call it a day. 

Water bottles: a healthy way to fundraise

Water's not just healthy for your supporters, it's healthy for the earth... when you use reusable water bottles. So these things should sell themselves, right? Easy. Cheap. 

Bottled water is pretty straightforward. Like, it can be branded plastic bottles, even. Offer flavoring powders in your nonprofit's colors. Strawberry lemonade is our favorite. 

We think of cold water in plastic bottles when we think of bottled water, but what if it's hot? You could sell regular bottled water and every 100th bottle could be a fancy heated bottle. If you do it online, it'd be just a simple form. 

Speaking of hot water, some people will tell you to stay out of it, but we're all about that good trouble. So put on that weird-n-wonderful thinking cap and imagine how you can make wine out of water. You got this!

Inexpensive fundraising ideas: final points

If you've already slashed the avocado toast line from your nonprofit's budget, we hope these cheap fundraiser ideas have sparked your creativity. Remember, where there's a will, there's a way, so don't let a lack of funds stop you from making an impact.

Cheap fundraising ideas FAQs

What's the easiest, cheapest fundraiser?

Getting your community to fundraise for you! It costs you next to nothing to have your supporters raise money for charity. Just put the call out and let them do most of the heavy lifting.

Can I fundraise with no money?

Absolutely, though you'll have to make up for it with a little extra effort. Here are a few ways to fundraise with no money: organized outdoor activities, partnerships with local businesses, crowdfunding campaigns, and matching gift campaigns. Wishing won't cut it.

What can I sell to fundraise?

Anything and everything, but you'll do best with items you can buy in bulk and sell at a bigger profit or items that are homemade or one-of-a-kind.

When is the most profitable time to hold a fundraiser?

The best time to bring in donations is whenever you can get your fundraising plan rolling! End of year brings in the dough, but it's also crowded and expensive. Summer has more freedom, but you've got to work around vacations. So you do you, boo. And manage the timing with the best fundraising calendar in the biz.

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