Food for Thought: 44 Delectable Food Fundraising Ideas

September 11, 2023
8 minutes
Like a garden-fresh charcuterie plate, colorfully contrasting, mouth-watering shapes are appetizingly laid on a light-green background.

What makes a great fundraising event? Sure, we want it to be meaningful. We like a pleasant environment, friendly faces, and convenient timing. But most of all, we like eating food. In fact, everyone likes food! Food fundraisers are the tastiest fundraisers around, sure to bring in the crowds and bring in the dollars. So, here are our best fundraising ideas for clear eyes, full hearts, and full stomachs. (Thanks, Coach Taylor.) Pull up a chair, tuck in your napkin, and pass us a piping-hot serving of fundraising goodness. Bon Appetit!

Things to consider when planning a food fundraiser

So, your mouth is already salivating at the thought of a food fundraiser? Then let's get to it! But before you start harvesting those radishes, a few words of caution to ensure everything runs as smooth as a river (of chocolate). (But not the one in Willy Wonka. That was creepy.)

  • Allergies. You know what's not good for your fundraiser? Larry breaking out in hives because there's pineapple in the dipping sauce and he has a composite fruit allergy. At any event where you serve delicious food, clearly list all the allergens for every dish and every condiment. That way, everyone can relax and enjoy.
  • Accessibility. Sure, you've booked an event space that's wheelchair-accessible and you have closed captions at the ready, but with a food event, you'll really need to dig into the accessibility details. For instance, if someone's on crutches, will a buffet work? 
  • Cost of ingredients. The point of your food fundraiser is to provide delicious treats, but it's also about making money. Carefully track all your expenses to ensure you stay on budget. A successful event might require you to skip the truffle salt this time around.
  • Dietary restrictions (and why people have them). Like food allergies before them, dietary restrictions are a crucial component of any foodie event. Be sure to cover all the basics, like gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, and vegan. Then, consider your mission to see if you need to tighten things up a bit more. Serving bacon at a fundraiser for an animal rescue? Maybe stick with pancakes.
  • Religious restrictions. Before you circle and highlight the date of your big food fundraiser, check that it doesn't conflict with any holidays that would impact your community's ability to gather and enjoy. In particular, you'll want to check the dates of Ramadan, Lent, Passover, and Yom Kippur. 
  • To mocktail or cocktail. It's no secret that folks love to indulge and imbibe at a social event, and we're all about treating yo'self, especially when you're giving back. That being said, more and more people are choosing to keep things sober these days, for any number of reasons, so respect that choice and always offer an NA option or three. 

11 food fundraising ideas for churches

At its core, religion is all about community—that feeling of fellowship and connection. That makes food fundraising events the perfect way to bring folks together and raise funds for a spiritual cause. Here are our worthiest fundraising ideas for churches, mosques, temples, or wherever you worship.

1. Cooking for good

Whether it's casseroles for those who have lost someone or filling the freezer for new parents, preparing food items for community members in need is always a good idea. You can leave it to individual congregants to organize a meal train, or you can host an official fundraiser, delegating food preparation and drop-off to a dedicated group of volunteers.

2. Bread-baking class

Bread has a lot of different meanings for a lot of different religions, but we can all agree that it is delicious. Host your very own cooking school to teach everyone how to make the perfect loaf, pairing your challah/naan/rustic ciabatta with a shmear of history and a pat of butter. 

3. An edible tree

This Christmas, mix things up with a tree decorated entirely with bite-sized treats. Congregants buy a decoration, whether it's a candy cane or a snowflake cookie, with all funds going to your church. A week before Christmas, host a silent auction where everyone can bid on the feast for the eyes (and stomachs). PS. you can easily make this a Hanukkah bush (hang some gelt) or a Festivus tree (hang generic candy bars).

4. Holy roller bake sale

Ah, yes, the fundraising bake sale. A classic. A goodie. And now, a perfect church fundraising idea. Make yours stand out (and give it a clever name) by selling nothing but cinnamon rolls of all flavors and toppings. Lemon blueberry with cream cheese frosting? Yesss!

5. Pancake Day

In the UK, the day before Lents is known as Pancake Day! English Heritage tells us that back in the days of yore, children would go around on the Tuesday before Lent, singing, "'We be come a-shroving, for a piece of pancake, or a bite of bacon, or a little truckle of cheese, of your own making." If this delights you a quarter as much as it delights us, you should definitely have a pancake fundraiser, with a side of history (aka bacon and cheese), on Pancake Day.

6. Passover Seder 

We love learning about other religious traditions, so consider stepping outside the box and hosting a Passover Seder to connect with the roots of Christianity and learn about Jewish traditions. Charge an admission fee to attend and sell chocolate-covered matzoh for some extra money.

7. Passover Seder (with bonus bunnies)

Wanna go bigger? Invite your neighbors from the local synagogue to your Seder and do a joint fundraiser: Easter Brunch in the AM, Passover Seder in the PM! And this time, you can sell matzoh AND hot-cross buns (the Seder-goers will gobble them up later when they're eating leavened bread again).

8. Meaningful cookbook fundraiser (and book sale)

Everyone loves a cookbook fundraiser, but you can make yours especially meaningful by gathering family recipes from congregation members and including each recipe's story. Have a cookbook sale to raise funds for your church, then host a follow-up potluck where each family brings a different dish from the cookbook—but not the one they submitted!

9. Fast 'n' Feast

Host an event that explores the concept of fasting and feasting within your faith. You can discuss the spiritual significance of fasting, and then break the fast with a communal meal. Funds come from admission fees. 

10. Sacred Foods: Chopped Edition

Bread, wine, milk, and honey in Christianity; olives, honey, dates, and pomegranates in Islam. There are holy foods in every religion, so why not have a little fun with them? Host a charity event in which each participant gets a basket of sacred foods and has an hour to make a delicious dish out of them. You can charge admission to attend the big event and taste the final products, or make it a virtual fundraiser and let folks tune in (and give) from home.

11. Manna from heaven

There are a lot of mentions of manna in different religions, but what does it actually taste like? In Iraq, mann al-sama (manna from heaven) is a white nougat with nuts. In the Bible, it's described as "like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey." Either way, it sounds pretty good, so let's build a fundraiser around it! Teach people to make a classic version, or hold a bake sale focused on different people's interpretations of this heavenly sweet treat.

14 food fundraising ideas for schools

School fundraising events are all about bringing the school community together to give our kids the best academic experience possible. And what better way to do that than through the scrumptious power of food? Here are 14 food-forward, mouth-watering fundraising ideas for schools from the over-achievers here at Funraise.

12. Pi Day pie-off

Pi Day has been done, but who are we to resist the siren call of a Pi Day pie competition? This is a classic fundraiser for schools, so gather as many pie aficionados as possible and come hungry! You can bring it back to the math theme by encouraging bakers to get creative and decorate their creations with symbols and equations. Don't forget a fun prize for the winner—maybe this pi(e) plate?

13. Geometry pizza party

Kids love pizza, making a pizza party the perfect fundraising idea for schools. But here's a fun spin on the usual: all the toppings are cut like different geometric shapes. You could also use this as an opportunity to explore fractions. Be sure to charge attendees extra if they want a custom dodecahedron slice. 

14. An ancient feast

Moving on to history, how about a historical reenactment dinner, featuring dishes inspired by ancient civilizations? You can plan a Roman, Egyptian, or Medieval feast and invite the whole school community. Of course, costumes are encouraged.

15. Tea Party

Invite parents and students alike to a historically accurate tea party. Everyone enjoys tea and crumpets, and then you take it all and throw it in the harbor. Hurray?

16. Pringles ring challenge

In case you haven't heard, the Pringles ring challenge is an engineering challenge in which students create a standing ring using only Pringles. No tape, no glue, no anything else! This group fundraising event is perfect for sports teams or classes. Charge a modest registration fee and consider making this a peer-to-peer event, where each team raises extra funds as extra encouragement.

17. Fibonacci lemonade stand

Lemonade? Sure! Layered lemonade that teaches us about the Fibonacci sequence by adjusting the proportions of sugar and lemon juice for the same amount of liquid so that it naturally separates? Abso-frigging-lutely! You can sell some additional items with layers, like dipped Oreos, to make it a complete experience.

18. Golden ratio cocktail hour

The golden ratio equals approximately 1.618, and it appears all over the place in mathematics. In the world of cocktails, there's a "golden ratio" as well, and it's 2 parts spirit to 1 part sweet to 1 part tart. Host a parents-only happy hour with all sorts of golden-ratio cocktails. For example, a daiquiri calls for two parts rum, one part lime juice, and one part simple syrup. Math! One more note: In lieu of a tip jar for the bartenders, have a donation box.

19. Möbius bagel breakfast

Did you know you can cut your bagel along a Möbius strip? It's true! So, rather than hosting another boring bagel breakfast fundraiser, sell bagels that students have skillfully carved into an infinite loop of carbo-loading. We bet the cream cheese-to-bread ratio is better, too.

20. Trefoil knot bagel breakfast

Upgrade your amazing eternal bagel skills by cutting them into trefoil knots. Maybe you can offer a fun prize to the student who cuts the most mathematically minded bagels!

21. Chilis and the science of heat

Spice up your fundraising life with a chili cook-off competition, but make it a fundraising idea for schools by cooking up some old-fashioned science first. Before chowing down, you can explore what's behind the spiciness of chili peppers. Discuss the Scoville scale and capsaicin, then call up a brave volunteer to try (carefully!) different peppers to see how their heat varies. Finally, it's time to chow down on those different chilis. Award prizes to the winner—maybe in the form of gift cards to the local ice cream shop?

22. Artsy apps

Because we believe the arts are integral to education and food is an art, it's an art-themed food fundraising event with appetizers that resemble famous artworks. You'll need to gather a talented team of volunteers from every art class to lend a brush (or a tweezer), but it'll be worth the effort to see a cheese tray that looks like "The Persistence of Memory." Charge admission to view the goods, then post photos of the awe-inspiring final products. Finally, let the whole school community vote on their favorite for a virtual event component (and extra funds).

23. World War II dinner

Want to learn about the realities of our past and raise funds for a good cause? Provide a hands-on history lesson by hosting a "how to ration food" fundraiser with a WWII-themed dinner! Too bleak?

24. Venn Pieagram

We can't get enough pie, so here's another food fundraising idea for schools that's all about our favorite sweet treat. (Well, our favorite outside of cheesecake.) Bake Venn piegrams, AKA two joint pies with an overlapping third pie flavor in the middle. #LivingTheDream

25. Subject-themed dinner

As you might be able to tell, we love playing with food both literally and figuratively. So, why not take a few of these ideas (or add your own!) and host a subject-themed meal? For example, you could have a mathematics feast with Borromean onion rings and mathed potatoes or do an entire meal inspired by dishes in a famous book. (Please, please invite us to your Lord of the Rings-themed feast!)

Fundraising tasting events

Put away those bottles of wine, because these days, tasting events aren't just about swirling an inch of vino or nibbling on a few chunks of cheese. Your nonprofit organization deserves something special, so take a gander at these flavor-packed charity fundraising ideas.

26. The Imitation Game

Choose a dish, any dish, that you want—maybe something on theme with your industry. Then, challenge a panel of fierce competitors to make the closest copycat of your food of choice. Was that cinnamon or nutmeg in the batter? Make sure to give the winner a prize for their efforts. To put a little extra in the charity funds pot, charge a registration fee auction and sell any remaining slices of the final products post-tasting.  

27. A really easy taste test

Want a charity fundraising idea that's really (and we mean really) low-effort? Host a very low-key tasting by buying ALL the flavors of one popular product. Oreos, Kit Kat bars, Pringles, or something else. After everyone has sampled the goods, you can hold a friendly competition to design the best flavor combination. 

Pro-Tip: Google "all flavors [product name]" to see everything on offer. Depending on the product, they'll have flavors made especially for other countries, like Japanese mushroom soup Pringles, or web exclusives like BlackPink Oreos. Oftentimes, you can find these unique products online. 

28. A taste test that requires slightly more effort

Have a little more time on your hands? Then you can dash from store to store buying all different brands of supermarket bagels, packaged ice cream sandwiches, or... vegan chicken nuggets (?), then gather your supporters for a taste test. Yum!

29. And a taste test that requires even more effort

At this point, you're probably done, but if you have a solid team of volunteers, you can really turn up the fundraising heat with a prepared food taste test. Think boxed brownie mixes (you can have a post-event bake sale) or microwave popcorn (pair it with a movie and charge a fee for admission for a full-on night out).

30. Creative wine pairing

We said we'd go beyond wine tastings, but that doesn't mean we want to ignore the wondrous world of wine altogether!  Host a wine pairing that's more on the playful side by pairing wines with Taylor Swift songs, video game bosses, or Game of Thrones characters. If you go Tay-Tay, we're thinking a fruity rose for "Speak Now" and a flinty white for "Death by a Thousand Cuts." Pair a pitcher of lukewarm water with "Mr. Perfectly Fine".

Hands-on foodie fundraisers

If you want to raise money for charity, you sometimes need to get your hands dirty. Here are our favorite food fundraising ideas that require supporters to knead, pick, sprinkle, and mince.

31. Seasonal fruit picking

Or any type of seasonal produce, really (we love picking asparagus)! Picking fresh produce is a great family-friendly activity as well as a great fundraiser for charitable organizations. You can make it an event worthy of the admission fee by providing a shuttle service, post-picking beverages, and a collection of tasty recipes that use your chosen produce.

32. Pasta grannies cook-along

If you don't know what a pasta granny is, allow us to introduce you. (We'll wait a few hours while you binge-watch, go order some pasta, and eat it.) For your next fundraiser, host a cook-along with a pasta granny.

33. Pasta grannies marathon

You know, we love the idea of a cook-along, but since writing that last idea, we got really distracted watching pasta grannies. That got us thinking: What about charging an admission fee to attend a pasta grannies marathon? Halfway through, you serve a pasta dinner.

34. Start a garden

If you have the space, start a community garden to brighten the neighborhood. You can provide healthy food for your neighbors in need, or you can plant flowers and provide lovely bouquets for the local senior center. (We realize most flowers aren't food. It was just an idea!!)

35. Make a butter board

Butter boards are one of the viral TikTok food trends we can get behind. (Cloud bread: no thank you). At its essence, a butter board is just softened butter spread on a board, but the fun lies in really elaborate boards. Just like a cheese board overflowing with pickles, jams, fruit, and nuts, a great butter board is an art. So, host a butter-board-making workshop. Then, invite everyone to dig into the sample one.

36. Dollar Tree Dinners

If you attended the inflation primer we mention in this article, you know that existing today is pricey, and eating well is pricier. But there are plenty of social media influencers dedicated to chowing down on the cheap, like Dollar Tree Dinners. You can host a complete experience by taking everyone shopping, and then cooking and dining together. 

Non-eating food fundraising ideas

We know; eating is the best part of food! But there are a lot of ways you can raise money for charity without getting behind a hot stove or considering what the heck a dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free option looks like for your BBQ cook-off. 

37. Dress up like your favorite food

This one's worth it for the social media posts alone! Invite everyone to dress up as their favorite food, then host a li'l fundraiser fashion show, charging a small fee for admission. We can't wait to see how someone interprets dressing up as a bowl of gazpacho.

38. Mystery dish basket auction

The best auction items are those you can't buy in the store, making a mystery dish auction the perfect fundraiser. Here's how it works: Donors make baskets with all the ingredients (and a few additional items, just for funsies) for a favorite dish, plus a recipe. But there's a twist: those bidding on the baskets don't know the final dish. What will you make?! The sky's the limit.

39. Inflation explainer

It's no secret that inflation is still a thang, and that can make fundraising harder than ever. To demonstrate inflation's impact and raise some extra funds, charge attendees for a presentation or webinar by an industry expert—using food to demonstrate the difference. Three years ago, $6 got you a soy latte and a muffin; now, it's this kernel of corn. And ... scene!

40. Attempt a world record

Can your community build the longest sandwich, or build the largest French fry tower? You can certainly try!

Creative food fundraisers

If cooking is an art, food is a muse, and that makes it the perfect inspiration for some artistic foodie fundraising.

41. Making extracts

Vanilla extract is hella expensive, but you can make your own to save some money. You can also make mint or almond extract, or you can go rogue and make rose-lime-coconut extract. Why not! Anyway, host an extract-making workshop.

42. Making bitters

Depending on your target audience, you mix up the extract-making class and instead teach attendees how to craft their own bitters. Sure, they're meant for cocktails, but a few dashes can also spice up baked goods, popcorn, or plain old seltzer. Provide a variety of botanicals and flavorings, along with a few bitter-centric recipes.

43. Pancake art

With a mere squeezy bottle, you can make pancakes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. You provide the batter, bottles, and griddle (maybe partner with a local restaurant on their day off); attendees provide the creativity (just keep it PG). Include toppings like blueberries and chocolate chips so that people can really flex their artistic muscles.

44. Edible bouquets class

We love a fresh bouquet, but when those blooms start to wilt, it always feels slightly tragic to toss them in the compost. Instead, use vegetables and fruit to make a centerpiece that not only looks gorgeous but tastes delicious. To make this a fundraiser, partner with a local farm and flower shop to serve your gorgeous works of art with a side of education.

When it comes to fundraising (or should we say raising dough?) for a good cause, food fundraisers aren't always a piece of cake, but they're well worth the effort.  So, whether it's a sit-down dinner, Iron Chef competition, or food truck festival, go ahead and spice up your fundraising with these crème de la crème food fundraising ideas. 

Food fundraising ideas: Key takeaways

  • Food fundraisers are a scrumptious way to raise money for charity, whatever your cause or industry.
  • There are a wide range of options when it comes to food fundraising ideas, from classic bake sales and cook-offs to themed dinners, how-to classes, and tasting events.
  • Food-related fundraisers attract a broad audience and foster a sense of community, plus they give you an opportunity to partner with local businesses, restaurants, and experts.
  • For a successful event, creativity is key, so do your best to think outside the fundraising box by incorporating relevant themes, teaching new skills, and introducing new taste experiences.
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