14 Unique Fall Fundraiser Ideas to Boost Donations


If your nonprofit relies on end-of-year giving initiatives, you may set your sights on the holiday season as a chief source of funding. There’s no denying the power of the holidays for bringing out the spirit of giving, but the fall months can be just as valuable. If you’re struggling to come up with fall fundraiser ideas, consider the range of special events that mark this festive time of year: back to school, Oktoberfest, and Halloween, to name just a few.

As you seek new ways to boost donations, keep digital and in-person opportunities in mind. Both hold the power to attract new donors while also improving engagement among long-time supporters. To help, we’ve highlighted a few of the most compelling fall fundraiser ideas that will get donation levels up long before the holiday season arrives.

1. Back-to-school dance party

If your organization caters to families with school-age children, why not celebrate the start of a new school year? As kids head back to school, they will be excited for new beginnings — and their parents will be ready for them to return to the classroom. Capture this festive feel with a dance party that pays homage to this special time of year.

Back-to-school fundraising efforts may involve admission fees for the dance or proceeds from concessions. Better yet, seek sponsorships from local businesses, which will be thrilled to attract attention from families in time for back-to-school shopping extravaganzas. Don’t forget to provide shout-outs on social media, as this will encourage sponsors to continue supporting your nonprofit as you plan additional fundraising initiatives.

2. Virtual family-friendly dance party

As an offshoot of the above fall fundraiser idea, this digital event allows participants to dance their hearts out from the comfort of home. And it will still include the best elements of an in-person dance party — a great DJ, toe-tapping songs, and, of course, the hottest dance moves.

To make the party more exciting, add special guests, such as mascots or local celebrities who can share their favorite songs and dances. These guests can also provide words of wisdom for kids as they make the transition from summer to school. Raise funds with modest admission fees or by encouraging participants and their contacts to visit your crowdfunding page.

3. Second chance homecoming

The high school version of a back-to-school dance is homecoming, which takes place either right after the big football game or a day later. At some schools, homecoming is a formal affair, complete with suits, dresses, and fancy dinners before the dance.

Allow adults to recapture the magic of this special occasion with a second chance version of homecoming. This will include all of the pizzazz of the original dance with none of the awkwardness.

Adult attendees can pay a modest entrance fee, but chances are, they’ll be even more inclined to support your nonprofit if they get the chance to purchase alcohol. They can also contribute a small amount to request their favorite songs from their high school days. Don’t forget contests for the most accurate 80s or 90s garb — or the best dance moves of the era.

As with the back-to-school event highlighted above, it’s possible to create a virtual version of the second chance homecoming. Held over Zoom, this can still include a DJ and throwback hits. Or better yet, this virtual version could include guest appearances from local celebrities dressed according to the time period the event is meant to reflect.

4. Harvest dance

Embrace tradition with a harvest dance, complete with live folk music and a dance caller. Routines should be simple enough to ensure an inclusive event. Participants can contribute to the cause by paying an entrance fee, with proceeds supporting your organization or a specific initiative. Food can be provided with the entry fee or charged separately.

A harvest dance can raise important funds for your organization, but it also works well as a thank you event. Invite major donors as a show of appreciation for their ongoing support. If you add a banquet to the mix, you can continue the folksy feel by serving a variety of traditional autumnal entrees and desserts.

5. Hayride

This kid-friendly fundraising solution can get participants of all ages excited about your organization. The event will feel the most quaint and authentic if held at a farm, but any open green space will do.

As Halloween approaches, your harvest-themed hayride can become a spookier event, complete with frightening decorations and after-dark adventures. Charge participants for each ride or encourage them to donate as they see fit.

6. Bonfire night

Break out the marshmallows and get your singing voice ready, for few events build a sense of community quite like a bonfire. This is a great option for an intimate event but can also be scaled up for larger groups if desired. Whether attendees drop in for a few minutes or stick around for hours, they’re bound to have a great time.

Participants can contribute by paying for s’mores or other treats, if available. Non-food sales could include glow sticks or other after-dark items that bring a light-hearted feel to the event once the sun goes down.

7. Fall color walk or bike-a-thon

While fundraising walks can be planned for nearly any time of the year, they are particularly well-suited to the crisp weather and beautiful colors associated with the fall season. Make the most of local scenery with a walk or bike-a-thon that takes participants to your region’s most picturesque spots.

Fall Color Festival home page

Follow the example of the annual Fall Color Festival in southeastern Wisconsin, which raises money for maintenance on the John Muir Trail.

Those who sign up for the event can fundraise on your nonprofit’s behalf by seeking a donation amount for every mile walked — or biked. Many will be eager to join fundraising teams that compete against one another to raise the most money. Give them all the tools they need to attract attention from their family members, friends, and acquaintances. Email templates, for example, should be easy to adjust and send, with call to action (CTA) buttons leading directly to donation pages.

8. Tailgating party

Fall means football season — and that means pre-game tailgating! If football is a big deal in your community, use local enthusiasm for the sport as an opportunity to pick up the pace with fall donations. Money can be raised by charging for the tailgating event itself or having attendees pay for food essentials such as burgers and brats.

Don’t forget to add a raffle to the mix; prizes could include a signed jersey from a favorite football player or even tickets for a local college or professional team. Hardcore fans will contribute quite a bit to get a shot at these prizes.

8. Virtual tailgating

Not all football fans can attend tailgating parties in person. Get them involved with a virtual version designed to precede games watched on TV. This might not involve hot dogs right off the grill, but it still provides an opportunity for fans to
support both their team and your cause.

Examples of successful virtual tailgates abound, with many having raised thousands or even tens of thousands for important causes. In Tampa, Florida, for example, a chapter of the Ronald McDonald House hosted a virtual Super Bowl tailgate live-streamed from its Facebook page. The event incorporated kid-friendly activities such as a reading session with the beloved author Marnie Schneider, as well as an appearance from former Bucs player Mike Alstott.

Take the digital concept to the next level and combine virtual tailgating with virtual sports. Attendees can share drinks or show off their grilling as they prepare to cheer on teams in virtual soccer or basketball leagues. Again, this can include brief appearances from esports celebrities, who will be eager to interact with their fans.

9. Pie sampling

Apple and pumpkin pies are quintessential fall treats that can be incorporated into a variety of fundraising events. But why not make pie the center of the occasion?

Pie-based events can take multiple forms, depending on how involved you want local businesses or community members to be. For example, a bakeoff could incorporate submissions from local supporters who take pride in their finest pie recipes. These pies can then be raffled off or entered into a contest, with attendees purchasing and voting on their favorite slices.

Another option? Pies from local vendors, such as favorite bakeries or restaurants….


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