GFM-logo

Charity Event Ideas to Help Drive Donations

Throwing a charity event is one of the best ways to bring people together around the common goal of doing good. Charity fundraising events also help you make new contacts and connect with supporters on a deeper level—all while raising funds to make a difference.

So what type of event should you host? If you have questions about how to raise money for a charity, we have tips about how to get started, as well as 10 of our best charity event ideas.

People eating dinner at a table

What is a charity event?

You might think only red carpet galas or fine art auctions qualify as charity events. In fact, a charity event is any gathering where the proceeds are used to support a nonprofit. This can mean anything from a simple car wash to a 200-person affair to a crowdfunding campaign—and everything in between. The fundraising possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Hosting an event is one of the best ways to raise money for charity. To make the most of your charity event, it’s important to do the necessary planning beforehand. Read on for some tips.

Planning a charity event

  • 1. Decide what type of event you’d like to host

    One good idea is to give your event a theme that’s similar to the cause you’re supporting. For example, if you’re raising funds to support the rehabilitation of elephants in Thailand, an event related to animals would appeal to animal lovers who might be more willing to give.

    If you know you want to do good but haven’t pinned down which charity to help, we’ve outlined the 25 best charities to donate to in the US on our blog.

  • 2. Plan out the logistics

    Here is a general checklist to follow when planning the details of your event:

    • Make a list of supplies you’ll need, and take note of what supplies you already have.
    • Research possible venues for your event and reach out to them.
    • Create a guest list.
    • Research top charity fundraising sites for inspiration.
    • Enlist the help of a few friends or family members. The more help, the better.
    • Read up on nonprofit funding sources in preparation for when you create your budget.
    • Make sure you have a good understanding of tax deductions for charitable donations in case your supporters ask for a tax-deductible receipt.
  • 3. Create a budget

    A budget helps you determine just how simple or elaborate your event can be. It also prompts you to think about what sources for charity funding are available to you. Set aside time to price check supplies on the list you created, then crunch some numbers so you know exactly how much money it will take to make your charity event a reality.

    Throwing an event to raise money for a good cause sometimes requires a bit of money upfront. If you’re short on funds but determined to host a stellar event, starting an online fundraiser for those initial costs is an easy way to raise money fast. You can also read our guide on budget event planning for ideas.

    GoFundMe offers free fundraising, so you’ll be able to put more of your funds toward your charity event. Discover other charity fundraisers on GoFundMe for ideas of what your fundraiser could look like.

    If you still need help getting started, read our charity crowdfunding guide for more advice.

  • 4. Promote your event

    Now that you’ve taken care of the nitty gritty details, it’s time for the big reveal! Here are the best ways to get the word out about your event:

    • Make a public Facebook event and invite all your friends and family members. Ask them to share the invitation with their network of friends to double and triple the number of eyes on your cause.
    • Send an email invitation to acquaintances, coworkers, and anyone else you can’t reach through social media. Be sure to provide background information on the charity and explain why the cause means so much to you—this will help encourage charitable giving.
    • For a more casual approach, text or call close friends and family members about your event to gauge interest.
    • Print out flyers and post them on bulletin boards in coffee shops, libraries, music venues, and anywhere else in your community that gets a lot of foot traffic.

Ideas for charity events

If you know you want to host an event but aren’t sure which direction to take, we have 10 of our favorite charity event ideas to get the creative juices flowing. Use one of these fundraising event ideas, or take a look at our blog post Charitable Giving: 12 Ways to Make an Impact.

Four dogs on leashes in a park

1. Pet beauty pageant

This takes the classic idea of a beauty pageant and adds a dose of silliness and, well, fur. Invite attendees to donate a specific amount to your cause, or set a flat rate for tickets.

To mimic a real beauty pageant, create your own set of awards for the contestants—the funnier the better: “Most luscious locks,” or “Best hidden talent” just to name a few. Audience members will love looking at cute animals while getting to vote on their favorites.

Four women drinking beer outside of a brewery

2. Charitable happy hour

Take your fundraising to the pub and get others to raise a glass for a worthy cause. You can work with a local bar or restaurant to lend their venue for your fundraising happy hour in exchange for the business you’ll bring in. Some venues will even donate a percentage of drink or food sales to a charity.

 

Three women eating dinner together

3. Potluck with friends

Hosting a potluck at your home is an intimate way to gather family and friends together and share your fundraising goals. One main advantage here is the low overhead cost and low pressure environment. Even if people choose not to donate, they can still share a good meal with friends and learn about causes that are important to you.

People sitting in an office on computers

4. Online fundraising bonanza

Sometimes the best way to drum up support for a cause is to let everyone know you only have a limited amount of time to raise a specific amount of money. This inspires people to take action—fast. Ahead of starting your fundraiser, tell everyone you know that you’re about to launch a fundraising contest to see how much you can raise in a given time period.

To encourage donations of all sizes, tell your network that even giving up their daily latte in exchange for a $5 donation will make a difference. For details on how to run a successful online fundraiser, read our blog post Charity Fundraising Tips.

A man and a woman dressed in nice clothes talking in a park

5. Fashion show

Get ready to put your best foot forward with this fundraising idea. To host a fashion show that helps a nonprofit, you’ll need to partner with a local clothing boutique and find people willing to model their garments. The proceeds from tickets sales will go to your charity, and the boutique may even donate a certain percentage of items they sell that day.

A woman running down a road while people watch

6. Personal challenge

This fundraising idea is all about committing to a task that’s intentionally challenging, brave, or embarrassing, all in the name of charity. For example, many people pledge to shave their head if they raise over a certain amount of money for their cause, while others promise to jump out of planes or run grueling races.

The GoFundMe fundraiser Kate’s Lion Pride Run raised $23,000 after a high school teacher and avid runner challenged herself to run 100 miles in just 24 hours. She ended up raising thousands of dollars for low-income students.

A man browses through books on a table outside

7. Community yard sale

A yard sale not only helps others get rid of unwanted items, but it can also bring awareness to your cause. Start by rounding up a group of neighbors and friends who are ready for some serious spring cleaning. Ask them to donate a certain percentage of sales to your charity in exchange for the work you’ll do collecting and selling their unwanted items.

Two women in an office building talking together

8. Employer donation match

Loop more individuals into your fundraising efforts by asking your employer if they would be willing to match employee donations to your charity, a program that an increasing number of companies offer. If approved, be sure to send out an email to fellow employees asking if they would be interested in supporting your nonprofit.

Two men washing a gray car

9. Cleaning frenzy

Recruit your most fastidious friends to put in some old-fashioned elbow grease for a good cause. You’ll want to compile a list of potential customers who need their homes cleaned or cars washed. It’s up to you whether you’d like to set a flat rate per cleaning, or accept donations for a job well done.

A group of young people dancing and talking outside

10. Auction or raffle event

This is a classic fundraising idea for a reason: People love the thrill of potentially winning prizes. Reach out to local businesses and ask if they would be willing donate items for your auction or raffle in exchange for a bit of publicity at the event. Or perhaps you have crafty friends who could create items for the event or even donate gently used items. Remember to keep with a theme related to your charity. For example, if the charity you’re raising funds for helps children with cancer, focus on collecting children’s toys and clothes.

Raise money and awareness for your cause right now

Throwing a charity event requires some work, but it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience—not to mention a truly effective way to raise money.

Now that you have the know-how, start planning your charity event today. If you lack the finances to make your event a reality, GoFundMe can help. Start your fundraiser and get the money needed to make a difference.

Start a charity event fundraiser