It’s that time of year again! Are you running the Chicago Marathon or another race on a charity team? Need to fundraise? Here are some ideas that have worked for me:

Events can be very successful, but require a lot of planning, some upfront costs and run the risk of losing money if you don’t get enough attendees. There are two ways to do fundraising events …

On-site. Many businesses offer the option of doing some kind of fundraising event/party/class, which is easier for you, because you can use their space and their stuff. However, before you sign a contract, get a clear understanding for things like minimum number of participants, what happens if you don’t reach the minimum, and what the deposit is to hold your date and time. On-site ideas: hosted bar, painting class, fitness class (Zumba, dance), BINGO, bowling.

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Self-hosted. If you want to use your own (or a friend’s) house or yard, you can host your event, which takes away a lot of the financial risk, but requires more work on your part when it comes to planning, set up, clean up, up front costs to cover food, drinks and whatever else. If you’re buying your own food and booze, look out for a Groupon, or talk to local businesses to see if they’ll give you a discount since it’s for charity.

For either type of event, consider getting entertainment (if the entertainment isn’t already built it, like if you’re doing a class, workshop or game) – do you have any friends who are in a band? Who dance? Also, consider doing an on-site raffle of  donated items, a 50/50 (or Split the Pot) raffle, and ask your guests to bring baked goods and have a bake sale.

Sell stuff. There are lots of  options.

  • Go! Go! Go! Energy Bars were created specifically for fundraising. They’re healthier than candy bars and super tasty. The team behind Go! Go! Go! is local to Chicago and created an easy online system to track your fundraising.
  • Sell something you make. If you don’t already make something, maybe Pinterest can spark ideas.
  • Sell stuff you don’t need via eBay or an app like Poshmark or Threadflip, and donate the proceeds.
  • Host a party, like Stella & Dot, Mary Kay or Jamberry, (I know sellers for the last two if you need them) and ask about donating your profits.
  • Bake sale – piggyback off another event, or host it online – mail baked goods to anyone who makes a donation

What other fundraising ideas have worked for you?