10 Great Holiday Fundraising Campaigns for Nonprofits

The winter holiday season is the busiest time of year for many businesses — and that includes nonprofit organizations. The tidings of good cheer mean that people are more apt to support charity drives and fundraisers during this period. In fact, about 30% of all charitable donations in a fiscal year are gathered during December alone.

Conversely, the months following the holidays tend to bring in fewer donations as people tighten their purse strings and balance their budgets. This means it’s important for your nonprofit to put plenty of thought into the fundraising campaigns you run during the busy season.

Luckily, the holiday season offers a wealth of great ways to attract new supporters to your nonprofit. And since the holidays are fast approaching — the time to start planning is now! Whether you want to throw one massive gala or run a variety of smaller events, the following list of fundraising campaigns has something to suit every nonprofit this holiday season.

1. Charity or Silent Auction

Everyone loves an auction, and there’s a great reason for any nonprofit to try this fundraiser – it’s all profit! Ideally, items are donated to the cause by local businesses in exchange for free publicity.

On the day of the event, the auction structure is flexible. You might arrange a traditional “live” affair with an auctioneer or a silent auction where attendees can add their bids to a list until a pre-determined end time. You can even combine this fundraiser with a dinner or cocktail party, making it a large-scale event that your donors and volunteers can look forward to and enjoy.

2. Holiday Gala

A formal holiday gala allows your nonprofit to make the most of the giving season while celebrating the past year’s accomplishments. Such an event typically includes dress attire, elegant dining, and a beautiful location. In addition to money raised through ticket sales, your might incorporate an auction, a raffle, or live entertainment to bring in additional funds. Beyond the fundraising potential of the event, a gala can also provide an excellent opportunity to publicly thank long-time supporters or volunteers for their hard work and generosity.

3. Casual Dinner Party

If a fancy gala is too extravagant for your nonprofit, a smaller dinner party can also be an excellent fundraiser. The guest list for this more intimate event might include your board members, biggest donors, and most dedicated volunteers. You can also use low-budget advertising methods like email and social media to promote the event in your community. By keeping the event smaller and more low-key, it can be as much a holiday celebration for your inner circle as it is a fundraiser.

4. Good Old-Fashioned Benefit Event

There are about a million ways to run a benefit event. Often these events have several types of fundraising happening at the same time. You might include a silent auction, split-the-pot raffle tickets, and various holiday-themed competitions (like snowman building, gingerbread house decorating, or an ugly sweater showdown). Rather than culminating in a fancy dinner like a gala does, your benefit might center around a performance or artist showcase.

5. Holiday-Themed Sales

The various holidays in November and December offer plenty of options for holiday-themed fundraiser sales. Baked goods and candy sales are well-loved, but don’t forget about inedible items! Ideas might include wrapping paper, decorations, wreaths, Christmas trees, or fresh garland and mistletoe.

These sales can run for several weeks leading up to the holidays, with volunteers taking orders at in-person events. You can also leverage your online donation pages to run the sales 24/7.

6. Holiday-Themed Services

Rather than focusing on material goods, the holiday season is a great chance to offer helpful services to your community. This can be a one-day, multi-day, or even multi-week event, depending on the size of your volunteer roster.

The services you offer will depend on the weather in your area at this time of year. For instance, you may not want to plan an outdoor car wash in a location where the temperatures typically dip below freezing! Seasonally-appropriate services might include gift wrapping, holiday decorating, and even snow removal.

7. Polar Bear Plunge

Jumping into a freezing cold body of water in the middle of winter is probably one of the more eccentric ways to raise money. In spite of the hypothermia risk, these events have become popular and well-liked liked fundraisers for many nonprofits.

Much like a walk-a-thon or charity run, donors sponsor the individuals who plan to leap into the lake or river. To raise additional funds, you can also sell promotional apparel for the event. Participants will surely appreciate having a toasty new sweater to throw on when they emerge from the water!

8. Host a Charity Run

The type of run you host will again depend on the seasonal temperatures in your area. Some organizations find that hosting a shorter outdoor run in lower temperatures can still attract quite a good turn-out. Others may opt to host their running or walking events at an indoor arena. In either case, adding a holiday costume component to the event can help to entice individuals who may not think they’re “athletic” enough to participate.

9. Sporting Events

There are a wide variety of sporting competitions that can serve as good fundraising opportunities. These can include classic team sports like basketball or baseball or indoor sports from your gym class days, like dodgeball or floor hockey. You could also take a cue from the winter weather and invite your community to participate in a skating, sledding, or cross-country skiing event.

Sporting fundraisers often feature prizes for the winners, which helps to draw a crowd. You might also include food and drink sales as well as a raffle to supplement the funds from registration fees.

10. Bake/Cook-Offs

Sports aren’t the only activity that brings out healthy competition! Hosting a bake-off or cook-off can be a delicious way to raise funds for your nonprofit. Participants can pay a fee to compete while community members can buy tickets for the taste-test. The food in question can be a holiday classic like pies or cookies, or something more unique to your local culture and traditions.

Making the Most of Your Holiday Fundraising Campaigns

Hosting an end-of-the-year event gives you a great opportunity to get the word out about your nonprofit while also raising valuable funds. To attract generous donations, your fundraiser should offer something fun for those who participate. You should also share all of the event details, photos, and acknowledgments on your social media channels to encourage repeat attendance in future years.

In the slower months following the holiday season, take advantage of the downtime to assess how well your holiday fundraising campaigns performed. Using a CRM for nonprofits is a great way to keep track of your new and returning donors along with their donations. It also speeds up the process of creating thank-you letters and tax receipts, which you’re sure to be sending a lot of! By taking an organized approach to donor management, you can develop an annual holiday fundraising strategy that will benefit your nonprofit for years to come.


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