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15 Engaging Nonprofit Event Ideas to Try Now

Watching supporters gather and rally for your cause is a rewarding and irreplaceable experience. Whether participants are running a 5K to raise awareness of your mission or community members are singing along at a charity...

Watching supporters gather and rally for your cause is a rewarding and irreplaceable experience. Whether participants are running a 5K to raise awareness of your mission or community members are singing along at a charity concert, nonprofit events will always be a core component of a fundraiser's job.

As a leader of a nonprofit organization, you're tasked with coming up with fun ideas and experiences that captivate supporters and inspire them to give. With virtual events growing in popularity and new tech making different types of engagements more accessible, coming up with event ideas is a constant growing pain.

How can your nonprofit events keep your supporters excited and coming back?

The key to a successful nonprofit event is happy and engaged attendees. Otherwise, your event will lose steam and the attention of your supporters. Here at Qgiv, we've written about top fundraisers before. This guide of updated nonprofit event ideas will walk you through:

  • What Is A Nonprofit Event?
  • 15 Fundraising Event Ideas To Try Out
  • Nonprofit Events: Success Stories From Qgiv Clients
  • What Software Do You Need For Your Nonprofit Event?

Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration to get your nonprofit event wheels turning. Let's begin.

What Is A Nonprofit Event?

Nonprofit events are curated experiences for supporters that inspire giving and raise awareness for a cause during a set time period.

These events could span a week or take place during one critical day. To raise money, nonprofit events, whether in-person, virtual or hybrid, will likely use one of the following methods:

  • Ticket selling or registration fees
  • Event sponsorships from businesses, schools, or other organizations
  • Sponsorships of individual or team participants
  • Donations during the event or leading up to the event
  • Auction items or raffle tickets
  • Event merchandise, products, or concessions

Not only are nonprofit events key to furthering your organization's fundraising efforts, but they also bring your community together. Your donors span location, age, ability, and more, but they're all passionate about your mission. Your nonprofit event is the perfect opportunity for these like-minded individuals to come together for a meaningful cause.

Thanks to the internet and technological innovation, nonprofit events can also now take place virtually. With the right resources and solutions, pivoting your exciting event ideas to the online space is easier than ever before. Adding a virtual component to your events can increase attendance and open accessibility up to those who can't attend in-person.

Plus, if face-to-face interactions and large gatherings are no longer allowed, virtual events offer an alternative.

How To Host a Nonprofit Fundraising Event

Each nonprofit event is different, so the way your organization approaches planning and hosting one will be unique as well. However, there are some basic guidelines that all fundraising leaders should follow:

  1. Establish a SMART goal. Determine the purpose of this nonprofit event. Is there a specific fundraising amount you want to hit? Do you want to add X amount of supporters to your email list? We recommend using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) method to ensure your goals are valuable.

  2. Gather an event planning team. Assign staff members to the critical roles in your event planning. Different teams will be creating promotional materials, on site at the event itself, fixing any technical difficulties, and more.

  3. Plan out your budget. Look at past similar events you've hosted to get a better idea of what this might look like. If anything, hosting a virtual version of an event is likely way more cost-effective than an in-person one. You don't have to rent a venue or hire on-site staff.

  4. Collect the resources you'll need. This will depend on the type of nonprofit event you're hosting. For in-person events, consider any specific equipment, tools, food, entertainment, and other necessary items you need. For virtual events, consider the tools and tech you should invest in. For both, you'll need a capable event registration tool.

  5. Promote and market your event. Now that you have the basic components down, you need to share the event with your supporters. Create marketing content for your email, social media, and website audiences.

  6. Set up how supporters can give and get involved. At the very core, your nonprofit event needs a clear and actionable way to donate. Whether this is with an online donation page, a text fundraising phone number, or a giving app, these options should be clear and accessible. Offer more than one way to give to increase fundraising potential.

With these basic steps down, it's time to start exploring the different types of nonprofit events you might host.

What is a nonprofit event?

15 Fundraising Event Ideas to Try Out

The list of possible nonprofit event ideas is always expanding. With innovative tools and new engagement strategies, it's always worth it to do your research and determine which might be the best one for your efforts.

Below, we've listed 15 of our favorite nonprofit event ideas as well as their fundraising potential and the amount of effort needed to plan. We'll then dive deep into both in-person and virtual options.

List of nonprofit event ideas.

1. 5K

A 5K is a long-distance road running competition. Thanks to its relatively shorter distance, 5Ks (~3.1 miles) are a popular choice for nonprofits. It's not only easier to find a shorter track, but the distance is also approachable enough to encourage more attendees.

To raise money for a 5K, you can charge an entrance fee and/or ask supporters to give by sponsoring a participant. You can even accept donations during the 5K itself.

In-Person Nonprofit Event Elements

If you're thinking of hosting an in-person 5K event, these are the elements you will need:

  • A location for the 5K track
  • An on-site team to man the registration table, pass out water, and lead set up and clean up
  • Waivers that release your organization of any liability

Virtual Nonprofit Event Elements

If you're thinking of hosting a virtual 5K event, you'll need those same in-person elements but pivoted to the digital space. For instance, you might:

  • Allow participants to use their own 5K circuit and equip them with distance tracking tools
  • Assemble a team to engage with attendees through live stream, post shoutouts on social media, or assist with any tech support
  • Produce digital waivers that can be signed online

2. Gala

A fundraising gala is one of the more formal nonprofit events. Typically, galas invite important guests such as major donors, community leaders, and board members. With all of these people gathered together in one place, it's the perfect opportunity to fundraise.

However, a gala is more than just a casual get-together. It needs careful and extensive planning, especially if you want it to be a memorable and engaging experience.

Galas usually require guests to don formal attire to come together for a catered meal and entertainment. Figuring out how to entertain guests, what the seating arrangements will be, and keeping in line with your budget are common challenges. In order to raise money, you can sell tickets to the gala or encourage donating during the event itself. Many times organizations will also host a silent auction during the gala event.

In-Person Nonprofit Event Elements

For an in-person fundraising gala, you'll need to:

  • Book a venue beforehand
  • Hire entertainment (comedian, live music, etc.)
  • Hire a catering company
  • Assign a dedicated speaker or staff member to talk about your cause

Virtual Nonprofit Event Elements

You might not think a virtual fundraising gala is possible, but with the right resources and tools, it sure is. Here is what it might look like:

  • Attendance is through live streaming and video conferencing
  • Catering is in the form of food delivery sent to participants' houses
  • Any activities provided can all easily be done at home or online
  • Entertainment is live streamed

Silent auctions can be virtual with a silent auction platform that supports web-based and app-based bidding (check out this list of 25 virtual auction ideas to explore how this event can work from home!)

3. Scavenger Hunt

A scavenger hunt is a unique and fun way to raise awareness for your mission. It'll take some time and money to plan, especially when it comes to brainstorming the perfect items to hunt. But the end results are rewarding for both your organization and the event's participants.

Individuals or teams will sign up to participate in the scavenger hunt. You'll likely charge an entrance fee to registrants or have donations sponsor a specific team. To incentivize people to register, announce an exciting prize for them to win.

Once the participants are signed up, provide each individual or team with a list of items they need to find. To end the event, designate a specific place and time to meet and judge which team won the hunt.

In-Person Nonprofit Event Elements

This is the perfect nonprofit event to host in person for an engaging experience. You'll need to:

  • Compile a list of tasks for teams to complete and items for them to find, along with a way to prove the assignments have been accomplished
  • Provide food and drinks for attendees and staff
  • Designate starting and ending location and time
  • Gather a team of judges

Virtual Nonprofit Event Elements

A scavenger hunt can be accomplished virtually as well. The only difference is that the listed actions and items should be achievable at home or online.

Consider compiling a list of tasks/items that can be done strictly on the internet, using various websites and online platforms. Then, at a designated time, all of the scavenger hunt participants should meet to reveal who the winner is. This can be hosted through video conferencing, with the final results also posted on your organization's event page.

4. Bowlathon

Similar to the 5K and other themed "athon" events, a bowlathon is a unique fundraising idea where participants bowl to raise money as individuals or teams. This event is great for any type of nonprofit organization because of its family-friendliness and accessibility. Plus, it promotes a healthy and active lifestyle- who doesn't want that?

It'll likely take some time to plan a successful bowlathon. You need to rent bowling lanes beforehand, figure out if you'll need vendors for food and drink, and make sure to have enough bowling shoes for all participants.

In-Person Nonprofit Event Elements

To pull off an in-person bowlathon, you'll need to prepare:

  • A bowling venue with the necessary equipment and decorations
  • Dedicated ways for supporters and participants to give, whether online or with a giving app
  • An emcee to host the event and manage entertainment
  • Other staff on site to check guests in, direct bowlers, and answer any questions

Virtual Nonprofit Event Elements

Creating a virtual bowlathon is a little tougher than other event types. However, you just need to be a little creative. In fact, many organizations have successfully hosted virtual bowlathons- except the entire game was online!

All you need is a virtual bowling simulator that is accessible on both desktop and mobile. Then, ask your participants to play from their preferred devices. Supporters can donate to your organization online and even root for a specific team or player. Because you don't need to rent bowling lanes, this is a great budget-friendly alternative that doesn't even require participants to leave their couch.

5. Raffle

A charity raffle is a go-to fundraiser for nonprofit organizations. Combining charity with a game of chance adds a little extra spice to fundraising.

For starters, each state has different raffle laws. Some states have less restrictive laws that allow most organizations to host raffles, while other states are strict and don't allow fundraising raffles at all. In general, the majority of states allow nonprofit organizations to host charity raffles. However, some require nonprofits to obtain a raffle license or permit, so take the necessary actions to apply for one if needed. Once you've jumped through these hoops, you can now start planning a successful nonprofit raffle event!

In-Person Nonprofit Event Elements

Raffles are great as a standalone event, but they can also supplement almost any other nonprofit event you host. In fact, they're very popular and successful with silent auctions.

All you need to do is to collect a list of items and prizes that the raffle winners can collect. To stay within your budget, award prizes that are donated by other supporters, stakeholders, local businesses, or sponsors.

Then, simply sell the raffle tickets for a small fee to interested supporters. Use a number generator or another way to pick tickets at random and choose a winner. At the end of the event, raffle winners will then take home their prizes.

Virtual Nonprofit Event Elements

For a virtual nonprofit raffle, just pivot the entire experience online. Create a dedicated event page where supporters can buy raffle tickets and throw their hats in the ring for some fun prizes. You can either mail the prizes to the winners or offer online prizes that they can redeem on their own.

To make this virtual event a little more engaging, consider hiring an emcee to facilitate the entire experience on live stream!

These are just a few of the exciting nonprofit event ideas you can try out. Remember to consider your organization's goals, resources, and target audience when selecting the right event for you. By creating engaging and memorable experiences, you'll be able to build a strong and dedicated community of supporters who are passionate about your cause. Happy fundraising!