Cheap Fundraising Ideas

Invite someone to your fundraiser, and they’ll likely hit you with this question right off the bat: what’s the activity? As a cost-saving, crowd-pleasing philanthropist, you have to have a great answer ready. People don’t just want to sit and listen to an organizer talk, however noble the cause may be. They want attention and engagement. They want to compete against friends and strangers, laugh at silly performances, bring their pets, and so forth. 

In other words, you need to create novelty if you want to sell a ton of tickets. Ideally, you want to create it with little to no upfront cost. We’ve already covered free tools and methods for fundraisers, so let’s take a broader look at the overall structure of your event. Enjoy these 7 cheap or free fundraiser ideas.

The "something-off"

As mentioned, competition is a tremendous motivator. If you can structure your event in a way that pits event-goers against each other in a fun, tournament-style setting, the ticket-selling potential goes way up. Popular ideas for competitive fundraisers include:

1. Chili cookoff

2. Races, arm wrestling, team sports, darts tournament, etc.

3. Talent competition

4. Yard games (ladder ball, bag toss)

5. Weird and zany competitions (best Christopher Walken impression, best pro wrestler trash-talk)

The potential is limitless in terms of ideas for fun and competitive events, but remember to make it relevant to your audience. A barbecue cookoff, for example, would likely be successful in St. Louis, MO. 

Field day

There’s something endlessly entertaining about watching non-athletes clamber their way through obstacle courses--just flip on the television for proof. Setting up fun and challenging obstacles for adults especially can bring out that childhood nostalgia and whimsy that we sometimes lose touch with. 

To accommodate everyone, it’s a good idea to set up separate courses for kids and adults, or for super-competitive folks vs. those who just want to have fun. Still, this is a great opportunity to encourage competition. You could award the fastest competitors (or the funniest, or most creative) with prizes or shoutouts.


It may seem difficult to pull off a trivia night (or day) if hundreds of people are in attendance, but with your ticketing platform’s buyer questions option, you can work the trivia into the checkout experience. You could also send questions to your audience via your email lists, which would incentivize them to join and receive future updates and promotions.

Choose a highly trendy topic, like popular TV shows, local happenings and celebrities, and so forth. By asking the questions ahead of time, you can just focus on announcing the winners and handing out prizes over trying to organize hundreds of people in a live trivia event. This shouldn’t take too long, so the trivia theme can run alongside a different activity. 

Anything dog-related

It may take some convincing, but if you can get one of the public pools in your area on board, a “doggy dip” never fails. Any event that encourages owners to bring their dogs is sure to sell tickets. Here are a few more ideas involving pups:

Dog + owner runs

Dog photo shoots

Dog treat raffle

Paw print art

You might find that attendees stay a little longer than average at this event, which is good for revenue. They don’t need to go home to let the dog out! Of course, that means that more than one kind of business will be done at your event, so keeping some “doggie bags” on hand for easy cleanup is a good move.

50/50 raffle

Like trivia, 50/50 raffles are easy to integrate with other ideas and highly profitable. The premise is simple. Promote the raffle and sell tickets as normal. The winner receives half of the proceeds, and the other half goes to your event. A great way to encourage maximum participation in this case is to add the cost of the raffle ticket to the admission cost. Everyone gets to play and enjoy your fundraiser, one person wins a ton of money, and your cause is guaranteed half. Win-win-win.


Karaoke is a super versatile tool when it comes to fundraising. You can turn it into a contest, offering prizes for winners, and you can charge $1 per song to help increase funding for your cause. It may take a second to get some traction, but you and your volunteers can kick things off by going first. For larger events, you can even have a local cover band play live while the event-goer belts out on stage.

These are just 6 out of hundreds and hundreds of cheap or free fundraising ideas, but don’t be intimidated by the sheer volume of options at your disposal when planning your event--it’s good to have options! Always keep the audience and their experience at the forefront when considering the activity. Ask yourself the right questions, like, “What kind of experience do I want to create?” Whether you want to inspire them, make them laugh, or engage them in a fun competition, commit to the idea and your audience will have a blast.

Ready to start fundraising?

Get your free account