22 Cheap Fundraising Ideas

colorful graphics of silhouettes with the words fundraising ideas

Cheap fundraising ideas are a handy way for any organization planning an online fundraising auction to raise cash to cover operating costs of their auction. Fundraising is the best way to get cash in hand to cover operating costs as they arise. This way, no one has to dig into their own pockets to cover costs or wait for a requisition to clear before they can get funds from the parent organization.

The ideas listed here are inexpensive and easy ways to raise money for your organization. Adding your own touches makes the fundraiser more personal and in turn special. So, read on and brainstorm!

1. Bake Sale

3 frosted cupcakes in a row topped with a cherry and sprinkles

Who can resist a bake sale?

Query your committee or team to find a dozen “bakers” to ho make goodies for the bake sale. Also, ask your team if anyone knows the owners of local bakeries or grocery stores where you can ask them to donate delicious and sugary treats.

Once you’ve got the goods under control, now you plan your advertising blitz. This can include putting flyers in stores, at schools and churches. You can also advertise it on websites such as the school’s or the organization that is behind the auction. Also. put it on Facebook and other social media sites. You can even create a Facebook page for it—be sure to have yummy photos to use. Have your committee members share the posts on their own social media accounts. Tell everyone! And be sure to remind them that if they don’t want cupcakes, they can donate money to your cause! Don’t forget to tell friends, family, and neighbors!

When you set up tables to show off your delicious baked goods, be sure to make your table appealing. Consider putting a donation jar on the table. Earn even more money by selling coffee, bottled water, or iced tea. Some groups have a “guess how many jelly beans are in the jar” game for people to participate and win a small prize—a good idea is to ask a store owner for a gift certificate. Others have a corn hole game where winners can earn a buy-one-get-one-free on cookies or some other smaller goodies.

Find out more about how to run a profitable bake sale fundraiser.

2. Craft Sale

cheap-fundraising-ideas-craft saleAre you a crafter? How about people on your auction committee or team? What about family members, friends or neighbors? Get everyone involved!

Where can you hold your craft sale? Try a pop-up shop in a local business, or an Etsy or Facebook store as “places”  to house your crafts shops.. Consider selling your crafts in multiple places.

Crafts can include fun items like handmade note cards to drawings to Cricut items. Search the internet for craft ideas if you need inspiration.

If you like the idea of a craft sale but have no craft-making skills, consider doing a call for crafters to sell their handmade items at your craft sale. You can negotiate with crafters to receive a percentage of each sale to go to your project.

To ensure a successful craft sale, be sure to advertise it, a lot. Invite people to attend your craft sale by using Facebook and other social media platforms. Be sure to use lovely images of the crafts in your posts. Make flyers and put them  in businesses, storefronts, churches, schools, high-traffic areas of the city and anywhere else people congregate.

Here are 25 brilliant fundraiser crafts we love.  You might find your favorite ideas here! And have fun!

3. Activity Workshop

cheap-fundraising-ideas-out-door-work-outWhat in the heck is an activity workshop?

A popular activity is a “learn to paint” workshop where each participant pays an entry fee and is taught to paint their dog, a landscape, etc., on a 16″ x 20″ canvas. You will need someone to teach attendees how to paint—many fundraisers ask the local learn-to-paint business if they could hire their instructor. Be sure to let them know it’s for charity fundraiser. 

Try workshops for learning how to rock climb (at a gym), how to crochet, a “Rock, Paper, Scissors” tournament, scavenger hunt, a tie-dye station, karaoke contest, poetry slam, etc. Brainstorm with your committee to see what resonates with your mission. You can have more than one workshop!

How will you get tons of participants? Advertise it everywhere you can. Invite people to participate by promoting it on Facebook and other social media. Have your friends, family and colleagues share it on their Facebook feeds. Make flyers and put them  in businesses, storefronts, churches, schools, high-traffic areas of the city and anywhere else people congregate.

Here are a few tips to help you get started on your own activity workshops.

4. Beverage Standpaper lemonade cup with wooden stand

If you made lemonade sidewalk stands when you were a kid, you can brush off those mad skills and create a “hydration station” for hot summer days or even coffee when it’s cooler. Consider adding ice cream, snow cones, or sweet treats to your menu.

Location, location, location
Choose a suitable location to set up a pop-up shop or beverage stand temporarily. Good places to start are near a busy park, a school, or near a high traffic location. The key to success for this fundraiser is location. A crowded area with high foot traffic means more money in your organization’s fundraising account.

Keep in mind the current season and weather. Decorate your stand to appeal to the intended audience in the location you selected—if the audience is kids, made it kid-fun. If there’s cold in the air and you’re selling coffee and scones, make it memorable and attractive.  

Switch it up once winter is here. During winter or cold weather opt for coffee, hot tea, hot cocoa and fresh donuts. Use seasonal fruits for lemonades and add a few personal touches to the beverages to make it a hit with your customers.

5. Car wash

cheap-fundraising-ideas-car-wash-for-charityCar washes are a super fun way to raise money! There’s a tendency for car wash customers to tip really well for your cause, so be sure to have GREAT SIGNAGE about your organization and fundraising goals. People who have an affinity for your cause will surely stop to donate money. In fact, you might find that you don’t wash a ton of cars, but the donations are plentiful!

Location. Location. Location.
You’ll need to find a high-trafficked location with water available, plus a lot of room for lining up the cars, and washing, drying stations. Strip malls can be your best bet. Are there any businesses in the area that you think might sponsor your organization to house a car wash? Some fast food restaurants are closed on Sundays, making their lots available.  Or set up a wash station at a mall parking lot. You know your local area best; where would be a good location for a fundraising car wash?

Be sure to blast your car wash details on social media and ask your friends to share on theirs. If you’re having it at a high-trafficked area, put signs up to announce date and time. Will you do it monthly in the summer? Once? Something to consider. Just be sure to advertise it!

To make the car wash interesting, you and your team can dress up in costumes as you service your customers. Superhero costumes are popular. You can also dress up as a pirate, or a historical figure or even an animal.

Consider setting up a drink and yummy treats table to help with the fundraising. Get a few coolers and keep beverages ice cold in the summer. How about delicious hot coffee for cooler temperatures?

Read more about car wash fundraiser and how it actually works.

6. Boat Wash

boat washBefore you say ‘boat wash?” you should know that the U.S. has 95,471 miles of shoreline and an estimated 125,000 lakes in the lower 48 states (Alaska has over 3 million!). But here’s the kicker—the US has 11.96 million boats registered. Do these numbers make a boat wash sound like a better idea than when you first saw it?
Boat owners have a love for their boat that only a boat owner can comprehend. One of the tenets of boat ownership is keeping it clean, as in clean like the day they bought it clean.

Weekends are perfect times for boat washes as that’s when most take their boats out to the lake. Find a local business that lands somewhere between the lake and back to the local town. You’ll need a location big enough to house a large vehicle with a boat hitched to the back. You’ll need access to water spigots too.

Think of other ways to raise money in addition to the boat washing service. Include fun activities or food stalls to increase your total funds and keep the customers busy while they wait for their boats to come out of the shower.

Boat washing tips:
You’ll need these supplies:
• Buckets
• Washing mitts
• Hoses with nozzles
• Soft, absorbent towels for drying for no-streak drying
• Microfiber cloth for wiping the dash and interior
• Small, hand-held, battery operated vacuum to clean the floor


Do not use anything but boat soap. It can be expensive. A good substitute is one gallon of water and one cup white vinegar for a safe wash. Or wash with water and rinse well.

How to wash a boat
• First rinse the entire boat.
• Wash the boat using the wash mitt, in small areas at a time, rinsing immediately.
• Wash and rinse from the top down.
• Don’t scrub too hard.
• For the final rinse, remove the hose nozzle and let water run down to help prevent water spots.
• Then use a highly absorbent towel or chamois to completely dry the boat.

7. Charity Sports
charity sports

There is nothing like a good charity sports event to attract a large group of participants and an even larger group of spectators. This is one of most attended fundraisers, garnering a sizeable amount of donations.

When people think of fundraising, an image of a jar of change might appear in their minds. But this fundraiser is so well attended—no change jar and lots of fun doing it. There’s competition, exercise, fun and camaraderie. Everyone wins—the participants, the spectators and the charity.

The most common option is to organize a charity run where the participants enter the competition by donating a certain amount. The amount may be an entrance fee or per mile if it is a marathon. The one-time donations from the participants will go to your charity.Participants can ask friends and family to sponsor them by paying a per mile bounty.

Remember to be creative. How about a costume race where participants can dress up as their favorite cartoon or animated characters to run for a cause. Encourage friends and family to participate and bring others along.

You can even organize a race based on running through obstacles. It is a fun way to raise big dollars.

Here are fifteen charity sports fundraising ideas.

8. Catalog Sales

catalogue saleThis involves going door to door and asking people if they want to buy something from the catalog. Mobile and virtual options are available now from many catalog fundraising companies. You can email or post a picture of the items on your social media and fundraise remotely. 

There are many online companies that specialize in selling fundraising products. Get in touch with them to see see their catalogs. Once you have the catalogs, get your group or volunteers to go door to door to sell the catalog items.

Once a prospect decides to buy a product, the volunteer collects the money, and delivers the order.

This is an easy and effective way to collect funds. However, patience and sales skills are usually required to sell the most on the team.

Read more about how catalog sales help in fundraising.

9. Cleaning Services

cleaning serviceIf you have free time on your hands,  you can offer local business cleaning services.

Many businesses need their trash taken out, parking lot cleaned, signs cleaned, and many other little things to be done. This is where you can earn money.

Contact businesses or stores near you and offer them cleaning services. In return, you charge them a fee which goes to your charity. This is a simple form of fundraising, one that requires no additional skills.

Here’s how single mom Kari-Lee Shaw fundraises through her cleaning services.

10. Consignment Shop Sales

Consignment Shop SalesFind a consignment store near you. A consignment store specializes in selling one person’s goods to another person.

We all have many things lying around our house which we do not need.

Instead of keeping these unused goods out of a sense of nostalgia you can turn them over to consignment stores. When you unclutter the space in your house these used goods can be helpful to another in need. As a result, it can also bring in money for your charity.

Anything from furniture, apparels, books and even antiques can be sold in a consignment shop.

Although the shop keeper will keep a commission on every sale the shop makes, you can still collect more than when these items were lying around unused.

Check with the shop every few weeks to see if they have sold anything. Keep a track of what is going out and how much is coming in and you have yourself a fundraiser from home!

Here’s a beginner’s guide to consignment stores.

11. Donation Jars

donation jarNot only is this an easy fundraiser, it’s especially fun to do with a group. Everyone brings a jar, cut an opening for money on the lid, have the designer on your team creates a fun label for the jar with an irresistible ask to donate money. Examples are: “Your dollar will feed a hungry child lunch today” or include a photo of a friend with their mom who passed from breast cancer and use the tagline, “My mom died from breast cancer. Save your mom. Donate today.” Just come up with a clever way to make potential donors want to give money to your charity.

When you position the jars near the checkout of local business, ask if you can also leave brochures or flyers about the event.

Once you have permission to put the jars in dozens og popular businesses, be sure to collect the donations weekly.

Promote the jars on Facebook and ask friends to share the posts on their feeds. Consider making flyers to display at the businesses too.

Here are five awesome donation jar ideas for fundraising.

12. Fun Games

fun gamesCan you say, “Game-a-Palooza?”

Make it an afternoon weekend event where several groups such as sororities, fraternities, clubs and more can create a game  day of big fun, food, drinks and prizes.

Let’s say five campus organizations each creates a game booth where participants try to play the games to win.You can charge an entrance fee into the event or charge a fee (donation) for each game played. It’s up to the teams to determine actual logistics.

Games can be so fun. Good examples of game-a-palooza fun are:
• Basketball: three hoops in a row
• Basketball: play HORSE or use your university’s mascot’s name
• Bottle Ring Tsss
• Twister
• How many jelly beans in the jar?
• Bocce Ball best out of three
• Toilet Paper Toss – Get a toilet seat that can be mounted to a wood crate (with some type of backstop) and buy a 24-roll package of toilet paper. Pro tip: put a rubber band or tie a string around the roll, so it doesn’t unravel. Participants stand at a specified distance to throw as many rolls of paper into the toilet seat in a given amount of time. If you can get a business to donate (or lend) a full-sized toilet, the game is more fun just from the optics!
• Red Cup Relay – This is a super fun game that always draws a big crowd. Use water guns in a competition-style game where you set up two lines of rope with a red plastic Solo cup threaded onto each rope through holes cut in the bottom of the cups. Have a contest to see who can squirt water into the cup to push it down the rope to the end. Then have participants return the cup to the other end by squirting the bottom of the cup.

If you’re going to make an afternoon event, consider drink stands and food booths as an additional way to raise funds.

You’ll have to brainstorm with your team to determine whether you charge and entrance fee, or by the game to raise money.

Be sure to promote it all over campus, on social media and the campus newspaper and radio station, for starters.

This Pinterest user has 143 different fun games ideas to share.

13. Online Auctions

online auctionsInternet auctions are growing in popularity primarily because they allow your charity or nonprofit organization to reach out to people globally, meaning the more people who visit your auction, the more funds you’ll raise.

Plus fundraiser auctions are easy to set up and manage. They really are the best and easiest ways to raise an impressive amount of money in a short period of time.

The key to auction success is having an auction vendor who will walk you through the process, be available when you have questions or need help, who charge low fees, and who will make recommendations to improve your auction. Charity Auctions Today checks all of those boxes and many more.Most users appreciate the no credit card needed to get started creating your charity auction.

Start here to earn how to create your charity auction, step-by-step.

Learn more: how to start an online auction.

14. Raffle

raffleHere is a fun and holiday-driven idea! All you need is Christmas tree in a public location and a smart promotional plan.

Set up an artificial Christmas tree in a highly trafficked public location such as a park.  Post a sign to let your supporters and other community members hang ornaments and decorations on the tree.

Once they have donated the ornaments and decorations it is time for you to raffle them off starting with the most expensive ones. You can also do this during other holidays like Easter and Halloween.

You can raffle handmade gift cards, homemade chocolates, and even flowers for Valentine’s Day. The options are numerous if you know how to pursue them.

Read more about six outstanding raffle destinations.

15. Pajama Day

pajama day

Here is a fun way to raise money from your school, college or your workplace.

Charge your classmates or workmates a small amount so that they can wear pajamas to work or school on a designated day.

You can change it up a little by doing a hat day or a costume day. Have a few contests like ‘quirkiest hat’ or ‘silliest pajamas’ or ‘strange costumes’ to keep them entertained and excited.

This is a fun way to raise funds and although it may not be as prosperous as some of our previous ideas, it still is the most entertaining and you may just earn a few loyal supporters.

Supporters are as important as the funds you collect. Loyal supporters are necessary for the long-term success of your charity.

Here’s more on how to host a Pajama fundraiser.

16. Change is Here

change is hereThere are many people in your neighborhood who are willing to part with the pennies that keep piling up in their pockets at the end of each day.

You and the members of your group go from door to door and ask people for any extra change they might have in their pockets to support your chosen cause.

Since you are only asking for small change, a few generous souls may end up giving you a few bills just to help you out.

This idea may sound a little simple but when it comes to collecting funds for charity, every penny counts.

There is also an app that helps people donate their change to charity and get tax deductions. Download it here.

17. Recycle

recycleWe use a lot of plastic bottles and aluminum cans in our everyday lives. Now you can collect all the recyclables from your neighbors and turn them over to your local recycling center for cash.

Publicize the campaign in your neighborhood and pick an open space where people can drop off their recyclables. Be careful not to spill harmful waste into the environment.

Once you have collected the trash take them to the recycling center and collect your money. You can also charge your neighbors a couple of dollars for getting rid of their junk for them.

Learn more about recycling for a cause.<

18. Root Beer Stalls

root beer stallEveryone likes a ice cream float or a refreshing root beer on a hot and sunny day.

Pick an open and public spot in your locality and set up a stall there, with all necessary permissions of course.

You will have to get a small portable freezer to store your ice cream. Other items such as cups, spoons, napkins, and straws are also required.

Once the stall is set up call out to any passersby and offer them a free drink. If they like it then ask them to donate something. Come up with creative flavors of your own and if the first few people like it then more will follow automatically.

Fruit smoothies are a healthier and more delicious option which may appeal to a lot of the health-conscious people today.

Weber’s Superior Root Beer Fundraising might be a case in point. Learn more about it here.

19. Community Service

community serviceRound up a few of your best people to orm a team. Now approach the community elders or leaders and offer to do community services for a minimal charge which you will use to fund your charity.

There are a host of activities you can do like mowing lawns, helping the elderly with household chores, cleaning the street, raking leaves or removing the snow. Not only does the activity help the community but also it helps your cause by raising money.

When the people in your community see the work you are doing for the community they will be more eager to help you out with your cause.

They will be more generous with their donations too once you have earned the goodwill. This requires very little skill and you can even do it on weekends. Split into teams of two or three and assign different jobs to different teams. This way you get a whole lot done on the weekends.

Here are 91 superb examples of fundraising through community services on Pinterest.

20. Health is Wealth

heath is wealthWe all have friends in our group who want to lose weight.

If you are trying to lose or gain weight, then this is the best way to do so. Form a few teams comprising of two members each.

Each team will have a certain goal like gaining weight or losing weight. After the teams are formed they will have to find supporters willing to pledge to their cause.

Record the weight of members of each team at the start of the event and keep a note of it. The event will go on for a fixed period of time, say a month or two, after which each team will weigh in again.

Once the competition is over, teams will collect the pledges from their supporters. Each team can collect $1-5 for each pound of weight lost or gained. This is a very nice way to raise funds as everyone turns out a winner at the end of the event.

Here’s more on how you can lose weight and support your favorite charity.

21. Yard Sale

yard saleThis is arguably by far the most popular way to raise funds on this fundraising idealist.

Getting rid of things you don’t need anymore is a great way to raise funds for your cause.

Now a yard sale does not even require you to go somewhere. Your backyard is the perfect place to start.

Make a list of all things that you no longer use or need. Divide them into categories such as furniture, clothing, antiques, or toys. Ask other members of your organization to donate too.

Advertise on social media, among friends and family, and put up posters in your local area to get the attention of your neighbors.

Have the yard sale for an entire day. Do not bargain or try to sell your items for profit. Remember they are used and you are raising money for charity. So, any amount the donor is willing to pay is welcome. Collect your money at the end of the sale and put up another yard sale a month later if you still have items to sell.

Here are top tips for planning a fundraiser yard sale.

Fundraising is a great way to raise money and awareness for your charity

However, a fundraiser should be done with the best of intentions for it to be a success.

Be patient and brainstorm with your group to come up with new and exciting ideas. Make donating exciting and interesting and your collections will increase exponentially.

The proceeds from your events will go to the charity of your choice or your own non-profit organization. Be smart and active and you will be able to raise huge funds with just a little patience.

Happy fundraising! Be sure to download your own copy of Charity Auctions Today complimentary auction blueprint if you’d like to take a charity auction for a test drive.