two young boys with santa hats on each building a gingerbread house with lighted Christmas trees in background

6 Christmas Fundraising Ideas

If you have little time to prep or you are short on resources, you need easy Christmas fundraising ideas like these. Each one of these holiday fundraising activities takes little effort but will build lasting memories.

Holiday Cooking Class

This a super popular fundraiser. Traditionally, holiday cooking is filled with generational hand-me-down recipes and “tricks.” You’ve probably heard something like, “This is Grandma’s lumpy gravy recipe.” Or, “Dad’s the one who has the secret turkey seasoning recipe.”  If this sounds like familiar holiday fodder, it’s time to add your own holiday tradition by attending a holiday cooking class.

Find a local chef
You don’t have to shop around for a cooking class because you’re going to create one and make it a favorite Christmas fundraising event. All you have to do is ask a local favorite chef if he or she would donate their time to help your cause by teaching a holiday cooking class. If you’re uncertain about which chef to contact, call your local television station or newspaper for a referral. Both media will have contacts for local chefs, as they often do cooking promotions during the holiday season. PRO TIP: If you do contact the TV station or newspaper, ask them if they’d be interested in covering your event—it makes a great local feel-good story for the holidays.

One night or two?
Consider asking a pastry chef, as they are a holiday favorite, if that fits into your Christmas fundraising event. We’ve seen nonprofits have a two-night cooking class where the first night is classic holiday cooking, and the second is a pastry chef.

Rent a kitchen
You also need to find a kitchen that accommodates 30-40 people. A school cafeteria works well and typically can accommodate more people than a restaurant. Ideally, you do not want to pay for using a kitchen for four hours, so whoever you ask about using their kitchen, ask them to donate it in exchange for you adding their logo on all the promotional pieces you create—flyers, ads, Facebook posts, etc. If there’s a photography business that specializes in shooting food for restaurants, they usually have a large space that has a kitchen and can accommodate up to 50 people. If you subscribe to Groupon emails, then you know whether or not there are cooking classes available in your community. Contact the cooking classes to see if they’d like to donate their kitchen to you for an evening or two. Also, try a community college to see if they might have a classroom kitchen. Once you have secured a kitchen, determine how many students it can accommodate for a cooking class. Do each of the students need to “cook,” or can they share spaces or simply learn by observation—this will help you determine how many seats you can sell.

Let’s say, at this point, you have a chef, found a kitchen, and now you need students. That’s the easy part because everyone (well, not some dads we know) loves to cook for the holidays, right?  If you have 50 seats and charge $30 per seat, there’s $1,500—have two evenings of classes, even better!

Something your team should consider is whether you offer babysitting during the cooking lessons. This can be another way to raise money—ask $10 per angel and have your kids do the babysitting as their donation. Or you can offer babysitting as goodwill, which the ticket purchasers would appreciate. Something to think about.

Promote Your Cooking Class

Hopefully, you have booked your chef in plenty of time to properly promote it so that your class is full. Speaking of full classes, holiday cooking classes sell out fast, so be sure to mention that in your ads, posts, and flyers. A sense of urgency is a catalyst for a quick sell-out!

Registration and payment: On your nonprofit’s website, add a section about the Christmas fundraising event you’re planning.  You can make this the page where people can register and pay for the class. Include a donation button so they can donate more. Many payment processors like Stripe have the option to add a donation button. Check with your payment processor to see if it offers a donation button. Processors also have the ability to stop accepting payments once the seat limit has been met.

Email: You can promote your class as a Christmas fundraising event for your nonprofit. If you have an email list of your nonprofit’s friends and donors, sending a marketing email to them with a strong sense of urgency that’s probably the only email, you’ll need to send except for a “thanks for registering” email and an after the class “thank you.” These emails should not be text only; they need to be marketing emails that include attention-getting graphics.

Social media: Social media will be the registration hero for your Christmas fundraising event. Have a marketing person create a post that you can use on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever social platforms your nonprofit uses. You can also spend $10 to boost your post. Ask your friends and families to post it on their Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter platforms.

Flyers and posters: Create flyers to hand out to local businesses and ask them if you can put a poster in their window as well. Place posters in high-traffic areas where permitted.

Recap: Your promotional tools include: marketing emails to your nonprofit’s contacts, social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), posters, and flyers. Word of mouth is powerful, too, so tell everyone you know! It’s a good idea to assign someone to manage each task.

What to include in your ads, posts, and flyers:

  • Name of event
  • Event sponsor
  • Limited seats available
  • Name of chef and restaurant, any awards the chef has earned
  • Cost of participation
  • What is included in the cost: Include two to three dishes that will be made and eaten
  • Date and time
  • Event location
  • Phone or email (provide a way for potential guests to contact someone in your group with quesitons)


Gingerbread House Event

gingerbread houseThis is a warm holiday event for the whole family to do.

Best Gingerbread House Contest: WIN $100!
There are several ways to have fun, celebrate the holidays, and make money for your nonprofit. The all-around best way is a gingerbread house contest event where people register online to participate. Each entrant pays a fee for their gingerbread house-making kit.  Let’s say you have 50 people register; each pays $20 for their gingerbread house kit. That’s $1,000 minus the cost of the kits.

You can buy kits at Amazon starting at $8. You buy the DIY kits because it’s the easiest way to do it—you don’t have to cut out templates, etc. Give the kids the option to build the house at home with their family and bring it on judging day.  Or they can join you to build a DIY gingerbread house together at the event.

The real money comes from three sponsors you have who will be judging the houses and selecting the top three.  Each sponsor has donated $500, and a representative from each company selects one house. The top three house-builders each win $100. Be sure to invite the media so they can take photos and publish them (this is a big selling point for the sponsors). Remember that the location for the house-making and the judging event needs to be a location that has decent traffic so that your sponsors can justify the cost.

Adults know that the best gingerbread houses are the ones that are finished!  Ha ha. but seriously, building a gingerbread house takes a lot of time and patience. Some kids peter out because it takes so long. Anytime pieces of a project have to dry is an opportunity for kids to get distracted. This is something to consider when deciding which kind of gingerbread house you’re going to make—cardboard or gingerbread.

A cardboard gingerbread house? Sounds awful, but the reality is that 99% of kids do not eat their gingerbread houses.  And swapping the gingerbread for cardboard takes almost an hour off of the build-time because you no longer have to bake and cool gingerbread.  Either way, you decide to make your house, a cardboard template or pattern is used to make the walls—if you’re making a cardboard house, it’s not a template—it’s a wall!

There’s another benefit to using cardboard for the gingerbread house besides saving time—it’s easier to decorate. Cardboard is porous and takes paint and such beautifully compared to the alternative. Some teachers use graham crackers for the walls, and more students end up eating them.

  • Here’s a good set of DIY cardboard gingerbread house directions
  • Here’s a wonderful recipe for making a gingerbread house from scratch

Consider the Gingerbread House DIY Kit
You can buy gingerbread house kits at Amazon starting at $8. This is the easiest way, and you’ll still have to supply some supplies like glue, paints, and glitter. Advertise your Christmas fundraiser and give the kids the option to build the house at home with their family or come to your house-making event and build it there.

Christmas Carol Fundraiser
4 christmas carolers bundled up and singing

When you’ve got a group that can croon, you’ve got a group of Christmas carolers who can raise money for your cause with Carol Grams! Carol Grams are a wonderful Christmas fundraising idea.

If you have at least four people to sing holiday tunes, you’ve got a great Christmas fundraising idea!
Get your group practicing for the holidays and narrowing down their list of popular carols.
Popular carols include:

  • Deck the Halls
  • Frosty the Snowman
  • Hark! the Herald Angels Sing
  • Jingle Bells
  • Joy to the World
  • Up on the Housetop
  • Silent Night
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  • We Wish You a Merry Christmas

How to monetize Christmas Carol Grams
Create a web page where users can order carolers to come to their homes and select songs, dates, and times, and pay for their purchase. You’ll have to determine what you’ll charge for visiting carolers and for virtual carolers. Also, consider providing heavily discounted virtual caroling videos to those who have paid for in-person caroling.
• Regular Carolers: 3 songs and at least three carolers      Sugg. price $300
• Extended Carolers: 6 songs and three to four carolers   Sugg. price $500

On the web page, users can order virtual Carol Grams where they have Carol Grams videos emailed to them to enjoy or a link to a page that houses videos of the carolers singing.
• Regular Virtual Carol Grams  3 songs and at least three carolers       Sugg. price  $25
• Extended Virtual Carol Grams  6 songs and three to four carolers     Sugg. price $50
As far as pricing goes, due diligence will determine what others charge and adjust accordingly.

Offer the Virtual Caroling Grams through school handouts, advertise on the school’s website, and set up a booth at the entrance of the school for when families drop and pick up their students. Keep your price points affordable. Do the same for your office and everyone in your group’s offices. Before you start selling, take some pictures of the carolers in festive holiday sweaters and hats to use as advertising material and on the web pages. You can also hand out flyers to local businesses and put posters in high-traffic areas. Don’t forget about social media because that’s where you’re going to get a lot of business. Newspapers and television stations are always on the lookout for “bright” stories around Christmastime—be sure to send them a few flyers and suggest that they get in touch for a heartwarming story.

Elf Bowling

small toy elf on the shelfThis one’s a no-brainer—a fun no-brainer!  All you have to do is get people to dress up like elves and go bowling.

An elf bowling fundraiser is a type of charity event that is held during the holiday season. The event typically features a bowling tournament, with participants paying a fee to enter. The proceeds from the event are then donated to your nonprofit. The bowling alley can discount your rates so that your nonprofit puts more money in the bank. They are also a fun and festive way to get people together and celebrate the holidays.

Another way to do the bowling fundraiser is to get people to sponsor you per pin that you knock down. Leave it up to your sponsors to name a per-pin price, but make recommendations based on your bowling ability. We recommend five cents per pin so that you don’t break their bank if you’re a good bowler. If you are a lousy bowler and typically score in the 40-pin range, consider recommending 15 cents per pin. If you’re Gutterball Gary, add a clause about getting fifty cents per gutterball. With 10 frames and a gutterball in each turn, that would be five dollars per game, max. Fair, right?  You need to create an online sign-up sheet and a hard copy so the sponsors can complete their pledges on the spot when your teammates are pitching potential sponsors.

AMF Bowling does the rest. Plan a typical bowling fundraiser, and ask everyone to dress up as elves. You can also sell elf ears, hats, and shoes to make a little extra cash. The success of this fundraiser is predicated on how many people register to bowl at your event. You know what that means, right? Yep. You’ve got to market the heck out of it!  Use all the marketing skills you’ve learned from the first five examples, and boom! You’re off to the races! Have fun and share your Christmas fundraising ideas with friends, colleagues, and family.

Wrapping It Up

Many nonprofits use these fundraising ideas to earn money in preparation for their big event of the year—their online fundraising auction, using CharityAuctionsToday’s online auction software.  If you’re planning an online fundraising auction soon,  we’d like to give you the opportunity to try our software at no cost to you—not even a credit card.

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