16 College Fundraising Ideas: Great Step-By-Step Guide

college fundraising ideas Before you dive into 16 fundraising ideas, we thought it would be handy for you to know the six steps you and your fundraising team need to accomplish before selecting your fundraising niche. PRO TIP: Check out the BONUS IDEA at the end of the list!

STEP ONE: Assemble Your Committee


Participants enter a tent at the University of Michigan’s Relay for Life event.

The first thing you need to do for your college fundraiser is set up a fundraising committee within your group. Then, ask interested members to volunteer their time, effort, resources, and commitment to your group in its efforts to raise money. Discuss everyone’s resources and abilities to see who would fit well in different areas, such as marketing, organization, decoration, developing advertisements, and other promotional resources. Keep everyone’s talents in mind as you move forward.

STEP TWO: Adhere to a Budget

What is your group’s fundraising budget? What free resources are available? Now is the time to determine precisely what your group can afford to spend to set up a fundraising activity and what resources will be freely available to your group when you need them.

Once you’ve determined these things, you can start brainstorming different affordable ways to host a college fundraiser that realistically falls within your means.

STEP THREE: Brainstorm Event Ideas

The best college fundraising events are not just fun but are affordable. Come up with an affordable fundraising event that will excite the audience you are trying to reach. If most of your donations come from other students, then target your efforts towards activities in which they will be interested. If your target audience is the local community, come up with something appealing to them.

Keep your fundraiser short and straightforward. Students are generally busy with their studies, social life, and groups, so run a fundraiser that gives them something of value and does not take up much of anyone’s time.

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STEP FOUR: Establish a Plan

Get your group together and organize every step of your event. Consider what everything will cost, who will perform different necessary steps, and when and where you’ll get needed supplies. Then, make sure you’ve accounted for everything you’ll need.

Then, set a fundraiser date on which all of your members will be available. Finally, start gathering materials, creating decorations, developing flyers or online campaign advertisements, and preparing for your event.

STEP FIVE:  Spread the Word

Publicize your college fundraiser in advance. Generate excitement about your event, letting people know when and where it will take place, the online location if it is virtual, and why your group is trying to raise money. Please point out any particular aspects of it, highlighting exciting points or how donors will benefit from supporting your fundraising efforts. Remember this about potential donors: don’t hesitate to ask for donations because, in general, people like to help others. woman speaking into megaphone to a crowd

STEP SIX: Triple Check

Make sure everything is in place and ready on your event’s day.
  • Do you have change for customers paying cash for goods or services?
  • Are you in a high-traffic area and noticeable to passersby?
  • Do you have all the necessary products, supplies, order sheets, or other items?

Do not forget to thank every contributor generously for their donation, no matter how large or small. Always be courteous to your donors and let them know their support is essential to your group and its goals.

Two pieces of sage fundraising advice >>> Please read!

No matter what type of fundraising idea you choose, these two points are good to know and may save your proverbial rear on fundraiser day! 1. Always verify company and product information when working with any wholesaler or fundraising company that may offer products for your event. 2. Get permission for your fundraiser—you can start at  Student Services or the Campus Activity Board. If they’re not the correct liaison, they’ll direct you to the appropriate agency. And be sure to submit your completed paperwork before the deadline! We can tell you that we’ve had a few students do all the necessary paperwork to create a terrific fundraiser, and on the day of the event, it was closed down due to a lack of proper signed paperwork. banner reads 16 fundsaising ideas for college stuents

1. Donation Jar

college-fundraising-ideas-donations-jar Let’s start with one of the more straightforward fundraising ideas. Ask businesses to sponsor your event by allowing you to set up a donation jar at their place of business. Then, place them in several local stores. Collect your donations once a week or more until your group has reached its fundraising goal.

2. Barbecue

college-fundraising-ideas-barbeque-for-fundraising Cookouts and barbecues are always excellent for students on the run or a casual dinner event. Hold the event at your sorority/fraternity house or other college location and charge an admittance or per plate fee to those who attend. Ask other students or members of your group to help by donating utensils, food items, and other necessities.

3. College Dance

college-fundraising-ideas-dance-for-charity Throw a themed dance or party for students in which they pay an admission fee to get in the door. The primary focus of your fundraising event is the music, so make sure to find a reliable volunteer DJ on campus or play mixed CDs. The more variety, the better!

4. Sports Competition for Fundraising

college-fundraising-sports-fundraising-sports competition Sports competitions are great college fundraisers. Sign up for other fraternities or sororities to participate against yours in different sports competitions on campus, such as beach volleyball. Charge an admission fee to the event and provide snacks and beverages attendees can purchase.

5. Direct Sales

charity-auctions-today-college-fundraising-idea-direct-sales Direct sales is another technique that can earn plenty of money for your college fundraiser. Remember, if you’re selling goods to consumers, you may need to keep an inventory (that you paid for upfront) stocked in a safe location. Some companies will “float” the goods to you with a payback within a week of the fundraiser’s close. If you do not have the budget to purchase products upfront, your group can opt to go the route of catalog sales. Potential donors can browse a catalog of different items and fill their order in on the order form. Purchasers make their payment at the time of their order. You then fulfill the orders with the company that provides the catalog and items for sale, paying the wholesale price and retaining the profits for your group.

6. Food Sales

college-fundraising-idea-charity-auctions-today-food-sales Offering food to hungry college students is an easy way to their hearts and pocketbooks. There is a variety of ways to accomplish this. Selling hot dogs, chips, pizza slices, and other easy-to-serve items during lunch hours is a possible way to earn some quick donations. You could also have an ice cream social or sell beverages or snow cones on hot days or hot cocoa or coffee on cold ones to students, faculty, and others passing by during lunch hours. Reach out to your community to ask them to donate food items for your fundraising event. Explain the purpose of it and offer free publicity for their restaurant or other business.

7. Gaming Marathon

college-fundraising-idea-gaming-marathon Fundraising through gaming is a creative yet effective method of fundraising. First, decide on the marathon length. Depending on your fundraising goal, it can range anywhere from a few hours to a 24-hour long gaming session. Then, choose exciting games, like wild variations on bingo or trivia games, or set up a casino night. Be creative and make it as fun and enjoyable as possible! Charge a small entry fee to participate. You can have prizes donated before the event or purchase them yourself for winners of different games. You could also start tournaments, like a Twister, darts, ping pong, or another competition with ribbons or prizes.

8. Online Auctions

college-fundraising-ideas-free-online-auction Another way to bring in money to meet your college fundraising goals is internet sales. You can host online auctions or set up a particular web page for your group’s fundraising products. Direct students to your link and let them know why it is essential that your group raises the money it needs. Offer affordable products that suit the tastes of the average college student, and you will surely draw their interest. There are plenty of wholesalers on the internet today, so search for companies that offer the types of merchandise you are looking for at the right prices and require no minimums. Some companies will drop ship the items directly to your customers for you with no extra fees. Your fraternity, sorority, or group could also generate some campus buzz by creating a Yard Sale Auction. Ask local businesses, friends, and family to donate items for your cause, then use our online charity auction software to display the yard sale items. Once you are ready, have everyone email and invite their friends and family to the charity auction yard sale. You would be amazed at how high some of the bids can go!

9. Pie or Water Balloon Throwing Contest

charity-auctions-today-college-fundraising-water-balloons Get the most popular members of your college group (elected student government position holders are ideal) to volunteer to have pies or water balloons thrown at them for prizes. Students purchase tickets for each throw they want to take at the favorite volunteer of their choice. You can even paint a bull’s eye on the volunteers and whoever hits the bull’s eye gets a ribbon or other small prize. Make it hilarious and find good volunteers that campus students recognize.

10. Table Game Tournament

college-fundraising-charity-auctions-today-table-games Set up a pool, air hockey, or other table game tournament. Students pay a fee to compete against other students. Students can also donate to bet on who they think will win. Each winner moves to the next round until you are down to the finals, where one winner will take the overall prize.

11. Raffle

fundraising-ideas-charity-auctions-today-raffle Selling raffle tickets for a special raffle event is also an excellent way to raise money for college groups. Most people are willing to spend a dollar on a game of chance in which they might win a prize. You can keep your costs down by accepting donated items or services that can be given away as prizes. You can also try to get local businesses to participate by selling tickets in their stores. Offer to promote their company name in your flyers and other materials, letting people know they are sponsoring your event. This is a great way to get the community involved and spread the word quickly about your event. Moreover, it markets these participating businesses, giving them good, free publicity, which is advantageous to their business and gives them a great reason to support your efforts.

12. School Spirit Sale

college-fundraising-idea-school-spirit Sell school apparel, like sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats, and other items featuring your school’s mascot. This is a great way to raise money while also boosting school pride, especially during sporting events.

13. Theme Movie Night

charity-auctions-today-college-fundraising-idea-movie-night Get everyone together for a special movie night with a particular theme, such as “horror movie night.” You can even spice it up by having people dress up like their favorite horror movie characters and offer prizes for “best costume.” You can sell beverages, popcorn, and other snacks, too, to bring in even more money when implementing this fundraising idea.

14. Tutoring Service

charity-auctions-today-college-fundraising-idea-tutoring-service Raise money while helping your classmates. Do this by offering tutoring services for payment from college students that need assistance with their studies. Advertise it on bulletin boards and in dorms around the school.

15. Used Textbooks

college-fundraising-idea-sell-used-textbooks-raise-funds Another highly suitable product to sell is used college textbooks. We all know there are plenty of college students who are strapped for cash, and college textbooks are not exactly cheap. Do some research on the internet to search for companies that offer used books for sale individually for these types of purposes, such as BuyUsedTextbooks.com. You can buy these used textbooks at deeply discounted prices and then resell them on campus or online, helping students save a great deal of money on books while earning money for your group.

16. Washes

fundraising-ideas-charity-auctions-today-car-wash Now, we have all heard about charity car washes. Why not step it up a notch by offering other types of washes, too, such as dog washes, window washes, bike washes, etc? This is an inexpensive way to set up a fundraiser. Make it fun and have a great time—and people will come!

BONUS: Campus Photo Contest

college-fundraising-idea-charity-auctions-today Like to take pics? We often see students walking around campus taking selfies or posing for pictures with their friends. Hosting a photo contest on a campus where 99% of students have a phone with a camera practically fastened to their bodies makes it a fundraising no-brainer. Announce the deadline to submit images and give students an email address to send in their images. You can make the contest themed. During Halloween, have a spooky photo contest or when students are studying for finals, have a study-tip-themed contest. Once students have sent in their photos, display them in a central location and have students vote with their dollars. If there is a campus newspaper or online edition, they may work with you to promote it AND provide the backdrop to display all the images entered. Run the contest for a week or two, and then announce the winner, who will receive a decent prize. The newspaper can cover the event and put the winner in the paper or online edition.

Ready to hone your fundraising chops by using one or more of these useful college fundraising ideas? Whatever you decide to do, we wish you all the best in your fundraising efforts.

Questions? Call or email now.

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