8 Charity Event Ideas to Drive Fundraising

8 Charity Event Ideas to Drive Fundraising

Social media is awash with fundraising campaigns, but it may surprise you to learn that only around a third of online charitable fundraisers reach their goal.

While some charitable giving takes place online, around 85% occurs in person, which is why coming up with unique and effective charity event ideas remains so important.

Are you looking for an event idea that will not only draw in a crowd but encourage them to open their wallets and contribute?

We've created this guide to offer eight of our most inspiring suggestions for fundraisers and charity events, whether you're a fundraising professional or an individual with a cause. Read on to discover new ideas that will kickstart your next incredible night of giving.

1. Your Theme Matters

Our foremost charity event planning suggestion is to begin by choosing a theme. This is particularly important for galas and corporate fundraisers. What unifying element will add a sense of fun and play to the evening that you can't find at any other fundraising celebration?

Experience has shown that an inspiring event theme is key to guest engagement, which is essential when you aim to raise money for a cause. A guest who has come up with a fancy dress idea before arriving at the venue is already more involved in the world of your gala. From there, use the theme as the key to immersion and imagination.

Party Entertainment
Party Entertainment

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For example, you might present your gala as a Roaring 20s Bootlegger's Ball. Ask guests to come in period costume and greet them with a postmodern jukebox-style jazz ensemble. Offer a menu with unique, unexpected drinks from the period, or even make guests use a password or secret knock to access the bar!

Other themes that can transform a regular charity gala into an immersive event include:

  • Bridgerton-inspired ball with a live pop orchestra or quartet
  • Masquerade ball (with masks required)
  • Casino or Vegas night with a live Sinatra-style Jazz band
  • A night in Cabo event with roaming Mariachi performers
  • West End night with a bold, Broadway-style band

Each theme is immersive enough to get guests involved before they walk through the door. When your guests have a uniquely inspired time, they'll feel inspired to contribute to your cause.

2. Make it Competitive

While galas are a fun, traditional way to gather guests and encourage generosity, they're not the only popular charity event format. Instead, consider hosting a charity tournament or competition.

One of the most common tournament-style fundraising ideas is a golf outing. Golf courses are stunning, manicured outdoor venues where attendees can gather in the sunshine, play a few holes, or congregate in the club for drinks and conversation. Add a string quartet, serve champagne, and prepare for a classy opportunity for generosity.

If a golf outing is too traditional, consider putting a unique spin on your competition-style fundraising event. Remember that engagement is the key to successful fundraising. How can you ensure the maximum number of guests can attend and fully participate in your charity event?

casino night

Depending on your cause, you might consider making your tournament family-friendly. What if your charity outing was an evening of ten-pin bowling, complete with a vintage 1950s-style rock 'n' roll band? You could even offer a Pub Quiz event with a cash bar, cash prizes, and live band karaoke.

Other ideas for tournament and competition fundraisers might include:

  • Casino night with high-stakes gameplay
  • High-stakes Bingo with a charismatic emcee
  • A reality-TV-inspired talent competition
  • A charity sports match with an afterparty
  • Dance-a-thon event with live music

A fundraising event that keeps guests busy is sure to inspire fun and participation. You can combine any of the above with a more traditional gala or party to incorporate an additional opportunity for giving.

3. Sell to Your Guests

Whether or not your guests need to pay admission to attend the event (which we recommend in most cases), the fundraising shouldn't stop once they've arrived. You'll want to continue to raise those funds once everyone is captive (and captivated) by your event entertainment.

One of the easiest ways to bring in funds is to use every opportunity to sell to your guests. Begin by anticipating what they want or need, acquire it as inexpensively as possible (get it donated if you can), and offer it to your attendees for a fee. Drinks, meals, snacks, and treats are classic examples, as your guests will undoubtedly work up an appetite on the dance floor.


If you've taken our advice and chosen a theme, you can use it to offer high-interest favours for guests who arrive underdressed or unprepared. At a traditional gala, you might offer carnations for lapels or buttonholes. Choose a colour meaningful to your cause so attendees can show their support.

In the event of fancy dress events, a pay-per-photo photobooth with props has a low overhead. If you begin posting the photos on social media and publicly thanking guests for their generosity, others will be eager for acknowledgement.

If your event is outdoors, you can sell guests sky lanterns, sparklers, or glowsticks. If the fundraiser includes a vigil, you might sell candles. Any guest who has bought into the theme and immersed themselves in the evening's events will be eager to participate in every element, so use that to your advantage.

4. Celebrate Giving

While selling to your guests can help you make some extra money for your cause, direct donations are always ideal. A generous cash donation doesn't cost you anything and usually goes a long way toward increasing the total raised at the event. While some guests will quietly donate because they care for your cause, many will feel more motivated to give after receiving some social recognition.

With that in mind, one of the best ways to encourage no-strings cash donations is to acknowledge and celebrate the generous individuals opening their wallets for your charity. Decide what will happen when you receive a new gift. It should be fun, unexpected, exciting, or "raise the stakes" of the evening in an engaging or compelling way.

One of the easiest social motivators is having your event emcee make a public announcement each time you receive a cash donation. They might play a sound effect, turn on a special party light, and reveal the giver's name.

You can also graph the evening's contributions on a large, visible board. Include whole-group incentives for reaching different levels, which will encourage attendees to work together to achieve something delightful. For example, when you reach a certain amount, the guest of honour might get a pie to the face!

You might plan a balloon drop to add a sense of stakes or suspense. Lower the net just a little each time a donation comes in. When you reach your goal, drop the balloons, stop everything, and have a wild, wonderful celebration on the dance floor!

If you give guests reasons to donate (and then donate again), they'll eagerly contribute to keep the good times coming.

5. Make Donating Easy

In contrast, some guests won't want a big to-do each time they reach for their chequebook. The easier you make it for guests to contribute, the more silent, under-the-radar donations you'll receive throughout the night.

Even small donations add up. Consider putting donation jars around your venue or event space so guests can toss in a pound note or two on a whim. Consider clear containers—when guests see others have dropped a few notes in, they'll be more likely to join the crowd.

donation jar

It's most important to offer an easy way for attendees to contribute on their way out the door. They'll be riding the high from your phenomenal event, making them more likely to donate as they depart.

Instead of leaving a container to the side, have people holding the bins and soliciting these final contributions as they wish guests a good night. The personal touch is more likely to inspire a final act of giving.

6. Don't Forget Photos

While you'll probably receive most donations before and during the event, prepare for money to trickle in for days or weeks to come. You can encourage their bonus generosity in your follow-up communications. This is where email and social media can significantly affect the final total.

Ensure you take lots of photos during the event, capturing moments when the attendees are having a ball. You'll want to use the most eye-catching images in your social media posts and emails. Remind guests of all the fun they had when you make your final, post-event appeal.

Plus, these images will come in handy if you plan to make your fundraiser an annual event. You can begin using these photos to attract interest from new guests and donors. When previous attendees remember what a blast they had, they're more likely to return (and share the details with other generous friends).

All that to say, great photos turn into funds down the line, so don't forget to document your charity event from start to finish!

charity raffle

7. Raffles and Auctions are Irresistible

Including raffles and auctions during your charity event is a playful, participatory way to bring in additional money for your cause. You can begin selling tickets before the date of your event. You might incentivise buying raffle tickets in advance by offering them at a low pre-event rate, which will increase during the festivities.

You shouldn't have to spend money on prizes. Utilise your connections to gather appealing raffle and auction items.

If you begin planning early, you can write to large organisations, franchises, and local businesses for prize donations. Popular prizes include event tickets (concerts, plays, sporting events), travel accommodations, apparel, electronics, or services (hairstyling, spa packages, hot air balloon rides).

Attempt to make each prize as appealing as possible. That might mean dressing up smaller prizes, putting together baskets, or representing experience-based prizes with photos. Create compelling descriptions of each prize for your emcee or party DJ to announce during the event.

You could also consider hosting an additional 50/50 raffle, in which the winner receives 50% of the money raised, and the charity receives the rest. Often, generous winners will donate some or all of their winnings back to the cause. Either way, 50/50 raffles require no materials, very little planning, and yields convenient cash.

8. Invest in Ambiance

Whether you're hosting a gala, a golf outing, a Monte Carlo night, or a dance-a-thon, you want to give your event an air of exclusivity, class, and energy. Your choice of venue is often the most significant expense associated with hosting an event, but it can make a massive difference in how guests perceive the proceedings.

However, we realise that, due to budgetary restraints, you can't hold every charity event at a castle or private garden. If you're using a donated event space, home garden, or a simple party hall, you can create the illusion of elegance by investing in the details.

Live music is one of the easiest ways to create an atmosphere, regardless of venue. Professional performers will arrive dressed to impress with the equipment needed to turn indoor or outdoor event spaces into high-octane concert halls. You might begin the evening with a solo violinist playing during arrival, hire a pianist or singer to accompany mingling and cocktails, and then get the party started with an energetic function band.

When you invest in your event's overall ambience, you're sure to create a memorable, immersive, and engaging experience for your potential donors.

Charity Event Ideas To Inspire Generosity

We're in the midst of an upward trend in giving. Your fundraising event might be the impetus your guests need to finally take out their chequebooks and contribute to your cause. Any of the charity event ideas above have the power to draw a crowd and inspire generosity, allowing you to make a genuine difference in the world.

The first step is creating the ambience to set the tone for your spectacular event. Bands For Hire can help match you with live, professional musicians that will transform any fundraiser into a lavish soiree. Enquire today to book your act and encourage the generosity your incredible cause deserves.