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Ideas for Innovative Fundraising

When it comes to organizing a creative fundraising event, there is no need for planners to reinvent the wheel.

Often, all it takes is a compelling theme to expand your reach and make your event stand out from the typical raffle or silent auction.

For your next fundraising effort, borrow some of these ideas from various organizations and tweak them to work in the context of your conference or meeting.


One of the most common types of fundraising is peer-to-peer, where participants work independently to raise money for a cause. To raise money for low-income senior housing, Episcopal Retirement Services decided to combine an unusual theme with its mission: rappelling. The nonprofit partnered with a company called Over the Edge, which works with nonprofits all over the world to organize unique events, and set up a campaign titled Over the Edge for Elders.

As a peer-to-peer effort, community members received a link to set up their own fundraising page, and those who raised a minimum of $1,000 could rappel off a 10-story building in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood. Over the Edge sent a nationally accredited rappelling team to inspect and rig the building as well as supervise the two-day event.

“We thought it was a great way to draw attention to the area, which we helped renovate, in addition to the cause,” said Maureen Gregory, donor relations manager at Episcopal Retirement Services.

The star of the show was 94-year-old Astar Daniels, who rappelled off the building with around 75 other “Edgers.”

Meeting planners can capitalize on this idea by scheduling the reward event to take place during the organization’s main gathering, giving the leading fundraisers visibility in front of their peers and potential clients.

Donate to Win

Another fun way to get the community involved is through a donate-to-win campaign, often called a raffle, and there are many tempting prizes to offer beyond the typical iPad or gift certificate. In 2014, an organization called the Satellite Sentinel Project, which works to protect citizens in Sudan from potential threats, raffled off a date with George Clooney for just $10 per entry. The winner was flown to New York City with a friend, hung out with Clooney backstage at the “Late Show with David Letterman” and later attended a movie premiere with the star.

There was an enormous response, with a reported $1.2 million ultimately raised. Of course, most planners cannot provide a celebrity date, but there are many other feasible options, such as customized artwork, local spa packages or signed memorabilia. Incorporating these giveaways into your conference or event will encourage attendees to participate in fundraising while they are together on-site, and you can use stage time during official event functions to encourage people to participate or to recognize winners.