Chasing Unicorns

Running the Boston Marathon to Support Camp Shriver

Fundraising Event Ideas


I love those folks over at Team in Training… they are so generous with their ideas! Here is another list to love from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Team In Training (TNT):





My favorite:



Often when people make a donation, they want to feel like they are getting something in return – and it doesn’t generally matter what the “get” is.  My buddy Joel has for a long time sold his body as a giant billboard during his events.  He even sells different parts for different prices.  Last year he sold ribbons with your name on them – for example, for $50 you got your name on a ribbon he wore on the front of his jersey; $25 to be on the back of his jersey.  Then he had a way of making photographs into temporary tattoos and he offered to put a tattoo of the picture of your choice on his arms and legs (with the front being worth more than the back), and even on his face (for $500 donations).  He showed up at the starting line absolutely covered and looking ridiculous – but he became a conversation piece and met a lot of really interesting people on the course.  This year, he sold miles, half miles and quarter miles.  He was doing multiple events, so he had a lot of miles – and he created one major cue sheet he laminated and wore on his back.  When people asked him about what he was doing (he was doing a marathon, century and half Ironman in the same month), and whether he was daunted by the challenge – he simply said no, and pointed over his shoulder (at the cue sheet) and said “why would I be, all these people have my back.”


Barbara’s Note: I just love this idea! I think right now is a perfect opportunity to bring some extra life into your fundraising during these cold winter months!





You can set up a tournament around any game, we will use Texas hold’em poker as our example.


How it works — Invite people over for a “game night” or “poker tournament.”  You can call it “Chips for Charity” or something like that.  Charge people an entrance fee to the tournament, with a 50:50 split of the collected amount being given to the winner of the tournament and the Society.  A 50:50 split is best for small groups, but if you have a larger group you could skew the ratio to give more money to the Society.


You can be really creative with this – ANY game could be turned into a tournament.  It just needs to be a game that enough people would want to play.  Then you turn it into a party and make it a bit of an event.


THE KEY ELEMENT:  Because half of the money is going back to the person who wins the tournament, the cash receipt given back to the person who donates should be half of what the entrance fee is.  For example, if you charge a $40 buy-in, $20 is going to the Society, so that is the amount of the donation to the Society.  So long as “the house” does not take in any money, it is okay to host these types of gambling parties – just as long as you donate any of your winnings to the Society.




Host a party at your house to raise money for the Society – charge attendees an entrance fee.  You could host a Halloween party or a holiday party.  If you have access to a pool, you could host a pool party before the end of the summer.  You can tie your party into other fundraising ideas – such as holding a silent auction with donated gifts, or holding a 50:50 drawing (sell raffle tickets: the winner gets half the pot and the Society gets the other half).


Parties that are “events” tend to be better, because then people really feel like they are getting their money’s worth.  Stores now sell pre-packaged party boxes, sort of a dinner party in a box – murder mystery parties are a good example.  You can invite folks to come over and participate in the party, and charge them a donation to the Society.  You need to purchase the box, and provide dinner – so make sure you set the admission price up well so that you do not lose money on this.  These pre-done boxes tend to be limited to 8-10 people.  If you are creative, you can purchase one and adapt it if you would like to host more than that.


Another fun party to host is a movie night/PJ party.  You invite people to come over in their PJs and bring their favorite movies.  You provide the snacks, they provide a donation to the Society.  You can be really creative with this one, with themes, etc.


If you know a chef, recruit him/her to make a fancy dinner and host a dinner party.  Charge folks to attend, with all proceeds to go to the Society.  Make it a dressy event.  Set a minimum donation amount, but encourage folks to give more.




Buy bags of tea and send to friends with a card or business card attached.  Include a note that says something along the lines of “Save the Date: Have tea with me!  On Month XX at Xpm we will all have tea together.  To join the virtual tea party, please donate…” and include your web address and home address as well.




Host a party at your house, ala a Tupperware party – where the goal is to introduce people to items for sale.  You work with a consultant to set up the party, and receive a portion of their proceeds as a donation for the Society.  There are many companies who do this.  Pampered Chef gives 10-15% of their proceeds to the charity.  People have raised hundreds with Pampered Chef.  You can also ask the consultant to donate a portion of their profit.  You may be able to do the same thing with a catalog party – and effectively host the party virtually – depending on the company and consultant.


Other companies that host similar parties include Mary Kay, Avon, Silpada (a jewelry company), Southern Living, etc.




Work with a local bar to arrange a happy hour to raise money for the Society.  Speak to the bar manager and explain what the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is, and how Team in Training fits in.  Explain what you are doing (running a marathon or half marathon is impressive).  Many participants have had success hosting happy hours.  Often times the bar will donate a portion of the proceeds to your fundraising, or allow you to charge an entry fee (offering participants a few drinks or an open bar).  Discuss the details with the bar, but have ideas about what you want to do going in and estimate how many people you think you will bring into the bar.




Ask a “known” karaoke spot to allow you to use their facility for a fundraiser on an “off” night.  Then invite your friends, and ask them to invite their friends, to a karaoke night where you pay to sing, or to NOT sing, and split the total amount collected between the winner and your fundraising account.






Gather a big group of friends for dinner one night.  Several restaurants offer fundraising options.  These basically work with you getting people to their restaurant on a particular night, and in return you get a percentage of the business you bring in.  Generally I believe its 15%.  Folks don’t have to all eat together, generally its whomever comes into that restaurant that night with a flyer with your name on it — so you could be there to “host” and people could come in and out.  Places that have done this in the past include Baja Fresh, Silver Diner, Fuddruckers and Cold Stone Creamery.



Buy candy at a wholesale distributor (such as Costco, BJs or Sam’s Club) and sell at work or around your neighborhood.  This has worked well for folks by simply placing the candy on their desk (or the desk of a friend or family member).  Some employers may not allow you to sell candy at work, so check with your boss before starting this one.


Some wholesalers (Sam’s or BJ’s) actually sell pre-packaged fundraising candy packages.  They are boxes that are set up to sell candy bars as a fundraiser; it comes in a little kit.  The candy bars have coupons under the labels – so when the people buy your candy, they make a donation to the Society, get a tasty treat, and also get a coupon (for example, from Subway).  You could make your own TNT wrapper to wrap around the candy if you don’t want to buy a kit (or can’t find one to buy).  Include trail mix as an option for the healthier types.  You can generally purchase the candy for 50 cents a piece and sell for $2 – people are willing to spend a little more knowing the money is going to charity.




Buy water at a wholesale store (Costco, etc.) and sell it in strategic location on hot days (i.e. at a strip mall during the summer, or at stoplights in areas prone to traffic).  You can sell a lot of water, very quickly, if you have the right location and weather conditions. It goes really quick in the heat.




Most people are familiar with Entertainment books – they are basically big books full of coupons.  The company will let you sell them as a fundraiser, and you get $5 per book you sell.  They have support tools (online, email, etc.) to assist you with your fundraising.  There are no upfront costs with this fundraiser.  You sell the books at the retail price and give the company that amount less $5, which you then donate to the Society.  Visit the Entertainment Book website for more information.




This is an easy one – you set up a website with an outside fundraising company and ask people to order or renew their magazine subscriptions through your website.  You receive 40% of each magazine subscription you sell.  For more information, visit their website:




Crest Cleaners is a local dry cleaning chain.  As a public service, the company gives away cards that have coupons for dry cleaning.  Crest Cleaner gives these to various fundraising efforts, including Team in Training, and allows people to sell the cards for $20 each.  Crest Cleaner will let you stand outside of their shop (or inside if weather is not great outside) and sell directly to customers on their way into the shop.  This is a very popular fundraiser with many groups, so if you plan to sell cards outside of a specific Crest Cleaners it will be important that you coordinate with that store.  Each store has a calendar and people must sign up for a specific date/time.  If you have any questions, ask Stela.




Often you see people located at Metro stations selling Krispy Crème’s to the busy folks who are in too much of a hurry to pop into the Krispy Crème themselves, but will gladly buy one that comes across their path.  This is the same idea, take Krispy Crème’s into the office and sell them to coworkers.  You may want to give your office a heads up that you will be selling them (the day before) as opposed to sharing them (don’t want to upset anyone!).


You could also be the one selling them at the metro stop.  Another good spot would be outside the gates of a sporting event, as inebriated fans are making their way out, they will pretty much eat anything and most people like Krispy Crème’s.  You could probably sell a lot anywhere there are a lot of college students – so pick a strategic location.




You can buy ALL kinds of bears on this site, including some with TNT jerseys.  You can buy them for $2.50 per bear, and ask for a donation of $5 per bear.  Some folks have had success selling these outside of Giant supermarket.  You could have success anywhere kids are likely to be congregated.  In past years, folks have sold bears dressed in camouflage outside of the Marine Corps marathon – people bought them for folks finishing the race, to commemorate their event.  Be creative.  Consider upcoming events you may be attending – would any of them be a good site to sell the bears?  This one could work well for people who have children in high school.  For example, get teddy bear’s done up in their high school colors and sell at athletic events (like homecoming).




Offer to do work in exchange for donations to the Society.  Since it is for charity, people will often over-pay.  The options are limitless, so play to your strengths:

  • Have a green thumb?  Offer to mow lawns or do yardwork for your neighbors.
  • Have a particular skill?  Offer to sell lessons.  The skill could be anything, so long as you know someone who wants to learn it!
  • Are you a great photographer?  Offer to take cheaper pictures for friends who are newly engaged or have recently had a baby (or other milestones).
  • Do you like kids?  Sell your babysitting services.
  • Do you like animals?  Sell pet-sitting services.
  • Are you a good cook or bartender? Offer to cater, cook or bartend for friends who are hosting a party.
  • Have a knack for manual labor?  Sell your skills as a handy man.





Auction your spouse to be handy man (or woman) for a day.  Selling drawing tickets; the winner receives a full day of handy man services provided by your husband or wife.  This only works if your husband or wife is actually handy.  If your spouse is a fantastic baker or cook, sell those services for the day.  Get your family involved any way you can!




How it works – You need to discuss this one with your boss first (federal employees won’t be able to do this one).  Basically you get permission to “sell” your coworkers the right to dress down on a specific Friday.  For example, if you work in an office where folks usually have to wear suits every day, charge people $10 for the right to wear jeans on Friday (or whatever amount would be appropriate for your office setting).  You will want to make an event out of it, perhaps offer to bring in bagels or a mid-afternoon snack for those that participate.  Often people won’t necessarily care about the option to dress down, but they might want an opportunity to take a break to eat snacks with coworkers.  Only people who participate can partake in the dressing down and snacking.  You can be creative here as well – do a theme day or a spirit day – whatever you think would fit your office.  Provided your boss is supportive, this is an easy fundraiser.




Take the opportunity to clear out your closets and your garage.  Sell the things you don’t want/need/use anymore, donate the proceeds to the Society.  Hang signs so that it is clear that all proceeds will go to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society – often people will overpay if they know it is for charity.


Don’t stop with your junk.  Offer to help your friends and family go through their junk and obtain contributions for your yard sale.  Or organize your neighbors and do an entire block yard sale – the bigger the sale, the more traffic you will draw.  If you get the whole neighborhood involved, you can generally get a permit to block off the road.  You can then charge your neighbors to set tables, and ask them to donate a portion of their profit to the Society.




Enlist your friends to make tasty treats for you to sell at a bake sale.  You can host the sale at work (if you allowed), at a local farmers marker, or outside a store.  Take a donation bucket and information about the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Team in Training with you.


For a bakeless bake sale – send an email to your friends saying something like, “I was hoping to enlist your help in baking delicious treats to sell at a bake sale for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  But, I know how precious you time is and thought I’d save you the trouble.  Instead, won’t you join me for a bakeless bake sale?  Instead of donating your ingredients and time, please consider making a donation to the Society in the amount you would have spent to bake something delicious for a bake sale.”




Grab a couple of friends and wash cars.  This works anywhere you can find space and access to a water supply.  You could recruit fellow team members to help – just remember not to include too many (to maximize the per person profit for the event).


As a spin off – you could host a “topless” car wash.  This is a gimmick to get people to pull into your car wash.  Basically, you have to set your carwash up just off a main road, where folks can’t directly see it.  Then when they pull up, explain that you are washing the bottom of the cars for free, but you’ll need a donation if they want the top washed as well (…get it….top-less car wash).




Ask friends to clean out their closet and donate their unwanted clothing to you.  Then take the close to a consignment shop to sell.




If you have a truck, you can offer to haul things away for people (taking to the dump).


An easy runner-focused spin off is to offer to take people’s old shoes for them, donating them to a charity.  Charge them for taking the shoes, and then donate them to a group that sends them to other countries (i.e. Africa).  Recently such donations have become popular, but people don’t often have the time or know where exactly to take them.




Develop a COLORFUL flyer to distribute to your neighbors, explaining why they are seeing you run out in the neighborhood so often.  Include a picture of yourself in your running clothes, to help them identify you.  Put your name, address and phone number on the flyer, and offer to come pick any donations up.


An easy way to start the flyer would be “You’ve probably seen me running in the neighborhood, and here’s why…”  Explain what TNT is and how we raise lifesaving funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  Include the Society’s Tax ID number and make sure they know all donations are tax-deductible.


KEY ELEMENT:  Do not put the flyer in their mailbox, it is illegal.  Instead put it in their door, or in the holder for the newspaper (if they have one).




If you live or work with potty-mouths, decorate a can and designate it the cussing can.  Charge per word and you can make some money.  This works best for those who don’t have much of a potty mouth (or you’ll donate a lot of your own money!).  You won’t make a ton of money this way, but it won’t cost you anything and every little bit really helps.


A spin off would be to keep a can out that simply states “turn your change into a cure for cancer” or something similar.  When people ask about it, you can explain that you are fundraising for the Society.




Decorate a jar/jug/pail/whatever and ask your favorite bar or restaurant if you can leave it on the counter.  A lot of bars will let you put a jug in and leave for a while, and then come back periodically to pick up the money.  This is a popular fundraiser for a variety of charities – so the key is to get out there early.  Don’t wait too long, or someone else might get to your favorite bar/restaurant first.





Again, make up small inexpensive candy bags with little notes that say “Great Job” or “Thanks for all you do” with a “From” and “To” line for folks to fill in.  Then sell them at work for folks to give to their co-workers and/or employees.  Charge $1 or $2 (due the math – make sure you’ll earn a profit!).  You can buy cheap candy in bulk at Costco and make a good profit.  This may sound corny, but TC Tricia’s office does this several times a year to raise funds to pay for their picnic and holiday party and they make a killing!




Talk with the manager at your local Costco, BJs, Sam’s Club, etc. and ask about setting up a treadmill (you may have to provide your own treadmill) outside that you can run/walk on while asking for donations.  People will be curious about what you’re doing.  It’s a great opportunity for you to share our mission and raise funds.  Participants have been successful raising funds this way, though it may be difficult if you don’t have a treadmill.  This may work with a fitness store or gym, which has treadmills on hand (if they are agreeable to moving one outside).  If you try this one, you may want to partner up with some folks to share in the running!



If you have friends who instruct group exercise classes or manage a local gym, ask them to work with you to do a fundraiser.  Ask for a donation in exchange for special classes at the gym.  Team Captain Kimberlee did this in the past as a “fitness marathon” where for $25 participants for 4 classes (yoga, abs of steel, kickboxing, and spinning).  This has also been done in the past with yoga facilities.  If you have a friend who is an instructor, work with them to set up an extra class and charge a donation to the Society.




In the winter, during the holiday shopping crunch, many malls will set up tables and racks for a coat check station.  This is very similar to the gift wrapping scenario – you work the booth and accept donations on behalf of the Society.  You are generally able to charge a dollar or two, in addition to accepting donations.  You will need multiple people working with you, as coat check stations get very busy.




Work with the grocery store management to arrange a day to come in and bag the groceries.  Wear your TNT gear and ask for donations to the Society.  This would be a good fundraiser to do with several of your teammates – get one person at every checkout.  You need to arrange it in advance with the store.  A good time to do it would be on a holiday, when baggers generally don’t want to work, stores don’t want to pay time and a half, and people (customers) are feeling more generous.  Thanksgiving would be a good day.




Offer to wash windows and pump gas for donations.




Ask people to donate to your fundraising effort instead of giving you Christmas/Hanakkah presents (and/or birthday presents, if your birthday occurs in the same period as when you are fundraising).




Visit local restaurants and get seven of them to donate dinner for two.  Then hold a drawing for “dinner for a week.”  Sell tickets for the drawing, with the winner receiving all of the restaurant gift certificates.




Set up a donation table in front of a grocery store.  Stores generally permit this, and often have a calendar they keep – so you will need to reserve a time and date with the store.  You basically sit outside of the store with a donation jar.  In the past, people with children, dogs, and snacks have been successful with this strategy (presumably because those folks are more approachable).  You can also sell brownies or other snacks in exchange for a donation.  People will want receipts to claim their tax deductions, so be sure and bring receipts with you.  As a participant you are able to directly write a receipt for any donations $50 or less.  For more than that, you will need to take their information down and give it to Stela so the Society can follow up with a letter confirming receipt of the donation.




Work with a local pet store or dog washing place to set up a “pamper your pet day.”  You draw business to them, and in return as them to donate their profits to you/the Society.




This might work best in rural areas, where folks have access to cows, but could also be modified for an urban setting using dogs.


Basically, you sell squares in a field.  Then a cow or other animal is introduced into the field.  Wherever they “go” – the person that owns that square wins.  This fundraiser could be done alone or in combination with another idea (i.e. party at your house).  Off the wall stuff (stuff that makes people laugh) does work.




The first step here is to find someone that people would like to see shaved – like a principal, boss, or other authority figure – and get their permission/participation.  If they are agreeable, you set an amount and ask people to donate.  Once you get to that amount you have a ceremony to shave that person.  You could hold a drawing among the highest donors and sell them the opportunity to do the actual shaving.




Take pictures at training every week, and at the end of the season put all on CD.  Presell the CDs to your fellow teammates, and provide them with a copy of the CD at the end of the season.




If you have musical friends, work with them to set up a concert to benefit charity.  It may help your friends get a gig, as the host bar/restaurant is guaranteed more customers and a tax-benefit.  Ask your friend about doing a concert, and help them get the word out to make their concert a success.  They win because more people are exposed to their music.  Depending on the location, you can work with them to either establish a charge at the door, or negotiate with the establishment to donate a portion of the evenings profits to the Society.




Put out a press release in local (small) papers saying what you are doing, including your website address.  If your high school or college alumni receive a newsletter, send the same release to them and ask that it be included.  You’ll never know who you will reach and you’ll be surprised by the kindness of strangers.  You are most likely to make it into the paper if you are promoting a specific fundraising event – the more unusual the better.




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