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Fundraising in College Strategies to Collect Money for Student Groups and Extracurriculars

When clubs and groups on campus need extra money, organizing a fundraiser is a great way for them to get the cash they need. In this guide, readers will find a variety of ideas for fundraising events to help them reach their goals. Plus, there’s guidance on mistakes to avoid when planning fundraisers and resources that provide additional assistance.

Written by: Kenya McCullum

Top 15 Effective Fundraising Tactics

To be successful, campus groups should choose a fundraising idea that fits the personality of the organization and piques the interest of the donor community. The following ideas are fun and effective for student groups and extracurriculars.

  • Crushing candies

    The popular game Candy Crush Saga can be addictive, and fundraisers can use this to host an all-night event where people play the game for a chance to win a prize. This event can raise money by charging an entry fee and selling food throughout the night to keep participants’ energy high.

  • Tutoring

    Members of an on-campus group can raise money by offering tutoring services to other students. Organizations should find out their members’ academic strengths and then leverage them as a fundraising tool by helping students who need support in a particular subject.

  • Bike riding

    Planning a bike-a-thon allows organizations to raise money while encouraging bike enthusiasts to get out and ride. People who participate in the event can get sponsors who will donate money to the group based on the number of miles completed. Also, the organization can present a trophy to the biker who brings in the most money.

  • Battling bands

    A battle of the bands competition can help raise money while providing publicity for local indie bands. Organizations can assemble local bands for a concert and raise money through ticket sales. Not only does the audience get to enjoy a night of music, they can also vote for a winner at the end of the event.

  • Prime seating

    In the “best seat in the house” fundraising technique, organizations sell raffle tickets so the winner can get a prime seat for one of the school’s sporting events. After completing the raffle, the group sets up a sofa in a prime area to give the winner, along with a few friends, the best view of the game.

  • Movie screening

    Secure a venue and hold a movie night fundraiser and collect the proceeds from ticket and concession sales. Also, it’s possible to create a makeshift drive-in theater at an outdoor location with a portable movie projector, screen and speakers.

  • Washing cars

    By partnering with a local car wash, a group can hold a car washing event to raise money. Generally, in exchange for a percentage of the event’s proceeds, the car wash will supply the water and students can bring the hoses, buckets, sponges and towels.

  • Car bashing

    To organize a car bash, a group brings an old car from a junkyard on campus and has people take turns hitting it with a sledgehammer in exchange for a donation. The group should supply eye goggles and remove the car’s glass and gas tank to ensure participants are safe.

  • TV marathoning

    Choose a favorite series and host a marathon night, charging an entry fee for participants. To make it more fun for the audience, students can ask trivia questions or create a bingo game centered on recurring show one-liners.

  • Selling t-shirts

    Campus organizations can raise money by designing custom t-shirts that show off what the group is all about. This allows them to make money on the shirts and gain more visibility for the group.

  • Volunteering

    Partner with a local charity and arrange to volunteer for a certain number of hours based on the amount of money donated. Similarly, students can host a serve-a-thon, where they pick up trash and recycling around the community and ask for donations based on how many items are collected.

  • Baking goods

    Hold a bake sale by securing a location that has a good amount of foot traffic and promoting the event in advance. Also, if the event is planned close to a holiday, seasonal treats will be hard for passersby to resist. Students can buy ingredients like flour and sugar from bulk stores to save money.

  • Buying bricks

    For campus groups that need to renovate their space, a buy-a-brick fundraiser can help them get the money they need. To do this, the group has people buy a brick in their building where they can add a personalized engraved message to it. This idea can also be used for sidewalks.

  • Going on the hunt

    Groups that want to capitalize on the spirit of competition can organize a scavenger hunt. Sell tickets for the event and give participants a list of items to find around campus. Organizers can ask a local business to donate a gift card for the winner.

  • Throwing pitches

    In a pitch-a-thon, participants pay $1 for each chance to win a prize for pitching the fastest baseball.

Dodge These Fundraising Mistakes

A student group can have a great idea for a fundraiser, but unless the organizers execute it properly, they won’t get the results they hope for. The following are some common fundraising mistakes that should be avoided.

  • Not creating a plan

    Fundraisers need to have a roadmap of what they’re going to do and when they’re going to do it. Failing to hash out the details of a fundraiser will leave a group disorganized with no clear idea of how all the pieces of the event should fall into place.

  • Not having strong leadership

    Although the fundraiser is a group effort, there needs to be strong leadership in place to take the reins and make sure things get done. Students working on the event will have times when they need guidance, so a leadership team should be in place to provide that support.

  • Not training volunteers

    People who help with fundraisers may not have experience asking strangers for money, so it’s important for the leadership team to train them on how to make a pitch for the event to get people to show up and open their wallets.

  • Not creating deadlines

    Busy students who are helping with a fundraiser in their spare time need to know when tasks should be completed. Event leaders must set up a firm schedule for everyone involved to ensure each task is completed.

  • Not communicating with donors regularly

    Student groups should be in touch with past and potential donors on a regular basis to let them know what’s going on with the organization. Notify donors about how their contribution helped, so they will feel like it’s worthwhile for them to donate again.

  • Not explaining why funds are needed

    People like giving — if they are giving for a good reason. When approaching donors, campus groups should explicitly spell out the fundraiser’s purpose and where the money is going.

  • Not highlighting the donate button

    If the organization has a website that promotes its fundraisers, the donate button should be front and center on the site — and operational. Hiding the button will frustrate potential donors and possibly cause them to spend their money elsewhere. Similarly, a donate button that doesn’t work is just as good as not having one at all.

  • Not identifying prospective large donors

    During a fundraising campaign, it’s important for a group to determine who is likely to give a large donation and focus outreach toward that group. For example, a sorority or fraternity should reach out to alumni who are members of their organization, because they have a personal connection to it.

  • Not identifying new donors

    Although a group may have tried and true donors it can go to each time there’s a fundraiser, students shouldn’t rely only on those people. It’s important to always look for new, potential donors that may be interested in helping the group, otherwise the donor pool won’t be able to grow.

  • Not asking enough

    During a fundraising campaign, it’s not enough to just contact prospective donors one time. It’s important for a group to follow up to maximize the results. Also, donors should be contacted on multiple channels, such as snail mail, email and social media.

  • Not being direct

    Some people don’t feel comfortable asking for money, and as a result, they may not make it clear what they’re trying to accomplish. While it’s a mistake to be too pushy when asking for money, not being direct will make a group lose opportunities to raise the funds they need.

  • Not using diverse strategies

    Campus groups that do fundraisers every year should avoid doing the same kind of event annually. Although one type of fundraiser may have been successful in the past, if it gets stale, there will be a decline in donations. It’s best to revitalize fundraising efforts each year to keep people excited about contributing.

  • Not keeping track of the numbers

    Event organizers need to know how their event did in terms of funds and attendance. Not keeping track of how each fundraiser performed means your group misses out on valuable information that can be used to plan future events.

  • Not having a realistic goal

    When planning a fundraiser, organizers may have high hopes about how much money they can bring in. Although it’s great to be optimistic and enthusiastic about what the group can achieve, people still need to look at the results of past fundraising efforts to help set realistic goals.

  • Not thanking donors

    Groups must build a relationship with their donors to have successful fundraisers each year. Part of this is remembering to thank them for coming to the event and being generous with their time and money.

  • Not using social media in the right way

    Social media is a great way to reach potential donors and publicize an event. However, some people may be tempted to set up an auto direct message asking for donations when people follow them. Since social media users are already bombarded with automatic messages, many of which are solicitations, when they follow someone new, this can make them less likely to help — and can even turn them off to an organization completely.

Additional Fundraising Resources

Compiled by the Association of Fundraising Professionals, this page lists the mistakes that people make with fundraising and how they can be avoided.

This post from Fundly’s blog provides a variety of fundraising ideas and how they can be executed. Many of the ideas are low or no-cost, which makes them good options for student organizations that may not be in the position to spend a lot on fundraising.

The National Council of Nonprofits provides basic information that fundraisers need to be successful. This page includes tips on how to find donors, conduct fundraising activities ethically, find corporate sponsors and handle the taxes associated with raising money.

On this page, the Society for Nonprofits covers the basic information that fundraisers need to be successful in their efforts. It includes information on the different types of fundraising and the pros and cons associated with each of them, how to effectively raise funds for an organization and strategies for securing grant money.

This guide offers advice on how to raise funds effectively and provides additional resources.

These guides, published by the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance, provides fundraising info from the donors’ perspective. This can give fundraisers an understanding of what donors expect and how to avoid mistakes that will turn off potential donors.

This comprehensive guide provides advice on how to get the most out of fundraising efforts, find new donors, use email to connect with past and prospective donors, and structure a fundraising event. In addition, it includes case studies of organizations that have created successful fundraising campaigns and events.

Includes information on how to find and connect with potential donors and enjoyable fundraising ideas.

This report has information on peer-to-peer fundraising, using mobile devices to reach donors and incorporating social media influencers in fundraising outreach.

Provides advice on how to create a plan, identify and reach a target audience, set and meet goals, and promote a fundraiser. This guide also offers specific fundraising ideas and includes information on financial accountability.

On this page, professional fundraisers share their tips.

Compiled by Fairleigh Dickinson University, this report includes ideas that fraternities and sororities can use to raise funds, including athletic activities, festivals and raffles.