holiday fundraising ideas

Unusual times call for unusual solutions. This year many folks will not be able to gather in person with friends and family for the holidays. It feels sad. Rather than mourning this loss, how about turning the tables and giving your holiday a little something special with new holiday fundraising ideas?

Something that will warm your heart, while also helping to create a better, stronger, more caring world?

I’m offering some suggestions. Use these yourself. Better yet, share them with your board members, volunteers and donors.  

Always remember this, which is something I firmly believe: A rising tide raises all boats. It is incumbent on those of us who work in the social benefit sector to promote a culture of philanthropy – ‘love of humankind’ – within and without our own walls.  

How many times have you heard a donor or volunteer say “I want to give back.” Or “I want to pay it forward.”  What goes around comes around. 

Spread the holiday gratitude. Abundantly.

NOTE: Did you know you can suggest a charity for donations with your Evite invitation? They use a service called Pledgeling Foundation, and all you have to do is upload your information directly to Evite to be included. Consider organizing board members to invite friends for a virtual holiday event benefit for your organization. Depending on your cause, you might even be able to provide some event “entertainment.”

8 Holiday Fundraising Ideas

1. Give the amount you would have spent on appetizers, entrees, dessert and beverages to a food bank.

My neighborhood has one street that is renowned for its Halloween extravaganza. Every house decorates, the street is closed to traffic and kids come from far and wide to trick or treat. Families give away bags and bags and bags of candy. They’re nuts about this! This year they banded together and agreed to donate what they would have spent on sweets to our local food bank. It ended up being a sizeable, meaningful donation. Five figures!

2. Give the amount you would have spent on children’s presents to a child services charity.

Since we won’t be meeting in person, and mailing gifts is expensive and not-so-great for the planet, we’ve agreed to limit our giving to one gift per nephew, niece, friends’ kids, etc. Parents can do what they wish with their own kids (because who can stop them?). Everything else we would have spent? We’re donating in honor of the kids. My step-daughter picked an agency that provides foster pets. This has the added benefit of teaching the kids a bit about philanthropy

3. Give the amount you would have spent on adult presents to a charity of your choice.

My husband and I are giving more generously this year to charity. We don’t need anything, can’t go out and spend anything, so… no-brainer. Plus, we’ve been feeling for a while that many of the presents we give and receive get stuffed in a closet or re-gifted. It’s just a tradition, and something to do while dinner is in the oven. Time to make new traditions!

4. Give the amount you would have spent on friends’ presents to a charity that would mean something to your friend(s), in their honor.

They do say it’s the thought that counts, right? Think of what your friend values – education, health care, justice, parks, museums, theater, science, food, animals? Find a charity that embodies these values. What a lovely way to honor folks you hold dear.  

5. Give the amount you would have spent on holiday wrapping and decorations to an arts organization.

Ordinarily your money would get eaten up as soon as the ribbon was untied, the paper was ripped off and the box was broken down for recycling. Maybe this year you can sustain an arts organization that makes it possible for your money to give a gift to the many, rather than the few.

6. Give the amount you would have spent on travel to a national or international human services or rescue organization.

While few folks are travelling this year, the world – and all its problems – are still there. Show you care about these countries, and their people, not by visiting but by giving.

7. Give the amount you would have spent on holiday clothing (you know you always buy at least one new outfit) to a homeless shelter.

No doubt you don’t need one more piece of clothing. Especially since you seldom leave home. But to a homeless person facing the elements, socks, underwear, warm pants, a cozy sweater, hoodie, raincoat, knitted cap and blanket mean the world.

8. At your virtual holiday celebration, ask everyone for one thing for which they’re grateful. 

Follow up with a question about how they might extend and share that gratitude in a manner to help others feel similarly blessed. For example:

  • “I’m grateful for family.” I could donate to support efforts to reunite children at the border.
  • “I’m grateful I can work virtually.”  I could donate to a jobs opportunity charity.
  • “I’m grateful for my pet.” I could donate to an organization that provides foster pets.
  • “I’m grateful for my neighbors pulling together.” I could donate to a community center.
  • “I’m grateful for essential workers.” I could donate to local hospitals, home care programs or schools.
  • “I’m grateful my Mom can get delivered meals and groceries.” I could donate to local meal delivery programs.
  • “I’m grateful I can walk and enjoy the outdoors.” I could donate to parks and nature conservancy.
  • “I’m grateful for clear blue skies.” I could donate to environmental organizations.
  • “I’m grateful for independent journalism.”  I could donate to support free press.
  • “I’m grateful for the new light shining on the need for greater fairness, equity, diversity and inclusion.” I could donate to support organizations fighting for black lives matter, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, human justice and civil liberties.
  • “I’m grateful for music and art.” I could donate to theater, ballet, symphony, museums and other arts organizations.
  • “I’m grateful there are so many shows to stream to divert me from what’s going on in the world.” I could donate to public broadcasting, local television and radio, or local theater.
  • “I’m grateful for more time to read books.” I could donate to literary or literacy programs.
  • “I’m grateful I can enjoy exercise classes virtually.” I could donate to sports, health and wellness programs
  • “I’m grateful for the tradition of philanthropy.” DUH!

This year, why not spread the gospel of philanthropy – literally translated from the Greek as “love of humanity.”  

Joy to the world!

Hungry for some practical tools to heal the divide? Download this Culture of Philanthropy Checklist loaded with action tips to determine if your nonprofit has a culture of philanthropy in place and ways to get started creating one.

Claire Axelrad

Claire Axelrad

Fundraising Coach at Bloomerang
Claire Axelrad, J.D., CFRE is a fundraising visionary with 30+ years frontline development work helping organizations raise millions in support. Her award-winning blog showcases her practical approach, which earned her the AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional of the Year” award. Claire runs “Clairification School” online, teaches the CFRE course that certifies professional fundraisers, and is a regular contributor to Guidestar, NonProfit PRO and Maximize Social Business.