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25 Risk-Free Fundraising Ideas Your Nonprofit Board Will Love

Get started with Bonfire to harness the power of the best proven fundraising idea out there: t-shirt sales.

You’ve worked hard to build a strong donor acquisition strategy to market your mission to the public, but are your board members playing active roles in your fundraising? It’s more important than ever that your team is all-hands-on-deck for your fundraising strategy!

Your board members are the leaders, ambassadors, and top supporters of your mission. Plus, they usually also donate to your nonprofit themselves. Between their leadership and dedication, your board members are immensely valuable for your organization’s fundraising efforts. They can (and should) be invaluable resources and partners to help drive your fundraising ideas to success.

Ask your board members to help support, market, and participate in your fundraising ideas to maximize their results. We’ve listed our favorite proven fundraising ideas that you can leverage for risk-free fundraising, split into five convenient categories.

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These fundraising ideas are much more powerful when your board members get involved. These leaders can support, contribute, and become your most valuable assets. Ask them to help with your marketing initiatives and to leverage their own connections to take the campaigns even further.

Let's explore our favorite proven fundraising idea: t-shirt fundraisers!

Our Favorite Proven Fundraising Idea

T-Shirt Fundraisers

T-shirt fundraisers are our top proven fundraising idea that's sure to garner support.The top risk-free fundraising idea is a classic tactic that nonprofits, for-profits, and individuals have found success with for years. That idea, of course, is t-shirt fundraising. Selling branded merchandise serves the double purpose of both raising funds for your organization and marketing your brand.

When supporters purchase your well-designed, branded t-shirt, they become walking billboards for your mission. Whenever anyone asks them about the shirt, they have the opportunity to discuss your organization and their connection with it.

Plus, there are t-shirt fundraising platforms specifically for nonprofits that let you do all of this for free! You can design and sell your t-shirt directly from an online store or campaign page, while they take care of all the payment processing, order fulfillment, and customer service.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board members can get involved by promoting your t-shirts to their network of friends and family as well as purchasing the product themselves. You may even ask them to participate in an online peer-to-peer campaign that sells t-shirts to widen your audience with their network of connections.

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Let's explore a handful of risk-free, proven fundraising ideas that are easy to pull off.

Easy Proven Fundraising Ideas

Matching Gifts

Matching gifts are a proven fundraiser that can substantially boost revenue.

Between $4 and $7 billion dollars goes unclaimed each year in matching gift funds, according to Double the Donation. Many companies offer corporate philanthropy programs that provide matching gift opportunities for their employees. These gifts are contributed by the company to match the donations made by their employees, usually at a 1:1 ratio.

The key to unlocking this proven fundraising idea is by promoting the opportunity. Many supporters don’t know that they’re eligible or even that the programs exist. Therefore, promoting these opportunities and encouraging donors to check their eligibility is the key to unlocking these additional donations.

How Your Board Can Help

Your nonprofit board can help with this risk-free fundraising idea by assisting with the promotion of matching gift opportunities. You may ask them to send emails, post to social media, or simply tell supporters with whom they’re close about these opportunities. Be sure that your board members also check their own eligibility for any donations they choose to make!

Online Product Fundraisers

Product sales are some of our favorite proven fundraising ideas.

Product fundraisers are a longstanding tradition for all sorts of nonprofits raising funds for a wide range of causes. Simply sell various products to your community, such as branded merchandise, gourmet snacks, and discount cards. Many supporters will be willing to pay a higher price for the item knowing the proceeds are going to a mission that they care about.

When you work with a dedicated product fundraising company like ABC Fundraising, many of these fundraising ideas come risk-free with no upfront investment. All you have to do is take pre-orders using a custom-branded online web store that is provided to you. Then, your fundraising partner will distribute the products you sold, charging you a low wholesale price while your nonprofit retains the profits for your mission.

How Your Board Can Help

Get your board involved by recruiting board members as volunteer salespeople. This way, you can expand your nonprofit’s reach to incorporate each member’s own network of support. Encourage them to share the link to your online web store via email, text, and social media!

Face Mask Fundraisers

Face masks make for a great proven fundraising idea, especially amidst the current public health crisis.

Face mask fundraisers are an understandably popular fundraising idea right now. When you partner with the right provider, you can design your face mask, set up an online store, and sell directly to your supporters. No upfront fees mean this fundraising idea is totally risk-free!

Make sure to incorporate your organization’s brand on the face masks. Add your logo to the front and make sure it’s visible in every available color. Selling face masks not only raises money for your mission but also promotes health and safety for your supporters.

How Your Board Can Help

Ask your board members to become salespeople for your face masks and encourage them to get involved with the marketing and sales process. They can even sport their own branded face masks for meetings and out in the community!

Crowdfunding Campaign

Crowdfunding is an excellent proven fundraising idea when your organization has a specific item or project to get behind. Simply partner with a crowdfunding platform that best suits your needs, write up a description of your fundraising project, and choose your campaign’s goal. Promote the opportunity on social platforms, over email, and in other organization publications.

Social media will likely be your greatest asset for your crowdfunding campaign. According to Crowd101, “for every order of magnitude increase in Facebook friends (10,100,1000), the probability of success increases (from 9%, 20%, to 40%).” If your organization is raising funds for a specific project and has a strong social media presence, crowdfunding could be for you!

Check out these crowdfunding statistics to see why this proven fundraiser is widely adopted.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board can help promote your crowdfunding campaign after you’ve published it. Come up with templates that they can use on their own social media accounts to encourage their followers to contribute. You may also ask them if they happen to know any influencers or other prominent individuals in the social media world who might be willing to push the campaign as well.

Volunteer Grants

If you rely on volunteers to help fulfill your mission, check out this proven fundraising idea: volunteer grants.

Volunteer grants are a part of many corporate philanthropy programs. In these programs, companies reward the volunteer work that their employees do with nonprofits by making a financial contribution to “match” the time spent volunteering.

Similar to matching gifts, many of your volunteers may not know that this financial “match” is available to them. Spend time promoting volunteer grant opportunities to your supporters and ask them to research their own eligibility. These grants are like free money for your nonprofit and much of it unfortunately gets left on the table each year. Be sure to capture as much of that funding as possible to increase your fundraising revenue without asking donors to dig deeper into their pockets.

How Your Board Can Help

Many of your board members are volunteers themselves. Ask them to research their own eligibility for volunteer grants. Their regular meetings and work they do for your organization can easily translate into additional funds for your mission.

Walk-a-Thons

Walkathons are another proven fundraising idea that any organization can pull off.

Walk-a-thons are a proven fundraising idea that’s been completed successfully both in-person and virtually by many nonprofit organizations. They’re very affordable as many of the expenses that accompany the planning process of a walk-a-thon are optional add-ons for the event (such as entertainment or additional products to sell).

To raise funds at a walk-a-thon, ask your supporters to sign up (you may or may not choose to charge a registration fee). Then, have them obtain sponsorships or pledges to walk certain distances, for example, $5 for every lap on a track. If your event is virtual, provide instructions for them to track their walking distance from their smartphone or watch. Then, collect funds from the sponsors for their distance.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board members can get involved with walk-a-thons in a variety of ways. Ask them to participate in the walk themselves and gather sponsorships from their network of family and friends. You can emphasize this involvement by asking your board members to organize a walk-a-thon team among their network and maybe even with their coworkers. You may also ask them to sponsor one of your walkers or to volunteer at the event itself.

Check out these virtual options that are great for remote board member fundraising.

Virtual Proven Fundraising Ideas

Virtual Classes

Virtual classes are a great option for board member fundraising.

If you have a team member, volunteer, or know someone in the community with an interesting talent, you may ask them to teach a virtual class to share their skills. All you need is video conferencing software for live courses, or you could pre-tape the course and grant attendees access upon registration.

When it comes to this type of event, get creative and think about the types of activities your audience will enjoy. For example, you might host courses in cooking, baking, cake decorating, basket weaving, dance, drawing, or something related to your mission. Simply charge a small registration fee to attend the virtual event and make a final donation appeal at the end.

How Your Board Can Help

Ask your board members to attend the event themselves! When they get involved with your organization’s activities, it will strengthen their relationship with your mission. Plus, depending on how you organize the event, they may get the chance to meet some of your valued supporters and develop impactful relationships.

Virtual Book Club

A book club is a great option for any nonprofit board looking for effective proven fundraising ideas.

Virtual book clubs are a great way to lead discussion about an insightful topic while collecting donations for your mission. Gauge interest from your supporters about whether they would be interested in joining a book club and the type of books they may want to read. Then, organize weekly or bi-weekly virtual meetings to discuss aspects of the book.

In order to “meet” during a virtual book club, you’ll need to use either free video conferencing software or partner with a book club site that allows you to create your online club platform. In order to raise funds, you may ask supporters for a registration fee or simply ask for a small donation during the book club meetings themselves.

How Your Board Can Help

Ask your board members to either host a book club on their own or attend the book club that your donor engagement team puts together. They’ll get more involved and stay engaged with both the mission and your supporters.

Social Media Takeover

For your next board member fundraising campaign, harness the power of social media to connect with new supporters.

Social media takeovers are a great way to find new supporters and followers. Here’s how they work: your nonprofit allows a supporter to take over your social media accounts for a day. They post regularly about your mission and bring their own followers to your page. When you host a social media takeover, be sure to tell whoever is taking over the page about your donation goals and where to direct readers in order to donate. That way, they can lead your supporters to your donation page.

If you know of an influencer or notable local figure who supports your mission, they’d be the perfect candidate to ask to participate in a social media takeover. They can bring their many followers to your organization and help you spread awareness, gain followers, and generate donations.

How Your Board Can Help

When you’re looking for the perfect candidate for your social media campaign, be sure to ask your board members if they know anyone who might be a good fit. You never know what kind of connections they may have until you ask!

Virtual 5K

A 5K is a prove fundraising idea that works for any cause.

5Ks are immensely powerful fundraising tools that many organizations leverage each and every year. However, with everything gone digital, the best option this year is to take your 5K virtual! Simply create a registration page and ask supporters to sign up to run. Then, they can complete their race from their own neighborhood while tracking their time on an app or tracking device.

One of the primary benefits that comes with taking your 5K event to the virtual sphere is that you can expand your reach much further. No longer can only locals participate in your 5K event! Runners from around the country or even around the world support your cause.

How Your Board Can Help

Your nonprofit board can help you raise funds by participating in your 5K themselves or by promoting the opportunity to their vast network of potential supporters. You may also ask them to sponsor your runners or the event as a whole!

Don’t forget to incorporate t-shirt fundraising into this idea as well. Ask your board members to start a peer-to-peer t-shirt fundraiser for the event to encourage the teams to create and sell merchandise leading up to the race.

Virtual Workout Class

Get your supporters up and moving with this risk-free, proven fundraising idea: a virtual workout class.

As many of your supporters are at home the majority of the time and unable to attend a gym, hosting virtual workout classes may come as a welcome break. Actually, participation in online workout classes has increased by 16% this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so that many more of your supporters will probably be interested in the opportunity!

Ask supporters to contribute some sort of donation in order to join the online class. Then, post either a video online or a live class using video conferencing software. Ask your teammates and board members if they (or someone they know) would be interested in volunteering to teach a dance, yoga, Zumba, or other type of workout class for the cause in order to keep costs low.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board members can help get the class started by helping you in your search for a teacher. Then, once it starts, they can help keep it going by continuing to promote the opportunity to their own network of friends and family.

Video Game Tournament

For your next board member fundraiser, consider hosting a video game tournament to engage supporters remotely.

Video games can be completed entirely online, making them the perfect proven fundraising opportunity to take virtual. Simply find an online game that your supporters would enjoy playing from their own homes. You may choose to use a common console game like Xbox or Playstation or choose a classic online option like Monopoly, Clue, and Risk.

Ask supporters to pay a small donation to enter the tournament, then let them play from the comfort of their own homes. Don’t forget to provide a prize to the winner of the tournament!

How Your Board Can Help

As leaders in your fundraising initiative, ask your board members to promote the opportunity to get involved with the video game tournament. You may even ask them to play themselves if you happen to have a couple of gamers on deck.

Google Grants

Google Grants are a perfect virtual idea that leads more traffic to your website and to your fundraising campaigns. Google offers up to $10,000 per month for nonprofits to promote their website using Ads on the search engine results page for specific keywords.

You’ve seen the Google ads on the results page when you’ve searched for various terms. These ads look something like this:

Google grants are a proven fundraising idea that can help any nonprofit spread the word about its cause.

When you’re listed first on the search engine results page, your organization gets in front of more viewers. This means increased brand recognition and additional visitors to your website.

How Your Board Can Help

Ask your board members to conduct the initial research about the keywords that best represent your mission. They may choose these keywords through conversations with their networks, their own independent research, or based on your current campaigns.

Let's explore several quick and effective proven fundraising ideas.

Quick and Effective Proven Fundraising Ideas

Give-It-Up Challenge

A give-it-up challenge puts a twist on traditional campaigns and is a highly effective, proven fundraising idea.The Give-It-Up challenge is a proven fundraiser in which you ask your supporters to give up a single daily habit that they’ve picked up over the years and instead contribute those funds to your organization. Whether it’s their daily Starbucks, a regular bowl of ice cream, cigarettes, or maybe even online shopping, everyone has a habit they may want to break for one reason or another.

Plus, this fundraiser guarantees that the money contributed won’t negatively impact the supporters’ budget, which is key during difficult economic times such as these. They’re simply donating the money that they would’ve already spent elsewhere.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board can help with this challenge by promoting the opportunity to their networks of friends and family or by participating themselves! They may find that it’s even relieving to give up their daily Starbucks double mocha cappuccino and instead know that those funds are going to a good cause.

Raffle

Raffles make for classic proven fundraising ideas that are incredibly easy to set up.

Raffles are a classic proven fundraising idea that helps nonprofits raise funds as supporters purchase tickets for the chance to win a prize. You can choose to either host your event online or in-person depending on the needs of your organization.

There are a couple of ways to make sure this fundraiser is risk-free for your nonprofit. First, you can get in touch with local businesses and ask them to donate items for the prize that you’ll give to the winner. Or, you can set up a 50-50 raffle, in which your winner will receive a prize of half of the funds generated through ticket sales.

How Your Board Can Help

Encourage your board members to solicit donated prizes using their connections in the community. Your board members most likely know business owners or individuals who can contribute enticing prizes for the campaign.

Shoe Drive Fundraiser

Everyone can contribute to a shoe drive, making it a quick and easy proven fundraising idea.

Shoe drive fundraisers are a risk-free fundraiser for both your organization and your supporters. This is because there is no upfront cost for your organization and supporters don’t have to dig into their wallets to help your organization! They can give worn, gently used, and new shoes in-kind to your organization which can then repurpose them to generate revenue.

Here’s how it works: Your nonprofit partners with a shoe drive fundraising organization. That organization provides you with collection materials that you can put up at your facilities and around the community for people to deposit their used, gently worn, and new shoes. After the collection period ends, you call the partnering organization to schedule a pickup. They’ll send you a check in return for the collected shoes.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board members can help your nonprofit take your shoe drive further by promoting it to their own network of friends and family. You may even decide to capture images of board members donating their own shoes to share with the community and spread the word about the campaign.

Restaurant Partnerships

Encourage better board member fundraising with an easy fundraiser like a restaurant partnership.

Traditionally, restaurant partnerships allow nonprofits to schedule a specific day when supporters can eat out at the restaurant and part of the proceeds collected are directed to the nonprofit’s mission. The restaurant receives free marketing from your organization while your organization receives the donation from the percentage of proceeds agreed upon at the onset of the partnership.

However, nowadays, due to strict social distancing guidelines, you probably don’t want to encourage large crowds to congregate in small restaurant spaces. Therefore, to move forward with this risk-free fundraising idea, make sure your organization partners with restaurants that deliver so that supporters can participate from their homes.

How Your Board Can Help

Encourage your board members to get involved with the promotion of this proven fundraising idea. You may ask them to livestream their own pickup from the restaurant or lead a meal-time discussion online using video conferencing tools.

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Raising money has never been easier than with this proven fundraising idea: peer-to-peer fundraising.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is a proven fundraising idea in which nonprofit supporters are empowered to raise money on behalf of your mission. Your organization leverages peer-to-peer software to help supporters create their own fundraising pages to promote to their friends and family in order to raise funds.

Peer-to-peer fundraising is powered by social proof, the concept that your supporters’ networks are more likely to contribute simply because their friend or loved one supports the cause. OneCause’s Social Donor Study supports the concept, finding that 55% of first-time donors reported wanting to support their friend who was promoting the campaign.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board members are some of the most well-connected individuals at your nonprofit. By encouraging them to start their own fundraisers, you have built-in fundraising ambassadors who will help spread the word and raise money for your campaign. Be sure to ask your board members and other fundraisers to write a personal note about their connection to your mission in order to evoke emotion and drive giving.

Get creative and boost board member and donor engagement with these unique fundraising ideas.

Creative and Unique Proven Fundraising Ideas

Merchandise Design Contest

For this proven fundraising idea, host a design contest where supporters can express their creativity.

Ask your supporters to get creative by encouraging them to create a new design for organization merchandise. This design can appear on your face masks, t-shirts, hats, mugs, and other products that you sell in your next campaign.

Get supporters involved in the campaign process early by asking them to vote for the winning design. This will get them excited to see the winning design and they’ll be more likely to contribute to the campaign when it goes live.

How Your Board Can Help

When you start selling the winning design on various merchandise items, ask your board members to purchase one of the items. Then, ask them to take a picture of themselves sporting the design to post on social media or feature in your newsletter. This will help market the campaign while sending an additional note of congratulations to the winning designer.

Pet Photo Contest

Host a pet photo contest where supporters can show off their furry friends while supporting your cause with this proven fundraising idea.

Pet photo contests are a great way for your supporters to show off adorable images of their animals while helping raise funds for your mission. Simply ask supporters to submit their cutest pet pictures, then promote the campaign and encourage other supporters to vote for their favorite picture with their dollars.

The picture that raises the most funds will win the contest. This is a perfect proven fundraising idea for Halloween and Christmas because supporters can dress their pets up in fun costumes before snapping their photo!

How Your Board Can Help

Ask your board members to vote for their favorite picture, then to share that photo on their social pages, encouraging others to also contribute and cast their vote. You may even ask your board to present a prize for the winning photo!

Cupcake Decorating Party

Host a virtual cupcake decorating party where your supporters can show off their baking skills using this proven fundraising idea.

Who doesn’t love cupcakes? A tasty and attractive pastry is a proven fundraising idea that everyone will love getting involved with. Host a virtual cupcake decorating party where people craft a delicious creation and snap a picture of their finished product. Share these cupcake designs online and encourage supporters to vote for their favorite.

There are a few ways you can raise funds during this event. You can ask for a small donation to enter the contest, ask supporters to contribute voluntarily during the virtual decorating event, or ask supporters to vote using their dollars after all cupcake designs have been submitted.

How Your Board Can Help

To get your board involved with this fundraising idea, you can take a similar approach as that for the animal photo contest. Ask your board members to vote and share the contest on social networks. Or, ask them to share their own creations from the cupcake decorating event!

Plant Nursery Drive

Make the world a little green with this proven fundraising idea: a plant sale.

During the chaos of 2020 and the rush to find home-based activities, many individuals have turned to gardening. This makes a plant nursery drive the perfect risk-free fundraiser for this year. Ask your supporters to donate plants that they’ve grown or nursed this year, then your organization can sell these plants back to the community.

Because you’re relying on donated plants for this campaign, it’s completely risk free! You don’t have any up-front costs for the plants themselves. Also, you can sell them outdoors on a nice day (ensuring you adhere to social distancing guidelines, of course), creating a safe and entertaining outing for supporters.

How Your Board Can Help

This is a great board member fundraising opportunity because your green-thumbed board members can participate in either activity! They can donate in-kind their own plants to the fundraiser or they can purchase new plants and show them off on social media. Just make sure they tag your organization to further promote the opportunity.

Trivia Night

Put your supporters' random knowledge to the test with a trivia night as your next board member fundraising idea.

A virtual trivia night is an educational experience that you can use to raise funds while spreading awareness and knowledge about your mission. Use an online trivia platform to ask questions relevant to your mission to all of your attendees and see how much they know about the subject.

To raise funds with this event, you can either charge a small admission fee to join or ask supporters to donate throughout the event itself. Don’t forget to offer a small prize for the winner! This prize may be donated by a local business to keep your up-front costs minimal.

How Your Board Can Help

To get your board members involved with this proven fundraising idea, ask them to host it! As experts on your mission, they can be very helpful in the question-creation process and in posing the questions to your supporters. They may even be able to provide additional insight or additional fun facts throughout the event itself.

Supporter Cookbooks

For your next proven fundraising idea, call on all the home chefs among your supporter base to submit their favorite recipes for a cookbook.

Supporter cookbooks are a personalized risk-free fundraising idea that brings your supporters together as a community. Ask everyone to submit their favorite recipes so that you can create a cookbook specifically for your supporters.

When everyone has submitted their favorites, ask your supporters to fill out order forms to buy their copy of the cookbook. This way you can order the exact number of cookbooks that you need for the fundraiser and guarantee a positive ROI.

How Your Board Can Help

Your board members can be key contributors to your cookbook, providing their favorite family recipes. They can also volunteer to help you put the book together and create attractive designs for the front cover.

Nonprofit Training

Train your volunteers and board members so that they have sufficient skills to carry out any proven fundraising idea you throw their way.

Nonprofit training might not be a fundraising idea per se, but it can help your organization raise additional funds over time. When you encourage the continuation of learning in your development team, they’ll know the tricks of the trade necessary to help them get more from your fundraising strategies.

If you can handle the upfront costs, you might sponsor your employees and board members to learn more about the nonprofit sector and best practices through training programs. However, you can also encourage these individuals to pursue nonprofit courses without the sponsorship if you want to reduce the risk.

How Your Board Can Help

As the leaders of your fundraising and strategic initiatives, you should encourage your board members to also undergo the training opportunities that you find to develop your team. This ensures they’ll be informed and knowledgeable as they make financial decisions for your organization.


There are very few things in life that are risk-free. However, when you launch a fundraiser with no up-front costs, you are guaranteed to receive a positive return on investment. Plus, when your board members get involved, your ROI only increases.

Even risk-free fundraising ideas require your organization conduct research to make sure you’re getting the most out of the campaign. You’re off to a great start by consulting this guide! Keep up the good work by continuing your research with helpful resources such as the following:

Get started with Bonfire to harness the power of our favorite proven fundraising idea: t-shirt sales!

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