Posted by on May 14, 2018 Views: 13759

Take It Outside: 10 Fresh Air Fundraisers for Nonprofits

By Grace Kennedy

Fresh-Air Fundraisers

Photo by Tama66 via

Spring is here, and for many of us, that means warmer weather! (Our apologies to those of you still wearing winter coats. That just doesn’t seem fair.) Longer days and pleasant forecasts are perfect reasons to host an outdoor fundraiser for your organization. Here are ten ideas to make a splash (dunk tank, anyone?) with donors who want to enjoy the outdoors while supporting your cause.

1. Fitness Event

Fitness EventPhoto by Pixabay on

Whether it’s a 5K race, a 10,000 step challenge, or a group dog walk, fitness fundraisers are the go-to outdoor charity event for a reason. They tap into the natural desire many of us have to exercise and challenge ourselves, and they present an opportunity to socialize while being charitable. Active Network offers a good starter guide to hosting fitness events.

2. Pool Party

Jump into this fun, outside-the-box idea! With the right set-up and attention to detail, a charity pool party could become a beloved annual event, drawing a bigger crowd every year. Partner with a local YMCA or community center to learn about logistics and options. Social media tip: Create a unique hashtag for your event for maximum social media engagement, and use Instagram Stories and Facebook Live to cover the event and give it a timely feel.

3. Community Yard Sale

We all have that handful of items in our closet that are too nice to throw out, but they don’t fit in with our décor. A community yard sale is a perfect solution. Have everyone bring in their items ahead of time, work on tagging and organizing them, then invite the public to peruse the treasures. All proceeds go to your organization, of course! Tip: Make sure the professional organizers in your community know about this event. They are a terrific source for the kinds of treasures that are perfect for a community yard sale.

4. Benefit Concert

Chances are, there is hidden talent in your community. And chances are, these people would love to showcase their talent for a good cause. Your organization gets the proceeds, and your performers get the recognition and word-of-mouth so crucial to making it as a musician. Plus, having an audience is an amazing opportunity for people to learn about how your organization changes lives. If your nonprofit serves young people, try a talent show where kids or teens can take turns performing. Whether it’s a classical instrument or a comedy routine, it will be hard to resist giving to your organization once your audience has seen all the brave young performers put themselves out there.

5. Outdoor Carnival

Outdoor Carnival

Photo by Matt Perich via Flickr

Take advantage of the old-fashioned charm of a good carnival. Even on a small scale, a carnival is a fun way to get families involved in your organization. While your attendees are mingling between games and rides, be sure to offer volunteer registration opportunities, and keep the mission of your organization as visible as possible.  Here are 20 additional tips for putting on a carnival.

6. Bean Bag Tournament

Follow the example of the top-rated High Fives Foundation and hold a simple, down-home bean bag (a.k.a. cornhole) tournament. People of all ages love this game, and your organization will love that it’s simple to set up and easy to track down donated bean bag boards.  A raffle is a fun add-on to a simple event like this. Check out these tips for hosting a bean bag tournament.

7. Car Wash

People all over the country are fighting the Pollen Battle these days. Help them out with a car wash to benefit your organization. This is a good option for nonprofits that need to keep their fundraiser simple. Make sure you have a reliable water source and a rain date for best results. Ask around to your community convenience stores for volunteer snacks in exchange for sponsorship benefits. Happy volunteers are key to a successful fundraiser!

8. Grill-Off

Take the cook-off outdoors, and it becomes a grill-off! Invite local eateries to participate, keep it amateur, or mix it up and let amateurs compete against restaurants. Introducing a competitive element is not only fun, but it also gets people more engaged in the event. Your local barbecue association is a helpful resource for marketing and suggested contest rules. Here is a list of state and regional barbecue associations.

9. Field Day

Field Day

Photo by Fort Carson via Flickr

Throw it back to the good old days, when a field day meant freedom from the classroom and the thrilling promise of a water balloon fight. Whether your event is geared towards children or adults, a field day fundraiser has crowd-pleaser written all over it. Check this article for comprehensive tips on planning a field day for children. For a list of games for an adult field day, check out 7 on a Shoestring’s blog post.

10. Outdoor Film Series

Watching a family film under the stars is a favorite outdoor activity for many. Why not make this your organization’s signature event? This is a good option for nonprofits with video stories they can share before the film, to show people what the organization is all about and them behind the mission. Location is key to the success of this event. Make sure you thoroughly scout your location and have clear communication with the groundskeepers or property managers to avoid surprise sprinkler disasters and other mishaps.

We would love to hear about your outdoor fundraisers. What worked, what would you do again, and what would you stay away from? Let us know in the comments section!

Grace Kennedy is a Charlotte, N.C.-based writer and marketing consultant. She specializes in using the power of storytelling to bring mission statements to life.