30 Unique Fundraiser Ideas for College Groups

college kids with moneyFundraising can consume an organization, leaving little energy for members to pursue the group's true purpose. With these creative fundraising ideas categorized from low to high effort levels, you'll save your group time and look like a genius!

Time and Effort: Low
(1-2 Geniuses needed on planning committee)

  1. Candy Crush-a-Thon.  Pull an all-nighter playing Candy Crush or the latest game craze.  Charge an entry fee, make it high energy with music, and sell candy to boost funds.  The player who outlasts everyone wins a gift card to the local coffee shop.  The players at the highest level get a glittery phone case or silly prize.  Use SignUpGenius for RSVP's or to sell sponsorships or tickets.
  2. Episode Marathon Night.  Pick a favorite show and host a marathon night with another group.  Charge a small entry fee.  Vote on your favorite character, episode, or jump-the-shark moment.  Ask trivia questions or play bingo with popular one-liners, and remember to have cheapie prizes on hand.
  3. Family Recipe Cook Off.  A new spin on the chili cook off:  have everyone cook their favorite family recipe.  Charge an entry fee and give prizes to the winners. Make sure participants bring a copy of the recipe.  Consider adding this to an existing party or event.  Gather supplies and coordinate participants with a sign up!
  4. Blind Bowling or Costume Putt-Putt Night.  Work with a local bowling alley or putt-putt golf course to receive a percentage of ticket and concession sales. Make sure to select a unique place that has a festive atmosphere with private event facilities and fun/live music. Put a twist on it with blindfolds for a couple of the rounds, or playing the game in costumes.  Buy a tacky prize or trophy that can be passed around year after year.  You can also turn this into a tournament that includes lunch or dinner to boost sales.

Plan a tournament easily with an online sign up! SAMPLE

  1. Bid on the Best Room or Parking Space.  If your organization owns a convenient parking space or much-sought-after room in the organization's building, don't just give it to the President!  Ask members to email a bid for the room or space.  Highest bidder wins.
  2. Serve-it-Up Night.  Negotiate with a local restaurant, ice cream parlor, or grocery store to donate a percentage of proceeds to your organization on a particular night.  Work with a venue that will let members scoop, serve, or check out!
  3. Mystery Pizza Delivery.  Send a busy friend a pre-paid pizza!  Work with a local vendor to receive a percentage of proceeds on a certain night when callers mention your organization's name.  Design a cute card and give them to the pizza delivery vendor for those surprise, mystery deliveries. 
  4. Arcade/Go-Cart/Sporting Events.  Work with a local arcade and fun center, or even a sports team to reserve their location or reserve tickets at a group price.  The venue should give you a percentage of the proceeds.  You promote the event - they do the work and send you a check! 
  5. Have a Fundraiser Within a Fundraiser - A Basket Raffle.  So you're hosting a speaker series or a dance? Assign each "class" within your organization a themed basket that will be raffled off: Sports, Night Out, Gift Cards, Summer Fun.  Each class is responsible for filling their basket with donated items.  Tips: 1) Check websites of local sports teams and resorts to see if you can request a donation.  2) Locally owned, independent retail stores or restaurants (rather than chains) are often more willing to donate gift cards.  3) Ask parents who own businesses that could donate.  Remember!  People need more than one raffle ticket (one drawing per basket), so make more $ and sell them in bulk: 15 for $10. SAMPLE
  6. "Taking it a Step Higher" Capital Campaign.  A unique twist on the same 'ole capital campaign:  try a "footprint" version.  Decide on different levels of donations:  Red-$25, Blue-$50, Yellow -$100.  Once money is pledged, host a quick party or event where members paint donors' feet the appropriate color, and then each donor literally stamps his/her footprint on a banner to be displayed.  Above all the footprints, paint the words "Taking it a Step Higher."  Voila! Marketing genius! Genius Tip: Use online sign ups to collect money, so you can send to out of town family and friends who want to participate with a cash donation.
School carnival festival fundraiser volunteer sign up form

Time and Effort: Medium 
(3-4 Geniuses needed on planning committee)

  1. Public Service Announcement/Social Media Challenge.  Tap into skills of students on campus and ask for video submissions on a particular topic, which will serve as a Public Service Announcement (or recruiting video) from your group.  Ask for donations from friends and family, and give a percentage as a cash prize to the winner.  Pick an important topic and include a list of firm guidelines, due date, and a contact person.  Select three winners and post them on your social media site.  The one with the most likes, shares, or votes wins the cash prize.  Use SignUpGenius Payments for collecting money to fund the project! SAMPLE

  2. Sweat-a-Thon.  Get fit and raise money at the same time!  Work with the campus gym to "check in and out" members as they log hours.  Set a month-long group goal and promote it.  Have participants ask parents and friends to be sponsors.

  3. Fitness Band Challenge.  Use the latest technology gadget to establish a month-long step goal.  Make sure to have participants link fitness bands to an App for legitimacy.  Set a group goal and ask for sponsors, like the example above.

Online sign ups make collecting money simple. LEARN MORE

  1. Skit/Karaoke/Talent Night.  Host a Karaoke, Talent, or Saturday Night Live-inspired Skit Night, in tandem with another college group. Set some guidelines upfront, and hold auditions if needed. Charge an entry fee, sell popcorn, vote on the best one, and show clips from past year's winners in between acts. Winners get a "free pass," from a required group meeting or event. Choose to up the ante with a cash prize.
  2. Seasonal Selling.  Look at the calendar and sell something when folks are in the mood to spend money.  On the last weekend before summer vacation, hold a car wash. During a football game, sell tailgating gear. Near Mother's Day, sell handmade cards. For Valentine's Day, sell Carnations, Sing-a-Grams or Candy-Grams for personal delivery!
  3. Sell Care Packages on Move-In Day.  Position members outside freshman dorms to help parents move in their children.  Make sure everyone has on matching T-shirts! Position a table off to the side, selling care packages with commonly used, lesser known items that you need on campus:  panic whistle, non-perishable food, coffee, Gatorade, water cup with university logo, etc.
  4. Video Game Tournament.  Host a video game (or board/card game tournament).  Charge an entry fee for participants and audience members. Post house rules and set time limits so you can stay on schedule.  Ask local businesses to donate prizesSelling concessions or hosting a 50/50 raffle during the event will help you monetize the it further.  Use SignUpGenius to organize teams and time slots.
  5. Oozeball Tournament.  Together with some other organizations, ask the university to temporarily turn an outdoor sand volleyball court into a mud pit.  Charge an entry fee for teams to enter the tournament.  Use SignUpGenius to setup teams and time slots, like the above example.
  6. Powder Puff Game.  Host a girl's football game, with the guys as cheerleaders!  Sell tickets to the game.  Be sure to research and set rules. 
  7. Break the Balloon Silent Auction.  Stuff balloons with silly and awesome prizes and tasks:  clean a room, make a meal, gift cards, free passes, butler for a day.  Students bid on a balloon.  Each winning bidder pops his/her balloon to reveal what's inside!  Check the websites of local sports teams and resorts to see if you can request a donation.  Locally owned, independent retail stores or restaurants (rather than chains) are often more willing to donate gift cards.  Consider adding this to an existing event.

Need to collect Silent Auction donations? Collect them easily with a sign up! SAMPLE

Bake Sale fundraiser volunteer sign up form

Time and Effort: High
(5-6 Geniuses needed on planning committee)

  1. TV Show Competition.  Think Dancing with the Stars, America's Got Talent, or American Idol.  Set up a link for audience members to vote on their phones during the show.  Make sure judges stay positive and have a simple rating system.  Test this with a smaller group first, then go campus wide next year.  

  2. Parent/Son or Daughter Golf or Tennis Tournament.  Work with a local golf or tennis club to host a one day tournament.  Many moms and dads would LOVE to come play golf and spend the day with their college-age kid!  In place of Mom or Dad, invite alumni and friends.  Charge an entry fee that covers expenses and makes a profit.  Have a roving concessions golf cart or ask for a percentage.  Get the club to donate a free round of golf or tennis to the winning team members, or give a silly t-shirt for Mom and Dad to wear proudly.  Use SignUpGenius to recruit teams. SAMPLE

  3. All in the Family Event.  Host a family-friendly event during Parents Weekend.  Get crazy and do cupcake wars, a darts tournament, or hire a dance student to come and teach a ballroom dance to parent/child pairs.  Ask parents to bring "awkward family photos."  Set up a silly photo booth with a decorated sheet as the background.  Take pictures with your phone and email them later.  The more effort you put into this event, the more you can charge Mom and Dad!  Skip paper tickets and use SignUpGenius for event registration.

  4. Selfie-Themed 10K. Organize a Campus 5 or 10K with a cool theme: Selfies!  Runners take photos of themselves with certain campus landmarks in order to finish the race.  Post on social media later - instant marketing and perfect pictures for everyone to enjoy 20 years later!  Other cool 5k themes include: Midnight on the Green, Campus Sunrise Run, Circle the Stadium, Blindfold Run with a Buddy.  Use SignUpGenius to register participants and pay for the entry fee. 5k SAMPLE

  5. Speaker Series.  Set up a series of interesting speakers.  Charge an entry fee and ask your speaker to donate their time.  You don't need someone famous to make this worthwhile.  Tap into alumni, professors, counselors, or community members working in relevant job fields. 

  6. Open Mike/Read Your Childhood Diary Night.  Host an Open Mike night.  Poetry, music, comedy, all talents are welcome.  A recent trend:  Reading your childhood/teenage diary!  Sell tickets.  Use SignUpGenius for RSVP's. Have concessions and a raffle.

  7. TV/Movie Themed Silent Auction.  Use SignUpGenius to create a "Wish List" of donations, and then host a Silent Auction or bingo night with a theme from a favorite show/movie: House of Cards, Hunger Games, Downton Abbey.  Don't forget to ask locally owned businesses for related gift cards, and research websites to ask for donations of sports tickets or hotel stays.  Silent Auction SAMPLE

  8. 80's Prom.  Host an 80's prom.  Come dressed in big hair and stone-washed jeans, play 80's songs, and have a costume contest.  Add a second-hand clothing sale during the prom.  Don't forget a photo booth with a decorated sheet/props as the backdrop, using phones for pictures and email them later! This could be fun for Parents Weekend too.

  9. Dancing/Art/Grammar/Knitting/Math Lessons.  Surely you have members with these skills!  Set up booths where everyone shows off their skill or knowledge, with a quick tutoring session! Charge per person.

  10. Battle of the "Lip Syncs."  A new twist on Battle of the Bands…battle it out with a Karaoke competition!  Have prizes, raffles, and concessions and charge an entrance fee.

    Choose an idea, make a plan and get to it. You'll be raking in the cash soon enough! More fundraising tips and ideas can be found HERE.


Emily Mathias is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, NC.