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Pumpkin smashing fundraisers make the most of Halloween leftovers

Not sure what to do with your jack o’ lantern after Halloween night? If your answer is yes, chances are good you’re not alone. There are probably many people in your community who are left wondering what to do with that grinning orange face once the candle within has burned out and the shell’s begun to wither. Hold a smashing pumpkin fundraiser in the week or so after Halloween, and help make disposal easy.pumpkin destruction

This type of event is a fun (and messy!) way to be done with that aging jack o’ lantern once and for all while raising money for your charitable organization. You’ll need access to an open space (preferably outdoors, such as a large field or an open section at a local apple orchard or pumpkin farm), a large, rugged tarp, a table or two and some chairs, and some instruments of pumpkin destruction – a regular metal claw hammer or a sledgehammer. Ask a local contractor if they’d be willing to donate the use of a cherry picker or a bucket truck. Be sure to have buckets, scoops and shovels handy for cleanup afterward. Don’t wear your best clothes to this event!

Prior to the event, make arrangements with your local or regional yard waste or composting facility to accept the pumpkin remains – this will let you dispose of the remains responsibly and help to make more compost available to future gardeners.

Advertise your event throughout the community, inviting people to bring their jack o’ lanterns. If your location is a pumpkin farm or an apple orchard that also grows and sells pumpkins, you could set up additional tables for on-the-spot pumpkin decorating (don’t forget to bring the markers!) for a nominal added fee – chances are good that the farm will still have some unsellable pumpkins still on the ground.

Spread out the tarp and secure it as best you can with heavy weights such as rocks, bricks or blocks, etc. If you were able to obtain the use of a cherry picker or bucket truck, be sure to get the equipment in place over the tarp.

Arrange for guests to stop first at the table as they arrive with their pumpkins, and station volunteers there to examine each pumpkin and remove any wax candle stumps or pieces, non-organic decorations, and lingering pumpkin seeds. Make sure the table is far enough away from the tarp to avoid being part of the mess! The registration table is a good place to collect entry fees.

You can add to the fun atmosphere as well as your fundraising ability with a Chinese auction. Guests who arrive early can put their ugliest, best-looking or most creative jack o’ lanterns on display. Have raffle tickets with detachable stubs available for purchase at the registration table, and be sure to set up bowls, coffee cans or buckets in front of the competing pumpkins and offer a small prize for the winner(s).

Be sure to establish a cleanup crew ahead of time to collect the smashed pumpkin pieces (large, sturdy plastic tote bins and shovels are key here) and transport the remains to the composting facility as soon as possible if representatives from the facility were unable to join you.


Fall fundraising ideas to warm your heart and clean your yard

Ahhh, autumn. The season of hot cocoa, bright colors on trees, lengthening shadows and the first crisp, frosty mornings. It’s a great season to celebrate with a fall fundraiser!

raking leaves and yard workWith harvest season fast approaching, your organization could team up with a local pumpkin or apple farm (sometimes one and the same) to help you raise money for your cause. Larger farms often hold a festival on their grounds to showcase the bounty of their harvest, with fun rides and events for little ones – they may be willing to donate a percentage of their profits on a given day to your group.

Many people in cooler climates look forward to warming up with a steaming hot bowl of soup after a brisk day – so why not hold an elegant soup sampling event? Ask local restaurants to participate by bringing their favorite soups to share with the community, either as samples or as part of a cook-off compePumpkin farm free offertition. Your local VFW, American Legion or school may be able to provide kitchen and dining facilities at a discount or even for fee. A pottery business in your area could donate bowls in which the soup will be served, and the bowls could be raffled off or sold outright as a way to raise additional funds.

Even as the leaves are turning colors, they’re also dropping from the trees and piling up in the yard. By holding a yardwork-a-thon, your group can help eliminate the hassle for folks while giving them an opportunity to support your cause. Collect pledge donations in advance of the event by posting fliers around the neighborhood and in post offices, supermarkets and other public areas, sending out an e-mail or postal mail blast and through word of mouth. Be sure to include such details as the date and times available for the cleanups, what services will be offered (raking leaves, bringing outdoor toys or sensitive plants in, etc.). Each household in whose yard you work could be entered into a raffle for practical, related yardwork tools such as a lawn mower, a new hedge trimmer, and so on – be sure to have plenty of tickets handy!

Keep in mind the fact that fall weather is notoriously unpredictable. When holding an outdoor event, remind everyone working at the event to dress for changing conditions and to bring a knit hat, a light jacket, gloves and boots. In addition, the hours of available daylight are decreasing, so you’ll want to be aware of what time sunset takes place in your area and be sure to finish your event before darkness falls.

Good luck and enjoy your fall fundraising!


May offers two chances for holiday fundraising

With the month of May come not one, but two big holidays for fundraising: Mother’s Day and Memorial Day.

Flowers and chocolates are both widely associated with Mother’s Day. Carnations and daisies are particularly popular, as are roses, lilies, tulips, irises and gladioli. If selling flowers, decide whether to sell pre-orders of bouquets for delivery or pickup just before the holiday or to sell individual flowers on Mother’s Day itself. Work with a florist in your community who is willing to help you put together some lovely flowers or stunning bouquets at a discount in exchange for recognition at your event.

chocolates and flowers

Not very many mothers will turn up their noses to a tin of gourmet chocolates and fresh flowers.

As for chocolates … well, few are the moms who will turn up their nose at a box of gourmet chocolates! And the mouthwatering treat comes in more forms than just small squares in a box. Hold a bake sale right before Mother’s Day and sell variations on a chocolate theme: brownies, chocolate-chip cookies and so on. Be sure to include a variety of other flavors, such as lemon, red velvet and vanilla. With a bake sale, you will likely find a number of volunteer bakers eager to show off their baking skills while lending your organization a hand.

You may decide that it makes sense for your organization to offer both flowers and goodies for sale at a larger fundraising event. Consider holding a craft show if you have access to a gymnasium or other large space – this would provide people with an opportunity to browse among quality handcrafted items and pick out a special gift for Mom to go along with the bouquet and sweets. Ask crafters to donate one or two of their products (or put together a festive, decorated basket) for a raffle drawing; also, see if local businesses that may not have purchased table space at the show are willing to donate gift certificates or coupons for the raffle. Sell sequentially numbered tickets at the door for as little as $1, collect the tickets in a bucket, basket or even a coffee can, and then set aside time during your event to pick and announce the winning ticket numbers.

Memorial Day is at once a solemn occasion, a day set aside to celebrate the service of all military veterans, and a joyful event that informally marks the beginning of the summer season. You can decide which way to go if your organization chooses to hold a Memorial Day fundraiser.

Most communities hold a parade, a festival or a similar type of event on Memorial Day weekend. Your organization can be as big or small a part of the action as your creativity and budget allow. Consider offering small or full-size American flags for sale prior to the holiday or during a local event – these flags can be purchased online from party supply stores, which may give a discount on bulk orders if asked.

On a larger scale, if you have access to suitable cooking equipment and adequate space you could hold a breakfast event before the parade starts using supplies donated by a local grocer (be sure to check with your municipality and obtain any necessary permits beforehand).

The warmer temperatures and generally pleasant weather of late May help fuel spring-cleaning events – another fun way to raise funds for your organization. Solicit members of your community to donate sellable items in good condition for your group to sell over the holiday weekend. Price the articles at full price on the first day and then offer deep discounts on the second day to help prevent leftover items. You could hold a drawing to raffle off any eye-catching, popular items.

Good luck and have fun with your May fundraisers!


Hop to it! Fun Easter fundraising ideas

Easter bunny photos

Photos with the Easter bunny can be a fun part of any springtime fundraiser as well as memories to last a lifetime.

Easter is a time of joy, and there are many fun traditions surrounding this holiday: gifts of chocolate and candies nestled in baskets filled with green “grass,” colored hard-boiled eggs, bouquets of lilies and other flowers in soft, pastel shades … and perhaps the biggest thrill for kids: the Easter Bunny.

Any or all of these familiar elements can be used as the basis for a fun and successful fundraising event. Here are just a few ideas to help get you and your organization started.

Dress someone in a bunny suit to host your event or even just a meal or an afternoon tea for little ones – the Easter Bunny is the central character for many Easter celebrations and provides the perfect foil to any number of holiday-themed activities. Be prepared for plenty of enthusiastic kids! You might want to have a photographer on hand to take quick family portraits with him.

As just about any kid will tell you, the Easter bunny brings Easter eggs! An Easter egg hunt held in a playground, park or sports field is a time-tested draw for families. Brightly packaged chocolate eggs or other goodies work just as well as real, decorated eggs. You can charge a nominal fee to take part in the hunt, or it can serve as a free event anchoring other fundraising ideas such as raffles, door prizes and refreshments.

Speaking of eggs, an event that can spark lots of interest is an Easter egg decoration contest. Categories could include most original, funniest, most colorful, etc. People could vote with their spare change in cups placed beside each egg, with the winner taking home the contents of the cup (or your group can form a jury, select the winners and award them small prizes). Related ideas include holding an Easter cake or cookie competition.

An Easter Bunny Hop dance party provides a fun way for little ones to burn off all that sugar-fueled energy. Provide each dancer with a set of floppy bunny ears from the dollar store to wear as they move (hop?) along to popular and traditional kids’ music.

It’s a good idea to offer advance-sale tickets for your Easter-themed event to help give your group an idea of how many guests you can expect to see on the big day. With a computer and a printer, you can use perforated ticket paper to create beautiful, personalized tickets that are sequentially numbered – perfect for use in any raffle drawings or contests you might hold during your fundraiser. To help keep things organized, you’ll want to establish separate groups or committees for each event if you will be holding more than one.Easter Egg Hunt

Have fun and good luck with your fundraising event!
Easter Bunny is the central character for many Easter celebrations and provides the perfect foil to any number of holiday-themed activities.


March Madness offers great fundraising opportunities

March Madness fundraiser

March Madness is copyrighted by the NCAA, so make sure your tickets and promotional material don’t use that phrase. I like March Mayhem, for instance.

The month of March is an exciting time for fans of college basketball. This is when the National Collegiate Athletic Association, or NCAA, organizes a championship tournament called March Madness that lasts for several weeks as the teams advance through the rounds and compete for the winning title.

This popular sporting event provides a great theme for fundraising, offering plenty of opportunities for creative events that will draw community members together for food and fun.

One fundraising idea is to hold a cookoff. Participants can form teams who compete against each other to see who makes the best chili, chowder, chicken wings – the possibilities are virtually endless. The competition could be organized much the same way as the team brackets, with the cooks serving up appetizers in the first round, moving on to main dishes and ending with desserts. Charge a nominal fee for each team and have prizes ready for the winners.March Mayhem ticket sample

Your organization could also hold a March Madness party for one or more of the games. Be sure to have access to a large television and enough room and snacks for guests. A good way to ensure that you won’t run short of either is to offer advance-sale tickets that are sequentially numbered to help you keep track of how many have been printed and sold. You can also charge admission at the door and guests will receive food and drink while watching the games.

To raise even more money, you could combine other, related activities with your party. Consider organizing a free-throw contest if your March Madness party will be held in a gym. For a small fee, participants can compete against each other for a chance to win a prize. Of you can ask ticket holders to write in their guess for that game’s winner and enter all of the correct answers into a drawing for a door prize.

college basketball viewing party

The college basketball finals are a great excuse to gather friends and coworkers and host a fundraiser party for your favorite charity or organization.

Prizes can be gift certificates or other items donated by local businesses that can be placed in a basket to be raffled off in a drawing (another possible use for those sequentially numbered tickets!). As much as possible, continue the March Madness theme in the basket by including basketball-related items, such as a local team-themed T-shirt.

Just remember: The phrase “March Madness” is trademarked and cannot be used in connection with a sports event or to sell something related to college basketball.

These are a few ways your organization can have fun sharing in the excitement of the college basketball season’s final weeks. Have a great time and best of luck with your fundraiser!


Mardi Gras offers the perfect venue for a spirited fundraiser

Mardi Gras partyFull of colorful costumes, masquerade balls and parades, delicious foods, and spirited music and dancing, the carnival known as Mardi Gras – held on the day before Ash Wednesday every year – offers lots of fun for everyone. A Mardi Gras party is a great way to say goodbye to the winter blahs and at the same time raise funds for your organization.

As you begin to plan your event, decide how elaborate a party your organization wants (or is able) to hold. The time to delegate responsibilities for what can be a complex event is right at the start. You’ll need volunteers to oversee the following areas: decorating; entertainment; food and drink planning/prep, especially if alcohol will be served; donations and sponsorships; publicity; photographer (for next year’s publicity and event); and the event itself – before, during and after – for setup and takedown.Mardi Gras themed dance

As the best-known Mardi Gras party is held in New Orleans, your menu would certainly be on the mark to include such classic regional foods as po’boys, jambalaya and crawfish in keeping with Big Easy culinary traditions. Keep in mind, however, that communities along the GulfCoast from Texas to Florida hold their own versions of Mardi Gras; so if crawfish aren’t locally available, you can still be true to the spirit of Mardi Gras by serving up surf and turf, shrimp cocktails or other dishes that include seafood. If a culinary school or college is nearby, ask them to volunteer their time in creating a menu.

To help simplify food prep and cleanup (and possibly comply with local codes), you’ll want to secure a venue that includes a kitchen. This would also enable your organization to hold Cajun cooking classes if desired. Potential places include churches, fire halls, restaurants, cafeterias or the meeting house of a civic organization such as the VFW or Lions Club. If you plan to serve alcohol (consider serving mint juleps, bloody marys and hurricanes), be sure that the venue allows it and then secure any necessary permits or licenses.

Decorate the venue with balloons in purple, gold and green, the traditional colors of Mardi Gras. Red light bulbs will add a note of mystery, particularly fun if your hold a masquerade ball or a costume contest during your event. Stock up on beads, which can be found online or in most costume shops, and hang them everywhere possible – including on guests! And don’t forget masks: whether feathered or as simple as the classic Comedy and Tragedy masks, they’ve become widely associated with the carnival.

Mardi Gras party fundraiserEntertainment is key to recreating the joyful spirit of Mardi Gras. Look for a local band that plays zydeco or New Orleans-style jazz or, barring that, blues, bluegrass and/or country. If such a band can’t be found in your area, hire a DJ to play these styles of music. Be sure your venue offers enough room for a live band or a DJ booth before making a commitment.

Find a local celebrity emcee – TV and radio personalities and civic leaders are prime candidates -to host the event. An emcee can keep the celebration lively and moving while playfully reminding your guests about the charity.

Admission tickets should not be overlooked. Mardi Gras is a feast for the senses, and your tickets can (and should) reflect the spirit of fun and revelry with whimsical artwork. Use sequentially numbered tickets not only to help you keep track of how many guests attend, but also to help make it simple to hold a silent auction or raffle during your event. Be sure to offer an exciting grand prize – a trip to New Orleans would be perfect, for example, or dinner at a Cajun restaurant. You could even auction off the title of “Mardi Gras King” (have a robe and scepter ready!) and offer him a small prize or give him the honor of announcing the auction or raffle winners.Mardi Gras fundraiser ticket

Sponsorships are an important part of making the magic happen. You may find that local businesses are willing to sponsor a table or help underwrite your expenses and donate items for a raffle drawing, silent auction or costume contest in exchange for recognition of their generosity.

Download the Mardi Gras Dinner Dance template today and have fun and enjoy a successful Mardi Gras fundraiser!


Unique winter holiday fundraising ideas

The holiday season is a time for joyful events full of cheer that bring together the entire community. Your group or organization can take part in the fun with a variety of exciting fundraising ideas!

Festival of Trees fundraiser

Host a “Festival of Trees” fundraiser with individuals decorating donated trees. Ask local businesses to donate trees and decorations. Raffle off the finished trees to needy families.

Events such as First Night observations can be a great way to get the word out about your organization. These events are family-friendly celebrations of the new year that commonly include live music performances, fireworks at midnight and much more. The higher the participation among community groups, the more fun for everyone – so if a first night event is planned for your area, it’s worth asking about being a presence there with a basket or other type of raffle.

Some communities hold open houses of private homes and public spaces decked out in their holiday best. The sight of a lovingly tended Victorian home adorned with lights and sprigs of fragrant evergreen brings a warm, nostalgic feel to many. If an open house is being held near you, consider taking part by selling tickets at each home. The more tickets guests purchase, the greater their chance of winning a prize after the event ends – just be sure to remind them to retain their ticket stubs!

What is Christmas without a visit from Santa? Your organization could host a breakfast with Santa at a local mall, VFW post or community hall and sell tickets in advance to help give you an idea of how much will be needed in terms of food and other supplies. Ask the management of a grocery store if the store would be able to donate food and supplies for your event. You could even hold a drawing for a classic Christmas ham dinner with all the trimmings, which would help generate positive publicity for the grocer when the store donates the meal.

While the little ones are visiting with Old St. Nick, mom and dad could enter a Santa sack toy raffle. Ask local businesses, especially shopping centers, to make a donation of different types of toys for girls and boys – the more the better, and the better the publicity for everyone involved. The idea is to raffle off a sack full of toys, and pending on the size of the sack and the toys themselves, this could mean over $1,000 in toys!

Another type of fundraiser your group may want to think about is a festival of trees. Your local mall, museum or community center may have space available for a display of donated artificial trees, or tree farmers in your area may be willing to donate fresh trees and wreaths in exchange for publicity. Decorate the trees and hold a silent auction for a lucky family to take home a tree that’s ready for gifts to be placed underneath!

Have fun and enjoy your holidays!


Turkey bowling events are super fun fundraisers

Turkey bowling pinsThanksgiving in America is traditionally a time for roast turkey and a gathering of family and friends. Some, however, put an unusual spin on the national holiday and go bowling.

Turkey bowling, that is. Turkey bowling at a super market

Growing in popularity in recent years, turkey bowling is said to have originated in the late 1980s in a Newport Beach, Calif., grocery store when a manager slid a frozen turkey across the floor, toppling a soda bottle by accident. From such a humble beginning comes one of the season’s more unusual fundraising events.

You can use regular or plastic bowling pins instead of soda bottles; and yes, it’s okay to use a plastic turkey instead of a real, frozen bird! With its irregular shape, the turkey moves in unexpected directions when rolled. That unpredictable trajectory helps make turkey bowling fun to both watch and play.

There are a number of ways turkey bowling can help you raise funds for your group or for another worthy cause, such as the local food pantry or other relief organization. Fundraising can be as simple as selling admission tickets to the event; or participants can buy tickets for a chance to win prizes for successfully knocking over a certain number of pins in a single roll, knocking over a pin of a particular color, etc. Frozen turkeys may be donated by a local supermarket and awarded as prizes – or given directly to your area food bank.

You may be able to obtain permission to use an actual bowling alley for your event, or an ice rink or fire hall or other facility with a large room may be available if outdoor conditions are less than desirable.

If your organization is looking for a fundraising idea that’s out of the ordinary, give turkey bowling a try!

Turkey bowling ticket

Download our free Turkey Bowling template sample ticket and start making plans today!

Good luck and have fun!


Have a frighteningly good time with a Halloween basket social

Halloween BasketLooking for a fun way to bring members of your community together while raising money for your organization? Consider holding a Halloween basket social – good for adults as well as little ones.

For a successful basket social (a takeoff on the popular Chinese auction), you’ll want to make up about 2 dozen baskets (more or less, depending on the size of your organization and how many people you expect to come) prior to the date of your event. While you’ll certainly want baskets full of candy and goodies for the kiddos, you might also add items like small puzzles, coloring books and crayons, small stuffed animals or toys, or school supplies. For grownups, add a scary movie DVD or a free rental from a local rental shop, microwave popcorn, pumpkin cake mixes, gift certificates, etc. You might even hold a costume contest! In exchange for publicity, local businesses may be willing to donate the gift certificates and supplies.

Keep a few smaller items to have for door prizes that you can give away during your event. You might also reserve a large item as a lottery prize, or put together a consolation prize or two for those whose tickets didn’t win.

When people arrive on the day of your basket social, be sure to have plenty of raffle tickets on hand to sell at the door. You’ll want different colors of tickets for the door prizes, the baskets and the raffle prize so guests can purchase different types of tickets if they wish.

Place a large can, bowl or bucket in front of each basket for people to put their ticket stubs in, being careful to remind guests to retain their ticket to match numbers with the stub in case they win. During your event, pause every so often to draw a door prize winner. Designate a person from your group to draw for one item at a time from each of the containers of tickets, and then draw for the large lottery prize. After that, hold a consolation prize drawing and/or the costume contest drawing if you are offering them.

With a bit of planning, you can hold a Halloween event that offers fun for everyone while raising money for your group. Good luck and have a great time!



Summertime raffle ideas

Hot July rafflesSummer is here in earnest in July – a month that bursts out of the gate with the Fourth of July holiday and continues with vacations (and “staycations”) and gathering family and friends around the backyard grill. Your organization’s fundraising can highlight the best of this warm, sunny month with fun raffles and events.

One raffle that’s growing in popularity across the country is the Fourth of July millionaire raffle. Operated by a number of state lottery programs, these raffles typically award 1776 prizes ranging from $100 all the way to $1,000,000 in a series of early-bird drawings spread out over a month or two, with a grand prize awarded on or around July 4.

Variations on this theme are relatively simple. Instead of offering a million-dollar prize, for example, your group could award a $1776 cash grand prize and smaller runner-up cash prizes along with a variety of holiday and seasonally themed prizes in a “Freedom Raffle.”

Prizes such as barbecuing tools and supplies are a staple of summertime, and tickets to a local clambake or clam boil would certainly be in keeping with the warm-weather theme. Wrap smaller prizes in patriotic red, white and blue paper or place them in appropriately decorated baskets with small flags and ribbons.

A “Christmas in July” raffle is another favorite summertime fundraiser. One variation is the 12 Days of Christmas raffle, in which a different winner is named over a 12-day period. Some great prizes entrants will be excited to find under your organization’s “tree” could include Apple iPad Minis, e-readers, gift certificates to local businesses and more. Consider a tradional holiday theme for the prizes, such as a tree skirt or a red and green table runner, tree ornaments and beautiful accent pieces, for some tongue-in-cheek fun.

Have fun and keep cool!