College students always need money—and college-student led organizations are no different. Sororities and fraternities, along with any college club or organization, are dependent on the generosity of friends, donors, alumni, and faculty to stay open and meet various goals.
Fundraising is the traditional, tried-and-true means to filling the coffers and keeping the lights on, but are you stuck thinking of ideas?
It turns out that there is a virtually endless list of ways to raise money for your college club, and it can be easier (and more fun) than you think. Here are twenty-five suggestions to jumpstart your next fundraising drive.
1. Dunk Tank
The old staple of carnivals and company picnics may have originated on college campuses. After all, the delight at seeing a superior make a fool of themselves looking like a drowned rat may never be purer than if it’s your least favorite professor! Charge a reasonable fee for people to have a chance at drowning the dean, the VP, or even the club president!
This one can be a bit expensive if done right, so you may want to save it for when extra funds are available and for an especially worthy cause. Carnivals can be elaborate or simple, but the point is to create a constellation of attractions (face painting, balloon animals, clowns, petting zoos, etc.) to draw and keep people.
You might have particular luck if you make it family-friendly and email blast every faculty and staff member with kids. They’ll thank you and are usually happy to support campus culture. (If you want some game ideas, head over here!)
3. Talent Show
Is your club president a great rapper? Do some of your frat brothers know how to breakdance? Are some of the sorority sisters excellent stand-up comediennes? All these things and more can flesh out a good talent show.
Make it clear that all proceeds from ticket (and snack!) sales will go to the fundraiser and invite the whole campus to come. If you’re lucky you might get funds to spare.
4. Car Wash
This is a staple because it works. Start with faculty and staff if that’s allowed, and branch out to the wider community.
Most locals will be happy to get a clean car for a good price from happy college students. You might charge extra for waxing, vacuuming, and other perks of that nature. Just be sure to give a good wash for the basic fee!
5. Pie Eating Contest
This can work well during seasonal events (think fall fest, especially), and you can even charge people to watch, though if you charge the contestants well enough you might not have to.
Simple whipped cream pies are a staple and are cheap to make, so you wouldn’t have to spend too much to actually set it up.
6. Pancake Breakfast
This will work almost any time of the year, but especially concentrate on peak times like finals week, first week of spring semester (the fall semester may be too crazy with the freshman and the return from summer break), or midway through a semester just after midterms.
You can either have a topping bar, or charge different fees for different amounts of pancakes and toppings (or both).
7. Bake Sale
Again with the food? Yes! College students love food. There are all kinds of ways to go with this.
Consider adding a competition element by having students from different majors (or culinarily-inclined faculty from different departments) each bake themed treats. Pick a high-traffic spot on campus and whatever you do be sure to have actually good stuff for sale.
8. Build Your Own Sundae Night
Pick a Saturday just before finals week and invite everyone you can to an open sundae bar. You might want to charge a little more for this one, if you want to have a reasonable amount of toppings and flavors and still make a profit. But no college student I know would say no to ice cream. This will be a sure hit.
9. Dodgeball Tournament
You can sell tickets for this one, but you might even have the players make a small financial contribution.
This can be especially fun if you pit professors against students, or grads against undergrads. Be sure to credit the winning team for helping anchor the fundraiser!
This is a creative way to help your college community and raise money. It will work best with especially gifted or knowledgeable students, preferably those who can be vetted or vouched for by faculty.
But assuming that’s taken care of, offer a multi-discipline tutoring center for students—math, science, writing, study skills, etc. Simply charge students a small hourly fee. Your college may already have this kind of service included with tuition, so be sure to not compete with them.
But you can supplement and enhance what is already offered, or even begin something they don’t.
11. Alumni Night
This works best with fraternities and sororities, but it’s elastic enough to be very useful. Contact prominent or established alumni from your major, club, or Greek organization—even just alumni with a broad-enough appeal—and bring them onto campus.
The fundraising comes in here: Have them give a lecture or Q&A session with students in their field and charge entry. Host a get-together with prospective members and have them pay a small cover charge.
Even consider hosting a mixer for all alumni from a particular major or class! There are many ways to use alumni success stories to further the culture and mission of your university and its student groups.
(A lot of these events could benefit from a little thoughtful pre-planning. Head over here for some pointers about picnics that work just as well for any communal event.)
12. Designated Driving
Forget Uber—serve your campus by offering to be designated drivers from local bars and restaurants! Simply have students pay a small fee to use the service.
This way you’re helping keep people safe and also helping out your club. The nice thing about this is it can be done on a rolling basis, not simply at one time of the school year.
13. Greek Sports Tournament
This works best if it’s inter-society. Have your sorority compete against another—or a frat! This will create wider exposure and interest because it’s not limited to just one campus organization. Proceeds from ticket sales can either go to the winner (preferable, as it adds a healthy sense of competition and urgency), or can be evenly split between teams.
Why not throw in a tailgating event as another fundraising opportunity? for some tips in creating the perfect tailgate party.
14. Themed Party
You can do all kinds of fun things with this. Eighties and nineties parties seem especially popular among nostalgic millennials, but costume, ugly Christmas sweater, and mismatched clothes themes can all be a big hit.
Charge a fee for entry and even throw in a contest aspect too (ugliest sweater, most eighties-ish outfit, etc.).
15. Black Tie Dinner and Gala
This works best for especially meaningful and lasting fundraisers—say, purchasing a campus addition like a statue or some other gift from a graduating class.
Also note that it may not be accessible to students because the idea is to create a refined, high-end atmosphere—with an equally high-end cover charge and other costs. Market to faculty, administration, and established alumni.
16. Coin Drive
Everyone has loose change hanging around, usually a lot of it. Put it to good use by asking people to collect and donate it to your fundraiser.
This will work best if you stipulate a time period for collection—say, a month or two. This will allow people to collect as much as possible and bring more to you than a one-time drop off.
17. Restaurant Proceeds Night
This is a great way to engage with your community. Frequently, restaurants will be happy to donate as much as twenty percent of proceeds from a given night to a local charity or community organization.
Just ask around. Set up a date with the manager and then begin advertising in your campus and around the community. You’re both accelerating business with a local eatery and supporting your club’s needs. Win-win.
18. Rummage sale
Another great way to involve the whole campus! Ask your dorm, your professors, and staff people to donate gently used, reusable items to the rummage sale. (They have to be in working condition and able to pass muster at a thrift store, not junk that’s about to fall apart.) Be creative!
You can even split this up into a series—books one week, clothes another, then dishes and other knickknacks on a third. Or you can do one big one and see how much interest you can generate. This is a great way to raise money because people are getting a physical, wanted item in exchange for their donation.
19. Gift Basket Auction
This can be a chance to get creative! Fill a basket (or multiple ones, if you want a tiered or themed entry opportunity) with all sorts of enjoyable and fun things—lotions, bath products, gourmet candy, gift cards, etc.
Then, charge a fee for an entry—and you can charge more for a nicer, bigger basket, and of course for multiple entries. Personally deliver the basket to the winner for an added touch.
20. Christmas Ornament Sale
Nice Christmas ornaments—including the traditional glass ball ones—can be easily and inexpensively made if you have a good eye and put in the time.
You can do this multiple ways: Just get together with other club members to make them, then sell them on campus. Or, you can have people pay to make them, then either keep them or give them to the club, which will then sell them.
21. Finals Week Snack Deliveries
Offer different snacks or combinations of them, with tasteful but real price differences between them, to the campus community.
Then, during finals week personally deliver the orders to the customers, who will be grateful for the pick-me-up during marathon studying sessions. (Don’t forget faculty. They’ll appreciate the food too!)
22. Bowling Competition
Students can pay a small fee for signing up. They can either arrange teams themselves if they bring friends, or you can assign the teams.
Competition of any sort can be extremely useful for generating both interest and donations. And the funny shoes and looking like a fool throwing a shiny ball at pins only adds to the fun.
23. Baked Potato Bar
One last food idea! Get as many potatoes as you can afford and bake them—then, provide an all-you-can-eat bar of toppings to the campus community.
Charge a small entrance fee. Then enjoy watching fellow students gorge themselves on starch and sour cream, only to be so disgusted with themselves they’ll never look at another potato again.
24. Pumpkin Carving Contest
This ought to be a staple for any fall event. You can either buy the pumpkins yourselves or charge interested students a small fee to pick one from a local patch (if you are lucky enough to be near one).
You can certainly charge a fee for the privilege of carving one, and be sure to add there will be a contest for most creative entry. Here are more ideas if you want to expand this into a Halloween bash.
25. Service Auction
An excellent, concrete way to give back! Auction the members of your club to members of the campus community (faculty especially might enjoy this) for two-hour blocks of community service.
Does anyone need help cleaning gutters? Weeding a garden? Babysitting? Sell your servant heart to the highest bidder! If you start the bidding reasonably high you could make a lot of money, and even save the winner on the fees they might have to charge a professional.
College doesn’t have to be a strapped-for-cash four years, especially for organizations that contribute so much to the vibrancy and mind-shaping of a campus community that so many graduates look back on with nostalgia.
College is one of a very few times where total strangers get thrown together in close quarters and can come out with lifelong friendships and memories. Have your contribution to a campus service organization be one of those memories! Make your campus a better place with some thoughtful and dedicated fundraising!
Check out this list of outing ideas that can double as fundraisers, and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.