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Winter Fundraisers & Charity Ideas for Nonprofits | CharityNet USA Blog

A woman in earmuffs blows into a scoop of fresh snow on her mittens

Winter fundraisers can boost your income and keep your organization and your donors engaged during a traditionally quiet period of the year. Fundraising is a great complement to traditional grant applications, and the organization involved makes fundraising an excellent method for building capacity to help your nonprofit thrive over the long term.

Today we’re going to show you three specific winter charity ideas, but remember that you can generalize these to think of other types of fundraising events that better match your goals as a nonprofit.

Before You Begin: Good Planning

With fundraisers, never leave the details to chance. The secret to a successful winter fundraiser is good organization:

  • Identify who the fundraiser is for and what “success” looks like.
  • Establish an organizing committee to assign clear roles.
  • Draw up a realistic operating budget, and itemize all expenses.
  • Communicate with volunteers to ensure everything stays on-schedule.
  • Market your event well ahead of time, to all parties who may be interested.

For more tips on getting your fundraiser right, check out our article on how to host a successful event!

1. Host a Bake Sale

Winter is the coziest season, and the best time for cooking elaborate dishes over a hot stove. That’s what makes bake sales one of the most enduring winter charity ideas.

It doesn’t always have to be cookies, either. You can get creative and choose any food category. Better yet, don’t limit yourself to any one category: Try building your bake sale around a theme that relates to your nonprofit’s mission or to a specific campaign.

Example: A Boating-Themed Winter Fundraiser for a Kids’ Camp

Children at summer camp sitting around a large bonfire

For example, if you’re a children’s sports charity and you’re trying to raise money to donate kayaks to a local summer camp, a winter fundraiser is a great time to do it. This gives the camp enough time to get the new equipment ready on its own schedule.

You could do a bake sale themed around “boating,” which might feature clam chowder, salmon jerky, muffins with little sails on top, ship’s biscuits (which is great with soup!), or Caribbean chocolate rum ganache candies. Let your volunteer chefs’ imaginations run wild! The more energy and whimsy you can bring to your bake sale, the more funds you’ll raise.

These types of winter charity ideas are great for donors who like to be involved and want to personally make a difference. Channelling their energy into something productive like baking goodies is a great way to make these donors feel valued. You can also put them to work in other roles, such as harnessing their graphic design skills to create and distribute flyers.

2. Throw a Carnival

Most people love an excuse to celebrate and have a good time, and what better time to hype people up than in winter when the days are short and the nights are cold? Carnivals make a great winter fundraiser: People love the extra energy, and they have fewer events on their schedule that might keep them from attending your fundraiser.

This is especially suitable for nonprofits that have their own indoor community space, such as churches.

Example: A Purim Carnival to Raise Money for a Local Synagogue

A plate of hamantaschen for Purim

For example, the Jewish holiday of Purim, which happens late in winter, is a time for feasting, making noise, eating hamantaschen, and having fun. It’s common for synagogues to hold a “Purim carnival” that involves raffles, horse stick races, bake sales, and a raucous play put on by the kids—all of which can be used to raise money. This serves both as a winter fundraiser and a community celebration. What a great winter charity idea!

If you are a house of worship or a faith-based nonprofit, events like these are a great opportunity for interfaith cooperation. It doesn’t have to involve a synagogue: you could throw a winter fundraiser carnival to benefit a church, a mosque, or any other place of worship, and you could even take the carnival idea outside the realm of faith-based realm entirely and apply it to other charity sectors.

This type of fundraiser can appeal to donors who don’t necessarily want to do any work themselves, but who want to be supportive and will show up to an event.

3. Hold an Educational Workshop

Fundraisers can do more than just bring in money. They can actively advance your nonprofit’s strategic goals. You know you’ve hit on a good fundraising idea when it can wear more than one hat.

One such idea for a multi-hat winter fundraiser is to hold a daylong educational workshop. You could either charge attendees a registration fee directly, or raise funds from your donors and hold the workshop for free for the benefit of the people you’re trying to help.

For Example: A Day of Organizing to Teach People Skills and Rights

People sitting around a table

For example, if you’re a nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of working class families in your area, you know that transportation is a big challenge. Not everyone has a working car, or gas to put in it, or a driver’s license. Many people rely on the bus, yet local bus systems often fall short of serving the people who need them most. Lack of bus shelters and lighting, infrequent bus service, and circuitous routes are just a few of the problems. Working people often have no choice but to spend hours on their commute every day. It’s even worse in the winter, when most commuting is done in the dark and road conditions are often bad.

Community organizing can help address these problems by bringing public pressure to bear on the local government. Your nonprofit could hold a winter fundraiser, comfortably indoors, themed around a “Day of Organizing.” Imagine holding a daylong workshop to teach members of your community how to get involved, how to communicate with their city government and show up at council meetings, and what to do in the meantime to make commuting easier and safer.

You could market such an event to your donors as a direct action campaign to educate the public and mobilize them on mass transit—or any other issue your nonprofit is engaged with. This is a way for you to raise funds without necessarily requiring donors to personally attend an event. Many donors appreciate this, which can unlock contributions you might not otherwise get. It can also appeal to donors who prefer to spend money on activities that “get results.”

What to Remember for a Successful Winter Charity Idea

At the end of the day, a successful winter fundraiser will bring in money that you wouldn’t otherwise have raised at this time of the year. Take advantage of the season.

CharityNet USA offers a full range of support services and consultation to nonprofits. We can help you:

Fundraisers are best when they work holistically within the broader goals of your organization, rather than existing as standalone events. Give us a call to discuss your winter fundraising goals with our specialists!