Some common fundraising activities that may be legal in some states are actually illegal in the State of Kansas. These illegal activities include any game or other endeavor that involves making a bet (e.g., poker games and tournaments, crab and mouse races, etc.), or playing a lottery (e.g., raffles, poker runs, Dime-O, Quartermania, rubber duck races, etc.) However, there is no need to stop fundraising! There are many fundraising activities that your organization can participate in that do not involve making a bet or playing a lottery. Many organizations that have switched to one of these legal activities after finding out that their planned raffle or poker run was illegal reported that the organization not only made lots of money, but that the participants actually had more fun playing games of skill or participating in silent auctions and sales.
Following is a list of just some of the alternate fundraising activities that you can use to raise money for your organization in a fun, and legal, manner:
- Dress Down Day – Employees contribute a small fee (e.g., $5.00) to wear jeans or shorts on the last day of the work week. All money collected goes to a designated charity.
- Guessing Game (how many pieces of candy in the jar?) – Participants pay a fee to make an educated guess of how many pieces of candy are in the jar. At the close of the game, the candy pieces are counted. The person who has the correct guess or closest to the correct guess without going over, wins the jar of candy. The fee is donated to the designated charity.
- Costume Contest (for humans, dogs or cats) – Participants pay a small fee to be entered in the contest. Others judge each costume and the person/pet with the most votes for best costume wins. Raise even more money by requiring voters to vote for the best costume by placing money (.25, $1.00, etc.) in jars designated for each costumed participant. Have multiple contests for best overall costume, best food-themed costume, best Star Trek themed costume, etc.
- Carnival – Participants pay money for tickets to ride carnival rides and pony rides, to play games, etc. Games not involving chance could include darts, basketball hoops, bobbing for apples, etc. Prizes could include candy, plates of cookies, a cake, or a low-cost toy.
- Scavenger Hunt – Items are hidden, or are available for free, throughout a building, neighborhood or city. Individual participants or teams of players pay a fee (have individual fees and team fees) and receive a list of items they must hunt for throughout the house, building, neighborhood or city. Limit the amount of time players have to find these items, giving less time if the game is conducted in a building and more time if the items are hidden throughout a neighborhood or city. The person or team that collects all the items first, wins the prize. Get local vendors, friends and family involved in providing the items to be found. For example, the list of items might include a chocolate-iced peanut-butter cookie from a bakery on Santa Fe Road in old Overland Park, Kansas. Your organization will have pre-arranged with the bakery owner to make these cookies and have them available for free only to scavenger hunt participants who arrive asking for a chocolate-iced peanut butter cookie. Another item might be an old right shoe from a thrift store in the same neighborhood. The participating thrift-store owner will have agreed to place a business card in an old right shoe that is not saleable and give it to anyone asking for such an item. At the conclusion of the scavenger hunt, the winning individual or team gets a prize donated by another vendor (e.g., dinner for four at a local pizza shop) and all participants are awarded with a party with food and entertainment provided by other restaurants, vendors, chambers of commerce or merchant associations.
- Bake/Candy/Cookie Sale – Sell baked goods, candy bars or frozen cookie dough to raise funds for schools or youth sports teams. Organizations can make the goodies themselves or purchase them for resale from organizations that cater to fundraisers.
- Bazaar/Garage Sale – Ask members of your organization and their friends and families to donate goods that people don’t use or want anymore and sell them at reasonable prices in the front yard, gymnasium, or common room of your organization’s building. Money collected will go towards the cause for which one is fundraising. Consider combining a sale with eBay training by teaching people (who pay to attend the class) how to photograph, list and sell the items using eBay and PayPal accounts set up under the name of the non-profit organization. Your organization will get free help listing the items, money from class fees, and proceeds from the sale of goods.
- Silent Auction – Silent auctions are good fundraising activities to hold as part of a bigger fundraising event like a wine-tasting event, conference, or pot-luck dinner. Obtain donations from members, the public, and local vendors of items to be auctioned. Set each item out on a table with a lined sheet of paper placed next to the items. Throughout the event, participants compete with each other to bid for items by writing their name and bid amount on the paper. Hold the silent auction for a set period of time and let participants know what time bidding will close. Give participants periodic warnings of the close time (“bidding will close in 30 minutes”), and stop all bidding at that time (no exceptions). When bidding has closed, the person who made the last bid pays for the item and takes it home. Auction items can include hand-made quilts, afghans, jewelry and crafts, baked goods, unused gifts (the duplicate toaster from your wedding shower), or vendor-donated gift certificates, wine, services or store merchandise.
- Sporting Events (Bowl-A-Thon, Basketball Tournament, Softball Tournament, 5K Run/Walk, etc.) – Teams or individuals pay an entry fee to compete against other teams or individuals. The best 3 teams or individuals win trophies or other prizes for first, second and third place. Do not allow people to place bets on who will win, as this would convert the event from a legal activity to an illegal gambling activity.
- Car Wash – Gather members of your organization, friends and family, and all the rags, sponges, buckets, soap and hoses they can muster. Assemble in a parking lot with access to a water spigot. Raise funds by charging car owners to have their vehicles washed and dried by volunteers. Raise more money by charging an additional fee to vacuum the car, and sell ice cream, cookies, drinks and other snacks to people waiting on their cars.
- Dunk Tank – Who wouldn’t love to see their boss or co-worker get all wet? Rent a dunk tank from your local party supply store and put your boss, school principal or co-worker on the hot seat! Participants pay a fee for a chance to throw a ball and hit a target, which will drop the person sitting on the perch into a tank of water.
- Craft Sale – Organization members can donate craft items that they have made to be sold to benefit a fundraising event. Rent space at a community fair, or set up in the basement of your church or school. Sell jewelry, t-shirts, paintings, quilts and other home-made items.
- Cookbook Sale – Members of your organization contribute their favorite recipes for inclusion in a cookbook that is sold for a profit. Print the cookbooks at your local printer or at one of a number of cookbook publishers who specialize in fundraising cookbooks. Make more money by keeping your costs low through donated paper and binding from local print shops and office supply stores.
- Pizza-by-the-Slice Sale – Sell pizza by the slice or do a combo of two slices and a drink for a set price. Make the pizzas yourself or strike a deal with the local pizza shop to sell you pizzas at a discount.
- Popcorn Sale – Set up in the lobby of your workplace and sell popcorn and drinks. Sell boxes and bags of popcorn for more money. Bring your corn poppers from home, or rent a popcorn popper for larger scale events.
- Baby Photo Contest – Ask your co-workers, church members, students or other organization members to each bring in one of their baby photos. Post the pictures on a board, with numbers instead of names attached to each picture. Organization members pay an entry fee to receive a form on which they try to match the baby in the photo with the adult. The participant with the most correct guesses wins a prize.
- Soup/Chili Feed – Ask your members with a flair for making soup or chili to whip up a big batch. Ask other members to bring a salad, corn bread, side dish or dessert. Charge the fee per bowl. Sell drinks and dessert as an add-on! All proceeds made at the fundraiser will go towards the cause.
- Hot Dog Feed – This event is similar to a soup or chili feed, but ask your members to bring packages of hot dogs (pork, beef, kosher, vegetarian) and buns instead of soup or chili, and baked beans, potato salad, and deviled eggs for side dishes. Hold the event indoors by heating the hot dogs all morning in several crock pots, or hold the event outdoors by grilling. Charge per hot dog. Sell drinks and dessert as an add-on!
- Wrist Bands – Purchase rubber wrist bands “engraved” with an inspirational message or your organizations name or cause and sell them. Wrist bands can be in support of a cause such as breast cancer or be in support of your school with a school logo or mascot.
- Snack Day – anyone interested in participating brings in a baked good or appetizer and donates a small fee ($3.00 to $5.00 per person) to eat the snacks.
- Dart Tournament/Video Game Tournament/Chess or Checkers Tournament – Participants pay an entry fee to participate in tournament-style games of darts, video games, chess or checkers. All participants play an initial round. The winners of the first round move on to the second round, the winners of the second round move on to the third round, and so on until a champion emerges. The champion wins a prize. The organization can make more money by securing advertising sponsors, selling food and drinks, t-shirts and mugs, etc.