A season of gratitude and increased generosity, the holidays are one of the best times of the year for fundraising. In fact, the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve are especially crucial for nonprofits. According to Double the Donation, 30% of annual giving occurs in December.
To make the most of this festive fundraising season, you need a creative holiday giving campaign that will excite your supporters. We’ve brought together some of the best holiday fundraiser ideas and tips to maximize your impact through the end of the year.
18 holiday fundraising ideas you can feel jolly about
Organizations of all sizes can pull off these holiday giving campaign ideas—we’ve even included Givebutter fundraiser examples from real, grassroots nonprofits that made the holiday season bright for their supporters.
1. Make sure to match 🎁🎁
We’re not talking about matching holiday pajamas here—though we highly recommend them—but rather corporate matching gifts. In this fundraising idea, companies match the charitable contributions of their employees, creating double the impact for their nonprofit recipients.
In order to cash in on this opportunity, it’s critical for nonprofits to proactively promote matching gift programs not just during the holidays, but all year round. Although more than 18 million people work for companies with matching gift programs, the vast majority of this group are still completely unaware that they can easily double the impact of their contributions without having to give more of their own hard-earned dollars.
Spread the word through multiple channels, which may involve:
- Creating a dedicated matching gift page or pop-up message on your website
- Highlighting matching gifts in your “Ways to support page” and website navigation
- Incorporating matching gift information directly into your fundraising appeals, campaign pages, and donation forms
- Promoting matching gift opportunities on your social media platforms
- Sending targeted email appeals with company-specific matching gift program guidelines
Fortunately, online fundraising tools and automated matching gift software can do the heavy lifting for you. Thanks to a native integration between Givebutter and Double the Donation, nonprofits using 360MatchPro will be able to seamlessly embed matching gift search functionality into all of their donation forms.
🤩 Campaign spotlight: Project Youth took advantage of a corporate matching program through their 24-Hour Hope for the Holidays Matching Challenge. For 24 hours, the organization encouraged supporters to contribute funds to students' IDA educational savings accounts to help their college dreams come to life.
Through an active supporter feed and compelling story on their campaign page, they raised $4,600 in a single day, which the Kiwanis Club Grants Pass matched dollar for dollar, bringing the total contributions up to $9,200!
2. Turn holiday shopping into a giving opportunity 🎅🏽
Speaking of gifts, do you find yourself procrasti-shopping every holiday season? Join the club: 79% of people leave their holiday shopping to the very last minute, and more than half purchase gifts that might not arrive in time.
Are we surprised by these findings? Not one bit. On a personal level, this predicament can be frustrating (and cause many a-late-night shopping sprees). But on an organizational level, this poses the perfect opportunity to hit your nonprofit’s yearly fundraising goals.
In other words:
Tis the season of giving, and your supporters may be searching for gifts that give back!
The holiday season offers a number of opportunities not only to ask for donations but to sell great gifts that support a cause—many requiring minimal planning. By selling seasonal products like holiday ornaments, Christmas wreaths, or even wrapping paper, folks can get their holiday shopping accomplished, and a portion of the proceeds can go toward supporting your mission. Win-win!
🤩 Campaign spotlight: Each year, for its holiday fundraiser, FHS Choirs in Fayetteville, AR, sells poinsettias. These poinsettias make for beautiful holiday gifts and help raise funds for students to attend their annual choir trip.
The campaign is wonderfully simple to execute. All they need to do to pull this off is offer 6-inch red, foil-wrapped flowering plants for a fixed price and set strict pick-up times for supporters to collect their purchases. This year they’ve stepped up their game and now have specialty coffee for gifting, too! ☕
💪 Pro tip: You can sell holiday gifts right from your Givebutter campaign page by customizing paid ticket types. Simply rename each "ticket" to a specific gift purchase (such as "cookie-making kit" or "one poinsettia"). Supporters may even decide to add an additional donation during checkout!
3. Organize a holiday market 🛍️
It can be hard to find affordable, one-of-a-kind holiday gifts. Fulfill the need for special gifts and raise funds for your nonprofit by putting together a holiday market in your town. Choose a spot that can accommodate a large group of people—like a school gym or a town square—and invite local artisans, crafters, and small business owners to sell their handmade goods.
To boost contributions, invite local restaurants or coffee shops to sponsor the event, selling hot cocoa, coffee, and treats to shoppers (which can grant them a last-minute deduction on their tax return). Recruit volunteers to wrap presents, and you’ll feel very merry when you see how much you’ve raised for your cause.
💪 Pro tip: To accept charitable donations on the fly, be sure to offer a variety of payment methods, so your donors can choose their preferred way to give—whether it be Venmo, PayPal, credit card, Text-to-Donate, or cash contributions.
4. Bake up a holiday cookie extravaganza 🍪
The cookie-selling fundraising idea goes way back to 1917 when the Girl Scouts first started selling sweets to support their troops. Your organization can easily build on this 100+ year idea in which each purchase supports your cause. Get more people involved by making it a competition for the best holiday cookie design!
🤩 Campaign spotlight: Saint Joseph Abbey and Seminary College put its own unique spin on cookie campaigns by selling "Christmas Crates" around the holidays. Each crate is filled with ornaments, tea towels, coffee, and various sweets (like "Sancta Maria Cookies" or "Abbey Crumbles"). With gift sets ranging in price from $10–$75 a pop, they raise thousands of dollars for their scholarship fund each year.
5. Publish a supporter-generated cookbook 🥘
Looking for a wonderful gift idea for the foodie(s) in your life? Consider creating your own cookbook for your organization with all of the recipes generated by your community. And don’t worry, you don’t need to know a bookbinder to pull it off!
🤩 Campaign Spotlight: The Junior League of Washington published a digital cookbook with recipe submissions from members and supporters alike, with all net profits supporting their community partners. Plus, its cookbook campaign ran hand-in-hand with selling tickets for a VIP kitchen tour—an exclusive event where supporters toured the kitchens of nine extravagant mansions in the D.C. area.
7. Auction off an experience for the holidays 🎟
A well-planned silent auction can make for an excellent holiday giving program. Solicit local corporate sponsors to contribute gift cards, experiences (like airline miles, cooking or photography classes, or concert tickets), or other desirable items, including any of the gift ideas above!
Another fun idea is to auction off a holiday clean-up crew. Who couldn't use an extra hand around the holidays? Gather your crew together and allow your supporters to "bid" on their helping hands. Your crew can offer their services however your supporters see fit—whether it's removing Christmas trees, shoveling snowy driveways, or cleaning up after a rowdy holiday party. This holiday fundraising idea is especially great for sports teams or youth clubs!
6. Create your own cozy DIY kit 🍕
Families are always looking for fun, indoor activities to do over the holiday season. Rather than have them purchase (yet another) game or puzzle off Amazon, why not piece together a family-friendly DIY kit like gingerbread house-making to raise funds for your cause?
🤩 Campaign spotlight: During the pandemic, The Children's Center, in partnership with United Way and with the support of several corporate sponsors, sold pizza-making and mixology kits to raise funds for programs for children with special needs. Supporters purchased one of three gift box options, including a pizza-making kit, recipes for cocktails, or a mocktail-making kit. Then everyone tuned in for a livestream tutorial and happy hour to enjoy their treats together.
8. Deck the halls with a themed campaign 🎄
Aligning your fundraising ideas with upcoming celebrations and festivities during the holidays can be one of the best ways to engage your audience and grab their attention. Some favorite fundraisers for the holidays include:
- Holiday event-a-thons like turkey trots or wintery fun runs
- Christmas caroling or holiday benefit concerts
- Holiday-themed fundraising campaigns (e.g. 8 Days of Hanukkah, 12 Days of Christmas)
The possibilities are endless. Plus, you can put a holiday-related spin on just about any fundraising idea you have in mind to better cater to the holiday giving season. Bring on the merriment!
9. Make giving back a tradition at your annual holiday party 🎉
You’re likely already organizing or attending some kind of festive gathering, so to give a last-minute boost to your holiday giving campaign, make it a fundraiser and ask that everyone attending make a contribution to your cause.
You can even go big and feature a wide range of activities to attract additional supporters, including musical performances, carnival games, food, and dancing.
🤩 Campaign spotlight: Each year, Avon Surgical Services in Ohio puts on a holiday party to raise money for their organization. One year, they surpassed their goal of $7,500 by throwing an event complete with a holiday meal, a DJ, dancing, and other fun activities.
10. Lead a very merry pub crawl 🍻
Let's face the facts: The months around year-end are stressful whether you're a nonprofit organization or not. Between holiday parties, time with extended family, and far too many deadlines to fathom, you and your community are due for a much-needed break (preferably, with a pint in hand).
To collect year-end donations for your organization, partner with local pubs to create a festive pub crawl. You can even invite supporters to dress up for the occasion! Sell tickets to the event in advance, and—since everyone's schedules are jam-packed around the holidays—include a "Can't attend? Donate!" option for loyal supporters.
11. Throw a holiday masquerade 🎊
New Year's Eve isn't the only time to get dolled up. For the last wave of charitable contributions of the year, throw a show-stopping end-of-year masquerade for your charity or private foundation. Your holiday soiree can feature winter-themed cocktails, an outdoor skating rink (if there's space), a gingerbread village, a cookie-decorating station, or whatever other elements you wish.
💪 Pro tip: To build buzz and bring in more donations, sell tickets in advance and have supporters check in via a QR code at the door.
12. Put on a Christmas movie marathon 🎥
Yes, holiday movies are notoriously corny, and yes, that’s why we love them. For a fun way to boost end-of-year charitable gifts, throw a holiday movie marathon for your organization.
You can easily rent out your local library, multi-purpose room, or recreation center for the event, and (hopefully) have the fee waived in exchange for an itemized deduction. Sell snacks like soda, popcorn, and candy, and have supporters pay via cash or Venmo. Or, you can partner with local businesses to transform the event into a movie-and-pizza night, selling slices in exchange for a donation.
13. Sell tickets for a holiday benefit concert 🎶
Whether you're raising funds for a place of worship, an elementary school, or a local club, a year-end concert is a great way to boost charitable giving. Allow your church choir or class to perform on stage, singing popular songs or carols.
💪 Pro tip: To help push your year-end giving targets across the finish line and reach a larger audience, advertise the concert as a hybrid event. Supporters can purchase tickets to attend in person or within the comfort of their own homes by watching a livestream.
14. Organize a holiday card campaign ✍
For those who want to give back but don’t have any extra dollars at this time of year, create holiday giving opportunities that don’t involve spending money. To spread a little holiday cheer and engage everyone in your community, start a holiday postcard campaign for children who are hospitalized or elderly folks who don’t have a lot of family visiting around the holidays.
🤩 Campaign spotlight: Holiday Cards 4 Our Military is a nonprofit organization that launched 19 years ago as a way to send holiday cards to troops overseas. By 2019, the organization had sent over 175,000 cards to deployed soldiers, which got the attention of news outlets including CNN New Day, and Live! With Kelly and Ryan. Nearly two decades after its start, the organization sends over 100,000 cards annually to all five branches of the armed forces.
15. Rock an ugly sweater contest 🏆
Ready to strut your stuff on the runway? Bring out your best knits, because you're about to host an ugly holiday sweater contest for your charity.
If you really want to get creative with it, recruit a panel of judges and allow contestants to enter different categories.
16. Create a downhill sledding course 🏂
When the temperatures drop, it can be all too tempting to stay inside. Why not transform those cold-weather blues into a fun holiday fundraiser?
Find a large, semi-secluded area in your hometown that would offer some downhill slopes. If there's a hilly golf course nearby, speak to the owners. The course will be completely empty with snow on the ground, and they could waive the rental fee as a last-minute tax deduction.
💪 Pro tip: For promotion, sell different ticket types for individuals and families and send regular event reminders leading up to the big day!
17. Host a ski-a-thon or other winter sports fundraiser ⛷
While hosting a dance-a-thon or a 5K run/walk might be the perfect fundraiser for summer, the winter months call for some cold weather activities.
To bring in extra funds at the end of the year, host a ski-a-thon in your hometown. Create a cross-country skiing course and have teams pass the baton after each lap. Be sure to implement multi-team fundraising to build excitement with a competitive atmosphere and boost your total contributions.
18. Spread the love with a gift drive 🧸
Each year, there are families who don't have toys or presents under their Christmas tree. To help make the holiday season more joyful, sponsor a holiday gift drive for families in need.
Have families submit a holiday wish list to your organization. Supporters can reserve, purchase, then drop off gifts—similar to a gift registry. People can also send gift cards or offer a monetary donation to cover administrative and overhead costs for your organization.
🤩 Campaign spotlight: Each year, the Ocean Beach Town Council sponsors a holiday food and toy drive in their community. In 2020, they supported 150 families in their community while raising thousands of dollars for their organization. To help hit their target, they took advantage of peer-to-peer fundraising to reach a wider network.
Turn Givebutter into your holiday giving hub
The holiday season offers a great opportunity to make a last-minute fundraising push for your organization. Not only does it offer a number of tax-related benefits for your supporters, but there are plenty of festive fundraising ideas and ways to meaningfully engage your community.
To make your holiday fundraising dreams a reality, launch your campaign on Givebutter, the all-in-one fundraising platform with hundreds of free tools and features at your fingertips—including a built-in CRM platform and marketing automation to help you schedule those last-minute reminders before the ball drops!
Launch your free account to start planning your holiday giving campaign today. Good luck, and happy holidays!
Anna brings more than a decade of experience in community engagement, campaign planning, and strategic communications at small, progressive nonprofit organizations in New York City.