If it's adults doing the fundraising, you might think about an animal wash (like a car wash but with animals). A lot of people's pets need baths, but they put it off cuz they don't like to deal with the hassle. Just make sure you get to know the pet before you start washing them, cuz you don't need any bites. We did this and raised a lot of money, because like one customer said, "She rather I got wet then her". And most people that bring their pets are smart enough to only bring "socially nice" animals. You could also try an Auction. Ask people for donations of items they no longer want or need. After all, another man's junk is another man's treasure.
A local P.A.W.S. organization recently had a fundraiser where they collected old pieces of discarded furniture. Local artists came in and picked it up and they have a couple of months to reinvent the furniture any way they want to. The furniture is then put on display at a local mall and auctioned off. With the prices people will pay these days for creative painted furniture, I think they do pretty well.
Depending on the size of your community, you may be able to get contractors, hardware stores, architects, community college and high school students, and individuals to donate the time and materials to make individual play houses for children. They enjoy the chance to be creative for a good cause, and you aren't out any money. Then find a community minded store with a large parking lot to display them, some free advertising on a like-minded radio station, and raffle them off. I heard of a children's program doing this in Texas (I believe) and they made thousands.
Our PTSA had a fundraiser that went something like this:
$50 not to chair a committee
$50 not to make phone calls
$25 not to bake items for the bake sale
$10 not to participate on a committee
It went over well!
Go to your local Wal-Mart or supermarket and ask the manager if you can have a windshield wash! All you need is lots of glass cleaner and paper towls (or rags). As people are driving up stop them and ask if they would like their wind shield cleaned charge $1.00. Tell them the cause and you can make good money!! At one of my local Wal-Marts they match whatever you raise. Ask and see.
I have served on a Bible Camp board, and one of our successful fund-raisers was a quilt auction. We consistently raised $10,000 a year with little expenses beyond advertising. The women's groups donate the quilts. These groups have a long history of making mission quilts. Some of the quilts are simple missions quilts,and others are magnificent works of art. It's possible to make fund-raising a great tradition.
My son entered kindergarten this year, and the PTO was also looking for fun moneyraising activities. After much debate (because we all know that six-year olds aren't the ones out there selling, its usually Mom and Dad), we settled on a Math-A-Thon. Each child would be given an age appropriate test (Kindergarten kids had to pick out shapes, colors, etc, and older children did "real math" problems). The children asked for a pledge for every answer they got correct. The tests all had 100 points (of course, the younger children's questions were worth more, 10 questions, 10 points each). Most asked for a penny or a dime for a point. With a school of 750 children, we raised almost $13,000 (yes thousand) dollars. The children now have a brand new playground that they earned. No selling cookies or useless items that noone wants, and it was a learning experience.
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