10 Money-making Ideas for Events

A party is the perfect place to rake in some cash for charity.

Coming up with ideas to make money for your favorite charity or other cause can be tough. You may have already hit the highlights with a cake (or cupcake) sale, raffle and car wash. Now what do you do? People can get tired of the same old thing, even if it is for a good cause. In tough times, people may have less to give, too, so money-making ideas with the best potential tend to offer something special by way of surprises or other entertainment value. Let's explore 10 event ideas that haven't been done to death. If your creative cupboard is bare, they may inspire you to host the best event ever.


10: Put on a Darts Tournament

As sports go, dart throwing requires a competitive spirit and a good throwing arm. Check with your favorite pub to see if it may be possible to rent a party room for the evening, and put on a darts tournament. If it's a weeknight, you may be able to negotiate a reduced rate. Charge admission and offer prizes. Guests will have to pay for their own drinks, of course, but the entertainment will probably be worth it. Businesses can enter competing departments, like the tech staff vs. the marketing department, and everyone will be able to relax for a few hours while donating to a good cause.


9: Hold a Wet Sponge Toss

Remember that great scene at the end of "Grease" (the first one) in which Coach Calhoun (Sid Caesar) got a pie in the face? In the film, the pie booth was raising money for the teacher's fund. It's a classic idea: Embarrass or otherwise tease a teacher, community leader or boss for a great cause. The pie throwing idea can get really messy, though, so lose the gooey filling in favor of a wet sponge. The reverberating smack when it hits will do the trick, and cleanup will be a breeze.


8: Hire a Fortune Teller or Tarot Card Reader

Halloween is an effective time to bring out the fortune tellers for a good cause. Use a fortune-telling station instead of or in addition to the classic pumpkin carving contest, apple dunk or autumn carnival. Set up a gypsy themed booth (or tent) with brightly colored banners, stars and half-moons, and sell fortunes. There are free software programs that teach Tarot Card reading if you're working on a tight budget, but if this is part of a large event, hire a professional fortune teller for the evening -- at a charity-friendly discount, of course.


7: Host a Doggy Beauty Contest

Get your employer's permission to hold a doggy beauty contest and "bring your pooch to work" day. Charge an entry fee and offer small prizes for the cutest, sexiest, homeliest and most congenial dog. You'll be surprised at the canines your coworkers own, and learning more about the fellow in the next cubby (and his trusty canine friend) is fun. Have a parade and judging in the parking lot of your facility. This is a great way to raise money for an animal charity in your community. Most employers are good sports, especially when events can be timed around the lunch hour. Make sure all the entrants have their shots, are well-behaved around other dogs and are leash-trained. Have pooper bag stations in place outdoors, too. After that, let the best dog win.


6: Hire a Caricaturist

Caricature artists can bring a ton of fun to a party.

Turn your next event into a money-maker by adding a talented artist to sketch funny portraits for a fee. Drawing parodies takes talent, but chances are an art student from your local college will do a great job, so look for an amateur if you can find one. People like to see themselves the way others see them. That's one reason caricature is so popular. You can also include themed drawings, like sketches of people as animals or wearing funny hats. It'll be hilarious. Just make sure your artist knows to keep the drawings funny and not mean-spirited.


5: Conduct a Grab Bag Sale

Grab bag sales are like old-fashioned box auctions where bidders aren't allowed to see items until they've purchased them. They appeal to the treasure hunter in all of us. Grab bags are like Christmas stockings. You never know if you'll get an orange or a lump of coal. For your grab bag event, include a few nice items in the mix. There won't be a great gift in every bag, but some bags will be well worth the flat rate purchase price. Internet sites like Woot.com offer their own versions of the grab bag concept on a regular basis very successfully.


4: Host a Hat Decorating Competition

How fun to have everyone wear their creations!

Hosting a costume competition is a pretty common event idea, especially around Halloween, but some folks either don't have the time or lack the enthusiasm for putting together an entire costume. Holding a decorated hat competition instead opens the playing field to anyone who can wield a tube of glue. This is a good one for work because the hats can come off easily when business visitors arrive. Charge a flat fee to participate, and hold a formal hat judging with prizes. If there'll be a large group involved, include lots of categories like the silliest hat, tallest hat, and most romantic hat -- you know, camp it up. Have a hat parade through the office, and display the winning hats in the break room or conference room for a couple of days so everyone can see them close up.


3: Hold a Balloon Pop-a-thon

This one requires a prize or two. The idea is to sell lots of helium balloons containing slips of paper with numbers on them. Draw a prize winning number out of a drum, and then instruct guests to pop their balloons to get at the number inside and discover if they've won the prize. This is a colorful and fun activity you can integrate into other events on this list. All you'll need is balloons, helium, ribbon, paper and a prize. If you can get a large crowd together, this can be an easy and profitable activity.


2: Conduct a Craft Show

Jewelry is a big money-maker at craft shows.

We like this one because it's a winner on a number of levels. There are lots of crafters around who make everything from jewelry to blown glass. They all have interesting stories, and many of them are looking for ways to make their crafts more profitable. Crafters who donate their time and one or two of their pieces to charity have an opportunity to get free publicity and learn more about how their pieces resonate with the public. From the buyer side of the equation, guests can find bargains, learn more about the products they buy and maybe catch a glimpse of a truly talented artisan early in his career. Everybody comes away with something, and your charity makes money. Setting up multiple tables for different types of crafts works well, and holding hands-on demonstrations is a good way to get people curious and involved.


1: Destroy a Car

Times are tough, and lots of folks are carrying around pent-up aggression. Give them a chance to vent (while giving something to the needy) by holding a car bashing event. For the price of admission, mild mannered citizens can whack the dickens out of a car. Charge a few dollars for privilege. This requires some planning with safety in mind, and includes getting the proper permits, providing protective gear, and keeping crowds well back. You should also have someone trained in first aid standing by. The nice thing is that you may be able to get a local junkyard to donate the vehicle for the cost of transporting it. Just make sure the tanks have been drained and any hazardous materials have been removed. Check with your local fire department for tips and suggestions.

This event dovetails nicely with police, emergency services and fire department presentations, too, so be sure to check around to see what types of shows and other exhibits you may be able to add to the fun. Oh, and if you're using a sizeable location with street access, hold a car wash at the same time. It will help attract street traffic to your event and earn extra revenue.

Lots More Information

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  • Amos, Janell Shride. "Fundraising Ideas." McFarland. 1995.
  • Charity Navigator. "About Us." (3/6/12). http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=628
  • Fundraiser Insight. "Fundraising Ideas." (3/6/12). http://www.fundraiserinsight.org/ideas/
  • Fundraising IP. "Need fundraiser ideas for your next fundraising event?" (3/6/12). http://www.fundraisingip.com/
  • Richardson, Jesse. "10 Green Community Activity Ideas: Get More Engaged." 6/2/11. (3/6/12). http://www.organicsoul.com/10-green-community-activity-ideas-get-more-engaged/
  • Step by Step Fundraising. "Top 10 Fundraisers." (3/6/12). http://www.stepbystepfundraising.com/top-fundraisers/