24 Top Canadian Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits & Charities
Canadian giving patterns are changing.
According to CanadaHelps 2023 giving report, 40% of Canadian charities have experienced a lasting increase in demand since the pandemic. This paired with the dropping percentage of Canadians who say they give to charitable organizations can be alarming.
The good news is that donors are always more willing to give to organizations with missions that they can connect with. With over 86,000 charitable organizations in the country, it’s even more imperative that you reach donors on a personal level and differentiate your cause. To help your nonprofit stand out to those who want to donate, we’ve gathered our favorite Canadian fundraising ideas and broken them down into three core categories:
Our Favorite Fundraising Ideas for Canadian Charities
Our favorite fundraising ideas for Canadian charities come from helping thousands of nonprofits raise more for their causes. If you’re looking for inspiration to boost donations for your Canadian organization, try these favorite fundraising ideas!
Virtual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Peer-to-peer fundraising is a fundraising technique in which your supporters raise money on your behalf by sharing personal campaign pages with their friends and family. It has quickly become one of the most popular fundraising styles among organizations and donors alike because it’s so engaging.
When planned and executed well, these campaigns are powerful tools for expanding your nonprofit’s reach, engaging new networks of donors, amplifying your cause, and growing new fundraising streams.
Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns combine the sense of mission with the social and competitive aspects of charitable giving. This is what makes it one of the most engaging – and successful – methods of fundraising out there.
When considering a virtual peer-to-peer campaign, keep these key steps in mind for success:
- Determine your campaign’s structure and goals.
- Find the right peer-to-peer fundraising platform for your campaign.
- Create your central campaign web page and begin promoting it.
- Develop a campaign timeline and plan additional engagement opportunities.
- Recruit your peer-to-peer fundraising team and train them for the campaign.
- Kick off your campaign and begin tracking donor engagement.
- Direct the momentum of the campaign and give your volunteers a boost when needed.
- Focus the campaign’s energy for the grand finale.
Take a look at this OneCause Success Story to see how Right to Play Canada was able to raise more and reach more with peer-to-peer fundraising.
Silent, Live, and Virtual Charity Auctions
Charity auctions have always been reliable fundraising events for Canadian nonprofits. Now, with the help of mobile bidding tools and virtual event software, it’s easier than ever to take your auction virtual!
In many ways, virtual auctions are even easier and more cost-effective to plan than traditional live or silent auctions. The benefits of virtual auctions include…
- Larger audience reach. You’re no longer limited to a certain number of tickets at a specific location. Share your fundraising site far and wide.
- Lower cost. Your overhead cost is significantly reduced without a venue and similar event planning costs, which means more money for what matters most – your mission.
- More flexibility. Your nonprofit’s virtual auction can be designed to suit your mission, community, and goals with the flexibility of being online.
To host an online auction, procure the perfect range of items, set up your virtual event center, plan engaging live-streamed activities, and start promoting your auction to donors. Bonus points if you recruit ambassadors to secure even more registrants for your virtual auction!
Be sure to also research and abide by all federal and provincial regulations. For more tips, tricks, and ideas, check out our Complete Virtual Planning Guide.
Virtual Galas and Celebrations
The traditional annual gala is a classic nonprofit event that brings supporters together for a night of entertainment, fundraising, and celebration of your mission. With technology that makes virtual events more feasible and engaging than ever, virtual galas are the natural next step for nonprofits.
You can use virtual fundraising software and live-streaming tools to create a complete online event experience. Think about incorporating:
- A variety of live ceremonies
- Multimedia presentations or videos
- An auction or raffle activities
- Sponsor shout-outs
- Live donation appeals
Using dedicated virtual fundraising software makes it easy to include a range of engaging activities into your gala while still offering guests a centralized, enjoyable experience.
Live streaming is now a necessity in a virtual world and easier than you may think! Learn the basics and benefits of live streaming with our Guide to Livestreaming for Nonprofits.
An awareness campaign is any time-bound, strategic campaign aimed entirely at increasing public visibility and awareness for your cause. For nonprofit organizations, this means planning a campaign in three easy steps:
- Spread the word about your mission
- Explain why it matters
- Show supporters how they can get involved.
In today’s social media connected world, awareness campaigns have become one of the fastest-growing nonprofit campaign ideas for good reason – they work!
A virtual awareness campaign is a great way to spread the word about your cause and reach wide new audiences of potential supporters. Develop a multimedia awareness campaign to highlight your mission or a specific project related to that mission.
Because awareness campaigns can attract such wide audiences during existing national awareness months (think Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October), many nonprofits plan around these timeframes to capitalize on the exposure and increase donations.
We have everything you need to know for how to plan, promote, and execute an Awareness Campaign in this guide.
PRO FUNDRAISING TIP: The right fundraising event needs the right software! By investing in a powerful software solution you’ll see the benefits of streamlined event planning, wider reach, simplified logistics, more engagement data, better donor experiences, and increased revenue.
Top Canadian Fundraising Event Ideas
These top Canadian fundraising ideas are some of the most popular and reliable choices for nonprofits hosting a fundraising event. They can fit a wide range of budgets, making them adaptable for organizations of all sizes.
To find which is best for your organization, think about your donors. What drives them to give and connects them to your cause?
In-Person Fundraising Event Ideas
Parties and Potlucks
Nothing brings Canadians together like food! For your next fundraising event, try hosting a party with a purpose. Instead of an extravagant gala, bring your supporters together in a more intimate, relaxed setting. That way all the focus is on your mission.
Not only are parties and potlucks a key opportunity to fundraise, but smaller scale fundraising events are also a great way to strengthen your relationship with donors and pave the foundation for other forms of fundraising and donor engagement in the future.
Runs and Walks
Hosting a run or walk is one of the most popular peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. They are fun, large in scale, and can bring together multiple groups to fundraise for your cause. Participants can form teams or fundraise on their own, giving them options for how to be involved.
What’s even better is your next run, walk, or ride can occur outdoor! That way people can stay safe and social distance. We have a resource center that walks you through how to make your fundraising social, mobile, and fun. Check it out!
Shows And Tournaments
Put the FUN in fundraising! For your next event, think about centering your fundraising around a show or tournament. When you combine friendly competition with entertainment, socializing, and opportunities to donate, attendees will be eager to give back to your cause.
For the best results, you need the best software. The right solution for you will offer ticketing and registration, flexible online giving options, secure payment processing, and robust reporting and analytics.
Name a theme… There’s your party! (Think: poker tables at a casino-themed event or a jazz band at a Roaring ’20s gala.) The theme may or may not reflect your mission, but the possibilities are endless when you get a little creative!
The more the merrier! Spread the word and invite all your supporters. In fact, encourage supporters to bring friends and discount tickets for a plus one. Themed celebrations are a FUN way to keep your supporters engaged and coming back for more.
Virtual Fundraising Event Ideas
Virtual Walks and Runs
Hosting a run or walk is one of the most popular peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Many nonprofits have redesigned their events, changing to virtual walks, runs, or rides that take place entirely online, bringing fundraising and fun to the virtual peer-to-peer world.
Although everyone will participate separately, these campaigns work the same as traditional walks and runs. Participants secure pledges, log their times, and have fun all online while supporting your mission and participating in a memorable experience.
Virtual happy hours and gatherings are a more casual way to engage with supporters. They are fairly easy to plan, requiring only the right technology, a promotion plan, and a loose schedule of topics to discuss.
These events are ideal for smaller groups, so try targeting your virtual happy hour to a specific segment of donors or volunteers. Or, you might host a series of weekly virtual happy hours to let everyone have a chance to join. Just be sure to follow the same virtual event best practices that you’d use for a larger-scale live-streamed event.
Large-Scale Virtual Programs
If your donors would appreciate a night of glitz and glamour, a large-scale virtual program might be the perfect event for you. Have them turn their living room into a ball room! Wear tuxedos and ball gowns, partner with an up-scale restaurant for catering, and create a night to remember.
A wide variety of events and engagement opportunities can be moved online, including auctions, galas, golf outings, and community gatherings. Use dedicated virtual event and video streaming software to handle all of your planning and management tasks in one place.
Virtual Classes and Courses
Have unique expertise to share with your community? Try hosting virtual classes and courses! Subjects directly relating to your mission will be your best bet, but the sky’s the limit. Think about what your supporters will be interested in and leverage your organization’s existing resources when possible.
Set up an online event center to host the classes, and charge participants a registration fee at the start. Classes can be a great way to strengthen ties with donors by delivering real value and a new experience that isn’t just about fundraising.
PRO FUNDRAISING TIP: Ambassador Fundraising is the perfect way to broaden your giving network, leverage social fundraising, and drive higher proceeds to the bottom line. Check out our Nonprofit Guide to Ambassador Fundraising for more strategies and best practices!
Seasonal Canadian Fundraising Ideas
Rain or shine, you can find the perfect fundraising event for your Canadian nonprofit or charity. Look at these ideas not as simply a way to raise a large amount of donations at once but as a touchpoint to continue supporter conversations and cultivate donor relationships year-round.
Plant Sales and Garden Parties
Plant sales or garden parties are the perfect way create a more casual atmosphere where you can learn about who your donors are as people and to build stronger relationships. Of course you can (and should) ask for donations. But try to focus the event around building sustainable donor relationships that will help you fundraise more in the long-term.
Maple Syrup Festivals
Maple syrup is symbolic of Canada, making trips to the sugar bush a treasured springtime activity for many families. Why not make a fundraising event out of it? Maple syrup festivals are a fun and tasty event for all ages. To ensure your fundraising event is a smashing success, be sure to offer various activities, tastings, and mobile-friendly giving opportunities.
The move to virtual engagement has only made it easier to engage donors with unique online challenges. Come up with a fitness challenge for supporters to complete and set up a virtual campaign center to track progress. Explore this success story to see how TASIS Dorado used virtual fitness challenges and events to exceed their fundraising goals.
Canada Day Parties
Canada Day is celebrated with a wide variety of events, including parades, carnivals, fireworks displays, air shows, block parties, and family picnics. To showcase your mission and your national pride, think about hosting a Canada Day Fundraiser. Sell tickets, create mission moments, and offer donors and easy way to give and celebrate at the same time!
As restrictions begin to lift and we return to normalcy, there’s an expected travel boom for Canadians. Try hosting a Vacation Package Auction with the limitless possibilities that a travel package offers. Don’t worry, we help make it easy! Check out our trusted partners and their risk free, luxurious travel packages for your next Vacation Package Auction.
Themed Basket Raffles
Themed basket raffles are a classic pick for your upcoming event! The baskets can include physical items as well as intangible prizes like gift cards, online subscriptions, or even gift certificates for services. Think about what types of themes would be most appealing for your unique audience. To help, we have gathered a few of our favorite basket ideas.
Halloween parties are an Autumn classic, so make the most of it by changing one into a fundraiser! Add some friendly competition with a costume contest. Book a venue with a space for the costumed models to walk (it doesn’t have to be a catwalk, just a big enough room), come up with a prize, and charge for entry. It’s a surefire way to have fun with your donors while promoting your mission.
Branded merchandise is a win-win for practically any type of organization. Create t-shirts, scarves, toques, and mugs branded with your logo, then offer them in your next auction. Not only does this idea help boost your fundraising revenue at your event, but the merchandise also serves as a constant reminder about your mission for years to come. It’s a win-win!
In the spirit of autumn, host a Thanksgiving charity dinner! Use this event as an opportunity to cultivate stronger relationships with your donors. Since the holiday falls later in the year, show your appreciation for all they’ve helped you accomplish so far. Then be sure to outline how and why they should continue to support you in the future.
#GivingTuesday has spurred millions of donors across the world to donate millions of dollars to their favorite charities. To fully capitalize on the day, nonprofits need give supporters branded, easy-to-use donation technology. Investing in an online giving or Text-2-Give microsite is the number one way to reach #GivingTuesday donors and stand-out.
Polar Plunge Challenges
Are you looking for a fundraising event that will really make a splash? There’s nothing quite like a polar plunge, a peer-to-peer fundraising event where supporters raise money for a cause and then jump into cold water, outside, in the winter. Before you make the jump, be sure you have the right fundraising platform. See the OneCause difference.
To help maximize your year-end fundraising potential, think about hosting a Year-End Gala. According to CanadaHelps data, the average charity’s donation revenue between October to December can make up half of their annual fundraising revenue. This means there’s potential for your year-end gala to have a BIG impact on your cause and donor relationships.
PRO FUNDRAISING TIP: The most successful nonprofits are cultivating donor relationships and providing opportunities to give all year long! To stay on track, effective, and prepared, nonprofits are turning to annual success plans to fuel their growth. Take a look at our full guide to Nonprofit Success Planning to get you started.
Bonus: The Canadian Fundraising Landscape Today
To make the most of your fundraising efforts, it’s important to understand the giving behaviors of your supporters. Let’s dive into the Canadian fundraising landscape and what that means for your organization.
Canadian Fundraising Statistics:
- There are approximately 86,000 registered charities in Canada
- 77,017 of these charities identified themselves as active and 4,139 as inactive
- $18.7B in official donation receipts were issued by Canadian registered charities
- Canadian charities reported $304B in total revenue
- $2.9B was received by Candian charities from outside of Canada
- Online giving has been trending upward in Canada. Jumps in giving often corresponded with appeals following a crisis or for disaster relief.
What it Means for Your Cause
Focus on the giving experience. Whether it’s online or in-person, the act of giving needs to be easy. A positive or negative giving experience greatly impacts donor retention. Build a giving experience that is quick and seamless. Lose the additional clicks and manual processing.
Keep the mission and impact at the forefront. Whether it’s in your marketing, social media, appeals, donation forms, or programming – it’s critical that you lead with the difference donors can make. The type of donors you want to connect with and the ones who are most likely to convert care about the mission and want to feel confident that their gift is making an impact.
Unleash the power of social influence. Don’t underestimate the social nature of giving. The largest percent of your next event attendees will come through word-of-mouth and social sharing. Leverage your biggest supporters to bring in your next loyal donors. Create an army of ambassadors ready to spread the word! Keep their connection central throughout your cultivation efforts.
For more information on understanding your donors’ giving behaviors and motivators, download the 2023 Giving Experience Study!
By investing in the right fundraising software, studying up on effective strategies, and learning from the success stories of other nonprofits, you can start raising more online in no time! To keep learning, check out these additional resources:
- Virtual Fundraising Resource Center: Whether you’re undertaking an online pivot or looking for new virtual fundraising strategies, we’ve compiled resources to help.
- How to Host a Hybrid Fundraiser in 10 Steps: Ready to combine the power of in-person and virtual fundraising? Our guide to hybrid fundraising has you covered!
- Ultimate Virtual Fundraising Guide: Ideas, tools, and resource to help you plan a successful virtual fundraiser and raise more for your cause.