10 ideas for fresh summer fundraisers

Running a summer fundraising event presents unique challenges. You can expect that a number of your donors will be vacationing out of town, and attendance at any summer season event is certain to be competing with a busy calendar of weddings, graduations and family get-togethers.

Yet the “downtime” of the summer season also has its upside for event planners. 

The leisurely pace of May to September provides the perfect opportunity to engage with donors and to organize some exciting outdoor events.

Here are some ideas for clever summer events that will turn your “summer slump” into a fundraising success story.

1. Puppy Yoga

Nature+ fitness + adorable puppies. What’s not to love? Puppy yoga is a delightful, quirky fitness trend sure to garner publicity for your event and organization.

Make the perfect event even more enticing with a post-class happy hour serving wine or signature cocktails.

2. Glamping Getaway   ️

Take your charity dinner party to the next level with an on-trend glamping theme, ideal for warm summer evenings. Envision cocktail hour in luxuriously appointed yurts, fitted with lounge chairs and overstuffed pillows and surrounded by string lights.

A gourmet, chef-prepared meal keeps it upscale, while a dessert s’mores buffet adds a fun twist.

Table During a Glamping Gateway Summer FundraiserExtend the festivities to an overnight glamping event or even a weekend outing, complete with sunrise yoga and a stylish champagne brunch.

3. Traditional Summer Clambake

Nothing says summer like a classic New England clambake: a delicious feast of lobsters, clams, mussels and fresh corn on the cob.

While the traditional clambake is a labor intensive matter involving a large sandy pit and hours of fire-tending, many local caterers will do the all work for you. All you have to do is set the scene with seashore décor, such as seaweed, shells and sand.

4. Craft Beer Fest and Competition

Popular craft beers and warm summer weather are a natural pairing. With the proliferation of small craft breweries, you may be able to attract an array of local beer vendors for a summer beer fest.

Ask patrons to vote for their favorite brews, and have local celebrity judges on hand. Add some live music and casual fare like soft pretzels, hot dogs and burgers.

Craft Beer Fest

5. Battle of the Food Trucks

Food Trucks at Summer Fundraising EventFood truck festivals always attract a crowd because they’re a perfect event for a sunny Saturday afternoon. You can ask participating vendors to donate a percentage of their sales.

Add to the fun and attract some publicity by inviting celebrity judges (like local chefs and food critics) to vote for their favorite foods.

The keys to success: a high traffic location, a variety of interesting fare, plenty of available seating and adequate parking for attendees.


Free Download: Check out our free Sponsorship kit to help cover the costs of your event!

6. Seaside Sandcastle Contest  ️

If you are lucky enough to have access to a nearby beach, take advantage of the locale with a sandcastle competition. Set up a variety of categories for different age groups, amateurs and professionals, and family groups.

Feature prizes sure to please the summer crowd, such as tickets to the local waterpark or gift cards to local restaurants. Be prepared for whatever Mother Nature has in store by setting a rain date.

7. Cornhole Tournament

Cornhole (a.k.a. bean bag toss), a popular Midwest pastime, has become a national craze. This easy to play game has wide appeal, since it can be played by all ages and doesn’t require much in the way of athletic ability.

Have competitors register their unique team names, and recruit a few volunteer helpers to serve as referees and instructors for cornhole novices. Offer prizes, and raise extra funds with food and drink sales and raffles!


8. Farm to Table Dinner  ️

Summer is the perfect time to showcase local produce and artisanal food products, so get in on the foodie trend with a farm-to-table dinner. Make it a high-end event with a multi-course seasonal meal prepared by a local chef and served with a selection of wines.

For a true farm to table experience, find a great outdoor space outfitted with tents or a barn venue, opt for rustic and simple décor, and serve dinner at communal family tables.

9. Guinness World Record

The summer season brings access to large outdoor venues suitable for crowd-size fundraising. Create buzz with a supersized attempt to break a Guinness world record.

Guinness World Records have been set for everything from the world’s largest exercise ball class to the most people wearing tiaras and the most simultaneous high fives. Think outside the box for this one, and you’ll attract enthusiastic participation and plenty of publicity.

Find a record that is slightly offbeat, fun to attempt and has broad appeal. The crazier, the better!

Access the Guinness World Records site for details on how to choose a record from their database, online application forms and current waiting times.

10. Outdoor Movie Theater

Outdoor Movie Theater Summer Fundraising EventSchool is out, the weather is fine and families are always looking for unique family-friendly outings. Old school drive-in theaters have been classic family entertainment for decades.

Bring the experience into the current day with a giant inflatable movie screen.

The inflatable movie screens and requisite projection equipment are readily available for rental and setup on the local park lawn or a beach venue.

Select a well-loved film with a summer theme (some ideas: Independence Day, Jaws, Summer Vacation) or go with a sure-to-please classic Disney film (Toy Story, Up). Publicize your movie with local flyers and sell advance tickets.


We hope this gives you some inspiration to turn a slow summer fundraising season into success.

Have you tried, or are considering, any unique summer fundraising ideas? How have they worked for you? Let us know in the comments below!