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Unique Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas using Competitions

Updated: Nov 15, 2023

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Fundraising is the very life blood of the charity and not for profit sector. With less disposable income to go around it is vital that the sector looks at new and engaging solutions to help supplement fundraising activities.

Since Covid (thankfully we are past that), there has been a massive uptake in the digital engagement space as many organizations were required to do this to survive. In particular the use of video is a key engagement medium. In fact, over 50% of 16-23 year old and over 44% of 24-37 year old users are consuming more online video since the COVID-19.

Many charitable and not for profit organizations are looking to see how they can leverage these booming mediums.

One extremely successful and engaging approach is to use video and other content such as photos and sound in combination with online competitions.

Online competitions have been used by all types of not for profit organisations such as charities, sporting clubs, educational foundations and many more. Our experience is that these types of competitions typically solicit fantastic engagement. Participants and voters are also more likely to be emotionally invested in the organisation.

So if you are thinking about using competitions to assist with your fundraising here are a few brilliant ideas leveraged by other organisations.

ContestPad Fundraising brochure
Download PDF • 13.39MB

Awards fundraising

Everyone is trying to win an award nowadays. Not only is it a great way to promote an individual or organizations credentials but it is also a huge ego trip.

Most awards culminate in a special gala event which in itself is a fundraiser. However leveraging an online competition which also incorporates people's choice awards can be a massive revenue earner.

One such organization who does this extremely effectively is Spread the Cheer USA who help struggling families make end's meet.

They leverage an online competition with their Cheers Choice Awards. The Cheer Choice Awards is a social media-based awards event honoring positivity from creators on all forms of social media platforms.

Like most awards they raise money as part of their Gala Awards event through ticket sales and nominations, however where they are different is that they leverage an online competition to garner donations as part of the people's choice voting.

In their first year they raised over $150,000. In their second year they are expecting to double that. The ROI is measured in the 1000's%.

You can read more here or download the case study below

cheer choice awards
Download PDF • 1.54MB

Talent competition fundraising:

These type of competitions can take many forms however they all aim to collect proceeds and amplify members and supporters creative talents.

One example is a talent competition we supported for the Autism Society San Diego. They ran their first online talent competition and fundraiser to showcase the talents of those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder living in San Diego County. Participants submitted videos of their talent. These could be anything from singing to comedy. They then conducted multiple rounds of public voting and judging to award winners with cash prizes. They collected proceeds through payments to enter the competition and also from voters who could purchase one or many votes for their preferred entrant. The proceeds approached close to $40,000 and greatly exceeded expectations. Most importantly by doing the competition online the running costs were kept to a minimum so as much of the proceeds as possible went to the society. The competition also created huge community engagement and awareness about autism.

Autisms Got Talent Case Study
Download PDF • 649KB

Another example is a singing competition we ran for VIBHA to support under-served children in India and the US. The online singing contest received an overwhelming response and immense love from across the globe. There were close to 400 entries that came in across all continents. They collected proceeds from votes and also had famous Indian artists contribute to the judging. The India winners were awarded with opportunities like singing for a VIBHA ad. The US winners shared the stage with a celebrity in a Bollywood Concert which was organized by Anand Entertainment. VIBHA raised a whopping amount of $31,000 dollars through this contest.

VIBHA Case Study
Download PDF • 730KB

Virtual sporting events fundraising

Most sporting organisations rely heavily on their competitive events as the major vehicle for funding and also continual engagement by their members.

Sporting clubs are now looking to augment these live events with virtual sporting events.

One example is the Mt Isa Rodeo which is the largest rodeo event in the southern Hemisphere.

We helped create the first ever virtual rodeo event, the Mt Isa Virtual Rodeo. It wasn't practical to conduct this as a live stream event. So we helped create a pre-recorded event that still enforced participation within a short 15 minute time period. This gave participants the flexibility to enter whenever they wanted however still mandating completion of the ride within 15 minutes of commencing.

The event was a huge success with participants paying to enter the competition across many categories and also generating online sponsorships. The virtual event also enabled them to scale across borders and accept entries globally.

Another example is the British Weightlifting Association. The British Weightlifting moved many events online to increase participation and make it easier to keep technical officials engaged.

The online events generated an overwhelmingly positive response from professional and amateur competitors. So far British Weightlifting have received over 2000 entries and that number continues to grow with each event.

An additional and often overlooked measure of success was the ability for the solution to keep technical adjudicators engaged and skills up to date. In fact, relative to the number of technical officials that would be involved in a physical event, British Weightlifting have been able to engage significantly more officials online.

USA Weightlifting Case Study
Download PDF • 1.25MB

Judging show fundraising

Another trend we have seen is the use of online photo and video competitions to augment or replace live judging show events such as pet shows.

One such as example is a competition we setup for the Cats Fanciers Association.

They have been able to take their formal show event online by leveraging a photo based competition across all of their clubs globally.

Cat entries are judged against specific criteria by qualified judges. Entrants pay to enter the competition just like they do at the live cat shows. As the event is online they also incorporated people's choice awards and collects fees for votes. Using the online competition approach means that these local clubs can now scale participation of their competitions globally.

Also the clubs do not have to be concerned with the high running costs and operational logistics when compared with a live event. This ensures more event proceeds go back to the clubs.

While we have seen many successful uses of competitions for fundraising before running an online contest it is still vitally important that key aspects are considered. These include defining the goals, measures, premise and rewards for your competition.

We have written a comprehensive guide that covers these aspects. We have also published a short form video that introduces the first steps you should take when planning your competition

Those who embrace lateral thinking and look for new ways to keep funds coming in will be the organisations who put themselves in the best position to thrive.

To learn more about how we can help with charity and other nonprofit organisations visit our competition fundraising software page.

To contact us to find out how we can help with your contest campaign do not hesitate to contact us at

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