top of page

Unique Nonprofit Fundraising Ideas using Competitions

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Fundraising ideas image

Over 50% of charitable organizations in the United States were expecting to raise less money in 2020 than they did in 2019. The same percentage believed this will continue in 2021, according to the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) Coronavirus Response Survey.

Meanwhile charities and and Not for Profits were expected to see a fall in total giving in Australia of around 7.1% in 2020 and a further 11.9% in 2021. This is according to a study by JBWere.

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.

With so many fundraising events and activities cancelled, there has been a massive uptake in the digital engagement space. 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 breakout.

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 competitive events.

Online competitive events 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

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

Online festivals fundraising

Many festival type events are critical for fundraising to many institutes and foundations. With recent events many of these have had to be cancelled.

However there is nothing stopping you from taking your festival online.

One example of an ongoing festival we are supporting is for the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce's Art's in the Alley festival. The festival is a critical fund raising and awareness event for GCACC and supports many local businesses.

We helped transform the entire festival to an online experience which includes community creative arts based competitions and virtual showcases. Proceeds are being collected through online submission fees.

Not only did GCACC raise funds from competition entries but the online event is also supported and funds collected from sponsors whose branding will appear on the virtual event.

Visitors to the virtual show also have the opportunity to contribute to local community businesses by being able to purchasing showcased products. They can also browse local businesses stalls through the virtual vendor plaza.

Virtual sporting events fundraising

Sporting organisations have been one of the hardest hit industries by Covid. From Local sporting and fitness clubs to international corporations have been impacted.

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 and replace these live events with virtual sporting events.

One example is the Mt Isa Rodeo which is the largest rodeo event in the southern Hemisphere. With the recent cancellation of the physical event they were looking to take it online.

So 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 Association had to cancel all physical events during covid. Physical competitions are critical to keeping participants engaged. This includes both contestants and technical officials.

Challenged by COVID-19 restrictions, British Weightlifting moved all events online to keep participation up and skilled technical officials engaged.

The online events generated an overwhelmingly positive response from professional and amateur competitors. So far British Weightlifting have received over 1000 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

March Madness Tournament style event fundraising

Tournament style competitions bring their own special type of engagement. Being able to setup virtual battles between competitors. We have seen everything from battle of the band style contests to vape competitions.

One such battle of the band/singer competition we supported recently was for Six 1 Entertainment. They created a tournament style competition for artists to submit their entry and then battle it out in groups. The highest voted artists from each group progressed to the next group round and competing against other winning artists.

They collected fees for entry as well as optional fees for votes. They then contributed proceeds to the The Wilson Music Project which provides children and adults with free knowledge-based classes.

By leveraging a tournament style competition the motivation to move from one round to the next is greatly enhanced and you provide continual recurring opportunities to raise funds from subsequent voting rounds.

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


This COVID 19 crisis is one of the biggest challenges society has experienced in a generation. It not only tests us personally but also tests our professional will.

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

8,904 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page