Fundraising Ideas for Teens

If you are going to apply to college AND hope to get scholarships, then you will need a high school resume with some solid community service, awards, and honors. Feeling a little behind the gun? Not into joining clubs or competing? Then, consider raising money for a good cause. You get to help someone plus it looks awesome on a college app!

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1. “Party Clothes” Sale

Ask your teens to go through their closets and donate their gently-used or outgrown semi-formal clothing, shoes, and accessories. Price items to sell. Time the sale to occur before an upcoming dance and watch the hilarity ensue as teens see their clothes getting a second life.


2. Big Game or Oscars House Parties

Host a house party or multiple house parties on the same night around a sporting event or the Oscars telecast. Announce on invitations that you will be using the evening to raise money by charging an entry fee, and encourage guests to bring beverages and snacks. Have a donation jar set out for those who would like to give more.


3. Potluck Spaghetti Dinner

High-schoolers are more capable in the kitchen than when they were younger, opening up a range of possibilities when it comes to fundraising with a culinary theme. This potluck gets points for being relatively easy and inexpensive. Ask teens to bring cooked pasta, sauce, bread, drinks or dessert. Hold it in a recreation center or school cafeteria and invite the community. Everyone pays a set fee to eat the meal and tickets can be sold in advance.


4. Teens’ Cookbook

How about a cookbook for teens produced by and marketed by teens? They should ask their buddies to contribute their favorite personal or family recipes, ideally simpler recipes. You could create chapters for types of food, or build sections by difficulty level. There are low-cost online publishers that will take a digital document and turn it into a beautifully bound book that teens can promote and sell at a profit. They may need some guidance but much of the project can be done by them. It’s also a unique keepsake that the kids and the community can cherish.


5. Photo Book

Teens love photos. An especially good idea for a school club or church youth group. Gather your best photos into a well-organized photo book, take orders and price your book to cover costs and help reach your fundraising goal.


6. T-Shirt Fundraising

Selling customized t-shirts is not only a great fundraising idea but buyers become walking advertisements for your cause. The trick is finding an uncomplicated method. For example, Bonfire is an online t-shirt fundraiser platform that enables you to sell custom t-shirts and hoodies by creating your own campaign page where anyone can buy direct. There’s no upfront cost and nonprofits pay only a small percentage processing fee.


Bonfire offers a t-shirt design tool and templates for individuals and nonprofits to use when they’re setting up a fundraiser. When the campaign ends, products are shipped directly to buyers and you get the profits. The key to a successful t-shirt fundraiser relies on two things: a cool shirt design and promotion. Social sharing buttons allow your supporters to share the campaign.


7. Video Game Tournament

Tapping into teens’ love of games and competitive nature can pay off for charity. Hold either a tournament or a marathon (see if someone can play for 12 hours straight) and have participants pay to get in, or else collect sponsors to keep them going. Pick a specific genre of video game – retro, puzzle games or multiplayer co-op games work well – and see how far everyone gets. It’s more fun if adults also participate.


8. Wacky Car Wash

Vehicles always need to be washed. Car washes are classic for good reason. Make yours unique by having teen volunteers dress up in crazy outfits or outfits with a theme, like superheroes or your local sports team. Teams can participate in shifts, competing to see which group can raise the most money, turn around most cars, or have the best sidewalk hustle. Promote it in advance and don’t forget creative signs to lure in customers on the fly.


9. Make-the-Grade Fundraiser

In a Make-the-Grade fundraiser, teens can have their friends, family, and teachers sponsor them during each academic semester. Supporters pledge different dollar amounts “betting” that their student will reach certain academic achievements that period. Start by signing students up. Encourage people to sponsor a young adult in their life.

Suggest different academic benchmarks for students, such as getting straight A’s, having perfect attendance, or raising their GPA. Select the academic benchmarks based on the individual’s academic goals. At the end of the semester, if the student has reached their goals, then you collect the pledges and apply them to your group project or cause. The bottom line: Make-the-grade fundraisers are a low-cost and positive way to involve young adults in a cause while also showing them the benefits of positive goal-setting.


10. Battle of the Bands | Music Competition

Host a contest for the talented young musicians in your community. You could include solo singers as well. Bands will be happy to donate their time to a contest that showcases them. A prize for the winner will incentivize them even further to get involved. Provide judges or ask the audience to determine who has the best sound in town. Ask a local venue to host it. They will appreciate the extra business and you will have a perfect stage for your event. Promote it in advance throughout the community and charge a small cover fee from the attendees.


11. Invitation Art Show

An art show is a different spin on the talent show. Artistically-inclined teens get a chance to demonstrate their gifts in exchange for an entrance fee that’s donated to charity. If the show is held in a school, other students can participate in the opening event. Music students could provide background music and light refreshments can be donated.


12. “50/50” Draw added to an event

Low effort to set up with maximum impact! A 50/50 draw is a simple lottery system (the monetary prize is 50% of how much money is raised) that can work as a standalone fundraiser or as something to add to another event. The more people that participate, the more money that gets raised for charity – plus the jackpot becomes even higher.


13. Shave your head or color your hair

An idea that started with cancer-related charities, it can be used for other causes as well. Many fundraisers now have the “shave your head or color your hair” option, maximizing participation. After all, rainbow hair is trendy with teens right now. Pre-publicity is vital to maximizing revenue.


Candidates for the barber’s chair should get themselves out and about as much as possible in advance to galvanize support and get sponsors. They should flaunt their locks one last time and let everyone know what they are about to do. A common ploy is to set a clear target: “If I can raise $250, the hair comes off”. This gives a bit of focus on the idea and makes it clear to everyone what is going on. Teens can group together to “get the chop” at the same time and take before and after photos.


Another fun option is to pick an individual in your organization, for instance, a senior staffer or a favorite teacher, to be on the “hot seat” and agree to have their head shaved or colored by students if a certain fundraising goal is met!


14. Fashion Show

Teens will enjoy strutting their stuff on the catwalk in front of a crowd! Any gym or field can be turned into a fantastic runway with a little bit of creative effort. Sell tickets for friends and family to come to see students and teachers model creative student fashions. Put a fun twist on it.  Like having the football team model formal wear, putting teachers in sporty clothes, or sending your gymnastics team out doing backflips!


15. Gift Wrapping

Teens can offer to wrap gifts around the holidays in return for a charitable donation. You can offer this at your church or school, or partner with local malls to have a gift-wrapping kiosk onsite while folks are shopping. With the variety of wrapping paper, tape, bows, and colored tissue available at dollar stores, you’ll get a high return on your initial investment.


16. Sock Fundraisers

Another opportunity that is a big hit with teens is a custom sock fundraiser. Using the Elite Sport Socks Fundraiser Playbook, schools and other organizations can sell uniquely customized socks to raise needed funds.


17. Launch a Crowdfunding Campaign

Teenagers understand crowdfunding. Let them get involved in starting or promoting a campaign on GoFundMe or another platform. Essentially, crowdfunding uses the power of social media to help spread the word about your campaign to existing and new supporters.

Crowdfunding campaigns are inexpensive to run, making them a great option for groups fundraising on a budget. By collecting smaller gifts from many donors, your nonprofit or youth group can quickly raise money and build your supporter base. Moreover, crowdfunding campaigns can be combined with other fundraising ideas for teens.