Six Surefire Office Fundraising Ideas

by Marla Walters on 16 May 2012 1 comment

What if you find yourself in the position of needing to raise money for something at your workplace? It happens. Sometimes, it is as innocuous as needing a “birthday fund.” In other circumstances, a coworker might have a medical emergency. Through my many years in various workplaces, I have participated in a number of office fundraisers. At one time or another, I have used one of these six methods below with good results.

Personally, I do not like fundraisers that involve discount cards, auctioning off bachelors or “slaves,” blatantly asking wealthy people for help, holding up fishing nets, or scrip. (My issue with scrip, while it does assist with record-keeping, is that unless I find things I definitely want to buy, I am just making a donation.)

My caveat — before you embark on any worksite fundraising, do your homework. Make sure you do not run afoul of any state or local laws, or company policies or procedures. When in doubt, check. Also important — never, ever pressure or coerce anyone into donating money. That annoys people, and an unhappy person will be the first one to complain. Make any fundraising strictly voluntary. (See also: The Best Frugal Office Party Foods)

1. Bake Sale

At work. The reason I emphasize “at work” is that (a) nobody wants to do it on a weekend, and (b) you’ll get much better participation and attendance. A well-publicized, amply stocked bake sale can bring quick cash. Of course, a good part of the donation occurs when people volunteer to bake goods for the sale. Besides many commitments from volunteer bakers, you’ll need tables, plastic bags, saran wrap, plates, tablecloths, markers, food-handling gloves, signs, a cash box, and change.

Encourage your bakers to package items nicely. Don’t try to sell whole pies or cakes — pieces sell faster, with a higher mark-up. I like to group items by tables and sell for $1, $2, $3, etc. If you have the supplies, placing individual stickers on items helps, too. This is not a time to dicker — if you do a bake sale right, you can be done with it in an hour. Give your helpers fanny packs stocked with change, so you don’t have a line at the cash box. It’ll go much faster.

Encourage your bakers to not only bake cookies, but also to think about making healthy items. Packages of nuts, energy bars, and even homemade hummus go rapidly. More popular still are bowls of chili or nachos, if you can get permission to plug in crock-pots. I recommend that you hold a bake sale between 9 and 10 a.m. in an office or facility, when people are starting to think about coffee and a snack. They can patronize you instead of the neighborhood coffee shop.

Difficulty: Medium

2. The Good Old Car Wash

Honestly, this is not my favorite fundraiser — it’s really hard work, assuming you do it right, and you need to devote a half-day to it. However, they really do work, particularly if you can hold them at a grocery store — people are more willing to contribute because they can simultaneously shop. Supplies needed: hoses, buckets, car-washing soap (don’t use dishwashing soap, which can harm a car’s finish), and soft rags or sponges. Advertise, post signs, and send people out to hold up signs. I personally prefer “$5/car” over “donation,” because a set price eliminates the dickering process.

Difficulty: Difficult, because of the logistics — and you need a lot of helpers and elbow grease

3. Bingo

That’s right, BINGO! Just today I called bingo for an hour and a half. Set up during a lunchtime break, pass out cards and markers, and call out those letters and numbers. If permitted, charge per card and offer inexpensive prizes. Needed: a bingo set, microphone, and prizes. Savvy bingo-goers will work several cards at a time. A game of bingo runs about five minutes, so plan prizes accordingly. When you get down to the last few minutes, run a “blackout” game.

Difficulty: Very easy, particularly when you have a captive lunchtime audience

4. Raffles

AKA “drawings.” This one is trickier legally. Be sure to check what is allowed in your state and at your workplace. Sometimes the terminology matters.

What to raffle? Homemade items go well, such as fudge, cookies, or a dinner. Needed: advertising and prizes.

Difficulty: Easy

5. Silent Auctions

If you have a real go-getter committee that can secure great donations, these can be a lot of fun. The trick is to obtain items that people actually wantfine wines, gourmet chocolates, dinner at a trendy restaurant, quality art, interesting pottery, etc. It’s embarrassing if the donated item just sits on the table at a minimum bid. Needed: donated items, papers on which to write bids, and a nice tablecloth. These usually take place at some sort of event.

Difficulty: Medium, for the legwork it takes to secure good donations

6. The Office “Pool” 

You have probably seen these for sports events and baby “due date” guesses. Again, make sure there are no prohibitions and that the terms of the pool extremely clear, so there are no arguments about who won. Supplies needed: a big chart.

Difficulty: Easy

Have you done any fundraising? Do you have tips for Wise Bread readers?

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Meg Favreau's picture

I love that nachos at the bake sale idea (probably because, well, I just love nachos).

I haven't tried this myself, but I'm wondering if it would work well to sell items that people could serve for a quick dinner when they got home -- for example, fresh corn muffins to go with chili that they might have in the freezer.