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Fundraising ideas

Below is a range of fundraising ideas you could try by yourself or with your team mates, either to help fund your International Community Experience (ICE) place or to donate to the organisation that you will be working with.

Let us know if you have any fundraising ideas you would like to add to this page.

Good luck with your fundraising and please contact us if you have any questions or would like to run any ideas past us.

Why fundraise?

The organisation you'll be working could be a not-for-profit organisation or a charity that does excellent work to benefit the local community.

Chances are that they are under-funded and could do with some help. That's one reason.

You might need to raise money to help fund your trip – that's a perfectly valid thing to do. After all, it's not a holiday and you are paying to go and work for free doing some community action. That's reason number two.

Reason number three is that it's a good way to get to know your team mates before you go.

A little bit of research

The ideas below are ones that we have found successful in the past or ones to get you thinking. There is a lot of information about fundraising online and some of the big charities have very helpful fundraising pages:

Our top ideas

If you haven't got time to come up with something new, stick to something tried and tested. Here are ideas that we have found to be successful in the past

Cake sale

This is an old favourite. It takes a group to organise it, and you need to get all your friends to help you make cakes. We can advise on booking a space and the table and publicising the sale.

Book sale

Again you'll need to get a group together, but collecting books is easier then making cakes - provided you know enough people!

Dinner party

We've mentioned this earlier... If you know how many are coming and what they will each pay then you'll know how much you're going to raise beforehand so the trick is to keep the costs to a minimum.

Fundraising ideas

Handling the takings

If a float or change is needed for an event, get it sorted out in good time. Think about the prices being charged and the sort of change needed most.

Banking the money

All monies need to be paid in via the ARU online store.

To avoid getting in an awkward position at any time, make sure your activity has what is seen by donors as an 'official stamp of approval'.

By this, we mean that if anyone asks, you can prove that what you are doing is genuine.

For events or activities on campus, get posters and other marketing that looks official. We can help with this. For activities off campus, it might be a good idea to get a letter on ARU letterheaded paper to state that what you're doing is through our University. It will not always be necessary but in some situations like approaching larger companies for sponsorship, you might need this.

Sponsored... anything

Best as a group activity, good for raising funds for either the organisation or your own expenses.

Sponsored events are probably one of the easiest things to do/organise and everyone is familiar with the good old sponsored run etc. You can get people to sponsor you to do pretty much anything and we can provide you with sponsorship forms and official letters from ARU.

There are some things to think about though.

Make the event something easy to organise that can be done in a group like a sponsored walk, run, silence, etc. It has to be something fairly hard to achieve, otherwise people might think you are being cheeky. Also the amount you raise will depend on how many people you know! If fundraising for the host organisation you could try to get friends who are not travelling to do sponsored activities too.

Use your networks: if you are part of a group, sports club or society, see if they will help you fundraise by taking part in your sponsored event.

  • Sponsored walk
  • Sponsored cycle
  • Sponsored 'something that relates to your project', for example a sponsored walk to raise money for paint to redecorate children's rooms
  • Sponsored run – if there are any organised ones that you can join in with, such as the Student Run, it makes it easier!
  • Sponsored keepy-uppy for footballers
  • Sponsored silence (not good in tutorials or seminars)
  • Sponsored litter pick
  • Sponsored swim
  • Sponsored climb (only recommended for people who already rock-climb. You could work out the height of the climbing wall and aim to the climb the equivalent of the Eiffel Tower etc)

Bag packing

Best as a group activity, good for raising funds for the organisation.

Most supermarkets will let you do bag packing. Just call them with some dates in mind. Make sure that you have your 'spiel' and back up information about the project clear in your mind, and if necessary we can write an official letter to them.

You'll need some buckets or collection tins etc and good eye-catching signs for the buckets. Get enough helpers to make it worthwhile, and if you get help from people not going on the project make sure they are well briefed as people will ask for information. Please also make sure things are packed well – don't squash salad under pints of milk etc!

Fancy dress

Best as a group activity, good for raising funds for the organisation.

At busy times of year, going round shaking buckets in fancy dress can raise quite a bit of money. Again, good signs for the buckets are needed as are brave volunteers.

Make sure everyone is well briefed so they can answer questions, and if necessary give everyone an official letter to pull out if people ask. Please think about safety if you go with this idea: make sure that volunteers are in groups and that costumes aren't too provocative or risqué!

Tea totaller or washing-up fairy

Best as an individual activity, good for raising funds for your costs.

If you work in a big office tell people about your project and charge them a small fee for making or getting the teas and coffees. You might have to work a bit extra each day to make up for the time taken to make the tea. Or you could ask your housemates to pay for you to do the washing-up for a week or so (as long as they pay extra for really horrible pots and pans!).

20p rally

Best as a group activity, good for raising funds for the organisation.

For this event you will need to get permission to place double-sided tape around a large interior area of our University. Students and staff are asked to stick a 20p coin on the tape as they walk through the area. Make sure you have lots of publicity for the event in advance and plenty of volunteers to staff the tape.

Car boot sale

Good as either an individual or team activity for raising funds for the organisation or your own expenses.

There are quite a few car boot sales in Essex, especially over the summer months. You can raise money and get rid of unwanted stuff at the same time.

Bear in mind that car boot sales can be of variable success and depend an awful lot on what you have to sell. Collecting stuff to sell from all your friends and family might help increase your stock, and all unsold/unwanted items can be taken to a charity shop at the end.

Hoodie or t-shirt sale

Good as either an individual or team activity for raising funds for the organisation or your own expenses.

Sell course t-shirts or hoodies to your course mates. This has worked well for students in the past who managed to get a good deal with a printing company and came up with a good design of hoodie to commemorate their course – a bit like a 'Class of 2021' style hoodie. We might be able to help you with the design.

This can be a good idea depending on the nature of your year group and whether you have the time to research the printing, negotiate a deal, figure out a suitable mark-up so that you make a profit, then take orders and payments.


Good as either an individual or team activity for raising funds for the organisation or your own expenses.

If you are already an expert eBay seller, this might be an easy way to raise money. You could offer to sell things for your team mates in return for them doing other bits of fundraising. You could also sell things for your friends on the understanding that you will take a cut for your efforts.

If you're short of time but have good access to the internet and the post office, this could be the one for you.

Competitions and tournaments

Best as a group activity for raising funds for the organisation.

This might take a bit more thought and preparation, but organising a tournament of some kind can generate funds.

You could either do it as a one-off event, like a knock-out table tennis tournament (you could use the table tennis tables in the Cambridge courtyard, or outside Marconi in Chelmsford), or a poker evening.

Alternatively, if you are already a member of a sports club or society, it might be easier to work out fixtures and get competitors to do their matches individually (this would work for one-on-one things like chess, pool or squash). Figure out beforehand how much you would need to charge each person to make it worthwhile and try and blag good prizes as an incentive.

Cake sale

Best as a group activity, good for raising funds for the organisation.

Cake sales are always popular around our university. Even in the holidays, people will buy cakes. We can help with booking venues around campus. Get everyone to bake cakes (members of staff can also spread the word for cake bakers and to publicise the event). Be prepared to go around the campus selling cakes.

Book sale

Best as a group activity, good for raising funds for the organisation.

This can be even more successful than the cake sale, providing you can collect the books. Organising the event is pretty similar to organising a cake sale.

Pub quiz

This might take a little more organising. If you or your group already has a good relationship with a pub landlord then it's obviously best to start there. Better still, if you know of pub quizzes that already happen you could ask if some of the takings could be donated to the project.

Do some sums first and work out how much you need to charge per entry/team to make it worthwhile and try to incorporate a lot of additional fundraising activities. For example, ask for a cut of the bar profits for the night, a raffle, a bucket to shake, karaoke (£1 a go), mini pool tournament, etc.

If you think you can publicise well enough to draw in a crowd then the Students' Union might be willing to help out or host an evening or series of evenings.

Skills/items auction

Could be either a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

For this auction you will need to persuade people to donate an item to auction, or an experience that they can offer.

At the auction you will need a confident presenter to make each offering sound really desirable and to manage the bids. The auction itself will be a fundraising event where you can sell refreshments and raffle tickets.

Tasks for asks

Could be either a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

A variation on the skills auction is 'tasks for asks' where you offer your services for cash, but use a form to create business. Tasks or errands could be:

  • washing up for a week
  • altering clothes
  • helping to clear out an attic
  • doing some runs to the charity shop
  • a manicure
  • recycle runs
  • making packed lunches for a week
  • washing the car.

Draw up a form to use as your job sheet. You agree with each friend the job you will do and how much they will pay. Make sure this gets written on your form and that they sign to say they will pay!

Stick to things you know you can do well and without too much hassle and agree a fair price. Don't over-burden yourself and don't do things that will cost you any money (apart from small things like petrol). The best way to raise a lot of money this way is to get lots friends to do it too!

The 'stay at home' event

Could be either a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

People buy a ticket to a non-event, entitling them to stay home and relax. Since most people buy tickets primarily because a friend asked them, actually holding an event may be needless work. You can explain how much money is being saved by not arranging a hall, food and entertainment and the impact on carbon emissions by not hosting an event. The donor also saves from not having to pay out for taxis, drinks...

Attach a teabag (donated, of course) to the ticket. Ask them to take photographs for their 'non event' and have a competition to find the most innovative. You could also encourage them to invite friends to their home based 'non event' and raise funds in a variety of ways.

If you don't have the courage to do this (after all, it is a bit cheeky) then organise an actual 'night in' for your friends. Work out how much they would have spent on a meal, a few drinks and cinema tickets (include popcorn, bus tickets etc) as compared to you cooking a meal and showing a DVD at home. Use this to work out a price for each person, which is somewhere in between. You could get different friends who aren't going on the trip to organise similar evenings, although it's probably best if the funds from your friends' evenings go to the organisation.

Girls' or boys' night in

Could be either a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

This is similar to the 'non event' above, but centres on a night in.

You could tailor the evening according to the skills of friends that you can use. If you know someone who is good at beauty therapies, massage, or teaching self defence, then see if they will help you out. If not then just pick jobs that anyone can do but where it's nice to have someone else do them for you.

Get different people to take on different roles, for example someone to sort out food or nibbles, someone who can do hand massages, someone doing facials, and charge people a sensible amount for the evening.

Do your sums beforehand so you know how much to charge each person to come to make it worthwhile (although a night with your friends is always worthwhile!). It's probably best to stick to friends and family when deciding who to invite (or perhaps friends of friends).

Food fair

Best as a group activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

Food fairs can feature signature dishes by amateur cooks competing for the title of ARU Masterchef. They usually agree to pay for all the ingredients. Or you could have a themed comparison taste competition, eg Chilli Champion, Curry Chef.

Dinner party

Good as a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

For this event you invite people to your home where you will provide them with a restaurant-styled event and they pay a bill at the end. You need to be really careful with your cost control so that you don't undercharge and end up not making a profit.

This is a variation on the theme of the previous few ideas and like those, it will involve some effort. It might be a good way to get your friends on side so that they will help you.

Unusual telegram deliveries

Good as a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

Donors pay you to send a message to friends in a clever way. This could be written in icing on a large cookie, delivered by a volunteer in a Spiderman costume, delivered by a chorus of singers.

Old-fashioned fairground games

Good as a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation or for your own expenses.

If you can get an indoor area for the day you can set this up with attractions such as hoopla, a coconut shy, penny shove and other games. You can adapt games you (or younger family members) might have, for example Scalextric races, Jenga, Table Football.

Deal or no deal

Good as a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation.

Get a selection of identical boxes and put a donated item or small sums of money in each one. Each person pays to join the competition and is allocated a box. One person is selected to play the game and may win an interesting prize or may win 1p. You could sell tickets to the event.


Good as a group activity or an individual activity, good for raising funds for the organisation.

At any event you organise, an easy way to get more money is through a raffle – especially if you can blag some free prizes.

Organising an event at ARU

Chances are that there will be people in your group who work at ARU and can help with room bookings, portering etc. If not then we can help.

If you need to book an area to stage your event, all bookings should be made through the Estates office. Call Sarah-Jane MacKenzie on ext 3163.

Advertising your event
Advertising your event to staff and students can sometimes seem daunting. Again, we can help with this, but if you are a student or a member of ARU staff you may be able to use the following:

  • the Announcements and Events sections on My ARU
  • infoscreens around campus
  • posters.

Posters can be a nice way of advertising your event, but there are very strict rules about this at ARU. It is a good idea to have them at events like cakes sales just to explain what the event is for. If you want to produce a poster, please contact us. We can point you in the right direction so that your poster meets all the rules and regulations!

Asking for donations

You can try directly asking people/organisations for sponsorship. However unless you already have a good relationship with an organisation, this might be not be very successful. If you write to organisations you might like us to read over the letter first; we can also provide confirmation of your place on a trip on letterheaded paper to back up your request.

We may be getting t-shirts for you to wear for cheesy group photos. Some might shudder at the thought and some might actually like it, but either way it really helps us because it raises the profile of our project. The point is, if you do manage to get sponsorship, you can offer to put the company's logo on the back of the t-shirt as a thank you. If you are going to do this, please bear in mind that ARU would rather you approached ethically sound companies.

It's probably not a good idea to contact ARU for sponsorship. However, if you have a particularly good relationship with an area, office or department, you might want to see if they will help you fundraise (eg help bake cakes, or help with any of the other ideas on this page).

Grants and bursaries

There are grant-giving bodies that you can apply to for funding. They sometimes provide small bursaries or awards for individuals. The University library has books of these organisations and can point you in the right direction.

Usually you'd write a letter but may have to complete an application form. A really well-constructed letter can make all the difference. We have a template letter, so contact us for help if you need it.

Charity car washes don't produce much money

Many people start their fundraising careers as a student running a car wash. Many end their careers that same day. It is hard to make a lot of money at a car wash. The fees charged at nearby commercial operations keep the non-profit's price low. Customers can be scarce. Volunteers get soaked and dirty. Bad weather can ruin the event entirely... need we say more!

'Bachelor auctions' may be embarrassing

In a bachelor auction, one or more men offer to escort the highest bidders on a special occasion. They may also provide lunch in an elegant location, limousine service, tickets to the theatre or opera, or an invitation to a special party.

One group reported that the behaviour of the audience at their bachelor auction became so boisterous that it resembled a strip show. Another group reported difficulties when one of the bachelors propositioned the woman who had purchased his companionship for the evening. She expected innocent fun. He thought it should go further. Bachelor auctions seem like a fun idea but it's all too easy for a tricky situation to arise.

Think carefully before selling products

Some ideas that we have mentioned already involve selling things. These are tried and tested and seem to work and they may also give you inspiration for new ideas.

Fundraising ideas that involve buying in products to sell (eg badges, Fairtrade, charity wrist bands or other branded items) can be a bit more problematic. They seem attractive, because the people who buy the products get something for their money while they support an organisation. It also seems like less work to persuade someone to buy the product than to explain your cause. However buying the goods requires a substantial amount of investment capital. You might buy the wrong quantities, and if the material is customised or branded, it may not even be possible to sell it elsewhere. Trying to sell calendars, dated products and perishable goods is the most risky.