Many nonprofit organizations need to fundraise constantly, and yours is probably no different. You likely do at least one big push for donations at the end of the year, corresponding with local matching programs and tax deadlines.

But hosting smaller fundraising events keeps your organization in the public eye, and it can lead to a steadier stream of revenue than one large outreach effort can provide. Tying fundraising into Halloween with themed events lets you catch donors before they get started with their holiday spending.

Not sure what to do for Halloween? We’ve got some Halloween fundraising ideas that will give your nonprofit a boost and let you have fun with your donors.

Why your nonprofit should consider a Halloween fundraiser

In 2021, Americans spent over $10 billion on Halloween candy, costumes, decorations, and gifts. And a fundraiser is a good way to get in on Halloween spending and reach out to people — before they start emptying their pockets for the holiday season.

Still, why should a nonprofit consider a Halloween fundraiser instead of a Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s fundraiser?

To begin with, from Thanksgiving to after the New Year, many people are traveling, visiting family, or hosting their own gatherings. Frankly, it’s the busiest time of year and trying to get potential donors to attend one more event is difficult, if not impossible — unless it’s “the event not to be missed” and well established within the community.

Whether you’re a small nonprofit or just starting out, it’s best to have events that everyone can enjoy without the pressure of “finding time” during the big end-of-year holidays. And, Halloween is a casual holiday, so the event doesn’t have to be high-brow. Instead, keep it local and low-key.

Here are some Halloween fundraising ideas to get you started:

Halloween fundraising ideas for your nonprofit

‌Costume contest

One of the most fun parts of Halloween is coming up with a creative costume and showing it off. Many nonprofits lend themselves to costume contests. If your organization rescues animals, for example, you can send an email to your list asking people to take part in a cutest pet costume contest. 

Including different categories and offering multiple prizes is a good way to interest more participants. Categories could include best couple’s costume, most creative use of makeup, scariest costume, or best pop culture costume.

‌Charge a set fee per entry, a set fee per vote, or both. You could charge $5 for people to enter the contest and $1 per vote, letting people with and without pets participate in the event. Keep the voting period open for a few weeks.

‌Promote the contest widely through your email list and social media pages. When your event is more visible, it will likely attract more participants. This is when an effective event marketing strategy comes into play.

Online auction

An online auction is an easy Halloween fundraiser for nonprofits.

Ask vendors in your area to donate items that people can bid on while they’re handing out candy or hanging out in their living rooms. If you can, offer a grand prize like a weekend getaway or premium seats at a local sporting event along with a variety of smaller prizes for people who won’t be likely to bid on the big-ticket items. Always start by reaching out to previous sponsors before trying to find new sponsors for your auction. And always start local.

As to how to host your virtual auction. There are numerous options, and a Google search will serve you well.

But if you’re leery about signing up with an auction site, or want to keep your auction open to a select few, Facebook is a good place for hosting online auctions. The platform makes it easy to set up an event page. To host an auction on Facebook, create a group for the event. Invite people to join the group, and make it private. Upload photos of the items up for bid, and take bids in comments or in the direct messages platform. Facebook limits what you can sell, prohibiting alcohol and other regulated items.

For a more professional and truly silent auction, consider auction hosting sites like Better World, Eventgroove, or Givebutter, which offer free services or discounts to nonprofits and offer participants features like credit card bidding and anonymity.

In the lead-up to the date of the auction, create multiple social media posts notifying people of the items they can bid on and the end date of the auction. Once the auction has closed, contact the winners and send them their prizes. Get more than one of the smaller prizes to encourage more participation. If you’re asking a local gas station to donate gift cards, ask for more than one card so that bidders know they have a better shot at winning.

Halloween fundraising idea - The Battery's social post for their Halloween-themed auction
‌‌‌San Francisco-based company The Battery hosts a Halloween-themed auction every year for its nonprofit Battery Powered. The event is heavily promoted through Facebook, while the auction itself is hosted on a members-only website.

Haunted house

Haunted houses and similar scary attractions like corn mazes and haunted hayrides are popular Halloween activities, drawing in thousands throughout the season. If you can find a desirable location and some talented actors, set designers, and makeup artists, host a haunted house and charge admission.

This fundraiser requires some attention to detail and permitting. Meet with people in your local zoning office to see what paperwork you need. Start planning the haunted house in advance so you can audition people to interact with house attendees.

If done well, your haunted house can draw in visitors from around the area. Host the event for multiple weekends, and you can attract more visitors. This kind of event is fun for flexing your creative muscles and brainstorming different terrifying themes. You might be able to create a popular annual event that eventually becomes a reliable source of revenue for your organization.

Themed merchandise

One of the easiest Halloween fundraising ideas for your nonprofit is an ecommerce gift shop. If you already have one, make some Halloween-themed merchandise and sell it for a discount in the weeks leading up to the holiday.‌‌

There are probably items in your shop that sell out faster than others, from T-shirts to tote bags. Offer some themed items, or stick with smaller items like pens and coffee mugs. When you’ve determined your Halloween-themed inventory, send out an email and post to social media notifying your members that new merch is available.

Halloween golf tournament

Depending on where you live, Halloween can still be an opportune time for hosting outdoor events. Put a spooky twist on the traditional charity golf tournament by hosting one on or near Halloween. If you have a course that offers golf at night, it can help set the tone for the event.

‌Even if you end up hosting the tournament during the day, add in some scary-movie-themed holes, and have volunteers dressed in costumes to make it more fun for all. You can raise money through entry fees, an auction, themed holes, and other activities. If you’re serving drinks, stick with the theme by offering pumpkin beer or spiced coffee.

BONUS TIP: Make it more intimate and family-friendly by hosting your tournament at a mini-golf course or indoor course!

Online talent show

Holding online fundraisers that feature competitions makes it easier for people to participate, and it also takes away some of the stage fright. Let members of your community showcase their talents online by posting videos that you can put on your website or social media pages.

Like the online costume contest, you can encourage participation on all sides by charging an entry fee and letting people pay to vote online. Unlike an in-person event, an online talent show comes with fewer production costs. You don’t have to pay for a venue, event staff, or a host. More money can be used to fund your mission.

Halloween fundraising ideas - Autism's Got Talent online sign-up form. Try a Halloween-themed talent show for your non-profit
The Autism Society of San Diego annually hosts an online talent show called Autism’s Got Talent. Anyone can participate by donating $5 to vote on their favorite submission.

BONUS TIP: Make your online talent show stand out with a Halloween twist, such as requiring Halloween costumes, Halloween-themed props, or Halloween subject matter.

Halloween party

This is probably my favorite of all the Halloween fundraising ideas, because Halloween is the perfect excuse to dress up and have fun — no matter what age you are.

Depending on your local weather and community, you could host an evening indoor event, with a silent auction, a costume contest, and plenty of food. Or go with a daytime outdoor event for all ages, and partner with local farm and school art classes for decorations like hay bales, spooky ghosts, and wicked witches.

Remember, a variety of activities will attract more partygoers. If you can find a venue with enough space, you can feature a band and dancing in one room and games in another.

Offer enough activities at the event to make it worth people buying a ticket. Create a unique experience that will make people want to attend your Halloween fundraiser year after year.‌‌

Halloween fun run

Like other holidays, Halloween is a time when people tend to overindulge. Host a Halloween-themed charity fun run, like a 5K zombie run, or ghost trot that lets people burn off the Halloween candy before they eat it. You can raise money by collecting registration fees and charging for sponsorships.

To get the word out, post about the event on social media and on your website, and send out an email newsletter to your contact list. Postpaid ads on social media platforms including Instagram and Facebook to improve visibility and attract participation.

And don’t forget the t-shirts! I don’t know any runners who don’t collect the t-shirts they get from the runs they participate in. So, make sure to have event t-shirts made up for both the volunteers and participants. They’ll wear them periodically throughout the year which will help drum-up interest for next year’s event.

Trivia night

People like competing with one another, and many enjoy matching wits with their neighbors through trivia. Partner with a local bar or tavern and trivia hosting company to host a Halloween-themed trivia night with a set entry fee, a specialty menu, and the chance to win fun prizes. Mix up questions to include a wide range of topics from scary movie trivia to the origins of Halloween itself.

Trivia night is another event at which you can hold a silent auction or other smaller activities within the event to raise extra money.

BONUS TIP: Save some time and money by asking a local venue, that already hosts a regular trivia night, to designate a special Halloween-themed trivia night where part of the proceeds go to your nonprofit.

Virtual Halloween-themed class

Whether you’re teaching attendees how to mix up that perfect holiday punch — complete with eerie fog, or how to make a realistic headstone for the front yard, hosting a virtual class is a great way to pull in some extra donations while helping out busy parents.

Partner with your friends, volunteers, or local experts to offer a string of online classes on all things Halloween. Start the classes early and host them on a regular schedule — like every Friday. Then, allow others to view the recordings all the way through Halloween. Charge a reasonable fee to attend the virtual classes live and a reduced fee to view the classes later — for those that couldn’t attend the class live.

Pumpkin carving contest

Much like a costume contest, a pumpkin carving contest allows participants to have some fun and show off their creative skills. And, you can charge a nominal entry fee, as well as a fee for voting. But a pumpkin carving contest can be so much more than a costume contest.

A pumpkin carving contest may garner more participants, and therefore more revenue, because it’s not a costly endeavor. For the price of a good pumpkin, a decent blade, and a spoon for scooping, nearly everyone can enter.

And, a pumpkin carving contest tends to offer more variety in how it’s held and the categories for winning.

For instance, contestants can create their masterpieces at home and then submit photos on social media, or you could host the contest live and have them create their jack-o-lanterns via live stream or bet yet, host the event at a local venue and live stream the event on your social media channel.

The best part of a pumpkin carving contest is that the requirements can vary as much as the winning categories.

Set requirements like only one pumpkin per entry, submitted photos must be of the artist holding their creation, and lanterns must be able to be lit from within. And create interesting design divisions such as cut-through carving versus surface carving. Then set winning categories such as, “best original design,” “fan favorite,” or even “best attempt,” or “best first jack-o-lantern” for the kids who are craving their first pumpkin on their own.

Promoting your fundraiser

Once you’ve narrowed down your Halloween fundraising ideas and decided which ones are right for your nonprofit, start promoting using creative storytelling and other marketing. To garner more participation and raise more money, use online tools. Send messages and post often for increased visibility.

Social media

All the ideas listed above can be promoted using social media. Use a combination of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to notify potential participants and spread the word about your event.

Consider a few sponsored posts to enhance your visibility. There are affordable options for sponsoring posts on Facebook and Instagram, and you can target these ads to people in your area or to those with particular interests.

Content marketing

Drum up interest in your fundraiser by posting a series of videos, nonprofit blog posts, and other long-form content. If you have a blog, you can write an informative post about your nonprofit and tie it into your Halloween fundraiser.

If your animal charity decides to host an online pet costume contest, write a blog with tips on Halloween pet safety, and put a link to the contest at the bottom of the post.

Guest posts

Writing guest blogs or hosting guest videos with your partners and vendors lets you tap into their network and broaden your reach. If your event includes a silent auction, write some guest blogs for your donors to let their customers know about your organization.

When you’re looking for sponsors for your event, you can include guest blogging opportunities in the sponsorship package and write co-branded content. Maybe you’re hosting your trivia night in a historical building. Write a post about the building’s history and interesting things that happened there to draw in participants who want to see the venue.

Email marketing

Your email list is a great resource for finding participants for your Halloween fundraising ideas. Your email contacts are already interested in your mission, and they’ll likely be excited to spread the word about your event. Instead of just sending out announcements or event invitations, build excitement by creating a series of event marketing emails, promoting your event for a few months in advance.

Offer referral discounts on registrations and contest entries to people on your email list who promote your event on their social media channels, or share the event with people in their network.

Improve your donations with a Halloween-themed fundraiser

Halloween is an untapped time to hold in-person and online fundraising activities, and there are many ways to encourage people in your community to donate.

This year, hosting a fun, festive Halloween event can help you with your fundraising targets before the last push at the end of the year.

Once you’ve picked the type of Halloween fundraiser you want to organize, get started with promotion by creating an event marketing calendar to keep your marketing focused and on task.

Not sure how to get started with marketing your Halloween fundraiser? Learn how to build your year-end fundraising marketing plan in 6 easy steps.