Fundraising Ideas

Fundraising Ideas

Brainstorming: Selecting an Event

Whenever you ask someone for their opinion, input, or suggestion, you are brainstorming. Tapping the knowledge and insights of others can be a key element in selecting your event. After you do a little research among your friends, neighbors, and relatives, write a list of all your ideas and suggestions. You can use this list to help you decide on a fun event that has the greatest potential for success. Selecting something that is fun for YOU, will create the most success. Involving others in your brainstorming process will result in a stronger event and all those involved will benefit too. You may discover hidden talents and untapped resources. Your volunteers will be energized and develop a sense of ownership when they are treated as a valuable, integral part of the decision making process. The best thing you can do is ASK for help, for donations and for volunteers!

The following suggestions are just that–suggestions. The Foundation encourages you to develop your own ideas or use only part of these suggestions. The best events are the ones that our members are most excited and motivated to host. And, as always, contact the national office for help, guidance or just to run your idea by us. The staff is very willing to help anyone who needs assistance with a fundraiser.

Personal Letter Writing

Writing personal letters to family and friends requesting donations is a very effective way to raise money for ichthyosis research. There are many benefits in making the effort to write these letters. First, it's relatively simple and a low-cost way to raise money. Second, writing personal letters provides you with the means to reconnect with family and friends. Writing to them will allow you to clearly explain the impact of this disease on your family and will lessen any confusion or misunderstandings on their part.

Third, people will want to help. Channeling their energy in a positive way, by asking them to make a donation, will empower you. Bearing witness to the outpouring of support from friends and family will give you an emotional boost too.

Fundraising Suggestions

  • Personal Letter Writing
  • Combine with Others
  • Any "a-thon"
  • Car Wash
  • Raffle - 50/50 - Silent Auction
  • Bake sale & Hoagie sale
  • Halloween Trail
  • Parties (Wine Tasting, tea, etc.)
  • Bingo (and all of its variations; chicken scratch, cow plop, basket, etc.)
  • Asking Someone Directly
  • School Fundraisers
  • Garage Sale
  • Fraternities/Sororities
  • Dress Down Day
  • Breakfast with Santa
  • Community Dinners
  • Service for donations (leaf raking, snow shoveling, cleaning)

When planning your donation letters, figure out whom you will contact and what style of letter you will mail to them. At the very least, you should include your relatives and close circle of friends (and the closest friends of your parents and in-laws). A minimum of 25 people should not be difficult to compile. You can draw upon Christmas card lists, address book entries, wedding reception guest lists, etc.

There are two sample solicitation letters, Corporate Solicitation Letter and Informal, Personal Letter for your use. Feel free to adapt them to your needs. These letters have been very successful in raising money and will help you raise money too. Access to a word processor or a computer with word processing capabilities is highly recommended, especially for larger lists. It will help you to complete the letters much faster. The Foundation staff can help you if you do not have access to a computer.

Donation letters can be sent out at any time, however there are certain periods of the year that are more effective than others. Specifically, the week just prior to Thanksgiving can be very effective. Conversely, the period just after the holidays is not a good time to send out a letter, since many families have spent a lot of money on the holidays.

FIRST also encourages you to provide a brochure in your mailing. Simply contact FIRST and we will provide a batch of brochures for your letters. When purchasing postage, ask for stamps with themes of love. Another good idea is to include a scanned photo of the family member affected with ichthyosis. If you do include a picture, be sure to attach a sticker on the outside envelope that says "Fragile," which will bring attention to your letter.

Have all donors make their checks payable to  FIRST. Send the checks back to the office within two weeks of receiving them. You do not want to keep your friends (and donors) waiting for their check to clear the bank. Plus, it is appropriate for all donors to receive a 'thank you' letter from the office in a timely manner. The thank you letter will also serve as documentation needed for charitable deductions on their federal income taxes.

How to Turn $19.75 into $500

Mailing List:

  • 10 relatives (siblings, cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, etc.)
  • 10 friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
  • 5 friends of your parents, in-laws, uncles, cousins, etc.


  • Stationery/envelopes = $7.00
  • Postage: 25 letters x $.51 = $12.75
  • 25 - Total number of letters sent

Total Expenses = $19.75

An average donation of $20 per letter will result in $500.00

Start your letter with a personal statement. A plea for help or a description of the affected individual's situation is a great way to begin. Then briefly describe what ichthyosis is, and how their donation can make a difference.

Asking Someone Directly

Face-to-face solicitation (meeting potential contributors in person and asking them for money) is the most effective way to enlist support from people outside your circle of friends and family. The maxim for fundraising from individuals is clear: the more personal the contact, the higher the likelihood of a positive response. At times your only goal will be to raise funds, when this is the case your best option is to simply ask for money donations. You can accomplish this by donation canisters, letter campaign, door-to-door knocking or any other form of a straight out request. You should simply explain the reasons why you are raising the money, how their donation will be spent, and the benefits of their donation (i.e. help fund a young investigator to find a better treatment for [your type] of ichthyosis.)

By having a simple and planned approach to asking for donations, you will not have the expenses of a special event. Asking directly for a cash donation may be the single hardest activity for volunteers to do. To many people it seems like begging, so think carefully about how you want to do this. You may find it easier to sell tickets in a raffle or plan a fundraising event, rather than to ask for a cash donation.



Recruit some friends and solicit items to be used in a raffle. Examples are asking an airline for free tickets or a local sports store to donate sporting goods, etc. Try to secure one "large" donation (i.e. airline tickets, weekend get-a-way) to be used as the grand prize. Locate a place to host the raffle drawing, such as your backyard, a dance hall, or your church basement.

Barbecues and picnics are a great central event with which to host a raffle. Find someone who will donate or cook some food and provide entertainment. If you can't find someone to donate, you can charge a fee to cover the costs of the food and drinks (either as an admittance fee or people buy what they eat or drink at the event). You can also make it a BYO (bring your own meat and drinks). Don't feel awkward about a BYO event; they are now an accepted feature of having a get-together.

Start to sell the raffle tickets a few weeks prior to the event for a reasonable price, but sell a lot.


Having a 50-50 raffle is an easy way to raise additional money for your event. It involves the sale of raffle tickets with the proceeds being split evenly between the winner and FIRST.

Your only expense is the raffle tickets (a double ticket roll). Winners are always happy with a cash prize. All you need is one or more ticket sellers. Raffle tickets normally sell for $1 a piece, with an incentive for multiple purchases such as three tickets for $2, or five tickets for $4, etc. Using a price incentive for multiple tickets can often increase your total sales and builds a larger 'pot' to split with the lucky winner.

All ticket stubs are placed in a hat or other container from which one lucky number is drawn. The 'take' is tallied and one-half awarded to the holder of the lucky number. The drawing is normally held toward the end of the event, and the lucky number holder must be present to win. If not claimed within a set time limit which can be as short as a minute or two, a second number is drawn and awarded the prize. Generally speaking, the larger the prize, the longer time allowed for the original winner to claim his or her prize.

Silent Auction

A silent auction is an auction where people write their bids on a piece of paper, and whoever has the highest bid wins the item.

Click Here to Download In-Kind Donation Form

In securing your donated item use the In-Kind Donation form for your record keeping. Make sure to get all the information asked on the form, that way if you'll be holding your event next year, you'll have a list of companies and contacts to go back to.

Click Here to Download Silent Auction Bid Sheet

In preparing for your auction, print a silent auction bid sheet for each item. Write the name of the item, who donated the item, and the FMV (fair market value). Include a minimum bid and minimum bid increase increments. (One rule of thumb for minimum increase: $1 for items up to $50, $2 for $50-$100, $5 for over $100).

Lay out all the items and the bid sheets so people can see them. Tape the bid sheets down next to the item. It's easy for bid sheets to get blown or knocked around.

Monitor the table to make sure bid sheets are staying in place and people are providing all their personal information and following the minimum bid and minimum increase rules.

Give people plenty of warning as closing time approaches. Make announcements at least 10 and 5 minutes before closing the bids. People will want to bid right up to the very end.

When the bidding time ends pick up all the pens and sheets so no one can be sneaky. You can circle the winning bid and draw a line through the empty spaces of the bid sheets, so no one can add their name after the closing time.

Sort the sheets by last name (winner) in alphabetical order. If anyone has won more than one item, staple those sheets together. That way you only need to have them pay once.

Call your bidders (winners) up one at a time by name for them to make payment. Payment can be made by cash, check, or credit card. When paying by credit card it is important that you write down the card number and expiration date. You can also contact Denise Gass for information about using FIRST's Intuit credit card reader.

If there are leftover items, from people who went home and don't know they won, you will have to take the gifts home and call the winner from the phone number listed on your bidding sheet. You may have people who don't want to pay for the things they bid on. Call the next person on the bid sheet and see if they still want the item.

Things you'll need:

  • Bid sheets
  • Masking tape or packaging tape
  • Transparent tape (for taping bid sheets to table)
  • Painter's tape to hang signs on walls (painter's tape is much less likely to peel paint from the walls when taking things down
  • Markers
  • Pens (Lots of these on hand! At least one for every bid sheet).
  • Whiteout tape, not liquid
  • Tables

Combine with Others

Try to coordinate some fundraising activity in conjunction with other local fundraisers or civic organizations, such as the Rotary, Lions, and Kiwanis' Clubs. Other groups who support community projects include the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H Club, etc. While you may have to share the money raised, you may also reach a wider section of the community, which may lead to a better financial outcome than if you chose to 'go it alone.'

School Fundraiser

The success of any school fundraiser is based on the support from the school administrators and parental support. The first hurdle is to work with the school's staff to figure out the best way to raise awareness for ichthyosis and raise funds.

  • Host a bake or candy sale.
  • Volunteer and organize a teen dance where a percentage of the admission ticket will be donated to the Foundation.
  • If the students are required to wear a uniform, have all students donate $1.00 to 'dress-down' on a Friday.

The Holidays

The holiday season is a time of good cheer and sharing, and a good time for fundraising. People are in the mood to spread their good fortune and what better way to spread their good fortune than to help FIRST? People spend a lot of money at this time of year-on presents, decorations, travel and many other reasons.

Try to think of a way to turn this season into a fundraiser that helps people to get what they want, while raising money for the Foundation. First aid kits are a thoughtful and unusual gift idea. Gift wrapping paper is an essential item that has yet to be overdone. Bulbs, t-shirts and candles are items that deserve a closer look. So the secret to successful fundraising at Christmas time is to provide a product that people are going to buy anyway, instead of the profits going to a company - they go to the Foundation!

Any "A-thon"

Read, skate, walk, bike, bowl, etc. These are all great ways to raise funds and spread awareness. At some point, mostly everyone has been involved in or witnessed an "a-thon." These events are fun to plan and attract larger audiences.

Read-a-thon: This event can be done during the summer months when students are off from school or it can be organized during the school year. Simply recruit a group of individuals to participate in a book-reading program. They can ask for a flat donation for their efforts or receive a "pledged" amount per book. For example, his or her uncle may pledge to pay $5.00 for every book read from June through August. At the end of August, the reader informs his or her uncle that they read five books. The uncle would then donate $25.00 to the Foundation.

Walk-a-thon: This event can be adapted to fit other types of activities such as biking, skating or running. First you must select a location to host the event. After the date is determined, solicit sponsors for the event to help defray your costs. For instance, find someone to donate and print T-shirts, which can be given to each participant as a 'thank you' for their help. Ask your supermarket for bottles of water. Ask your produce market to donate apples and bananas as a healthy snack. Find a donor to pay for port-a-potty rentals or ask the company to donate them. Place signs in public places, community bulletins, newspapers, etc. Recruit walkers (skaters, bikers, runners) and have them solicit donations from their family, friends, co-workers, etc. to support them in the event. It can be a flat donation or a 'pledged' donation for the number of miles walked or laps skated. These events can be turned into annual events if done well. Once you host the first year, the event becomes easier each year after that.Garage Sale

Garage Sales

Everyone has junk to get rid of however they don't have the time or inclination to figure out what to do with it. This is an easy way for them to clean out their basement, garage or attic. As you know, "your junk can be someone else's treasure." As the host, you select the date for a neighborhood garage sale. Put flyers in neighbor mailboxes and call your friends. Ask them to bring their items to your home during the week before the garage sale. Organize the items with prices and stickers. Keep a log of who donated what. Later you can provide them with a list of their items that sold, which will be their actual donation to the Foundation. You should also provide brochures and information about the Foundation to all purchasers and donors. You will not only be raising money for a good cause, but you will be educating the public about ichthyosis. Shortly after the garage sale, send a flyer out to those who donated to let them know the amount of money raised for the Foundation. This will make them feel good about helping our Foundation. They will also be happy to have cleared out their garage, attic or basement.

Profit Sharing

Many companies offer profit-sharing opportunities. Commonly known organizations such as Tupperware, Longaberger Baskets, and Pampered Chef have programs to give back to charity. There are many others too. As the host of a party at your home, a percentage of the sales will be donated back to the charity of your choice. It does not require a lot of work on your part because the company consultant runs the show at your home. All you need to do is provide snacks and invite your friends. They will be receiving a quality product while supporting the Foundation.

Car Wash

This is a really fun way to raise money for FIRST. Find a location where you can host your car wash. Make sure there is access to a water spigot for your hose. Recruit a group of people to wash cars. Have someone donate the soap, buckets, and rags. Make colorful posters and hang them up around your town. When the driver arrives, provide them with a brochure about ichthyosis and the Foundation. Ask them for a donation to have their car washed; making sure the minimum amount is $5.00. You may find some people will donate more than $5.00. Remember to do a good job so the donor feels they received their money's worth. Once again, you will be raising money for the Foundation and educating your community about ichthyosis.

College Sororities/Fraternities

These groups sometimes do fundraising and charity work for whatever organization they have "adopted." They may sponsor or host an event, or may provide the "man power" you need for an event you have organized.

Honor/Memorial Donations

At the time of death, some family members have solicited donations in memory of the deceased. Also, in lieu of holiday gifts, friends and family are sometimes asked to make a donation to FIRST.

Upon receiving these special donations, the Foundation will send a beautiful card to the family of the deceased or the person to whom the honor gift has been given. This not only acknowledges the individual but also spreads the word about Foundation and its services.

The Carnival

This type of event requires considerable planning and numerous volunteers. Try to enlist the help of another organized group such as a school, church, and civic organization.

Sell tickets at a centralized ticket booth rather than at individual activities. Also sell tickets in bulk such as 20 tickets for $5.00 or 40 tickets for $10.00. Solicit donations of prizes from local food restaurants. Ask local pet stores to donate coupons for one free goldfish to give as prizes. Most people won't actually redeem them, but they usually will buy other items from the store which makes this a good promotion for the merchant.

If the prizes are not donated, buy in bulk. Be sure to have extras. Assume that your carnival will be a huge success. If there are any extras, you can use them at next year's event. Plan on making this an annual activity and let everyone know about your plans for continuing.

Set up an information/awareness booth. FIRST can provide you with brochures to distribute to guests. Be sure to have plenty of contribution envelopes available for people who ask for FIRST's address.

Examples of simple games to include at your carnival are; fishing with magnets, panning for gold, bean bag toss, penny toss, face painting, thumb print drawing, pick a lollipop, duck pond, knock down the pyramid, bingo table, balloon characters, guess your age, football toss, and clothespin drop. You can also have pony rides and a petting zoo. Other ideas include, a magic show, a bounce house, dunk tank and play zone.


To raise money for FIRST does not always mean you have to hold a fundraising event. There are others ways to make a difference without hosting an event. Some examples are as follows:

Estate Planning/Leaving a Legacy

Many planned gifts originate from those with only modest incomes. Individuals with wealth are also good candidates. All candidates must have a serious commitment to the organization.


This is the simplest, most flexible, planned gift. The best candidates for bequests are individuals aged 55+, without heirs. Bequests are made in wills, living trusts, and other estate plans. Categories include: Specific Outright Bequest, Remainder Bequest, or Contingent Bequest.

Life Income Gifts

This plan offers the donor income in return for making an irrevocable gift. The income may be variable or fixed and last for lifetime(s), a certain numbers of years, or both.

Life Estate

This provides the Foundation with the gift of a residence or farm while allowing the donor the right to continue to live there for the remainder of his or her life.

Charitable Lead Trust

This trust provides the Foundation with income for a term of years and leaves the remainder to the donor's heirs.

Life Insurance

This designation provides the foundation to receive benefits upon the death of the insured.

Corporate Donations and Matching Gift Program

This area is perhaps our greatest, untapped resource. Most large corporations budget for charitable contributions. Many prefer to give to causes that help their employees or families. These funds are usually available on a first-served basis. Hence, if you never ask, you surely will never receive.

Payroll Deductions

Many friends and co-workers give to important causes each year by using this painless tool. The Foundation receives donations through the United Way or Combined Federal Campaigns from many of our members. Contact your Human Resources Department for more information.

For additional information on the above types of fundraising please contact the national office

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