Fundraising Ideas for University Societies

Apr 16, 2020

Often, fundraising is a core activity of university societies or sports clubs, whether for equipment, tours or even charitable ventures. However, there are a myriad of ways to make the money you need. 

In this guide, we will share 6 key fundraising ideas for university societies. If you plan well, you can put on an incredible campaign that not only raises money, but strengthens your community and increases your membership.

Furthermore, fundraising can offer you some hard skills that you can apply to your CV which employers will recognise over the competition when applying for your career of choice.

Set, Define and Understand your Goals

Photo by Skitterphoto from Pexels

It’s easy enough to say that having more money is generally desirable. However, you need to ask yourself what you want this money for. 

Is it for:

  • A specific event you want to put on for your members later this term?
  • Equipment your society needs?
  • A charity you feel strongly about?
  • A mix of factors?

Depending on the scope of your society, these factors can change. 

After all, the needs of societies like Model United Nations, Scuba diving, or Board Games differ tremendously.

If you want to see whether you have a good grasp of your goals, ask yourself these questions (if your answers aren’t great, you may need to go back to the drawing board):

What are you fundraising for?

Will it be obvious and worthwhile for those donating to your cause? You don’t want to mislead people,

If it’s a charity, have you contacted them and got their consent?

  • Why do you care? Why is it important for the society? If this is clear to you, you should make it clear to those who will give you money.
  • How much money do you want to raise and by what time? Is it realistic, or even needed?
  • Are your other society members up for helping, and would they all clearly understand what they’re fundraising for? If your friends helped, would it be the same?

You must have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve and that this is something others can clearly understand and get behind.

Ambitious fundraising efforts take a lot of commitment and energy to achieve; if your goals aren’t clear disappointment and wasted hours will almost be inevitable.

However, if you have clear goals and execute it well, it can be extremely rewarding beyond just making money.

Ways to Fundraise for your university society

Ultimately, with application of a little imagination, there are many ways to fundraise.

However, all offer advantages and disadvantages. Here are some fundraising ideas for university societies – have a think about which fundraising tips best fit your approach:

#1: Write a funding application to your Students’ Union.

Most Students’ Unions (SUs) with a large society base will offer the opportunity for societies to apply for funds for whatever activity or needs they may have.

While I was at university as a society representative, I reviewed hundreds of funding applications from societies, in which we had an annual ‘pot’ around £30,000 to allocate.

We often gave money to societies if it was obvious that: their goals were clear and the potential results were attainable, the results would impact a notable number of students relative to the size and scope of the society, and it was well planned.

If any of these were unclear, we would frequently ask for the application to be revised, or outright rejected. Check out the Sheffield SU’s funding application to get an idea: 

#2: Your SU may have Reward Schemes.

Some SUs will have a rewards scheme. By achieving certain tasks, your SU could award you with sums of money that you can passively accumulate throughout the year.

In my society, we accumulated £400 passively throughout the year by achieving various tasks. It may not be enough for your overall fundraising goal, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Check out your SU’s website and see what’s on offer. An example of such a scheme is the University of Sussex SU’s scheme.

#3. Set up some sales events 

Here are some ideas to play with…:

  •  Arts and Crafts Fair – If you have artistic skills, sell your works of art on campus or a fair.
  • Auction a Promise – Hold an auction night where students bid for promises such as washing up or cooking meals for a month, that is, for a price.
  •  Bake Sale – Cook some food, whether sweet or savoury and sell on campus. Personally, choosing the right location and time of day often dictated success, often ranging from £75 on a quiet day or up to £200 if well planned.
  • Hoodie/T-Shirt Sales – Reward your loyal members by offering them the opportunity to buy bespoke society clothing.
  • Raffle – Talk to local businesses and see if they may be willing to donate a few prizes to your cause. Then set up a team of volunteers to start selling raffle tickets.
  • Set up a car wash station   Wash students and staff member’s cars. 
  • Sports competition – Set up some sporting events and ask each team member to get sponsors or to donate some money to your cause. 

#4.  Social Events:

  • Club Night/Live Music Event – Contact your university bar, book out a night, organize a DJ or local band to perform. Raise cash either online, on the door, or on the bar.
  • Pub Quiz – A personal favourite of mine. Contact your local/university pub and book a pub quiz night. Charge £1 – 3 to join the pub quiz and give small rewards to the winning teams.
  • Karaoke Night – Never underestimate the willingness of people to publicly humiliate themselves and pay for it. Planning is largely like organizing a pub quiz or club night.
  • Joint Fundraising – Network with other like-minded (or not!) societies and clubs to put on a special event. I.e., Rugby Club and Pole Dance society swap activities for a charitable cause!
  • Speakers: Host a notable speaker relevant to your society’s interests and sell tickets in advance or on the door. Be careful, however, to not mark the price up too much and deter people from attending.
  • Flash Mob: Plan a spontaneous and wacky event at university to draw some attention. Ask students to donate a few pounds to raise funds and shake a bucket at puzzled passers-by.

#5.  Challenges:

  • Bake Competition: Put your friends and society members culinary skills against one another and award the star baker! Similar to a bake sale but charge a small entry fee for contestants.
  • Personal Challenges: This could consist of working in a team, or by yourself, whether climbing Kilimanjaro, driving to Mongolia, or cycling London to Paris. These are often associated with organisations and will ask for you to raise money on behalf of your activity. These are great for charitable ventures.
  • Sports Tournament: Organize a sports tournament, whether with alumni, society members or event staff for an afternoon of friendly competition!

#6. Be Imaginative!

While these are some ideas, there’s absolutely no harm in trying something different. For example, for a political event we wanted to fund, a group of us dressed as political party leaders of the country and offered, for a small fee, for people to throw water balloons at their least favourite political leader!

Students are used to being bombarded with sales and events – make yours unique and standout. Further, they can offer incredible networking opportunities you can foster throughout university; you can read more on the benefits here.

Plan your Campaign and Events

Fundraising Ideas for University Societies

Photo by Startup Stock Photos from Pexels

Like the rest of your society activities, the more you plan, the more you’ll reap the rewards. Here are some key tips:

  • Plan well in advance. This may be critical if you’re booking a venue space.
  • Make an event plan – what will need to happen on the day?
  • Can any of the necessary resources be loaned or provided for free? Say the Students’ Union, or friends?
  • Write up a budget– you want to be sure that you don’t stumble on hidden costs and undermine your fundraising efforts.
  • Who is leading the fundraising, and who will be helping? Will they be reliable?
  • Marketing – Promote your fundraising events as much as possible. Whether online, posters or spread of word, make sure that you get it known to as many people as possible. Social media and friends will carry you a long way.

Fundraising can be More than just Money!

Fundraising does not need to be just a financial venture. While it may be important, the opportunity to put on exciting events can provide other significant benefits.

For example, you can advertise to students the exciting events your society puts on, how great a community your society fosters, and promote greater involvement and commitment from your members.

Fundraising events offer an incredible opportunity to capture new audiences, reinforce existing members’ loyalty and raise the reputation of the society. 

If possible, hosting fundraising events that engage as many people as possible to get involved are fantastic.

For example, in my former society, we ran a pub quiz series throughout the year, regularly engaging a hundred or so people. Pub goers could find out about our activities, while society members had it as a regular function.

Summary: Fundraising ideas for university societies

What sort of campaign or fundraising event can often be dictated by what sort of society or sports club you run, and it is important to recognise what works for you.

If you follow these steps, you’ll be sure to run a successful fundraising campaign, build some hard skills to apply to your CV(indeed, you can read further on Why Your Non-Academic Experience is Your Most Valuable Asset), and most importantly, find it a personally rewarding experience! 

Thanks for taking the time to read our post sharing fundraising ideas for university societies! 

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