Sustainable Fundraising: Raise Money, Help the Planet

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Sustainable practices are vital to protecting our environment, and your organization’s fundraising methods are no exception.

Did you know that sustainability is in fashion? Through clothing-based fundraisers — such as general textile recycling or running shoe donations — fundraising in a sustainable manner is entirely manageable.


Explore these examples of sustainable fundraising practices and discover how you can incorporate these methods into your organization’s efforts.

Why Conduct a Sustainable Fundraiser?

Society is currently experiencing a crisis of fashion, but it has nothing to do with whether or not clothing is fashionable. Over 16 million tons of unwanted textiles are sent to landfills every year, while only 2.6 million tons are recycled. Considering almost all clothing can be either reused or recycled, it’s clear that there is major room for improvement.

In fact, nearly 95 percent of used clothing and textiles can be reused, according to Secondary Materials and Recycled Textiles (SMART). As long as a clothing item isn’t contaminated with hazardous materials, recycling is most likely an option.

Not only is clothing recycling necessary, but incorporating it into your organization’s fundraising efforts can provide major benefits. Recycling fundraisers provide a service for your organization, your supporters, and the environment. Check out the benefits:

  • Your organization raises funds without expending a ton of resources.
  • Your supporters dispose of unwanted materials responsibly.
  • Reusable and recyclable materials are kept out of landfills.

Help the Environment While Raising Funds


There are a few strong options for sustainable clothing fundraisers, including clothing swaps, textile recycling, and, our favorite, athletic shoe drive fundraisers.

Clothing Swap Fundraisers

To conduct a successful clothing swap, invite supporters to clean out their closets to remove gently used clothing they no longer use. Then, organize a clothing swap event for supporters to gather and trade, shopping one another’s closets and leaving with new items of their own.

Of course, you want to raise funds for your organization through this recycling practice. Here are a few different ways you can do so:

  • Accept the clothing donations before the event, and set up a nonprofit resale pop-up store rather than a traditional swap.
  • Sell admission tickets to the event.
  • Optimize your giving processes, both digital and physical, to collect donations throughout the event.

Whether you use digital giving or are simply looking to improve your processes, check out Double the Donation’s guide to the top 20 online donation tools.

Textile Recycling Fundraisers


When fundraising by recycling clothing items, don’t make the mistake of discarding damaged items. We know that 85 percent of clothing purchased in North America ends up in a landfill. And, with fast fashion on the rise, it’s likely that a fair amount of this waste comes from cheaply made goods that wear out quickly.

Did you know that there are companies that specialize in fundraising through textile recycling? These companies purchase used clothing items and household textiles, recycle these fabrics, and raise money for your organization. It’s a great fundraising idea for kids and athletes, two populations that quickly wear through clothing items.

Athletic Shoe Drive Fundraisers

Last but not least, our favorite sustainable fundraiser: athletic shoe drive fundraisers.

Whether for casual comfort, convenience, or a regular fitness regime, your supporters have probably purchased a fair share of athletic shoes. Athletic shoes, more than others, are likely to be quickly cycled through by users. Because of this, a fundraiser for recycling tennis shoes is an excellent option for your organization!


These fundraisers have many benefits, including helping the environment by keeping discarded shoes out of landfills. Also, you help your supporters discard gently used athletic shoes they no longer use, and your organization raises funds.

Organize an Athletic Shoe Drive Fundraiser

The following guidance will help you organize this type of sustainable fundraiser. More details are available in Sneakers4Funds’ how-to guide for raising money while repurposing running shoes.

Pair the Shoe Drive With a Larger Event

Athletic shoe drive fundraisers pair well with many other fundraising events, such as run/walk/ride events, back-to-school events, and even community volunteer activities. Pairing one of these drives with a larger fundraiser creates a fun experience for your supporters while it helps to raise awareness of your unique fundraising efforts.

For inspiration, check out this list of walk-a-thon fundraiser ideas that combine well with an athletic shoe drive fundraiser.


Invite supporters to gather athletic shoes to donate.

Once you’ve determined whether or not to pair your athletic shoe drive fundraiser with a larger event (and planned that event, if so), you can ask supporters to donate athletic shoes.

For this type of fundraiser, supporters donate gently worn used and new athletic shoes for reuse. Ask supporters to spread the word to their families, friends, and broader networks and set up convenient drop-off locations for supporters to donate their sneakers.

Pack the Shoes & Ship Them Off

To carry out an athletic shoe drive fundraiser, team up with a facilitator — such as Sneakers4Funds — to manage the process. This facilitator will send you prepaid shipping bags that hold 10-15 pairs of athletic shoes each.


You’ll need to keep make sure each pair of shoes stays together during transport. Tie them together by the shoelaces or use rubber bands to ensure that matched pairs don’t get separated.

Bring the filled bags to your nearest UPS shipping center. Because the bags are prepaid, the athletic shoe drive portion of your fundraiser is entirely free for your organization!

Watch the Mail; a Check Is on Its Way

Once your facilitator receives the shoes, you’ll receive a check for your organization within days.

Clothing-based fundraising is a great way to bring the necessary resources to your organization while helping the environment. Whether you choose a clothing swap event, a textile recycling push, or an athletic shoe drive, there are plenty of options for successfully implementing this type of fundraising.


Consider incorporating sustainable practices into your next fundraising event, and help the planet while your organization thrives.

About the Author

Wayne ElseyWayne Elsey is the founder and CEO of Elsey Enterprises (EE) and a member of the Forbes Business Development Council. Among his various independent brands, he is also the founder and CEO of Sneakers4Funds, which is a social enterprise that helps schools, churches, nonprofits, individuals, and other organizations raise funds while helping to support micro-enterprise (small business) opportunities in developing nations.

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