9 Fundraising Lessons From the World’s Weirdest Charity Stunts

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Most people’s fundraising experience ends at running a race for charity or selling candy for a good cause—but if you really want to go big with your efforts, you need to think outside the box. Here are a few of the weirdest charity stunts ever performed, and a few lessons any aspiring fundraiser can learn from them.

1. Be Willing to Suffer for What You Believe In

And recognize that sometimes you don’t know how much you’ll suffer until your fundraising campaign gets started. That was certainly the case when 24-year-old Joe Cooper decided he would help raise some money for his local hospital, the Leicester Royal Infirmary, by agreeing to get his pubic hair waxed. The stunt took place at the Trees Pub, where bidders competed for the chance to rip a wax strip from one of ten men. Many of the other men backed down, but Joe stood by his word. Unfortunately, waxing is something that really should be left to a professional, and Joe probably should have backed down as well.

“I lay down and closed my eyes and the next thing I know I'm in horrendous pain and bleeding,” Joe said.

The friend who ripped off the strip of wax from his groin pulled a little too hard and ripped off six layers of skin. Joe was soon rushed to the hospital where doctors told him that if any more skin came off, his testicle would have come out.

But hey, at least the stunt raised around $4500 for the hospital.

2. Allow Yourself to be Shocked by Other’s Generosity

This concept was quite literal in the case of Sheriff Leon Lott, who auctioned off the opportunity for someone to tase him in order to raise money for the Richland County Sheriff’s Foundation. For every $1000 bid, he would let the tasing go on one more second. The winning bid was $2000, and the sheriff was shocked for two seconds. 

3. Put A Part of Yourself Into Your Fundraising Efforts

But please don’t literally put something that was once a part of your body up for auction like William Shatner did. In late 2005, Shatner went to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a kidney stone. After passing the stone, the star tried to put it up for auction on eBay, promising to donate all the money to Habitat For Humanity, but eBay wouldn't let him sell it because it's against policy. Even so, The Golden Palace called up Shatner and ponied up $25,000 to add the kidney stone to their bizarre collection of eBay oddities, including the grilled cheese Virgin Mary, Jerry Garcia’s toilet, and a potato that resembles Pete Townshend. And the company kicked in an extra $50,000 to the charity, just because.

4. Expect to Take a Few Hits For Your Cause

And not just in the form of non-supporters. Matt Jones, the managing director of Poverty Resolutions, wanted to help illustrate what a large number 21,000 is in numbers people could actually understand. Why 21,000? Because that’s how many children die due to poverty every day.

To help people better visualize the number, Matt and four friends agreed to get hit by 21,000 paintballs to raise attention to their cause.

5. Keep It Classy

Bear Grylls is known for doing some pretty crazy things as part of his job, so when it comes to stunts for charity, he’s willing to go an extra mile. To help raise funds for the Prince's Trust, Bear agreed to eat a formal dinner in a suit and tie—25,000 feet in the air underneath a hot air balloon. Grylls had to wear an oxygen mask to breathe! That kind of raises the stakes. After dinner, Bear and his dining companian parachuted to safety. In the process, the two set a new world record for the highest open-air formal dinner party.

6. Sometimes All You Need is the Right Incentive

Is it right to torture someone to raise money for charity? Before you answer that, recognize that the “torture” in question was the repeated playing of Justin Bieber’s song “Baby.” Evanston Township High School Student Council President Charlotte Runzel and a student rep to the Board of Education, Jesse Chat, came up with the idea of asking students to pay to stop the music in order to raise money for BooCoo, a non-profit cultural centre and café near the school. They planned to play the song every day between every class period for a week (eight times a day), promising students they would stop when their $1000 fundraising goal was met. By Wednesday, the student body met the fundraising goal, getting the music to stop once and for all.

7. Find Something People Are Passionate About

For 72-year-old Si Burgher, that was his eyebrows. When he offered up a chance for people to shave his bushy brows at a cost of $100 per trim, people around the town of Bloomfield, Indiana jumped at the chance. In fact, his eyebrows managed to raise $1600 for Rotary International's PolioPlus campaign, which has raised over $500 million towards polio eradication since 1985. Lawyers, bankers, and other townspeople each took a turn trimming Burgher's 3-inch-long eyebrow hairs.

The money raised wasn't the only benefit: Burgher got a lesson about self-grooming in the process. "I don't care if they ever grow back," he said, "My wife says I look 20 years younger."

8. Strip Off All Pretense

There are a lot of people who claim they care about a cause, but when it comes to doing something about it, that’s another story. If you want to get people to take action, you might need to offer them a little more incentive than the simple pleasure of doing a good deed. That’s why The Admiral Theater in Chicago holds an annual "Lap Dances for the Needy" event promising one lap dance to anyone who brings in a new, unwrapped toy to be given to local churches and donated to needy children.

9. Give the People What They Want

If you run a restaurant, offer discounts or free food to customers if you donate. If you own a TV porn channel, the same concept applies. For Japanese channel Paradise TV, that means offering a breast squeezing event wherein participants can squeeze an adult film star’s breast twice for every donation made to STOP!AIDS, an AIDS prevention, treatment, and awareness program.

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August 6, 2013 - 2:00pm
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