37 brilliant nonprofit-inspired Halloween costumes

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[Image description: Picture of nonprofit professional, Leah Sakala. Leah has her hair in a bun on top of her head. A small sign on a stick is planted in her hair. The sign says “NONPROFIT.” She is demonstrating the “Nonprofit Overhead” costume. Source: Leah Sakala]

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Halloween is tomorrow, and if you’re like me, you’ve procrastinated on figuring out your costume. Well, procrastinate no further. I asked the Nonprofit AF Facebook community for suggestions of costumes that are inspired by nonprofit work, and the brilliant people there did not disappoint! Here, I am sure one of these ideas will make you the most popular person at whichever Halloween party you’re going to. 

Note, there are more than 37 ideas here. I just like the number 37. 

  1. “You’ll need blank 3×5 notecards and a Sharpie. Whenever someone asks you what your costume is, say, ‘I’ll tell you, but it’ll cost you two cents.’ If they pay up, scribe the word, ‘Grant’ on a card and hand it to them. You’re a professional grant writer. If they don’t pay up, scribe the word, ‘Grant’ on a card and give it to them with a fun fact about the band U2. You’re a pro-Bono grant writer.” (Credit: Tawny Stottlemire) 
  2. “Dress up with paper money all over and wrapped up in chains. Restricted funding.” (Credit: Melinda L. Breslin)
  3. “One year I went as ‘social change.’ I was dressed up for a party but I had hot glued pennies and nickels all over my outfit.” (Credit: Casie Marie Hammons)
  4. Governmental Transparency. I made a plastic skirt with photos of all of our not so transparent politicians and little faux dollar bills, and carried a magnifying glass as a prop” (Credit: Laura Dean-Shapiro)
  5. “Put statements like ‘If-then,’ ‘Ergo,’ and ‘We can conclude,’ on pieces of clothing. Strike a pose for the paparazzi. You’re a logic model.” (Credit: Tawny Stottlemire)
  6. “Buy a sweater vest, keep the tag on, and go as: Return on Investment. Buy a tray of steaks and go as: Steakholder. Plaster your face with make-up and go as: Foundation. Add a hole dripping with blood on your face (hopefully also with make-up) and go as: Gash Flow.” (Credit: Maureen Emerson Feit and family, and this is only half their suggestions!)
  7. “You could go as ‘the redundant hummus.’ Thinking about those gatherings at which there’s no actual food because everybody brought hummus, and probably somebody brought an icky kind of hummus that no one is touching with a ten-foot carrot.” (Credit: Hillary McMahan)
  8. “Multiple fast food bags, pizza boxes, Chinese takeout boxes, etc. pinned to clothes. You’re a deliverable!” (Credit: Hannah Shanks)
  9. “Have a $ sign and a female deer – Salary DOE.” (Credit: Alicia Templeton)
  10. “Wear a ‘Hello My Name Is… Grant’ tag and dress as a surgeon. You’re an Operating Grant! You’ll be everyone’s favourite!” (Credit: Amy Rou)
  11. “For the treats: Put 100 Grand bars in a bowl labeled ‘DO NOT EAT UNTIL ALL HALLOWS EVE.’ Temporarily restricted funds.” (Credit: Alexis Walstad)
  12. “Cover yourself head to toe in dust. Underneath the dust be dressed in a beautiful suit, feather duster in hand. Shout at anyone that passes by ‘Don’t forget about the three-year strategic plan! It’s not supposed to sit on a shelf collecting dust.’ (Credit: Carin Willis)
  13. “I would go as a federal grant writer using the 2cfr200. Print out pieces on labels and stick them all over your outfit and then frazzle your hair wear your glasses crooked and cry. Oh and print out and carry around srf forms.” (Credit: Stephany Hessler. I have no idea what you’re talking about, Stephany, but sounds terrifying)
  14. Move the Needle. Tape card board to shirt with needle attached that you can move.” (Credit: Dalia Place)
  15. “Mess up your hair, smudge dirt on your clothes, wear a tool belt and hang random tools and other gadgets… go as #otherdutiesasassigned” (Credit: Carrie L Davis)
  16. “’Fund’ on one arm, ‘raiser’ one the other, ‘donor centered’ on the front of your shirt… voila you are a donor-centered fundraiser. Or dress in a butler suit and wear a name tag that says manager, and you are a stewardship manager. Another idea, print names all over your shirt and pants and call yourself an annual report.” (Credit: Brooke Johnson)
  17. An identity crisis: get a bunch of ‘Hello, my name is…’ name tags and either put on a bunch of names or emotions or whatever.” (Credit: Heather DC O’Malley)
  18. Donor-Advised Funds: Dress as a Magic 8 ball and hand out candy when people ask you a question. Or the all-too-familiar ‘REPLY HAZY. TRY AGAIN.’” (Credit: Alexis Walstad)
  19. “I took one of those paper ‘clean suits’ (like TV cops wear at crime scenes) and attached one of every type of form then in use at a public housing office where I worked at the time. It looked like a bureaucratic Bigfoot.” (Credit: Gordon Mack Scott)
  20. “Walk around with a large silver platter and put a really long ream of paper piled high on top of it. You’re a listserv!” (Credit: Eleanor Fort)
  21. “I wore red tape and quotes such as ‘This is required in triplicate’ and ‘we will table this until next time.’” (Credit: Jenn Peter Sweigart)
  22. “Wear a hat with a thin piece of paper taped to it that says ‘punishingly small’…You’re now an Overhead Rate!!” (Credit: Beth Rubins)
  23. “One year I wore black pants, white shirt, and an apron and carried a carpentry level on a tray. Level of ServiceFor a generous contribution, I can raise the level higher.” (Credit:  Erica Arborea)
  24. “Draw a line on your butt – you’re the bottom line!” (Credit: Alicia Templeton)
  25. “Drape fake ivy strands around your neck and say everything with ambition and visionary language. You’re a Strategic Plant.” (Credit: Tawny Stottlemire)
  26. “Write LIFE on a t-shirt. Hand out lemons.” (Credit: Beth O’Connor)
  27. Metrics. All you need is a costume bedazzled in useless numbers.” (Credit: Hannah Stein)
  28. “Maybe I’ll dress as a surgeon operating on a shoestring.” (Credit: Jennifer E. Frances)
  29. Dress up as a Major. Have a nametag that says “Donor.” You’re a Major Donor! (Credit: Jolene Louise and friends)
  30. “Dress as a missionary and, mid-conversation, start to drift away. Mission drift.” (Credit: Alicia Templeton”)
  31. I was Injustice Avenger one year. I carried a cross bow.” (Credit: Idabelle Fosse)
  32. “Dress up like your leftovers and do your job. A working lunch.” (Credit: Emily Turner)
  33. Write the word “Nonprofit” on a card and stick it on top of your head. “Nonprofit overhead! Which sounds scary to lots of people even though it shouldn’t be!” (Credit: Leah Sakala)
  34. Cashnado. Aka fundraising in December. I will be wearing a tornado with $$$ on it.” (Credit: Rowena Norman)
  35. “Adhere strips of paper with survey questions to your person – you’re an evaluation.”  (Credit: Elise Kordis)
  36. “Fundraising staff in handcuffs and old time black & white prison gear. Arrested development.” (Credit: Garrett Rodman)
  37. Ulysses S. Grantwriter” (Credit: Sarah Weissman)
  38. “Wear a folding chair around your neck using some rope. Yawn a lot. You’re a bored chair!” (Credit: Vu)

I hope those were helpful. Add your ideas in the comment section. Happy Halloween!

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  • Alisha Johnson

    One year, I dressed up as a fairy grantmother and of course, it included a wand for every time someone said, all you gotta do is write a grant for it.

  • Alisha Johnson

    Another year I dressed up in a TyVec suit with ghostbusters stickers and little money tags and called myself a gap buster .

  • House0fTheBlueLights

    Tape on a rap sheet showing arrests and indictments for fraud, RICO, embezzlement, etc. You’re character-limited

  • bettybarcode

    Well done, people! If all else fails, there’s always “Homicidal + [your job title].”

  • Tom Wickersham

    In my very first nonprofit job, one year for Halloween I added the words “WORKED” on the bottom of my shoes and added the word “PAID” on my hat. I was, of course, over-worked and under-paid.