Our ward once did a fancy fundraising dinner with an interesting approach: The bishop announced that it would be "dinner out" and the cost was to be whatever you would normally spend on dinner out. If you would normally go to a fancy restaurant and spend $200 then that was the cost. If you were used to going to McDonalds and feeding the whole family on $10 then that was the cost for you. If you hadn't been out to eat in a year because you couldn't afford it, then you were welcome to come and enjoy a free dinner and have your once-a-year dinner out courtesy of the ward. "Admission" was paid in sealed envelopes and no one knew who paid what -- or even if some of the envelopes were empty.
Our young women have done several dessert auctions, where a pie can sell for as much as $50. But to keep things fair, they'll also say, "This cake goes to the first family to the front of the room with $5" or "these cookies go to the first kid with 50 cents." It keeps things lively and helps the "poor relations" of the ward (like me) enjoy what would otherwise be a miserable activity.
Our ward has had huge success for a number of years with the two dinners they put on each year - the YW do a potato bar and the Scouts do a spaghetti dinner. $5 a person, or $20 per family - which is a deal for us nowadays, with 4 kids.
Our young men have a car washing day in the Church car park to raise funds every year, it is a one off event that I understand is within the guidelines for such events. They always do a fantastic job of cleaning the car both inside and out, that I am sure if they did it once a month everyone would still turn up to get their car cleaned and they would earn much more money throughout the year.
Our youth fundraiser this year is apparently an authentic Mexican dinner-- $10 a plate per person or $30 per family. (Actually, that sounds like a good deal to me, we have some great cooks in our ward-- many from Mexico-- and $30 per family is a lot less than you can spend on dinner for 4 or 5 around here! Anyone interested?)
Our ward has had some interesting fund raisers. ... They've ... made Valentines Day and Mother's Day gift bags. They took orders, filled the bags with goodies, then delivered them to the mothers. That was one of my daughter's personal progress projects, so I got to help her with the shopping for the "goodies." It was a lot of fun shopping for bargains. We spent about $8 per bag and sold the bags for $15. But we also felt that our customers were getting a good deal because if they had bought those items individually, they would have cost $30. (That's how good a shopper I am!)
Jenny says: Be VERY, VERY careful doing auctions of any kind -- richer unit members may blow tons and embarass poor members. Less skilled cooks (read Jenny Smith here) will go home with hurt feelings if their food goes for 50 cents. I'd personally never arrange a fundraiser auction for Church or Scouts, but you do what works for you.
Never, ever hit up folks for attendance at a fundraiser -- you don't know their financial situation or opinions on fundraisers. Fundraisers are always optional.
If you hate attending fundraisers, make a donation using the Other field on your tithing slip, and make it clear that folks may make donations that way instead of donating at the fundraiser. Remember however, that unit budgets, especially in small wards and branches are notoriously small and your funds could be desperately needed.