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13 Most Effective Virtual Fundraising Ideas and How you can Execute them

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Published: Aug 6, 2021

Event fundraising during the pandemic has been difficult for a lot of organizations. With social distancing becoming a mandated requirement, plenty of planned events were put on halt. 

Thanks to the normalizing of digital platforms, fundraising is still alive.

If you haven’t yet explored virtual fundraising ideas, now is the time. With many nonprofits already adapting to the virtual world, having a solid virtual fundraising strategy is highly important. 

What are some virtual fundraising ideas?

Virtual fundraising ideas have become increasingly popular and sought-after during the pandemic. These fundraisers are also a great way to engage your audience. 

In this article, we’ve put together some of the most common and popular virtual fundraising ideas that nonprofits can use. 

Note: Before you start, make sure to have an online donation page or any other process in place (like text giving) to collect donations digitally. It’s only obvious that you have to be able to collect donations for your virtual fundraiser virtually. 

1. Tours

For a virtual tour, you can partner with a tourist space like a museum. You can sell tickets and ask for donations at the end of the tour to raise money by directing your audience to your online donation page.

Another option is to host a virtual tour of your own nonprofit organization and give your audience a look behind the scenes. Social media livestreaming on platforms like Facebook and Instagram is a great way to host these tours. 

2. Group dining

A group dining event is a virtual fundraiser where you invite your supporters to join you over for dinner virtually. Offer delivering meals for the night by partnering with a catering service, as a part of your ticketed event. 

If you have enough resources, send a party prop like a hat, a cape, etc. to your attendees beforehand. You may stream an entertaining video or invite regional talent to perform for your audience. 

This is a casual event and thus offers a great opportunity for people to lighten up and connect with your cause. The best part of hosting this virtually is, you don’t have to put a cap on the number of people that can attend. 

3. Auction

virtual fundraising ideas auction example
Source: AirAuctioneer

Setting up a virtual auction is super easy with an online auction platform. With such a platform, you can list all the auction items on a page and allow bidding to happen. 

You can announce your virtual auction through one of your marketing channels and announce the winners over one of your virtual meetups. 

4. Contests

Who doesn’t love winning prizes? You can host some virtual contests offering your audience the opportunity to show off their talents. 

These contests could be around music, dance, quiz, painting, etc. You could host all of them simultaneously, or spread them over a certain period of time. Contests are fun and entertaining, so not all of your audience would have to participate. Some can join in only to watch and enjoy. 

5. Product sale

You can partner up with some local businesses or popular brands to execute this virtual fundraising idea. Offer to sell a portion of their least sold products using your nonprofit’s website. In return, a chunk of the collected money would go to your nonprofit. 

Partner with a merchandising platform, or set up an online store on your website. 

This is a mutually beneficial idea, so there are high chances of businesses collaborating with you. If all goes well, more and more brands may come forth to collaborate with you in order to enhance their brand image. 

This way, you get a higher exposure to new partnerships both on an organizational and individual level. 

You can even offer your own merchandise for sale as a part of this virtual fundraising idea. T-shirts, coffee mugs, hats, etc. are all some commonly used nonprofit branded merchandise. 

Platforms like Bonfire help you design custom t-shirts, sell them online, create merchandise stores, along with many other offerings.  

6. Workshops

Keep your supporters engaged through different workshops based on their interests. This is a great platform to share information on your nonprofit with your supporters and have valuable discussions. 

This could either be one event or a series of workshops spread over a week or two. These are highly flexible in terms of the discussions you can have. People can join multiple workshops based on what interests them. 

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  • Professional networking
  • Industry-oriented workshops, for example, a coding workshop
  • Art workshops like music, dance, etc.
  • Storytelling
  • Yoga 
  • Crafts
  • Cooking

Pick your workshops based on what your audience may like and keep the sessions interactive. This will be a great way to educate your audience on a topic they’re interested in. Also, let people know of the items they’d need to keep handy before they log in to the workshop. 

The presenters could be someone from your supporter circle or an outsider. During your workshop, have one of your board members or activists speak to the audience and motivate them to donate to your nonprofit. You could even invite one of your beneficiaries to share their story of how your nonprofit helped them. 

These workshops can be conducted using Zoom, Google Meet, etc. 

7. Matching gifts

Matching gifts are a form of corporate giving where companies match their employees’ donations made to a nonprofit. So, you receive twice the amount of a donor’s original contribution. Some companies may even match the amount at a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio!

Some businesses have provisions in place to directly tie-up with nonprofits for such programs, as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). So, make sure you reach out to businesses and organizations to see if they have a matching gift program.

You could also ask your donors to check with the organization they work for. 

Here’s how they work:

Step 1: An individual makes a contribution to your organization.

Step 2: The donor submits an appeal to their company. 

Step 3: If you are eligible, the HR or philanthropy department proceeds with the appeal.

Step 4: The company matches the donations to your nonprofit. 

Before all, you’ll need to ask your donors. Many may not be aware of such a program, so a simple reminder and ask goes a long way. 

Here are some ways you can market these opportunities

8. Virtual movie night

This virtual fundraising idea is easy to implement and quite appealing. 

virtual fundraising ideas movie night example
Source: Teleparty

Teleparty, formerly known as Netflix party, is a great platform to host virtual movie nights. Teleparty provides a chat window on the movie screen so people can share comments and have a good time.

People can donate the price of the movie ticket to your organization and receive the invite link from you to join the party. 

Set a time to start the show and send the invite to your audience. Make sure you pick a movie that aligns with your audience’s interests. Even better, if your movie is aligned with your cause, people are more likely to donate immediately. So make sure you have the link to your donation page handy.

9. Peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is one of the most common virtual fundraising ideas for nonprofits of all sizes. In this type of fundraising, you encourage your volunteers, supporters and donors to set up their own online donation pages. They then reach out to their peers requesting donations on behalf of your organization. This helps you tap into your existing supporters’ network and thus expands your reach and increases credibility.

Here are some top recommendations of peer-to-peer fundraising software that you could use.

virtual fundraising ideas peer to peer-fundraising idea example
Source: Donately

If your supporter network has some special talents, they could use that to raise money for your nonprofit through their own virtual events. You may also reach out to some influencers to help you spread the word. 

10. Discussions

This virtual fundraising idea is solely focused on discussing the cause your nonprofit stands for. These can be group discussions hosted using virtual conference platforms like Zoom. Make sure you include your board members and activists to make the discussions interesting and informed. 

You may have different categories of discussions predefined, so people join the ones they’d enjoy the most. For example, ideas to eliminate the problem, strategies to increase the reach to beneficiaries, etc. The added advantage of this idea is that it gives your supporters a chance to voice their views which is one of the top factors behind driving donor loyalty

11. Viral challenges

Viral challenges have been entertaining social media users for over a long time now. Engage your audience by asking them to participate in some of these challenges posed by you. For example, a no-makeup-selfie challenge, try-not-to-laugh challenge, etc. 

To get started, come up with a few entertaining, fun, and non-risky challenges and promote them as a contest. Have a few basic rules, such as

  • The participant must make a minimum of $10 donation.
  • The post must have a certain hashtag and tag your official social media page. 

Give them a deadline and announce the winner after. 

12. Game night

Virtual game night is one of the easiest virtual fundraising ideas in terms of execution. Virtual gaming is extremely popular today and there are people who’ve adopted gaming as their profession. So, this is a huge opportunity that you can capitalize on. 

You can either stream a popular and professional gamer playing or hold a contest for your audience to participate in. Collaborate with corporations or businesses to sponsor the prizes for the contest. 

If you’re looking at generalizing the games, you can go for some commonly played games, so a large percentage of your audience can participate. Before you decide on a game, give your audience a few options and let them pick one. 

Here are some examples of popular virtual games:

  1. Scavenger hunt
  2. Trivia
  3. PlayingCards
  4. Board games
  5. Pictionary

Once the game is finalized, start promoting the event and collecting registrations

13. Text-to-donate drives

Since people are already on mobile devices, you could use that opportunity to collect funds for your nonprofit. Texting platforms like CallHub offer text-to-donate solutions for virtual fundraising. 

Here’s how it works on CallHub:

Step 1: Set up an SMS opt-in campaign, where you pick a keyword and a number for people to text you the keyword.

Step 2: Set up an autoresponder with the link to your donation page for when people send you the keyword. 

Step 3: Promote this keyword and your number and encourage people to start donating.

virtual fundraising ideas text to donate link callhub

Use these general virtual fundraising ideas to choose a specific event aligned with your nonprofit’s cause. You can execute multiple fundraisers over the course of time. 

The next section walks you through the process of executing these virtual fundraising ideas. 

How do you execute these virtual fundraising ideas?

Good news with executing virtual fundraising ideas is that you can manage everything online without having to run around too much. Here, we have put together a step-by-step process to execute your virtual fundraisers. 

Step 1: Determine the virtual fundraiser/s you want to execute. It could be a single idea or a series of virtual events. 

Step 2: Determine your budget and goals. Your goal could be aligned with your annual fundraising plan and should focus on covering your operating expenses.

Step 3: Jot down the requirements, such as what platforms and resources would you need, how many days would you need to get everything together, etc. 

Step 4: Build a team to execute these virtual fundraising ideas. Remember to cover all the aspects and keep a single point of contact who can help the team with their questions. 

Step 5: Promote your event – Let people know why you’re raising money. This will help them connect with your cause better and get more involved in your events. 

Here are some common ways to promote your virtual fundraisers:

  1. Create a dedicated landing page with all the details of the event, a registration form, and a call-to-action requesting for donation. All your promotional messages would contain a link to this landing page.
  2. Publish your event on event listing platforms where people can register themselves. 
  3. Send out emails.
  4. Publish on your social media pages. 
  5. Recruit ambassadors to promote your event.
  6. Send out text invitations
  7. Use phone calls

Step 6: Launch your virtual fundraiser.

Step 7: Follow up after the event and request donations from those who haven’t donated already. Otherwise send a thank you note. 

To help you further, here’s a guide to planning a successful virtual event

Get started!

Given the circumstances, virtual fundraising ideas come in handy for days to come! The above listed virtual fundraising ideas are some of the most commonly used tactics among nonprofits now. 

Donors too, find it more convenient to participate and donate to your cause virtually, due to the flexibility they provide. If you notice carefully, a lot of these ideas are derived from some of the existing traditional fundraising strategies and customized to fulfill the current needs.

Use this list of virtual fundraising ideas to execute your next virtual fundraising event, and feel free to modify them to fit your needs and goals. Here’s a list of 5 online fundraising tools to help you nail your fundraising.

Featured image: Photo by Michael Burrows from Pexels

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