It is very uncommon for an entire society to be forced to think outside the box, but the current pandemic has caused just that. Companies of all shapes and sizes have had to adapt their business models, and this is especially true for the non-profit sector.
Most non-profit organisations rely on at least one annual event to keep their businesses running. During the corona pandemic, regardless of the organisation’s location, most events to raise money online were cancelled. These cancellations forced the boards of non-profit organisations and their staff to get creative and adopt new fundraising tools.
However, online fundraisers and events can require as much planning as live events to raise money online. The difference is in the tools you use. Technological advancements make hosting an online event easier than ever before. Social media, video conferencing technology and online donation pages combined with traditional fundraising tools such as donation request letters, emails and smaller in-person events.
Online fundraisers are not only popular, but also a lifesaver for many non-profit organisations. Some organisations are adapting their traditional online fundraising events. Others have come up with new ways to promote their mission. Whether you’re looking for a way to continue your customary events or you’re looking to diversify and raise money online, here are 20 online fundraising ideas to try out. Let’s get started quickly!
Table of Contents
20 Virtual Fundraising Ideas to Spark Your Creativity
Keep Your Most Important Events
Non-profit organisations have been very successful in organising annual events such as galas, pub-crawls and concerts. Fortunately, technological advancements have made it possible to run these events virtually and raise money online.
1. Online Gala Dinner
Your annual gala to raise money is probably incredibly important to your budget. The thought of not having this event is terrifying. Instead of cancelling their annual gala evenings, many organisations have opted for an online party that anyone can participate in. This necessary adjustment has made the event accessible to more supporters and has also opened up more fundraising opportunities than before.
The entrance fee to attend a non-profit gala is approximately one hundred dollars. However, these costs can deter many of your donors. Usually, you can make up for the entrance fee with auctions and large donations. But what if your main contributors don’t donate as much as you had hoped for?
Virtual galas are becoming popular out of necessity this year, but the difference in the cost is also worth noting. Galas can raise most of your budget, but the price for one of these events can be huge. On the other hand, virtual galas don’t have to cost a penny. At the same time, sponsors and attendees can enjoy more options with a virtual event and they could spend more to be part of this new trend.
Competition for event sponsors is fierce and the exchanges you offer for their support are a bit trite. By organising online fundraising galas, sponsors can reach a larger than average audience and you can offer them an opportunity to air a commercial during the event. In return you can ask for higher sponsor amounts.
Event attendees have enjoyed a delicious meal at your gala in the past, but this year, the dinner will be held at their home. This is a win-win situation for your organisation. Instead of spending money on dinner, you can offer your visitors the opportunity to order a meal from your caterer. Since the cost of the dinner usually takes up most of the entrance fee, the cost difference doesn’t matter in the long run. Guests at your online event will be able to enjoy a delicious meal and your caterer will be delighted to be able to serve a wider clientele.
Pro tip: It doesn’t mean you can’t get attendees in the mood because your money-raising gala is being held online. Get your board members to sell virtual tables and add the option to form smaller groups for each table via Zoom. Ask your guests to dress up and share photos of the celebrations at home. Find an entertainer to perform online and include online auction and raffle options for all attendees.
2. Fundraising Telethon
Remember when almost every organisation tried this option? Telethons take time and effort, but with today’s technology and people’s screentime, it seems appropriate to reintroduce this option.
3. Online Auction
Auctions are a common addition to any other event. They are also one of the easiest fundraisers to run online and were popular before the pandemic. When you run an online auction, there are several auction sites to choose from. The steps to run an online auction are similar to your offline events, but social media makes it easier to reach more people to raise more money online.
4. Online Race/Running Competition
Virtual runs are another popular way to raise money online. Reach out to those who have attended your events before and ask them to find sponsors for their runs. Allow your participants to keep track of the distances they run and their sponsors can contribute per kilometer. Participants can share their success online.
5. Virtual Talent Show/Open Mic Night
Talent shows are a tried and tested event for non-profit organisations. Regardless of age, it can be fun to share your talents with your community. There is no need to cancel the event because you can’t host the event in front of a live audience and you can still raise money online.
You’ve probably seen the Zoom videos of choirs singing at home. Why not make your own? Virtual apps like YouTube make it easy for individuals and groups of people to perform together online.
6. Virtual Happy Hour or Sip & Paint
A pub-crawl event can be a fun and successful way to raise money. During the Corona pandemic, these events don’t exist and people are begging for a happy hour to spend with their friends. Non-profit organisations are getting creative in planning virtual happy hours so sipping & painting could be the answer to this cry for help.
Alcohol is easy to obtain during a pandemic, so why not ask your supporters to grab their own bottle of wine or beer for an evening of artistic expression, a webinar or just an evening of fun?
Pro Tip: To raise donations for your fundraising campaign during your virtual event or meeting, you can send a text message. Whydonate’s “text to give” makes mobile giving easy for both one-time and recurring contributors to donate. After your virtual event, you can send a text message to remind participants to donate.
Virtual fundraisers are not only cheaper to run, but also give you more options to include your mission in your annual events. Online events make it easy to share videos, emails and images. People are also more focused on what you have to say online because there are not as many distractions.
7. Virtual Sleep Out
Organisations like Covenant House have added a virtual sleep to their repertoire and have embraced the requisite social detachment while still raising money online.
These events give participants a taste of how the homeless population lives on a daily basis. This experience shares the mission of these organisations. Visitors can raise money online by finding sponsors to donate based on the hours they spend out in the open.
8. Virtual Cooking Class
If your organisation is based outside of the United States, a virtual cooking class can be a great way to engage your mission in an event to raise money online. Ask a well-known chef to teach a course online and invite your followers to visit your location with their taste buds. As they learn how to prepare a tasty meal, you can share the beneficiaries’ stories and give a virtual tour of your organisation.
9. Webinar or a Conversation
Webinars can last for hours or even days. In the past, these events may have deterred some non-profit organisations. But with more people needing to stay at home, their interest can be piqued by an interesting topic or learning experience.
10. Virtual Book Club
Your contributors have more time to spare and can finally open a good book to read. Why not start a virtual book club and give a few suggestions to educate your contributors about the need for your services, the work you do, and raise money online.
11. Games Night/Trivia Night
Can you find a way to inform your supporters in a fun way? Do your donors know exactly what you are doing? Why not challenge them to a trivia night about your organisation or add a few questions about your non-profit organisation to other challenging trivia questions?
A trivia game night can easily be held via Zoom or other virtual apps. Visitors can pay a small fee to enter the game and set up a personal fundraising page to recruit sponsors. Your non-profit organisation can find sponsors to give gifts to the winners as an added incentive to participate.
12. Virtual Movie Night
Movies are another way to publicise the work you do. Some donors may not want to join a book club, but will take the opportunity to watch a new movie. Is there a film that talks about the work you do in a compelling way or that exhibits a need? Invite supporters to watch the movie online together and create a page where viewers can chat and collect donations for the organisation.
Campaigns on Social Media
You may have some extra time to spare during the current pandemic, as you will not be hosting larger events. Now might be the perfect time to start researching social media fundraising campaigns to raise money online.
13. Peer-to-peer Fundraising
With the right tools, your supporters can be the biggest advocates for your organisation. Peer-to-peer fundraising is an opportunity for contributors to spread the word on their birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries and other important holidays and raise money for your non-profit.
By helping them create a personal fundraising page and giving them stories and images of beneficiaries to share online, you can not only raise more money online, but also develop a deeper relationship with a passionate follower.
Crowdfunding is another way to inspire your supporters to become advocates. If your organisation has specific campaigns for which you need to raise money, this may be your opportunity to draw attention to these campaigns. Encourage supporters to join your campaign and raise money online for your cause.
Lotteries are always a hit. Most people are willing to give a small amount to get the chance to win big. With just one sponsor and an excellent gift, you can raise a few dollars from hundreds of online supporters. Today’s technology allows non-profit organisations to reach out and share their story with a whole new audience.
16. Give Something Back Days
Giving Tuesday is a successful international campaign started by a non-profit organisation to “unleash the power of people and organisations to transform their communities and the world.” Giving Tuesday invites you to donate to a non-profit of your choice on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Millions of organisations have already benefited from this annual donation day.
It works because it starts from the existing tendency to spend a lot during the Christmas season and concentrates everything into one day. This limit on when to give encourages donations. Your non-profit organisation can join this trend by creating your own annual donation day.
Online fundraising campaigns and raising money online can be very successful when you know what to do and with the right tools. Your annual donation day should focus on your mission and be a real holiday that the general population will recognise. The planning of these campaigns should be just as thorough as any other event.
You can use a hashtag to connect social media content and reach a larger audience. Your annual Giving Day campaign can also include peer-to-peer fundraising and smaller in-person events. We’ve written an article about corona-friendly online campaigns with tips that you can use for your unique donation day.
17. Birthday Fundraisers
If you have a Facebook page, you may have noticed a difference in the birthday messages. Instead of just letting you know it’s your friend’s birthday, you may also see a link to an online donation page. Facebook has made it easier for individuals to raise money for their favourite causes.
If your non-profit has a Facebook page, sign up to become one of the thousands of organisations benefiting from these small fundraisers. Let your contributors know that they can start their own campaigns and choose your non-profit organisation.
Events To Thank People
It’s easy to forget to thank your volunteers, staff, and even contributors throughout the year. This year you will not only have the time to thank them, but also to organise a virtual thank you event to show them how much they are appreciated.
18. Virtual Awards Ceremony
Volunteers are one of the most essential parts of your organisation and are often the most overlooked. Organising an annual event to thank the volunteers should be a priority every year. Without showing your appreciation, you can lose quality volunteers. This year, Instagram snapshots and videos from past events can help make your voluntary thank you event a fun online experience for everyone. You can even add a gift and a raffle to get your volunteers even more excited.
19. Virtual Lessons or Workshops
Your staff can be your best contributors and advocates of your cause. This is your chance to show your appreciation for everything they do to raise money online. With virtual classes and workshops for your staff, they can progress in their careers and learn more about the work you do outside their field.
Instead of organising this event yourself, you can also use third parties to train your staff. Give them the opportunity to develop ideas for this event and see if it is a potential annual event to encourage their further involvement.
20. Virtual Tours
Are you outside the US or are your donors generally not allowed at your location? Virtual tours offer donors an opportunity to get an exclusive tour of your organisation for a small fee.
Thank your donors with a 360-degree video of your location and show whom they are helping with their donations. This video can provide a realistic picture of the work your organisation produces and may entice donors to give more in the long run.
Virtual Fundraising – Frequently Asked Questions
Virtual fundraising is not new, but it has become necessary in the time of the Coronavirus. However, the fear of spending money on something unfamiliar can feel overwhelming. In reality, these online fundraisers cost less than most in-person fundraisers and can raise just as much money online, if not more. With that in mind, here are some answers to questions you may have.
What is a Virtual Fundraiser?
Virtual fundraisers are events that are held online instead of with a live audience. During the current pandemic, these events are necessary to meet social distance requirements and keep supporters safe. Tools for these events include online invitation and marketing tools, donation forms and pages, and streaming platforms such as Zoom, YouTube and Facebook Live. You can organise really successful events online with these tools.
What Are the Benefits of Virtual Fundraisers?
Virtual fundraising is slowly becoming a popular alternative for many non-profit organisations. With the current pandemic, most non-profit organisations will have at least one virtual fundraiser. Non-profit organisations, becoming familiar with this new trend, can continue to use these tools when life returns to normal.
Online fundraisers open up your events to many more people from both inside and outside your community. With the knowledge you gain from these virtual events, you can engage in new ways of contacting your fundraising campaigns.
Virtual fundraisers also provide non-profit organisations with an opportunity to better educate contributors about the organisation’s mission. The technology used for these events and the attention you get from contributors ensures a better learning process for everyone.
How do I organise a virtual fundraising event?
The answer to this question depends on the event. As with any event, virtual fundraisers take a long time to plan and require approval from the board and the volunteers involved. Once you’ve done that, you can start planning a virtual event like any other fundraiser.
The main differences with virtual events are the tools you use. Do your research and find the best online app and company to work with your event plan. The Whydonate support team will be happy to help you with any questions you may have and will work with you to find the best option for your needs.
The Coronavirus pandemic has really opened our eyes to the opportunities that online fundraisers can offer. With a little creativity and courage, you can boost the results of your annual fundraisers and create new online events to reach more people, showcase your mission, and raise more money.
Whydonate would like to help you with this! Expand your knowledge of virtual fundraising and subscribe to our monthly newsletter for the latest updates from our non-profit blog. Visit our website for online tools to get you started now.