5 Ideas That Put The Fun In Fundraising

Tricia Mirchandani
Tricia Mirchandani


Last year, the ALS Association (ALSA) seemed to strike gold with its Ice Bucket Challenge campaign. The campaign saw tremendous media coverage as it went viral on Facebook feeds around the world.

And, despite concerns to the contrary, the campaign was a financial success. The national chapter of ALSA received more than $100 million with regional branches seeing an additional $13 million.

If it wasn’t already clear, The Ice Bucket Challenge illustrated that we have entered a new era of fundraising. In this new era, we need to be creative and clever. Thanks to social media, streaming video, and the democratization of content, we have so many more options when it comes to creating an online fundraising campaign that goes beyond website donate buttons and regular email blasts.

The opportunities to see tremendous fundraising success in the online space are endless.

To get your creativity flowing, we’ve rounded up 5 ideas that put the fun back in fundraising based on real-world examples of organizations garnering incredible attention (and, in many cases, huge dollar amounts).

1. Make Fun And Be Crazy: Create A Viral Chain Letter

Last summer, many compared the Ice Bucket Challenge to a gigantic, virtual chain letter.

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In case you need a little refresh: the Ice Bucket Challenge took place in the summer of 2014 on social media, largely on Facebook. Each participant was challenged by a friend to dump a bucket of ice on his or her head and then challenge more friends to do the same or donate to ALSA (many donated anyway).

The awareness that the campaign generated was staggering. Search traffic for ALS increased by more than 100% during the campaign. And, as we mentioned, the success of the campaign in terms of funds raised was equally huge.

So how can you make this idea work for you?

Just because the Ice Bucket Challenge has been done, doesn’t mean you can’t take inspiration from the idea and learn from its challenges. Here are a few takeaways from the Ice Bucket Challenge that you can put to work for you:

  • Rely on the power of social networks. By using Facebook’s tagging functionality, friends could clearly call out other friends and visibly demand their attention. Once tagged, you felt that you were being watched, your friends waiting to see your video.
  • Make it fun and/or funny. Not every video was funny. But every one had the potential to be. And all of them were fun. So people actually wanted to watch each other’s videos. Thus, whether or not someone was ever tagged, they’d become aware of the campaign and be inspired to donate.
  • Tie it to your organization. “But what does ice have to do with ALS?” This was one of the most-heard questions around the ALS challenge and it was a fair point. If the campaign hadn’t grown so big, people who saw it might not have connected it to the cause. If you want to implement this virtual chain letter idea, consider asking people to do something with a clear tie to your organization and/or your work.

2. The Fun of the Hunt: Create an Online Scavenger Hunt

Every August, thousands of people in more than 100 countries participate in Gishwhes (which stands for Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen). They build or join teams and accomplish tasks on a very intense and very large scavenger hunt list. Friends reach out to friends for help and people break world records. Everyone gives a little something back along the way and every year the word spreads farther.

Thanks to platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and now Periscope and Meerkat, scavenger hunts are not restricted to one, physical space.

Interested in how a scavenger hunt might help you but missing the fundraising connection? Here are a few hints:

  • Donate to enter. Charge a registration fee for your hunt. Be clear about what the fees will pay for to connect with potential hunters.
  • Donate for a boost. Share hunt tips and hints with participants who donate a little more (for example: $1 buys a general hunt tip; $10 buys a specific hint on a tricky item)
  • Donate to do something amazing. Make your hunt list difficult enough that the tasks feel slightly aspirational, but not so difficult that it can’t be accomplished. That said, Gishwhes has proven that almost nothing is impossible (except, as they say, making durable clothing from cheese)
  • Donate to win the prize. Reward the winning team with a prize that will inspire them to reach the finish line

3. Just Ask: Set Up A Daily Question Or Quiz

The online quiz dates back to the days of dial up. And, if you’ve spent more than a minute perusing Buzzfeed, you know that it hasn’t gone anywhere. People love to pass a little spare time answering a series of questions and then posting their results for friends to see.

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And this can work to your fundraising advantage.

Here’s how:

  • Create a set of questions that is either akin to a personality quiz or factual and surprising using information about your cause and your work
  • Send out one quiz or question every day via email, social media, or on your website
  • After your potential donor has answered the question, provide a snippet of related information about you, your work, your cause, or the people you help
  • Make each person’s answer, as well as the additional information, shareable.

Want to see a great 1-question-a-day format? Check out 10Q.

4. Stage A Takeover: Hijack A Hashtag

In 2013, Water is Life took note of the increasingly popular #firstworldproblems. Once a growing conversation on Twitter about the mundane struggles of life, Water is Life turned #firstworldproblems into a conversation about it’s own mission, it’s work, and the people it helps. It created a movement by jumping into a current conversation on an existing and well-established platform.


So how do you hijack a hashtag? There’s no one right or wrong way but here are a few tips:

  • Choose a trending hashtag. Look through the brief list of trending hashtags on Twitter or peruse your social media insight tools. Keep an eye out for topics and hashtags that seem to hang around for a while and gather steam.
  • Build a campaign. Beyond Twitter, Water is Life built assets around the campaign, creating a video and a series of other materials that could be shared.
  • See it through. Regardless of how popular they may become, hashtags have a shelf life. None of them last forever so if you’re going to jump into one, make sure you ride it through to the end.

5. Simply Tie It Together: Create A Social Media Campaign

This September, CharityWater ran the #nothingiscrazy campaign. Challenging people to do something crazy to raise money for it’s cause (clean water, worldwide), the organization ran the campaign with a simple hashtag, a quick video, and the power of its supporters to act and share.

Sometimes simple is all it takes to get attention and create movement online.

What are your big online fundraising ideas?

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