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13 Innovative Online Fundraising Ideas For Nonprofits & Charities

Online virtual fundraising is one of the most popular ways for nonprofits to raise money. With the majority of daily activities taking place over the web, it’s no surprise that we’ve also observed a rise in virtual fundraising.

According to the latest M+R Benchmarks study, online giving increased 10% in 2019 and has been steadily on the rise, while monthly online giving has increased by 22%. With the exploding popularity of online fundraising and the major shift digital-first fundraising, we anticipate that it will only continue to grow well into the future.

Maybe your nonprofit hasn’t yet developed an online fundraising plan. Or, you do fundraise online, but with the advent of COVID you know you have to kickstart your online work. Either way, it’s time to brush up on your peer-to-peer fundraising chops and check out some online fundraising ideas that you can use to attract donors to your nonprofit.

Here’s a quick look at 3 of our top online fundraising ideas:

1. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising (one of the big things you can do on our fundraising platform) accounts for ⅓ of all online donations, so it’s one of the best online fundraising ideas out there. Encourage your networks to set up personal fundraising pages through CauseVox and fundraise for your nonprofit.

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When your donors fundraise for you, they build credibility for your cause. In fact, 1 in 4 solicitation emails from peer-to-peer fundraisers result in donations, compared with 1 in 1,250 emails from a nonprofit.

“1 in 4 emails from peer-to-peer fundraisers result in donations, compared with 1 in 1,250 emails from a nonprofit…” tweet this

Pensacola Habitat For Humanity’s Women Build initiative encouraged folks to set up their own personal fundraising websites to raise money for the cause. Each fundraiser’s site features a personal appeal and social sharing buttons, which are great ways to spread the word about the campaign.

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Encourage your networks to set up personal fundraising pages and fundraise for your nonprofit. You can easily setup a place for them to do this using our online fundraising software.

Here’s how you can use peer to peer fundraising on CauseVox:

Learn More: Download the Ultimate Guide to Peer to Peer Fundraising (free)

Tip: Schedule a demo with our team on how you can quickly start a peer to peer fundraising campaign for your virtual fundraising event.

2. One-Day Email Flash Fundraiser or Social Media Sharing Event

Email fundraising makes up ⅓ of online donations, and while your nonprofit may have already held an email fundraiser this year, it may behoove you to do a one-day email fundraising blitz. A giving day if you will. Think Giving Tuesday but without all the clutter of thousands of organizations asking for money.

Choose one day- a day that possibly has some symbol or importance to your organization (ex. Valentine’s Day for victims of domestic abuse). You could even give it a cute name to draw people in. On the day of the blitz, send out a series of emails requesting donations. The emails should include an emotional story, appropriate imagery, and a call to action that expresses urgency.

If your audience is one that responds more positively to social media, then you might want to try a social media sharing blitz. As we all know, social media is a great place to fundraise, so leverage the power of these platforms with a one-day social media sharing event. Choose a day and actively encourage donations and sharing through all your social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. 

Remember to set a dollar amount goal and periodically post updates throughout the day to let your supporters know how much you’ve raised (and how close you are to your goal).

Consider tying your giving day in with your end of the year giving. This is a great way to add urgency to the day, and remind people that it’s the perfect time to give. Faith in Action used online giving for their year end campaign and had great success.

For some inspiration, check out our post on how to plan a successful Giving Tuesday campaign. 

3. Donation Matching Drive

Build on that one-day email fundraising idea by securing a match from a company or major donor and advertise the match in your email campaign. Donors love to know that their money was leveraged, and with matching gifts, they’re essentially giving two gifts for the price of one. In fact, one of the main reasons why Millennials donate is because they know their gift will be matched.

Matching gifts are also a great way to boost donations mid-campaign. If you notice that donations are starting to taper off mid-day, try to introduce a matching gift to keep the excitement and momentum going. You can promote a match through all your frequent channels of communication whether it be social media, email, or a newsletter. 

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To securea matching gift, start with your closest supporters: your board. Ask them to see if they’d be able to pitch in for a matching gift, or leverage their relationships with businesses to ask potential partners to contribute to the match.

Tip: Leverage existing matching gifts from your donor’s employers as well. You can add these into your virtual fundraising campaign site on CauseVox as an offline donation to showcase fundraising progress!

4. Virtual Gala Fundraiser

In 2020, galas and other fundraising events look a little bit different from the way they used to. Ok maybe quite a bit different.

Even as some areas are lifting stay-at-home orders, big gatherings are simply not an option for the foreseeable future. Here’s where the virtual gala comes in.

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Summit Assistance Dogs found the benefit of this when their Unleash Your Love luncheon had to be canceled due to COVID. In just over a month, Summit Assistance Dogs moved their event from in-person to virtual using CauseVox, and netted over $35,000 more than the previous year at their in-person event.

They follow some basic steps to move their normal in-person event to an online experience.

  1. Take Stock of What You Typically Do: take a look at your normal project plan. Which parts of this can be moved online? What will not have a good ROI? Make some decisions about what to keep and what to chuck.
  2. Set Up a Peer-to-Peer Campaign: Where an in-person gala would have tables, your virtual gala will have virtual tables aka peer-to-peer fundraisers. 
  3. Sponsors: Sponsors can be a major source of income for an in-person gala, and you don’t want to leave them behind. Luckily the virtual format gives you a lot of flexibility to make sponsors happy. You can add their names, logos, or links to your fundraising page on CauseVox. You can give them time during your livestream to highlight their organization. 
  4. Arrange a Program: Where you typically would have speakers, entertainment, food, and decor to plan at the venue, now you’ll want to think about providing a seamless experience via a livestream. Think about highlighting your peer-to-peer fundraisers, mentioning your goals in real-time, and having some short speeches. If you were going to have food, consider providing a suggested meal for people to prepare at home.
  5. Auctions: We’re not entirely on board with doing auctions this year, If you are 100% committed to a silent auction, there are plenty of software options that will allow you to run your auction online. Make sure you share images of each item and organize them clearly. It can also be a great idea to highlight different items on social media before the event.

Some organizations have even taken this a step further by hosting their event entirely online using the “UnGala” fundraising approach. The “UnGala” is a new, trending fundraising style where instead of spending so much time and effort on a big fancy event, it’s basically just an online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign. An UnGala frees up your organization and staff, helping you focus your energy where needed most and raise a lot quickly, with a higher ROI.

Learn how Summit Assistance Dogs and Arizona Friends of Foster Children Foundation ran massively successful virtual fundraising events:

Tip: Schedule a demo with our team on how you can quickly start a campaign site for your virtual fundraising event.

Download your Virtual Fundraising Planning Guide and Template:

5. Games Tournament

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Create a series of challenges that test team skills, endurance, and aptitude with a games tournament. Teams can register to compete in different challenges with the top scorers winning a prize! Get local businesses involved for prize sponsorships, and make it a public, fun event that everyone can come and watch. 

You can make this virtual too! Try using Gamefly to rent games for the tournament for participants — it works just like the old Netflix (where they send you the game via mail and you mail it back). You can also use services like Discord to host a video chat to allow participants to game together, or Twitch to stream games. Jackbox is a great option for online games.

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Considerations: have an impartial umpire or judge for the games so that its a fair contest for all.

6. Live-Streaming

Hosting a live-stream fundraiser is an excellent way to attract, nurture, and convert your audience over the course of a day. Livestream fundraisers can be done with Facebook Live and Instagram. 

Summit Dogs is a great example of how powerful livestreaming can be when you share on a variety of platforms, include personal stories, and include both asynchronous and live videos. They updated throughout the campaign with short videos and information to draw people to the page, then premiered their main program live. 

This is also a perfect example of how long a program should be. It draws you in without going on for too long.

Here’s a look at their pre-recorded luncheon:

There are a few things you want to consider when you’re planning a live-stream: the first and most important is what platform you’ll use. Use Zoom for best engagement and simulcast to Youtube Live and/or Facebook live to give people the chance to connect with you. Alternatively, you can also pre-record your live-stream. Feel free to use elements of both.

Ideally, a live-stream should be relatively short (none of us have long Zoom attention spans these days) and include tons of chances for engagement. Let people ask questions, share their experiences, or get involved.

Some options could be:

  1. Panel discussions with experts
  2. Breakout sessions or other educational sessions
  3. Virtual classes
  4. Webinars
  5. Virtual tours
  6. Virtual conference

For more inspiration, check out our article: 4 Top Live Streaming Tips For Nonprofit Virtual Fundraising + 7 Real Livestream Examples.

7. Recurring Giving Blitz

A recurring donation campaign is one of the top online fundraising ideas because recurring donors give 42% more over the course of the year than a one-time giver. Mortgage Professionals Providing Hope ran the Be a Humble Hero recurring gift campaign that continued to bring in dollars throughout the year.

Encourage your donors to give recurring monthly or quarterly gifts through a planned giving email fundraising blitz.

One way to make this campaign as effective as possible is to focus on your donation tiers. CauseVox users typically raise 82% more when they switch from a generic Paypal donation form, helping organizations raise nearly 2x as much through their website.

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We recommend keeping your list fairly short (between 4 and 6 options), connecting the donation tiers to impact, and customizing your tiers for both one-time and recurring giving. You can learn more about all these donation tier tips here.

8. Paint and Sip Night

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Paint and sip events are fantastic because they can be adapted for any type of organization and occasion. For this fundraising event, you’ll need to team up with a local paint and sip store like Pinot’s Palette or Painting with a Twist that’s willing to donate a percentage of the night’s proceeds to your cause. 

If there isn’t a paint and sip establishment in your area, consider securing a location to host your own paint and sip night. Reach out to a talented volunteer or local artist to lead the class, and purchases the necessary supplies. 

You can buy art supplies online at Michaels!

Of course you may be wondering how you can host this kind of event online. Zoom to the rescue! Ask your supporters to grab a glass of wine and join you to chat using GoogleHangouts, Zoom, or Facetime. Have your lead artist jump on and run the class on Zoom.

After painting, you can check on how your donors are doing, give them updates on your plans to navigate programming and fundraising during this time, and create a great space to unwind a bit.

To make the registration and payment process seamless, set up an online fundraising page on CauseVox to track who’s signed up and to rake in any additional donations.

9. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding has been an incredibly popular choice during the months of COVID. Think about what has changed in the last few months and what needs are not being met. Those are the areas you can crowdfund.

Consider the specificrelevant items that you will need to financially cover during this time and measure what those costs are per month. From here, write your appeal. It should include a need that has urgency, a story your donors can connect to, and a call to action. Then share! Try a live-stream, ask your followers to share to their own social media, or incentivize with swag.

Some great crowdfunding options include:

  • Virtual programs
  • Employee salaries or sick leave
  • Operational expenses
  • The services you provide (especially if you are on the front lines with COVID)
  • Cultural competency/improvements
  • Supporting the community

Here’s a great example of an appeal from Skid Row Housing Trust’s crowdfunding campaign:

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10. Virtual Race

A virtual race can be based on any type of exercise. It is usually walking or running but you could also think about cycling, swimming or a particular exercise that is more suited to your audience.

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Participants can complete the race or walk in their own time, and update their community through their digital channels  – so you want to be sure you’ve got all the resources in place to help them with not only their challenge but their fundraising goals.

You select the activity and the time-frame, then create a peer-to-peer fundraising page and start recruiting participants. Think about targeting your board or other highly invested donors.

For more inspiration, explore these 13 Top Virtual Fundraising Examples.

11. Social Media Takeovers

Orchestrate a social media takeover by asking a corporate sponsor or local community partner if they would be willing to “donate their social media” to you one day of the year.

With a takeover, your team can post content throughout the day that links back to your organization’s website or social media pages. This method can help increase brand visibility to an audience that might not be familiar with your organization. If you’re currently running a campaign, this is a great way to promote!

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The Brooklyn Museum let a local artist take over their Instagram for a day.

Tip: Have your high-quality images and posts written ahead of time so you can make the most of the takeover!

12. Birthday/Holiday Fundraiser

The king of social media is Facebook, and chances are, your supporters have used it to host or donate to something like a birthday fundraiser. Fundraising with Facebook is really simple but birthday fundraisers don’t have to be limited to this platform.

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This year, ask your networks to organize a fundraiser for their birthday or holiday. In lieu of gifts, your contacts can set up a personal fundraising page where gift givers can instead leave a donation. Check out how Ranan Lustman raised over $24,000 for schools supplies for kids in Buwumba with his Bar Mitzvah campaign:

You can use CauseVox to setup a DIY fundraising site where your supporters can personalize their birthday and holiday fundraisers. Learn how by booking a demo here.

13. Corporate Partner Crowdfunding Or Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Corporate crowdfunding involves engaging employees to fundraise on an organization’s behalf but it does a lot more than just raise funds. Workplace campaigns can help establish or strengthen ties between employees and your organization.

From chili cook-offs and dress-down days to auctioning off a coveted parking spot, starting a corporate crowdfunding campaign can be a lot of fun. To get your campaign off on the right foot, ask your fundraiser to consider hosting an employee kick-off party. A kick-off party provides an opportunity to announce the campaign goal and let employees learn more about your organization. 

Tip: Check to see if the company hosting the campaign has a qualifying employee matching grant.

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(Source: KPMG campaign raising funds for North Texas Food Bank.)

Raise More With CauseVox.

If you’re wanting to try one or more of these innovative online fundraising ideas to reach your current and prospective donors, increase your reach, and drive engagement, CauseVox is here for you.

From donation forms to peer-to-peer for virtual fundraising, our clunk-free, 0% platform fee digital fundraising platform is here to help you raise more with way less effort.

Sign up to run your virtual fundraising for free CauseVox.

Online fundraising is one of the most popular ways for nonprofits to raise money.

This post was originally posted in 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness in 2020.

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