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14 Top Virtual Fundraising Ideas

Fundraising during Covid has been disruptive for everyone – every single sector has been impacted but particularly those that work in event fundraising.

Due to social isolation policies, many nonprofits have had to cancel or reimagine their future fundraising events (depending on their location). This has understandably put a lot of strain on fundraising income. See how non-profits can navigate the coronavirus here.

During this time, we need to get creative in ways to reach and engage our donors, as well as raise income, when we can’t physically host an event. So before you cancel any events, consider whether you can turn it into something digital or virtual.

You could either turn an existing event into something virtual or create a completely new virtual fundraising event in its place.

Download your Virtual Fundraising Planning Guide and Template:

These virtual fundraising ideas will help mitigate the loss of fundraising dollars, as well as keep your donors and participants engaged – particularly if they are homebound at the moment!

Here are our top 14 ideas for virtual fundraising ideas:

1. Virtual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

One of the great things about peer-to-peer fundraising is that it’s inherently built for virtual fundraising. With CauseVox it’s easy to turn your current campaigns and appeals into peer to peer fundraisers by encouraging your donors to set up their own online fundraising pages.

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Get your staff, board members, most dedicated donors, and active members of your community involved by asking them to kick off the first peer to peer fundraisers.

You could use the virtual event ideas below as inspiration for peer-to-peer challenges, or you can simply engage your donors to reach out to their friends on behalf of your organization.

We typically see organizations that do peer-to-peer fundraising not only help create a sense of community, but they also raise about 2x as much in comparison to other digital fundraising initiatives.

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Caption: Peer-to-Peer fundraiser listing for Faith in Action’s Together We Give campaign

2. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is another form of fundraising that has an existing built-in online component. You can also easily set up a crowdfunding appeal via CauseVox!

With the slowing down of things such as mail, this might be a good opportunity to push more of your supporters online to donate and a crowdfunding appeal can help do that.

Crowdfunding is all about target-based fundraising so we suggest creating a crowdfunding page to raise $x amount of dollars to fund an x outcome. As this is all online you can track your progress towards that target and continue to communicate with your donors about it accordingly.

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After Nten had to cancel their annual conference, they set up a crowdfunding page where people could still donate to help cover lost revenue from the conference.

3. Virtual Live-Stream

With many people social distancing, there are lots of opportunities for online video engagement. As some people work from home, and potentially get cabin fever, they will be interested in connecting with people virtually.

If you are conducting work on the ground, connect with your donors by live-streaming the event. You could also turn your planned fundraising event into a live-stream virtual event – inviting everyone along participate in your event on Facebook Live, Zoom, Instagram Live, and more

This gives you the opportunity to ask questions and engage with one another as they normally would have at the event.

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You can use Facebook Live to connect with your audience and raise money at the same time by directing your audience to a link to your Donation Page or Crowdfunding page, like Best Friends Animal Society did.

4. Webinars

Keep your supporters engaged digital by inviting them along to town halls or webinars.

This could be sessions with your CEO and board, interviews with your field workers/program staff and any initiatives where you have the potential to share information with your donors.

One of these initial webinars may be about how your organization is operating in the wake of COVID19, with further information about how your donors can stay engaged.

5. UnGala

An UnGala (sometimes referred to as “Gone with the Gala)” is run through an online fundraising campaign where you invite your top supporters to join and fundraise for you (aka peer-to-peer fundraising).

While you can simply run the virtual fundraising event without any programming, you can consider suggesting a menu for everyone to cook, invite them to dress up, and join in for a virtual dinner party with a featured speaker!

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This is a great opportunity for people to still feel connected to you and to each other – see more info here on how to run your own UnGala event!

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Want to see more virtual galas, virtual walkathons, and more? Check out these 13 Top Virtual Fundraising Examples.

6. Virtual Race or “No Run Run”

Unfortunately, that 5k you were planning on this May is probably not going to happen.

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a race!

Encourage your community to run outside or on their treadmill. You’ll want people to sign up, potentially pay a registration fee, and have a date and time where everyone runs at the same time on their own.

Have participants raise funds up through the race date, and track their race times the day of – and keep track of who crosses both their virtual fundraising ‘finish line’ goal, as well as their physical finish line. It’s a great way to have everyone engage with each other.

Afterward, have a live-stream to celebrate your participants and give them the ability to connect with each other and hear from someone at your organization.

This is best done as a peer to peer fundraiser, with participants seeking donations for the number of miles they run or hours they train for.

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St Francis Neighborhood Center held a “no run” run virtual event and raised over $158k!

Or, if you know your community isn’t very active, consider doing a “No Run Run” campaign, where you challenge your participants NOT to run, and just cross that virtual fundraising goal finish line.

7. Virtual Bikeathon

Similar to a virtual race, you can set a virtual bikeathon!

Set a date and time and encourage participants to bike outside for a certain amount of hours or miles. Have them keep track of their miles and times.

For those who have an exercise bike at home, you can also encourage them to, set up their laptop or mobile camera and cycle together.

This is best run as a peer to peer fundraiser as well, with participants seeking donations for the number of miles or hours they can cycle for. This can also be done in teams, so groups can fundraise together to increase the sense of community.

8. Virtual Hike

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Climb out of the darkness is a virtual walking/hiking event where fundraisers can participate in any of the climbs in their own area- as a group or alone. This is a great example of a fundraiser that can still take place virtually.

A lot of people are stuck inside. A virtual hike is a great opportunity for individuals or families to get outside for a good cause.

Most people have a trail somewhere near where they live, so encourage your peer-to-peer fundraiser participants to do their hike locally and share their amazing pictures on social media. This is a great opportunity to share their personal fundraising page with their friends and family, and keep people connected.

Just be sure to suggest your participants stay aware of your surroundings and keep up social distancing- you don’t want too many people on a trail all at once (but they should be fine).

9. Online Auction

Setting up an online auction can actually be easier than a physical auction. Set up a page where all of the items available can be reviewed, and ideally bid on – you may want to use an online auction platform for this.

Coordinate bids beforehand and then announce the winners via one of the other virtual events such as a live stream, webinar or UnGala. For more information on running a silent auction see our article here.

10. Virtual Tours

If you fundraise for a physical space, consider turning your tours into virtual tours.

You can ask people to donate the price of a ticket, and take people through the space via video. This will help people still feel like they’re there, and connect them to your cause without needing to be there in person.

Here’s a look at the Faurschou Foundation’s Virtual Tour of their Museum in Brooklyn, NY:

11. Virtual Movie Night

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If we’re doing anything during this time, it’s watching a lot of movies.

But, this doesn’t have to be done alone.

Set up a virtual movie night with Netflix Party! Encourage people to grab their favorite snack and join you Netflix party using a link.

This allows all your participants to watch a movie at the same time with a chat window for people to share thoughts, jokes, and more. This is the perfect way to create a community and drive people to your Donation Page or Crowdfunding page.

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As a best practice, link to your donation page, and ask participants to donate the price of a “movie ticket” to your organization, using a link to your crowdfunding page or donation page.

12. Virtual Conference (aka UnConference)

Did you have a conference planned that needed to be canceled? Or, are you left with a lot less programming before, and are looking to fill in the gaps?

You don’t have to stop informing people about your cause, and social distancing doesn’t have to mean you can’t cultivate community.

Host a virtual conference event aka an Unconference.

This could be a day-long series of talks and workshops all hosted online where people can dial into the different events.

Here are a few kinds of speakers to consider:

  • Staff/Board: Have your Executive Director or Board Member talk about why the organization is so important to them.
  • Beneficiaries: Ask those who have benefited from your organization to share their own personal story about how their lives have been impacted.
  • Professionals: Have a popular professional (author, professor, psychologist, documentarian, etc) with expert knowledge about your cause give an informational talk.
  • Youth: Give a younger member of your community the opportunity to talk to the issue and how they’re impacted/create impact (think Greta Thunberg).
  • Unrelated speaker: Have a standup comedian, yoga instructor, mindfulness coach, etc join for a fun activity.

These kinds of events can easily be run on a tool like Zoom. Don’t forget to make scheduled asks throughout the conference.

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While Create Good’s in-person conference couldn’t proceed as planned, the team quickly reworked it into a virtual conference.

13. UnConcert/UnFestival

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Unfortunately, concerts have ground to a halt, disappointing music lovers and leaving musicians with an unexpectedly free schedule.

Similar to the unconference, you could bring musicians together to host a concert or mini-festival benefitting your organization.

These could all be streamed from home, and ask people to purchase a ticket to view. This is another great way of bringing people together who may be confined to their homes.

An additional bonus might be some behind the scenes or meet and greets with different band members – all online of course.

14. Virtual Happy Hour

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With everything going on, it’s safe to say that things have been stressful, and it’s more important than ever to build relationships with donors and retain them.

To help, consider launching a monthly series of virtual happy hours.

Luckily, most liquor or wine stores remain open, even in places that have been hit the worst.

Ask your supporters to grab a glass of wine and join you to chat using GoogleHangouts, Zoom, or Facetime. In a casual setting, 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.

Add a soft ask to donate monthly at the end of the session, and let them know the date of your next happy hour.

Everyone’s asking: how do I make my in-person event virtual?

We sat down with 2 organizations discuss just that on our Nonprofit Leader Panel: How To Raise More Through Virtual Events. Watch the webinar on-demand.

Run Your Virtual Fundraising Idea On CauseVox

Need to get your virtual fundraising idea up and running with less stress?

CauseVox helps you raise more with less effort, making it easy for you to launch your nonprofit virtual fundraising event. With easy to use donation pages, crowdfunding campaigns, or peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns, you can get started with virtual fundraising in no time.

Book a 1-1 Demo with our team to chat about how CauseVox can help you raise more through your virtual fundraising event.

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