Article

23 Top Virtual Fundraising Ideas

Simone O'Connor
Simone O'Connor

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.

Tip: 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 a virtual fundraiser.

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:

Here are our top 23 virtual fundraising ideas that have been proven to work in the past year:

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.

virtual peer to peer fundraising

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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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 Fundraising 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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Summit Assistance Dogs embedded their Youtube program directly onto their CauseVox page so that contributors could watch and make donations all in one place.

Here’s their virtual luncheon program:

4. Webinars

Keep your supporters engaged digitally 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.

Here’s an example of a Facebook Live video from Skid Row Housing Trust:

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 or Virtual Fundraising Gala

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).

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While you can simply run the virtual fundraising gala 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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Fundraisers can “host” a table and share information through their personal fundraiser page.

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!

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! Do a virtual race, walkathon, or “No Run Run.”

Encourage your community to run outside or on their treadmill. You’ll want people to sign up, potentially pay a registration fee, set an activity goal, 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.

N Street Village hosted their Shero walk virtually in 2020.

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.

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If you want more details on these last two ideas, check out this Panel Discussion on how AFFCF planned their walkathon and how Summit Assistance Dogs created a virtual gala:

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 using this Activity Metric or Strava.

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 Awards Ceremony

If you’re struggling to think of content for a livestream fundraiser, a great option is to make it an awards ceremony. Awards ceremonies are a wonderful way to draw your community in by highlighting individuals who have made an impact. You can honor stellar volunteers, stand-out employees, or those doing work in the community.

This is a great way to tell the story of your organization: how have these honorees upheld your mission and supported the work that you’re doing? Combine this with an ungala for a stellar evening.

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9. Virtual Climbathon/Hike

Similar to a virtual race, you can make nearly any activity into a virtual event. Climb Out of the Darkness hosted a hike/climb for participants to raise money.

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.

Set a date and time to ask your participants to get out and do the activity. They can record what they’ve done on their personal fundraising page using the Activity Metric and raise money to support your cause. This works even better when you connect the activity to your cause, as Climb Out of the Darkness did with their climb.

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

10. 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. All of that being said, this year may not be the best time to take a shot at a virtual auction. With many businesses struggling, you’ll be hard-pressed to find quality auction items, and you’ll find better ROI putting your time into asking for straight donations.

11. 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:

https://www.instagram.com/p/B-KBCivlEuF/?utm_source=ig_embed

12. Virtual Movie Night

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.

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.

13. 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.

CauseVox actually runs our own virtual conference in the Digital Fundraising Summit. This year we hosted our third one, and you can still get the recordings and notes.

14. UnConcert/UnFestival

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.

15. 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.

16. Virtual Bingo

Some virtual fundraising options are a bit more serious: an online webinar or conference may be an incredibly important part of your work, but your donors won’t walk away saying “dang that was fun.”

Virtual bingo is not one of those serious fundraisers.

Virtual bingo is a chance for your donors to feel like they’re getting out of the house and having a night of fun while everyone stays safely distanced at home.

The Mother PAC hosted an amazing virtual bingo night by having participants donate in order to participate. It’s an awesome idea that’s low-cost for you, fun for participants, and easy to manage.

Run your bingo night virtually with these free virtual bingo cards + Zoom

17. Virtual Sleep Out

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Nicholas House took creativity to the next level by moving their annual sleep-out to a virtual event. Instead of bringing community members together to all sleep outside in one place, they asked supporters to sleep outside at home.

If you have an event you typically run in-person, you can consider this as a template for how to make it virtual: can people do it on their own? Can you include Zoom content to keep them feeling connected?

Nicholas House even provided those who were participating with lawn signs to share what they were doing, helping to spread the message even further. Can you use virtual as an opportunity to make improvements?

18. Virtual Trivia Night

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If Bingo isn’t your jam, trivia is another wonderful option for a fun virtual event. Invite your staff, donors, volunteers and even your board members to a fun trivia night! You can sell tickets as well as run some games throughout the night that require an additional donation.

trivia-teams-virtual-fundraising

Have participants set up a personal fundraising page to raise funds ahead of the trivia night, and offer teams that raise the most advantages the night of the event. As a bonus, try to secure some great prizes from your corporate and/or local partners for the winning team.

Now that everything’s virtual, here’s a step-by-step on how to host a virtual trivia night.

19. Live Gaming Fundraiser

Gaming is wildly popular right now, and with everyone stuck at home there are even more people entertaining themselves with virtual gaming. There are multiple ways you can capitalize on the trend to create a cool fundraiser.

Engage a popular gamer (or gamers) to livestream them playing a game (usually streamed on Twitch) and have them point viewers towards your online fundraising campaign.

If you want to bring your community together, invite teams to compete in a game tournament to raise money. You can go the board game tournament route, or ask people to pay admission for games like Among Us or Jackbox. 

Ask local businesses or supports to donate prizes for tournament winners. And, you can give “bonus points” to board game participants/teams that fundraise on their own for your cause.

Here’s an example of a board game tournament run on CauseVox.

20. Virtual Cooking Class

CauseVox did a virtual cooking class ourselves to try it out, and it got great engagement! Here’s our virtual cooking class example:

Add a culinary twist to your fundraiser by hosting a cooking class. If this is around the holidays, try making your class a themed one!

Team up with a local chef or ask a talented volunteer to help lead the class. This can easily be held virtually using a tool like Zoom and sending out an ingredient list ahead of time.

We can speak from experience on this one: not only did we do a virtual cooking class, we also hosted a virtual mixology lesson at the Digital Fundraising Summit with our friends from Ninja Ramen. Check it out.

21. Virtual Paint and Sip Night

Paint and sip events are fantastic because they can be adapted for any type of organization and occasion. While traditionally you’d need to find a paint and sip store that could donate space or proceeds, the virtual version of the event is even easier.

Reach out to a talented volunteer or local artist to lead the class, and purchases the necessary supplies. Then 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. You can even send supplies to participants as part of the registration cost.

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.

22. Virtual Toy Drive

If you typically run a drive of some kind in the winter, this year you can move it virtual! SOS Children’s Villages Illinois normally holds a toy drive during the winter months but this year they chose to create a campaign to raise money so the organization itself could safely purchase and distribute items.

You can do the same thing by setting up a fundraising page and asking donors to give and support gifts or toys for a specific family.

virtual toy drive

23. Virtual Food Drive

Similar to the virtual food drive, you can host a virtual food drive too! One of the coolest parts of this is that you can still accept food items and disperse them to your community and request donations from those who don’t feel comfortable leaving the home. You can even create donation tiers that let people know how much food they’re donating, which gets people more excited to participate.

You can even build this as a peer-to-peer fundraiser and get groups excited to compete about who can bring in the most food.

virtual-fundraising-ideas-food-drive

Download your Virtual Fundraising Planning Guide and Template:

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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