In a world that is still coping with COVID-19, virtual fundraisers are not going anywhere.
Not only are people concerned about health risks, many have also found benefits in virtual events:
- Virtual events can be inclusive, entertaining, and low-stress.
- They allow donors to engage with the event on their own terms.
- Plus, you can reach so many more people than you can with an in person event.
But after so many years of in-person fundraisers, it can be difficult to transition. Luckily, I am here to share 17 ideas to make your virtual fundraising a success.
Without further ado, let’s talk about some of my favorite virtual fundraising ideas!
See Related: The Basics of Building Rapport
#1: Host a virtual happy hour
This is the perfect virtual fundraising event for smaller, select groups of donors. Keep this one small so that the conversation flows easily without the need for breakout rooms.
A virtual happy hour can help you raise funds because it helps donors feel special.
Drop a special bottle of wine off at their homes prior to the event. You can even have cheese boards delivered to them by a local caterer.
Center this virtual fundraising event around a theme.
While happy hours are casual, donors seek structure when on a video call. Maybe your organization’s annual holiday campaign is coming up.
Try preparing icebreakers with your master of ceremonies that ask donors to describe their favorite holiday memories. Then, mention the work your organization does at this time of year.
#2: Launch a peer to peer fundraising campaign
Peer to peer fundraising is a way to raise money by asking your supporters to solicit the people in their own networks.
Then, those people solicit the folks in their networks. And so on. When done right, peer to peer fundraising can be an effective way to raise money.
Take time to show donors how to set up a personal fundraising page.
Encourage them to use the platform to explain why your work is important. Then, help them share the personal fundraising pages via email, text, and social media.
This is a fun virtual event because:
- It broadens your network;
- It also invites supporters to see what it’s like to work in fundraising;
- Plus, people can create fundraising teams and have friendly competitions!
#3: Invite donors to a virtual concert
This is one of my favorite virtual fundraising ideas!
Music is an incredibly helpful tool in fundraising efforts. It brings people together and gets them thinking.
Book a musical artist whose work resonates with your donors. Then, sell tickets to the exclusive live stream. If you have the right artist, you are guaranteed to raise funds.
Book the artist for an exclusive virtual meet-and-greet after the performance. You will get even more online donations from folks who want to meet them.
#4: Go all-out with a virtual gala
Many nonprofits have worked to raise money through virtual galas. This is not a simple method of online fundraising, but it can be extremely effective.
Are your donors used to attending an annual gala in person? Chances are they want to support you through virtual fundraising events too.
Virtual galas allow you to collect donations in many ways:
- Show a compelling video program with a call to give.
- Include a virtual auction or online raffle.
- Set up a text-to-give option for donors on their phones.
Simply hire an emcee to help you get the ball rolling and your evening is guaranteed to be a smash!
#5: Make social media the place to be
Social media is an incredible tool for raising funds.
Think of it as an online space entirely dedicated to your cause. When people see your social media posts, they should feel immersed in your mission and inspired to give.
Here are a few virtual fundraising ideas focused on social media:
- Schedule a high-profile member of your community or industry to do a social media takeover.
- Followers will tune in and give if the person doing the takeover encourages them to.
- Use TikTok and/or Instagram Reels to create short videos explaining your event and its significance.
- Make the videos heartfelt, simple, and easy to understand. In the videos, give viewers clear directions for how to give.
#6: Increase engagement with an online auction
A virtual auction is an excellent tool for raising money online.
Collect auction items from local vendors to strengthen community relationships and increase word of mouth.
To successfully produce this virtual event, you will need an online auction platform. These software programs allow you to:
- List items available and upload images and descriptions;
- Design eye-catching graphics explaining your cause and why people should give;
- Create thermometers for tracking your fundraising goals and inspiring people to give;
- Track RSVPs and send communications to guests;
- Accept donations and send acknowledgements to donors;
- And more!
Make use of the platform capabilities created specifically for virtual fundraisers like yours. Explore all of the features and get the most bang for your buck.
#7: Offer virtual tours
It can be easy to forget that the ins and outs of your workplace are not common knowledge.
Sure, you think it’s standard, everyday stuff. But I’d bet many people find what you do fascinating!
Use this as a tactic for raising funds.
Consider a virtual event centered around offering tours to donors. For example:
- If you are a nonprofit theater, give a tour of the costume shop.
- If you are a food bank, give a tour of your pantry and facilities.
- If you are a local PTA, give a tour of the school.
These fundraising events are effective because they help donors feel personally connected to the organization.
For many, giving is a fairly impersonal experience. They will donate online or write a check, sure. But they have no understanding of the work that goes on behind the scenes.
Draw back the curtain and let them in!
#8: Do a “round up” campaign with local businesses
Round up campaigns are when businesses ask guests at checkout if they would like to round up their total. That amount is then donated to an organization.
As a virtual fundraiser, these are incredibly simple.
The business doesn’t lose anything by asking guests to round up. Plus, this is an option for both online and in person storefronts.
As far as online fundraising events, it’s hard to go wrong here!
#9: Partner with other nonprofit organizations
Sometimes nonprofit organizations do not partner up because they are technically competing for donations. However, the right virtual event that leverages partnerships can raise money for everyone!
Here are some fundraising ideas for nonprofits to collaborate on:
- Co-host a virtual tournament or 5K. Incorporate peer to peer fundraising and spread the word to all of your networks!
- Leverage all of your connections to curate a virtual conference. Create a conference theme that resonates with all of your organizations.
- Set a shared fundraising goal and invite supporters to help you reach it.
Upon completion of the event, split the donations between participating organizations!
By partnering with other nonprofits, you will hopefully broaden your loyal donor base.
#10: Design an online donation page
Does your organization’s website have a dedicated fundraising page? If not, drop everything and go make one! No, seriously.
No matter what virtual fundraising events you produce, you will need this.
Online donation pages are vital because:
- They are easily shareable;
- They are one-stop shops for people wanting to give any amount;
- They give donors options (monthly, annual, one-time);
- They drive traffic to your website;
- If people want to give online, it needs to be clear where to do that.
#11: Encourage donors to apply for matching gifts
This is one of the most important virtual fundraising ideas I can share.
Did you know that approximately $4-$7 billion funds in matching gifts go unclaimed annually (Double the Donation)?
Encourage donors to ask their employers if they offer a matching gift program.
Many corporations do! With the same effort they would exert making one donation, they can essentially bring in two.
This is something I’ve learned during my time as a corporate emcee – it really does work!
#12: Host a virtual class
This is a fun virtual fundraising idea! Happy hours can be great, but sometimes you want something more interactive.
Offer a virtual fundraising event that leaves people feeling accomplished. Here are a few ideas:
- Invite a member of your staff to teach donors about the history of your organization;
- Ask a local artisan to lead a class about their craft. Ask them to raffle off one of their pieces at the end of the event;
- Bring a local entrepreneur to teach donors about how businesses and nonprofits can collaborate.
These classes are great for raising money. They are fun, engaging, and you can even make them into a series!
#13: Ask board members to increase their engagement
Board members are often great at in person events. However, they need to step up their game virtually!
Update your board’s bylaws to include responsibilities pertaining to virtual fundraising events.
Everyone’s capabilities will be different, and that’s okay.
But they must step into the virtual age to help you reach your fundraising goals.
Your board can do so much for virtual events. For example, they can:
- Lead social media takeovers;
- Host virtual cocktail parties;
- Help book local talent for virtual events.
They need to be harnessing their connections to support your virtual events.
#14: Grab the popcorn and make it a virtual movie night
I love this virtual fundraising idea! Choose a crowd favorite and live stream it on your website.
Raise money online by:
- Selling tickets;
- Putting together popcorn and snack baskets that donors can order;
- Advertising with local companies during “previews.”
#15: Share ideas at a virtual conference
Everyone is used to conferences being in person events. However, they can be excellent online events too!
Because it is not an in person event, you can curate speakers from everywhere.
It will be easy to sell tickets with a diverse and accomplished lineup.
A virtual conference is also a great way to attract prospective donors. They may attend because they know and love a speaker, but find themselves loving your work too!
#16: Build excitement with an online raffle
Look, I don’t care what your age is. We all get excited about raffles! That’s why these are a big hit among virtual fundraising ideas.
For a low-dollar donation, folks can enter into the raffle.
Ask local artists, businesses, and destinations to donate raffle items. It’s a win-win!
You raise money for your organization and they get publicity and new clients.
#17: Go on a virtual walk
Walks are a great virtual fundraising idea because they can double as stewardship and cultivation.
The idea of this virtual fundraising event is to get on the phone with a donor as you both enjoy a walk wherever you are.
It is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen your one-on-one connection with particular donors.
Take time to listen to them and understand what is going on in their lives. They will be inclined to support you. After all, you don’t think of them just as walking dollar signs.
The Sky is the Limit with Virtual Fundraising!
I hope this list has given you inspiration for your next virtual fundraiser.
Let’s wrap up with a quick review of these effective virtual fundraising ideas:
#1: Host a virtual happy hour.
#2: Launch a peer to peer fundraising campaign.
#3: Invite donors to a virtual concert.
#4: Go all-out with a virtual gala.
#5: Make social media the place to be.
#6: Increase engagement with an online auction.
#7: Offer virtual tours.
#8: Do “round up” campaigns with local businesses.
#9: Partner with other nonprofit organizations.
#10: Design a virtual donation page.
#11: Encourage donors to apply for matching gifts.
#12: Host a virtual class.
#13: Ask board members to increase their engagement.
#14: Grab the popcorn and make it a virtual movie night.
#15: Share ideas at a virtual conference.
#16: Build excitement with an online raffle.
#17: Go on a virtual walk.
I know you will come up with something spectacular!
Adam Christing has been called “The Tom Brady of emcees.” He has hosted more than 1,000 company meetings, special events, gala celebrations, and more. He is the author of several books and founder of CleanComedians.com. For more event tips, follow Adam Christing on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and YouTube.