20+ Engaging Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits

During the age of COVID-19, many nonprofits, especially those that have been focused on growth, paused their fundraising strategies to deal with the results of the pandemic. Social distancing guidelines made in-person fundraising nearly impossible to do safely, and the economic downturn limited the philanthropic gifts individuals are willing to contribute.

However, this isn’t a reason to give up hope! By adjusting to the societal changes and reformatting your strategies, your nonprofit can continue fundraising and engaging your supporters throughout the global pandemic. This is only possible if you engage them with effective virtual fundraising ideas.

That’s why we’ve put together our list of the top 20+ virtual fundraising ideas that nonprofits can use to succeed under these unprecedented and difficult circumstances. However, before we get started, let’s dive into an explanation of why they’re important and how you should implement these ideas into your fundraising strategy during 2020 and beyond.

Importance of Virtual Fundraising and Engagement

Like many other organizations, you’ve probably worked nonstop to broaden your nonprofit’s support network and strengthen relationships with all of your supporters. This is an important part of your fundraising efforts as it helps increase your donor retention rate.

With an increase in donor retention, nonprofits can raise sufficient funds. Not only is it less expensive to retain donors than to attract new ones, but supporters also tend to increase the size of their donations to nonprofits over time.

Even though your in-person contact with supporters has come to a pause, your nonprofit needs to continue providing donor engagement opportunities in order to develop and maintain relationships throughout these difficult times. This way, you limit the number of lapsed supporters due to the COVID-19 pandemic and society’s adjustments to the “new normal.”

The virtual fundraising ideas throughout this article are designed to be engaging for your supporters and accessible both during and after the pandemic. Be sure that when you launch a virtual fundraising campaign, you save all relevant data in your nonprofit’s donor database in order to continue tracking engagement data about your supporters.

Now the fun part: let’s talk virtual fundraising ideas!

1. Virtual 5K or Fun Run

5Ks and fun runs are incredibly popular fundraising ideas for nonprofits because they encourage healthy activity, raise funds, and allow supporters to show their support by physically attending an entertaining event.

Transform this event into an online affair with a virtual race! This still encourages supporters to exercise and be healthy (and healthy habits are crucial to support right now) while raising funds.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

For this idea, you can either ask supporters to pay a small admission fee to participate in a set race distance or you can run it like a walk-a-thon and ask supporters to collect pledges per unit of distance run.

Use an online run tracking solution so that your supporters can track their distance and time from wherever they are. Or, you can set up a course for them and provide a span of time for them to complete the race. Make it interesting by encouraging supporters to post pictures on “race day” and offer prizes for race winners, best costumes, and more!

2. Product Fundraising

Product fundraising enables your organization to brand certain merchandise items and sell them to your community of supporters. It’s an effective fundraising strategy because it provides an incentive for contributions, diversifies fundraising opportunities, and promotes brand awareness as supporters sport your merch. Branded merchandise may be just what your supporters need to strike up a conversation about a cause they feel passionate about!

Two of the most popular products that your nonprofit can use during this time are t-shirts and face masks. T-shirts are a classic product fundraiser. They last for years and are perfect leading up to an event. Meanwhile, face masks are a new fundraising trend because they encourage health and safety while raising funds!

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

To get started t-shirt fundraising, you should contact a t-shirt fundraising provider and design your shirt using their platform. Then, you can either purchase the shirts in bulk to sell from your home office or you can set up your own e-commerce store and sell online!

Face mask fundraising is similar, however with many providers, your nonprofit can simply send them your logo and they’ll add it to the masks to get them ready to sell. Set up your online store and get to fundraising!

3. Online Gala

Galas are a classic major fundraising event that many nonprofits host annually. However, this year, many had to outright cancel their fundraising galas. If you postponed yours or have one scheduled for later in the year, consider shifting it to the virtual sphere instead.

Online galas are a virtual fundraising idea that allows your supporters to get dressed up at home, listen to your keynote speaker from the comfort of their own couch, share a meal over video conferencing software, and contribute to their favorite nonprofit (yours!) typically through an auction.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

You may find that getting started with a virtual gala is actually easier than doing so with an in-person gala event. Rather than booking a venue and worrying about the travel expenses, you can simply get everything set up on your computer. This doesn’t mean it’s easy per se, but the setup may involve fewer moving parts than getting an in-person gala up and running.

In addition to using video conferencing software to “meet” with your supporters, we recommend that you ask your keynote speaker to record a video of their speech for the event and ask them to hop on the video conference for a Q&A session.

Keep in mind that most galas also have associated auctions for added revenue. If you’re planning to coordinate one, you should open up a virtual auction early and potentially keep it running longer than your virtual event. Use your auction software to keep the auction open throughout the week of the event to fully engage supporters.

4. Virtual Cooking Night

Nonprofits aren’t the only ones struggling due to COVID-19. Small business owners, especially restaurant owners, are feeling the strain caused by the economic downturn and the closing of facilities. Partnering with local businesses for virtual cooking nights can help both parties!

Virtual cooking nights allow chefs from local restaurants to share their talents, your supporters to enjoy a nice meal, and your organization to raise funds alongside a local business. The chef hosts a video conference for your supporters and walks them through making the dish at home (recording a video also works!).

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

Contact your local restaurants and ask them if they’d like to engage in a partnership with your nonprofit for a fundraising night. Pick a dish that their chef could easily teach individuals how to make in their homes.

You may choose to decide what the price will be for all of the ingredients and send baskets filled with the ingredients to your event attendees’ homes. Alternatively, you can make a list of food for guests to purchase themselves before the event. Then, you can set the price for the event, invite your supporters to attend, and split the resulting proceeds with the partnering restaurant. Everyone is happy!

Check out how the Maine Coast Heritage Trust did this in their “reimagined Saltwater Shindig.

5. TED Talk Virtual Events

TED Talks are conferences held for the sake of spreading knowledge and education to others. A single person gets in front of the group and discusses their knowledge about a particular topic, using slideshows as their discussion aid.

Your nonprofit can host your own TED Talk-style event by recruiting a speaker to record their presentation about a particular topic. One of the great opportunities this fundraising idea brings about is the discussion of mission-related topics! You can further explain the importance of your mission by using this event to discuss the factual and historical context of the cause.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

In order to raise funds from this event, we recommend that you either charge a small admission fee to attend the talk or that you ask for donations at the end of the discussion. Each option has pros and cons. If you charge an admission fee, you may have fewer attendees, but asking for donations during the talk has no guarantee of fundraising success.

We recommend that you also host a Q&A session after the talk to encourage people to attend the live event. Afterward, you can use the discussion video as a lead capture on your website so that interested supporters will end up on your email list for your next marketing campaign!

6. Matching Gift Drive

Matching gift drives take advantage of one of the most underutilized fundraising opportunities available to nonprofits: matched donations. As a part of corporate philanthropy programs, many companies offer to match the donations their employees make to eligible nonprofit organizations.

The problem is that many supporters are unaware of their eligibility for these types of programs. When supporters are aware of their eligibility, Double the Donation’s statistics show us that 84% of supporters are more likely to donate if a match is offered to them. Plus, 1 in 3 donors indicates that they’d actually increase their donation if they know a match will be applied. Matching gift drives are designed to inform supporters of these programs and urge them to look up their eligibility so that you can secure every last virtual fundraising dollar.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

Matching gift drives are a specific type of email campaign. Therefore, you’ll need to have an effective email platform to get started with this fundraising idea. If you have a list of donors who you already know are eligible for a matched gift, be sure to create emails specifically for them during the drive.

As you reach out to your supporters during the matching gift drive, direct them to a page where they can check their eligibility for a matched gift. You’ll need a database where they can search for the name of their company. For reference, it will probably look something like this and can help your team locate more match opportunities.

7. Host an Online Gaming Tournament

Many of your nonprofit’s supporters are likely finding themselves with a lot more time on their hands. And a fun way to fill this time? With games! Online gaming tournaments are a fantastic way to get supporters involved with your organization and to give them something to do with their free time.

In-person game nights are a great way to bring your supporters together for some friendly competition and support for your mission. Online tournaments do the same thing but in a social-distancing-friendly manner.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

You can host online gaming tournaments with classic video game software or you can bring back everyone’s favorite board games with platforms linked in helpful articles like the one linked here. Charge a small admission fee for entry into the tournament and set up a tournament board that you can use to keep everyone updated on where they stand against their competition.

Don’t forget to provide a prize to the winners of your tournament and smaller prizes for other accomplishments like “best gaming strategy” or “coolest tabletop name.” Keep records of your registrants for this event so that you can use the donor data to reach back out and thank them for attending. Plus, this will allow you to send prizes to top participants!

8. Online Classes

Chances are, you probably have some talented individuals on your team with very entertaining and artistic capabilities, even if you don’t know it yet! They may do yoga, paint in their spare time, or play instruments. Ask your team members to put their talents to the test by teaching their own online classes on behalf of your nonprofit.

What better way to spend some extra time during quarantine than by learning a new skill? By offering online courses, your nonprofit will provide a learning experience for your supporters while giving your team members valuable teaching experience.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

The first thing you should do for this virtual fundraising idea is ask your team if they want to teach a class for your organization. Don’t put anyone in a position where they’re uncomfortable. After all, the best online classes are taught by teachers who want to teach to students who want to learn.

Then, you should decide if you’ll teach a live class or record it for supporters to watch on their own time. If you teach it live, ask for a small registration fee for students to attend. If you record it to watch on their own time, we recommend adding a lead capture call-to-action over the recording to capture new supporters, then ask for donations in the video itself.

9. Fundraising Letter Campaigns

Fundraising letter campaigns are a fundraising idea that can be taken to the virtual sphere or the physical world both while social distancing. You can do so by either employing email outreach strategies or direct mail strategies to get the campaign going. For this idea, your nonprofit will take a period of time to reach out directly to your supporters in the form of beautifully written letters.

For the best results, it’s best to use a mix between the two. Just make sure you keep track of which messages you’re sending via email versus direct mail. You don’t want to send someone the same message twice!

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

First, make sure you have the software you need to create well-designed emails and letters that will be directed to the right audience. An integration between your CRM and marketing platform (like the Bloomerang Mailchimp integration) will come in handy. It also helps if your marketing platform offers both emails and postcard/direct mail outreach.

Then, write and design a series of emails and letters to your nonprofit’s supporters, urging them to donate to your upcoming campaign. Make sure that all of your fundraising letters include the necessary components for an effective donation request: an emotional appeal, an explanation of how the donor can help, and instructions on how to contribute. If you’re unsure about your own fundraising letters, it may be helpful to start off with a template, then customize the information and make it your own!

10. Crowdfunding Campaign

Crowdfunding is a classic virtual fundraising strategy that allows nonprofits to collect many small donations from many donors. These campaigns thrive on social media platforms as your donors can share their contributions to your campaign with their own friends and family, urging them to give as well!

According to Crowd 101, the average nonprofit raises $9,237.55 through crowdfunding campaigns. It’s a low-risk campaign that allows donors to give only as much as they’re comfortable with, which is perfect during times of financial hardship.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

To get started crowdfunding, your nonprofit must first invest in a trusted crowdfunding platform like GoFundMeFundly, or other top software. Using this platform, customize your donation page so that it’s branded to your organization, includes your mission statement, and calls supporters to contribute.

Because crowdfunding is so effective on social media platforms, make sure the online fundraising platform you choose also offers social sharing buttons so that supporters can easily share their contributions with their networks.

11. Annual Giving Days

Even if you don’t already have your own #GivingTuesday campaign, you’ve probably heard of this international holiday that’s dedicated to generosity and giving. This is a prime example of an annual giving day. Annual giving days are effective because they create a sense of urgency in the donor to give before the day is out.

While #GivingTuesday is the most renowned giving day, many organizations also create their own annual days of giving dedicated specifically to their missions. This strategy is an incredibly effective campaign practice and can be done completely online with an effective donation page and marketing strategy.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

To effectively host an annual giving campaign, your nonprofit needs to make sure you have access to a well-designed donation page and ample marketing materials.

Because this is a virtual campaign, your nonprofit will be directing supporters to your online donation page. Therefore, you should make sure it’s designed with best practices in mind such as ensuring a streamlined page structure, consistent branding, and mobile-responsiveness.

When you have an effective donation page designed, it’s time to spread the word about the campaign! In the weeks leading up to your giving day, you can post about it on social media, send out reminder emails, and even call supporters to inform them of the opportunity to contribute.

12. Virtual Happy Hour

When your nonprofit postponed or canceled your fundraising events this year, you didn’t only lose out on the opportunity for fundraising revenue. Your supporters also missed out on the opportunity to gather together in the name of a common cause. A virtual happy hour provides an opportunity for your supporters to gather virtually for discussion and a yummy beverage.

We recommend that you take these events a step further by sending individuals a “cocktail kit” to make their own specialty beverage at home. Then, everyone can hop on a call together using video conferencing software and engage in conversation while sipping their homemade cocktails.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

Be sure that the event registration fee covers the cost of the cocktail kits that you send to supporters. Use a customizable ticketing platform so that you can add an option to the registration forms for supporters to choose their cocktail preference. Consider also offering a non-alcoholic mocktail option for those who prefer to abstain from alcohol consumption.

During the happy hour event itself, be sure you have a moderator available to guide the conversation with specific questions or breakout groups. If you do breakout sessions, make sure your fundraisers have analyzed the data in your donor database beforehand so they can join major prospects and establish a connection with them during the event.

13. Online Q&A

Many of your supporters would love to learn more about your organization and your mission. A great opportunity to help them learn more about your cause and feel more connected to your organization is to offer a Q&A session fundraising event.

In this type of event, your executive director (or a panel of executives) answer the questions online posed by your supporters. These questions can either be informal and silly like, “What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” or mission-related such as, “What drives you to work toward this cause?” At the end of the event, your executive should ask supporters to contribute a small donation and direct them to the giving page on your website.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

There are numerous platforms and ways that your organization can approach this virtual fundraising idea. Our recommendation is to use a live-streaming platform to record your executives as they answer questions. Ask your supporters to send in their questions and have the executives answer them live on the air!

Supporters will feel closer to your organization by having direct contact with your top staff members. This enhances relationships by keeping them engaged through personal communication.

14. Grocery Drop-Off

In the age of COVID-19, many individuals are becoming warier and warier about the frequency of their grocery shopping trips. Many who don’t want to risk heading out to the store use Instacart or online options to have their groceries delivered directly to their doors.

Grocery delivery options allow your supporters to order their groceries in this socially-distanced online manner while also contributing to a great cause! They simply place orders online during the campaign and your organization’s brave volunteers clad their masks and gloves to purchase the supporters’ groceries.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

The first thing your organization will need to launch a grocery drop-off virtual fundraising campaign is to recruit volunteers who will be willing to make the grocery store run. Start by reaching back into your volunteer database to ask your past volunteers if they’d be interested in participating in this campaign.

Take safety precautions with your volunteers, urging them to wear masks and gloves during their grocery shopping runs. You may also consider asking them to sign a waiver for the campaign. While this is a virtual fundraising idea for your supporters, your volunteers are the ones who are venturing into the public. Therefore, their safety should be your first priority.

15. Picture Contests

Many of your nonprofit supporters are likely engaging in various quarantine projects to keep themselves entertained during their time at home. They may have gotten a pet, started a garden, picked up knitting, or engaged in other entertaining activities.

Ask your supporters to share pictures of their projects! Host a contest where supporters send in photos of their newfound interests and hobbies. Then, ask supporters to vote for their favorite with their dollars. Don’t forget to award the winner with a fun prize.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

You can ask supporters to send in any image of their “new normal” to join the contest, or you can limit it to a theme such as pet pictures or cutest baby photos. Then, when supporters give to your cause, ask them to choose their favorite picture to cast their vote.

Not only is this a great way to engage your supporters and to raise funds, but it also inspires individuals to find fun things to do while they’re at home!

16. Virtual Concert

Virtual concerts are great opportunities for your organization and your supporters to enjoy music together (or to enjoy the spotlight!) while earning funds for your mission. Your organization sells the concert tickets to supporters who can then jump online to hear wonderful music during your event!

This virtual fundraising idea works especially well if you have a connection with a local musician or talented members on your staff. Advertise the event along with the artist’s name and genre of music as you send out information and promotional materials in advance.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

To host this event, your nonprofit simply needs a virtual event registration form and a live-streaming service! Sell the tickets through your registration form and invite supporters to attend the live-stream musical fun.

Try looking into virtual event registration software that integrates with your donor database. This way, you can keep accurate records and extensive donor profile information about who attended your event to inform your future outreach.

17. Supporter Cookbook

This virtual fundraising idea varies from organization to organization because everyone’s cookbooks will look different. For this online fundraiser, your organization reaches out to each of your supporters and asks them to send in their favorite recipe. Maybe it’s a family recipe that they want to share or something they whipped up on their own!

Then, your nonprofit compiles all of the recipes into a book and sells it to your audience. Everyone will want to see their recipes in print. Plus, this allows your organization to create a book that’s as unique as each of your supporters themselves.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

The first thing you’ll need to get started with this virtual fundraising idea is an effective marketing platform. With the platform, you’ll craft emails to send out to supporters requesting recipes. Be sure to give them a deadline that they need to submit by so that you have enough time to get the book made.

Check how much the cookbook will cost to print using services through companies like Staples or Office Depot. Send out order forms to your supporters asking them to order the cookbooks in advance, then print them and send them out!

18. Virtual Book Discussions

Book clubs are becoming increasingly popular as a virtual activity among friends and organization supporters. Everyone who wants to join can order the book and join weekly/biweekly/monthly meetings with other supporters to discuss a set of questions about the contents of the novel.

This is a great opportunity to share a wealth of knowledge about your organization’s mission. If you have access to a book that discusses your cause, consider it as a book club book. Or, given the current civil unrest across the country, you may consider a book from the anti-racist book list to pique prospects’ interests.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

The first thing you’ll need to get started with this online fundraising idea is a great book and a list of questions for discussion. Then, you’ll need virtual conferencing software so that everyone can get together to talk about these questions.

In order to make money off of virtual book discussions, there are a couple of different approaches you can take. You can ask your supporters for a small donation to join the book club. Or, you can ask everyone to order the book through your organization and take a small fee as a donation. Finally, you can ask your supporters to contribute a small donation during the book discussions themselves.

19. Virtual Raffle

Raffles are an excellent fundraising opportunity both in-person and virtual. The two primary forms of raffles are incentivized by prizes or by funds as in the case of a 50/50 raffle. Individuals purchase raffle tickets and a winning ticket is pulled at random for a desirable prize. The more tickets someone purchases, the higher the likelihood that they’ll win the prize.

But how can this work virtually? Market your raffle drawing on social media, through an email campaign, and by using other promotional strategies. Then, ask supporters to purchase their raffle tickets online, providing them with a week or so within which they need to make the purchase. Finally, use a random number generator to choose a winner and live-stream the results!

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

For this virtual fundraising idea, you’ll need access to an effective and comprehensive marketing tool, a raffle ticketing solution, and live-streaming software. Be sure that when you market your raffle, you do so using smart donor segments within your CRM. This way, you can reach out to audiences using language that will most intrigue them to purchase a few tickets.

Plus, you’ll need some awesome prizes to get the fundraiser started. For a 50/50 raffle, your organization splits the proceeds with the winner of the event. However, if you’re collecting prizes, you have the opportunity to be more creative. Try procuring prizes by asking for donations (or discounts) from local businesses like popular restaurants and retailers. This way, they get free marketing and you get a prize for the raffle. It’s a win-win!

20. Online Wine Pull

Like raffles, wine pulls are a great and classic in-person fundraiser. Here’s how it usually works: your nonprofit purchases a number of various wine bottles ranging in price from $5 to $100. Then, decorate the bottles so that supporters can’t see what it is they’re purchasing (although you should specify red or white). Set a price around $25 to $40 per bottle and supporters purchase one to drink.

Online, wine pulls are just as possible and just as engaging! Your supporters can purchase their wine bottles from the comfort of their couches. Be sure to offer a wine night or happy hour to engage everyone once they’ve received their wine.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

Your nonprofit can list wine bottles in your e-commerce store as Wine #1, Wine #2, Wine #3, etc. Each number should be a different type of wine. After ensuring your purchasers are of age, they can buy one and be surprised when it’s delivered to their door!

To cut back on costs, consider partnering with a vineyard or a wine distributor for this event. They may offer discounts on the wine bottles so that your organization can keep more of the profit.

 

Many of these fundraising ideas offer opportunities for smaller-scale donations that won’t be as financially pressing for your supporters, which is great for those who may be struggling since the economic downturn.

However, by incorporating these ideas (especially if you try out a few of them!), your nonprofit will find that those smaller-scale donations will cumulate into major revenue.

Plus, these ideas are great ways to maintain the attention and engagement of your supporters throughout the pandemic and beyond. This builds stronger bonds and helps you develop long-term relationships with all of your supporters!

 

This blog post by Jay Love was published on Bloomerang. Read the original here

 

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