25+ Engaging Virtual Fundraising Ideas For Nonprofits

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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 Tour

Host an online tour for your virtual fundraising idea.Nonprofit supporters who feel closer to your organization and your mission are more likely to continue giving, and often in higher quantities. However, with social distancing guidelines in place, it can be challenging to find ways for supporters to feel this closeness. They may not be able to come out and visit your office or work sites to see your mission at work.

That’s where virtual tours come into play. Hosting live stream or recorded virtual tours of these different locations show supporters first-hand what your organization is doing for the community. For example, suppose your nonprofit provides a homeless shelter in the community. In that case, you might live-stream a tour of the facility, discussing the offerings you provide for homeless men and women every day.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

The first thing you’ll need to get started with virtual tours is the technology to live stream or record the tour itself. Look for high-end video equipment that will provide quality visuals and audio.

Next, you’ll need to decide if you want to live stream or pre-record the tour. If you choose to live-stream, you’ll need to make sure your internet connection is strong enough that you won’t run into technical issues in the middle of the event. If you choose to pre-record the tour itself, you can always offer live stream commentary as the video plays, providing additional value and context for your attendees.

Finally, market the event and provide opportunities for supporters to sign up! You can either ask for a small donation as they sign up for the event or ask for optional donations during the event itself.

2. Annual Day of Giving

Host an annual giving day for your next virtual fundraising idea.The most popular annual giving day that you likely participate in each year is Giving Tuesday. This is by no means the only giving day you can host each year. You can create your own annual giving day, host it yearly, promote your organization, and brand the event to your mission.

Giving days promote a sense of urgency in your supporters by limiting the time to give to 24 hours. For example, you can send out messages that say things like, “Only 3 hours left in the giving day!” to encourage people to continue contributing to your campaign.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

The first thing you’ll need to do to get started with your annual giving day is to ensure you’ve provided adequate fundraising opportunities for your supporters to use to give to your campaign. Be sure you have a well-optimized fundraising page that streamlines the giving process for supporters.

Successful giving days often come down to marketing initiatives that your organization dives into, leading up to 24 hours of fundraising. Once you have your giving pages set up, you’ll need to start planning your campaign’s marketing strategy.

Create email streams, text messages, and even a fundraising event to celebrate your organization’s particular giving day. Be sure to create templates and drafts of these messages ahead of time so that they can be easily adapted and sent out during the months, weeks, and days leading up to your campaign.

3. Wish List Fundraiser

Wish lists make an incredible virtual fundraising idea.Many of your nonprofit supporters may prefer to donate in-kind rather than providing monetary contributions. However, when you’re working to make sure you’re offering virtual opportunities to your supporters, providing classic in-kind donations is challenging for many organizations. One easy way for you to provide in-kind donation opportunities to your supporters is to offer a wish list fundraiser.

By providing a list of items that you would like to have donated to your organization for a specific purpose related to your mission, you can immediately communicate your supporters’ impact by contributing.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

The first thing you’ll need to do when getting started with this fundraising idea is to develop a list of items that you’d like to have donated to your organization and a reason why they’ll help with your mission. For example, if you work with a homeless shelter, you might ask for toiletries, bedspreads, clothing, and other items that can help people experiencing homelessness access the things they need.

After you know what you need for your mission, you can create a registry on Amazon or a similar site with the specific items that you need. After compiling the registry, start promoting it to your supporters. Be sure to emphasize the impact of these items on your mission when you market the opportunity to supporters.

4. Facebook Fundraising

Facebook fundraising is a growing opportunity for virtual fundraising ideas.As a nonprofit professional, you’re likely aware of your organization’s presence on Facebook and other social media sites. While you may be aware of your organization’s general presence on these platforms, you may not be aware of Facebook’s potential for fundraising for your organization.

Facebook is one of the few fundraising platforms that has no platform fee, and the company will cover the processing fees for the gifts made to charitable organizations. Therefore, you’ll receive all of the funds contributed to your nonprofit. However, the trick is that your nonprofit won’t be the one raising funds when it comes to Facebook fundraisers. Instead, your supporters will be taking care of that duty.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

Because your nonprofit’s supporters will be raising money on behalf of your nonprofit for Facebook fundraisers, your job as the benefitting organization will be to support those individuals, informing them about how to maximize their fundraising efforts on the platform. Find the recent fundraising campaigns started using Facebook’s “Sort and Filter” tool. Then, be sure to reach out and thank the supporter for creating the campaign and offering to provide resources that will help them raise more. For instance, you might suggest they make the first donation to show others that they have a stake in the campaign and share their story of how they’re connected to your mission.

5. Matching Gift Drive

Matching gift drives are a virtual fundraising idea that you can use to leverage the power of corporate philanthropy.Matching gift drives are a great virtual fundraising idea for nonprofits to take advantage of underutilized programs: corporate philanthropy funds. As a part of corporate social responsibility programs, many companies offer to match donations from their employees to eligible nonprofit organizations.

The only reason that more donors don’t submit their matches is that they don’t know about their employer’s matching gift program! 84% of supporters would be more likely to donate if their gift would be matched, and one-third of donors said that they would be willing to give more if they knew their donation would be matched.

The process is pretty simple – the supporter makes a gift, then submits the appropriate forms to their employer. The employer verifies that the donation was made to the nonprofit, and then they match the original gift upon receiving confirmation. During your matching gift drive, make every supporter aware of these programs and urge them to look up their own eligibility.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

To get your matching gift drive off the ground, make it easy for your supporters to look up their eligibility using a matching gift database. Email them with information about what matching gifts are and how they can support your nonprofit, and then ask them to check their own eligibility.

If you already have an established corporate philanthropy program and take advantage of these funds regularly, consider investing in a matching gift automation platform to pursue matches without requiring additional staff time!

6. Virtual 5K or Fun Run

Our number one virtual fundraising idea is a virtual 5K.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!

7. Product Fundraising

Face mask and t-shirt fundraisers are trendy virtual fundraising ideas.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!

8. Online Gala

Move your gala online for a new and innovative virtual fundraising idea.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.

Bloomerang customer Living Stones Academy recently produced a virtual gala-style fundraising event, where they saw an increase of 50+% in revenue and attendance. They were kind enough to share their secrets of success on our webinar series. Check it out here >>

9. Virtual Cooking Night

Cooking nights are a tasty virtual fundraising idea to engage supporters.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.

10. TED Talk Virtual Events

Virtual TED Talks are a virtual fundraising idea that you can use to discuss your mission with supporters.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!

11. Invest in Nonprofit Training

Learn how nonprofit training can amplify your virtual fundraising ideas.Sometimes the best way to raise more funds is to invest in your own staff members. By encouraging or sponsoring nonprofit-specific learning opportunities for your staff members, they can advance skills such as effective management, financial savviness, communication, and, yes, fundraising.

While this may not in itself be a fundraising idea, investing in nonprofit training courses can amplify your fundraising efforts in the long-run and help you better manage your funds to use them more efficiently. This makes it a very valuable fundraising tool.

How to Get Started with this Virtual Fundraising Idea

While there are several routes you can take to implement this strategy, our recommendation is to look for pre-built courses designed by experts in the field. You could go about creating your own courses and educational materials. But, you would use a lot of valuable time and wouldn’t gain the advantages of utilizing the expertise from a third-party (who may know a thing or two that you may be missing!)

Platforms like this one are useful resources because they change up the courses each month, ensuring that you always have access to fresh material to keep learning. Plus, all the courses are featured online so that you can pace yourself and access content on demand.

If you have staff members with a thirst for knowledge, you may drastically benefit from increased training at your organization!

12. Host an Online Gaming Tournament

A fun and engaging virtual fundraising idea for nonprofits is 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

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