33 Online Fundraising Ideas Perfect for Any Cause (Social Distancing Approved!)

Fundraising May 13, 2022

Sayana Izmailova

By Sayana Izmailova

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the landscape of fundraising — many nonprofit staff members now work from home, events are now virtual or hybrid, and donors have embraced the idea of relying on technology to support their favorite causes.

 

What’s interesting is that these online fundraising strategies will likely remain prevalent even after COVID-19 is well behind us. After all, there are a number of benefits that make them a more appealing option than in-person engagements.

 

In this post, let’s talk about online fundraising — what it is, why it’s often a great choice for nonprofits, and what you can do to get started. More importantly, we’ll share 33 ideas you can try at your organization to raise money online and meet your fundraising goals during the pandemic and beyond. 

 

Let’s take a look!

What Is Online Fundraising?

Online fundraising is simply a way to raise money using the Internet. This means that nonprofits can collect donations without putting on in-person events, going door-to-door, or collecting cash. In fact, all you need is a laptop and an Internet connection, and you can raise money without ever leaving the office (or your couch at home). 

Why Should You Have an Online Fundraiser?

When COVID-19 started, most nonprofits were forced to go virtual. However, even without a global pandemic, online fundraising is a great option. If anything, the pandemic has normalized carrying out fundraising activities in the online space, and most nonprofits have adopted this as their preferred way to raise money. Here’s why:

 

  • It’s easier and more convenient

  • It’s cost-effective

  • It improves accessibility 

  • It increases reach

  • It attracts new supporters 

  • It offers a more targeted approach 

 

Let’s take a look at each of these benefits in more detail. 

6 Benefits of Online Fundraising

1. It’s easier and more convenient

Whether you’re used to organizing a lot of events or having volunteers go door-to-door to collect donations, you have to agree that these methods require a lot of work – planning, organizing, managing people, schedules, committees, sub-committees and a lot of other headache-inducing tasks.

 

Online fundraising relies on technology (such as online payment processors) more than anything, so the only work you have to do is strategic, like setting goals and thinking about how best to reach them. Fundraising online does involve a bit of work up front to get things set up, but the rest is usually handled by the technology you choose to work with.

 

2. It's cost-effective

You don’t need to book a venue for your event, cater lunch for your committee meeting, pay for the 5,000 direct mail pieces you send out or print 500 flyers to promote your fundraiser. Most of the ideas in this post are low cost, rely on technology you already pay for, and some are completely free (other than paying your staff for their time, of course).

3. It improves accessibility 

Fundraising events can be challenging for some people to attend. Maybe coming to an event would require them to arrange special travel accommodations. Or maybe they’re busy parents of small children and can’t make it work with their schedule. 

 

Moving your fundraising to the online space means people can participate from anywhere and on their own time. Even events like walk-a-thons, when done virtually, typically last a few days to a few weeks, rather than just one day. This means that participants can choose exactly when, where, and how to take part. 

 

Lastly, fundraising online gives your nonprofit more opportunities to share information in an accessible way by including closed captions, transcripts, and screen-reader friendly content — accommodations that aren’t always possible in in-person events. 

 

4. It increases reach

If you’re a small nonprofit in the Yukon, there’s no way that someone from New York is coming to your event (sorry to burst your bubble).   

But with online fundraising, physical distance doesn’t exist – you can spread the word about your cause all across the globe if you want to. The power of social media makes this possible, so why not take advantage and see how many potential supporters live beyond your local community? 

 

Not to mention, marketing opportunities like Google Ad Grants allow you to amplify your online presence even further. As we’ll explore, you can determine which keywords will put you in front of the right prospects, then amplify conversion-optimized pages like donation forms, event landing pages, and educational content regarding your mission.

 

Read More: 200+ Amazing Fundraising Ideas Any Organization Can Try Today

5. It attracts new supporters 

Increased reach means more potential new donors. In other words, the more people see your fundraiser, the more support you’ll receive. Even if they don’t donate right away, executing an online fundraiser will allow you to collect information from prospective donors, add them to your DMS (donor management system), and continue to build a relationship with them. 


Depending on the type of online fundraiser you organize, you may not always get a chance to collect this kind of information. At the very least, someone may see your campaign, follow your page for more updates, and make a donation at a later point. 

6. It offers a more targeted approach 

With online fundraising, you have a lot more control over your message and who sees it. For example:

 

  • You can use data to personalize your emails and make sure the reader feels like the message was written just for them. 

  • You can promote your fundraiser with social media ads and target people who are most likely to donate to a cause like yours.

  • You can evaluate how well your message, story, and visual media are resonating with your audience and quickly make adjustments. Because everything is digital, you can experiment with different versions and make edits in a matter of minutes. 

How to Raise Money With Virtual Fundraising

Before we get into the online fundraising ideas, let’s briefly take a look at the seven essential steps you’ll need to take to organize a successful fundraiser. 

1. Pick the right idea

All of the ideas we cover in the next section are great, but they won’t all work for your organization. To pick the best idea, think about your objectives, what your audience would like, and what your resources can allow. If you’ve never done online fundraising before, it’s best to start with something small or something that allows you to put your expertise to use. You can always experiment, learn, and grow from there. 

 

2. Review your website

It’s important to remember what the ultimate goal of your efforts is – you want people to come to your website and make a donation.

To that end, before you even start planning your online fundraising strategy, take a good look at your website and make sure it’s ready for all these new visitors.

You want your website to be easy to navigate, tell the story of your organization in a compelling way, and inspire people to join your community. 

Wondering how to get started? Check out this post on the 22 features that every nonprofit website has

Your website should also make it easy for people to make a donation. Design a functional donate page and link to it in the header of your website to make it hard to miss. A great donate page is simple, but offers the donor lots of options to fit their unique needs.

3. Convince your board

Prepare a presentation for your board about your online fundraising idea and cover the following:

 

  • Your goals and how you plan to achieve them

  • The benefits of online fundraising (feel free to borrow from the above section)

  • The impact this fundraiser will create

  • What it will cost

  • What new software you’ll need to invest in (if any)

  • How board members can help

4. Get the right online fundraising software

Fundraising software makes it easy to manage various aspects of the fundraising process, such as collecting and processing donations, managing donor data, and stewarding relationships.

 

When it comes to online fundraising, having integrated tools that can handle all this is particularly important — it means that when someone makes an online donation via your website, their information gets automatically entered into your database, and you can start sending them personalized communications right away. 

 

If you don’t yet have fundraising software or you’re looking for a more integrated option, consider WildApricot — you can use it to build a website, collect donations, and manage your donor relationships, all in one place. Click here to learn more or start a free 30-day trial. 

5. Build your marketing materials

Since your fundraiser will be virtual, most of your promotional efforts should be done online, as well. Prepare a multi-channel promotion plan and think about:

 

  • Updating your website

  • Sending out promotional emails

  • Posting on social media

  • Paying for social media and/or Google ads

  • Partnering with other organizations, websites, publications, and influencers who’d be willing to help spread the word about your fundraiser 

 

Once you’ve identified which channels you’ll be using, prepare your message, identify the campaign’s branding, and design cohesive and compelling marketing materials. 

6. Start your virtual fundraiser!

Virtual fundraisers can last anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks. Depending on the format of yours, you may need to check in regularly (a few times a day) to make sure that everything is working and no one is having issues. Because virtual fundraisers rely so much on technology, there will always be a few people who need help troubleshooting — make sure you have a technical support team on standby. 

 

Don’t forget to also track your progress towards your fundraising goal and see what is and isn’t working. There may be things you can adjust mid-campaign to improve your results, or you might have to note them down for next time. 

7. Say thank you and conduct post-fundraiser analysis

As soon as the fundraiser is over, send a message to all participants, donors, vendors, and anyone else involved. Thank them for their time, contributions, and willingness to try something different. 

 

Lastly, get together with your planning team and analyze how the fundraiser went. Answer questions like:

 

  • Were you able to meet your goals? Why or why not? 

  • What went well and what didn’t?

  • What would you do differently next time?

  

 

33 Virtual Fundraising Ideas

 

Now without further ado, let’s dive into the online fundraising ideas. Feel free to skip to a topic that interests you the most!

 

 1. Google Ads

Your website on its own is a great source of online donations, but how do you drive more traffic to your website? 

 

Well, we’d like to introduce you to Google Ads.

 

Chances are, you’ve seen a fair share of these floating around the Internet, advertising anything and everything. 

 

But did you know you can set up Google Ads for your nonprofit too? The great thing about Google Ads for nonprofits is that it doesn’t even have to cost you anything. Google offers a Google Ad Grant so that you can promote your great work without breaking your marketing budget.

 

If you decide to take advantage of this offer, use compelling language and images to get people to click on the ad and go to your website to learn more. You can even target people with specific attributes to increase the chances of them responding well to your ad.

 

Between choosing the right landing pages and keywords that will inspire people to get involved, properly allocating your grant money can be challenging. If you’re low on staff time or just need more guidance, you might outsource this work to a Google Ad Grant management agency. The goal with doing that is to take account creation, keyword research, landing page conversion, and ongoing compliance off your plate. However you go about it, make sure you really think through your strategy for allocating your grant money!

 

Who does it well:

 

Try typing in “donate to charity” into the Google search bar and the first result that will come up is from Clean Water International

 

It’s not because they’re the most popular charity — it’s simply because they’ve set up a Google Ad to make sure their website comes up when people search for those specific words (you can tell because of the word “Ad” in the top left corner).

 

Pay attention to the strong and concise language they use in the title of their page, as well as the description. Even without clicking on the link, it’s immediately clear what their mission is and how vital it is that people support their work.

 

 Clean Water International

2. Text-to-Give

The ease of giving through a mobile phone is hard to beat — people are already on it all the time, and there are no lengthy forms to fill out. Plus, a service like SnowballQgivMobileCause or many others will set up the system for you, so all you have to do is decide on a catchy and relevant keyword and start encouraging people to text in.

 

Note that there are two ways of giving through a mobile phone and you might need to do some research about what your audience would prefer. Text-to-give automatically charges the donation amount through the donor’s mobile service provider, while text-to-donate responds to their text with a link to a webpage where they can complete the donation. This article explains the difference in greater detail.

 

Who does it well:

 

One of the earliest adopters of text-to-give was the American Red Cross. Following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, they raised over $43 million in relief funds by encouraging people to text “HAITI” and donate $10. Their text-to-give system is still successfully running today.

 Red Cross

 

3. Email Campaign

Hopefully, sending appeals via email is already part of your nonprofit’s fundraising practice. It’s a low-cost way of letting your community know what your immediate needs are and how they can offer their support. 

 

Plus, if you’ve taken the right steps to grow your email list over time, the impact of just one well-crafted email could be far-reaching.

 

When drafting your message, keep in mind that your audience likely already receives a ton of emails. Make this one stand out with a catchy subject, lots of visuals and a large and clear call to action. This email should be different from other ones you send, such as your welcome emails, event invitations or reminders, your newsletter and other updates. It should be concise, to the point, and stress an immediate need for action.

 

Who does it well:

 

Here’s a great fundraising email sent by Hands On Atlanta — it states the need clearly and concisely, sets a specific goal and uses compelling language and imagery.

Hands on ATL

 

4. Social Media Campaign

People are spending more time than ever before on social media, so it’s essential that your nonprofit makes good use of these channels, especially in the midst of a fundraising campaign. 

And what’s the first step? Before you start posting, be sure to come up with a social media strategy. Create compelling content for each of your channels and be specific about why you’re asking people to make a gift and why they should.

 

Doing this will result in meaningful engagement with your followers, more clicks to your website and donations, as well as more shares across your followers’ own networks to spread the word. Plus, if you have the budget, you can also take advantage of placed advertisements to reach a brand-new audience.

 

Who does it well:

 

Here’s a great Facebook post from Volunteers of America — it uses simple language, an attention-grabbing image and a compelling quote. It’s quick to read and expresses the organization’s need in a simple and easy to digest way.

 

Volunteers of America  

In addition to conveying your donation ask through social media posts, be sure to take advantage of platform capabilities created specifically with nonprofits in mind.

 

For example, Facebook allows both individuals and organizations to create Fundraisers and gather support for a specific cause. It works much like a crowdfunding campaign and your supporters can share the fundraiser across their own networks. Here’s an example from The Mater Foundation, which received donations from nearly 5,000 people in just over a month.  

 

The Mater Foundation  

 

Instagram has also started helping nonprofits collect donations. People can make donations directly from your profile, or you can add a “Donate” sticker to your Instagram stories or link directly to your donate page from the story. 

 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals uses all three with great success:  

 ASPCA

 

Read More: Social Media Fundraising: 6 Tips to Make It Work for You

 

5. Social Media Challenge

In addition to posting about your fundraising appeal on social media, why not get your followers engaged with a special challenge? 

You can ask them to do something specific — the task can be fun, challenging, impressive, surprising or anything in between — and take a photo or video of them doing it. 

 

Then, after making a donation to your cause, they can post the challenge on their own social media, tagging you and using a special hashtag you created for the challenge.

 

This helps spread the word about your cause because the videos and photos will get in front of the eyes of people who don’t already know about your organization. There’s also a good chance they’ll want to try the challenge for themselves, resulting in more donations and more shared content.

 

Who does it well:

 

Many organizations have organized very successful social media challenges in the past — think the ALS bucket challenge or Movember. TikTok, the latest big social media platform, has also seen a surge in the number of challenges posted for charity. TikTok will often take it one step further and make their own donation for every video posted with a specific charity-related hashtag. 

 

Check out TikTok for Good for some great examples, including this campaign for the United Nations' International Fund for Agricultural Development. TikTok users all over the world posted videos with the hashtag #DanceforChange to raise awareness about the need for increased investment in sustainable agriculture in developing countries.

 United Nations

6. Social Media Takeover

Is there an organization or business who supports your mission? 

 

Reach out to them and ask if they’d be willing to “donate” their social media account to you for a day or even just a few hours. 

 

This means that for that specified amount of time, they’ll be posting content on your nonprofit’s behalf – stories about the people or animals you serve, information about the work you do and why more funds are needed, as well as prompts to donate.

 

This is a great way to reach more people and raise awareness about your cause. For your partner organization, it’s a chance to showcase their social corporate responsibility and elevate their brand. If they have a loyal following, their customers and clients will be more than willing to donate to a cause they support.

 

Who does it well:

 

Here’s an example of a social media takeover done by Reason Digital. For 8 hours straight, they posted content from 8 charities whose work they support. The beneficiaries of these nonprofits shared personal stories in a series of Tweets for an hour each to raise awareness and funds.

 Reason Digital 1Reason Digital 2

7. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding can be very effective and doesn’t take long to set up. There are lots of platforms to choose from, many of them designed specifically with nonprofits in mind.

 

Once you’ve settled on a platform, create a campaign that expresses a specific need, has a set goal and a firm deadline, and get promoting! If your campaign tells your nonprofit’s story in a compelling way, people will be sure to spread the word about your cause and help you garner support.  

 

Who does it well:

 

Though crowdfunding is often used by startups and individuals for personal needs, it’s also perfect for small nonprofits who’d like to broaden their reach. Here’s an example of a GoFundMe page set up by the Humane Society Yukon — it’s a great way for them to attract new donors who might live outside of their geographic location.

 

 Humane Society Yukon

 

8. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

The terms crowdfunding and peer-to-peer fundraising are sometimes used interchangeably, but the two approaches are quite different. Peer-to-peer fundraising relies on individuals organizing their own mini crowdfunding campaigns on your behalf. It’s extremely effective because it taps into your supporters’ existing networks and trusted relationships.

Plus, setting up a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign is quite simple. You can select a platform that fits your needs, then give your fundraisers everything they need to be successful. This includes a clear message, compelling visuals, promotional materials and answers to questions their donors might have.

 

To make your peer-to-peer fundraiser successful, you’ll need to motivate your fundraisers. One way to do this is to instill a healthy dose of competition by encouraging them to create teams and acknowledging the most successful fundraisers at the end of the challenge. 

 

Who does it well:

 

The Greater Boston Food Bank is doing this very well — they list the top individual fundraisers and teams, as well as the latest activity to acknowledge donors as soon as they make a gift.

 Greater Boston Food Bank

 

9. Amazon Smile

The Amazon Smile program enables Amazon shoppers to donate 0.5% of the price of their purchase to a charity of their choice.

As a nonprofit, all you have to do is register your organization with Amazon Smile and encourage your community to go through smile.amazon.com instead of the regular website when they do their Amazon shopping. It doesn’t cost them anything extra, but Amazon’s contributions can add up over time.

 

The more you can spread the word about it, the more effectively it will work. Be sure to include a link to your organization’s profile on Amazon Smile on your website, in email newsletters, on social media and any other channels.

 

Who does it well:

 

Here’s an example from Victim Rights Law Centre — they sent out this email to their supporters listing the different ways in which people can support them online, including a link to their Amazon Smile page.

Victim Rights Law Center

10. Matching Gifts

Individuals are much more likely to make a donation when they know that their impact will be doubled. To make this possible, seek out a corporate partner or major gift donor who’d be willing to match gifts up to a certain amount. Promote this match in all of your online fundraising channels – website, emails, social media, etc.

 

You’re essentially asking a company or major donor for one large gift, but the impact it will have in increasing the number of individual donations will well exceed the efforts it requires.

 

If you’re unable to secure a matching gift donor or choose to not go that route, you can always encourage your community to seek out their own matching gifts. Remind them that many employers have a corporate matching program and will match their gift to your organization: all they have to do is ask.

 

Who does it well:

 

Below is an email from Room to Read where they share that gifts will be matched by one of their board members for up to $50,000. Messaging about the match is clearly stated and grabs the readers’ attention quickly, while the case for support is communicated in an urgent and compelling way.

 Room to Read

11. Partnership with an Online Business for Proceeds

Many online businesses choose to donate a portion or even 100% of proceeds to charity as part of their marketing and brand building efforts. They sometimes choose a specific product line or a time period, and heavily promote the initiative across their channels.

 

This elevates their brand and creates loyal customers that come back to purchase their products in the future, well after their charity campaign is over.

 

As a nonprofit, you can reach out to a business whose mission and values align with yours and ask if they’d be willing to create a similar arrangement. They’ll get the benefit of brand loyalty, and your organization will receive the proceeds of their sales. You can even offer to promote the campaign across your community to introduce their business to new potential customers. Since more and more people are shopping online today, this partnership is a win-win for everyone involved.

 

Who does it well:

 

Check out this email from Everlane, a sustainable clothing company. They’ve partnered with Feeding America and offered to donate all proceeds from one of their clothing lines to Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund. People get to purchase great clothes while donating to charity, Everlane gains increased brand loyalty, and Feeding America receives much-needed financial support.

 

 Feeding America]

 

12. Partnership with an Online Business for a Donation at Checkout

Another simple way to partner with an online business is to ask them to include a donation prompt at checkout.

 

You’ve likely experienced the cashier asking you to donate a dollar or two when you’re checking out at the grocery store. The idea here is the same. People are already typing in their credit card number to make a purchase, so asking them to add on a dollar for a good cause isn’t asking for much. Recent statistics show that 69% of customers say yes when asked to donate at checkout, so it can really add up to a significant amount over time.  

 

Plus, just like the idea above, this elevates the company’s brand and makes them a socially responsible business. Some companies may even prefer including an ask at checkout over donating a portion of proceeds because they don’t actually lose any profit in this case.

 

Who does it well:

 

Most big companies have some sort of checkout campaign, either ongoing or during certain times of the year. If you’ve ever shopped at the Canadian bookstore chain Indigo, you would have noticed that they ask people to donate to their Love of Reading Foundation, which partners with nonprofits to provide books and educational resources to children who can’t otherwise afford them.

 

 Indigo 

 

Read More: How Your Nonprofit Can Succeed with Cause Marketing

 

13. Partnership with a Social Media Influencer

 

Social media influencers are a hot topic these days, and for good reason. They provide their followers with highly relatable content on a consistent basis, forming deep relationships and gaining trust. This trust translates to a lot of influence (hence the term “influencer”) over the decisions members of their community make — the restaurants they visit, recipes they make at home, products they buy, shows they watch, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

 

For-profit businesses have found a way to take advantage of this new way to influence the behaviour of their potential customers. Who’s to say nonprofit organizations can’t do the same?

 

Reach out to an influencer to see if they might be interested in partnering with you. There are a number of ways they can help — making a donation to your nonprofit and sharing their experience with their followers, asking their community to make donations, or simply promoting any of your fundraising campaigns on their social media.

 

Who does it well:

 

Check out this Instagram post form content creator Imogen Lucas (@sustainably_vegan). She donated the payment she received for a sponsored post to a charity she feels very passionate about and spoke about why she chose to do it. The comment section is full of people sharing how inspired they feel and how grateful they are to her for raising awareness about an important issue.

 

 sustainably_vegan

14. E-Cards

The idea of sending cards or e-cards to accompany a donation isn’t new – many charities offer to send a card on your behalf when you make a tribute gift in honour or memory of someone.

 

But have you ever thought of having people make a donation so that they can send an e-card? Think of it like buying a candygram for someone on Valentine’s Day, except they can do it at any time of the year and for any occasion.

 

The set-up is simple, too. Design a number of e-cards (or ask community members to do so) and put them up on your website. People can then choose the design they like, fill in the recipient’s email address and even add a special message. Once they make the donation, their e-card will be sent to the recipient.

 

You can also include your own branding and brief messaging on the cards so that each time a card is sent, it helps spread the word about your work and maybe even inspires the recipient to send their own card to someone.

 

Who does it well:

 

Here’s a great example of an e-card collection from Amit Children — they provide lots of options and charge $18 for each card sent. When you remember that the cost of sending a card is really a donation, it seems like a fair amount and leaves room for people to order several cards at a time.

 

 Amit Children

 

15. Virtual Silent Auction

Silent auctions are a tried-and-true method of generating revenue at fundraising events. 

 

And thanks to advances in software, they no longer have to be done in-person.

 

Plan out all the details as you would for a regular silent auction, then choose a software like Auctria to execute it. You’ll be able to post photos of your items, allow people to place bids, announce the winners and take payments — all done completely online.

 

Check out this post to learn how to organize an online auction in more detail.  

 

Who does it well:

 

The Japanese American National Museum just wrapped up their own virtual silent auction with great success:

 

 JANM

 

16. Un-gala

Sure, a fancy annual fundraising gala has been a must-have event for many nonprofits, but who says we have to keep playing by the rules? 

 

Introducing the “un-gala” — same attendees, same cause, same fundraising revenue, but without the hassle of planning an enormous event.

 

An un-gala is the exact opposite of a gala. People simply buy tickets to stay home and not go to an event (you’d be surprised how many people actually prefer that).

 

Organizing an un-gala could not be simpler. Set up registrations and promote your event and that’s pretty much it — how the attendees choose to spend their time on the day of the event is entirely up to them.

 

Who does it well:

 

This description of an un-gala provided by The Nehemia Foundation, who recently hosted one, perfectly summarizes how to participate:

 

 Nehemia Foundation

 

17. Live-Streamed Event

A gala is not the only event that can be turned virtual. Really, most activities you plan to do in-person can be done via live-streamed video.

 

Would you normally have a keynote speaker at your event? Have them give their address via a platform like Zoom. Were you thinking of hosting a movie screening party? Have everyone join in to watch from the comfort of their own home.

 

If you’re looking for more info, we’ve published an entire blogpost on how to successfully organize a virtual event, complete with the exact steps and sample schedule. Also be sure to download our Virtual Event Checklist so you don't miss any crucial steps. 

 

The beauty of these events is that your organization can still reach (and often exceed) your fundraising goals, without the cost of organizing an elaborate in-person event.

 

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Live Video Streaming on Social Media for Nonprofits

 

Who does it well:

 

Here’s a great example of a live streamed event from Gateway Public Schools. They organized a telethon and invited attendees to join their disco dance party from their living rooms, raising over $73,000 to enrich students’ lives.

 

 Great Gateway Gathering

 

18. Virtual Run, Bike, Or Walk

One of the most popular fundraising events is a run or walk — participants get the chance to challenge themselves, get some exercise and raise money for a good cause from within their own networks.

 

Well, did you know that you don’t need to close down the streets and hope for sunshine in the forecast in order to have a successful run or walk? 

 

You guessed it – you can do it virtually.

 

All you need to do is pick a date (or a date range, to give participants more flexibility), set up registrations, and enable your participants to raise funds. When the time comes, you can live-stream a kick-off ceremony and send your participants off to complete the run or walk on their own, in their own neighborhoods and on their own time. They can track and submit their best times and still engage in some friendly competition. 

 

At your live-streamed closing ceremony, announce the most enthusiastic runners, walkers and fundraisers, along with the final amount raised, what the funds will support and closing remarks from your leadership.

 

Who does it well:

 

The Hiawatha Bicycling Club wanted to encourage their club members to continue to ride solo during the pandemic, so they created a virtual drive for their local food shelf. 

 

Club members were challenged to get out and ride, then report their mileage. For every mile they reported, a half a dollar would be added towards the goal of $2000. Taken together, everyone’s solo rides contributed to one big group ride — and in less than 3 weeks, over 50 members rode more than 4000 miles to meet the $2000 goal. 

 

Plus, club members have continued to ride and now make personal donations based on their mileage on behalf of the Hiawatha Bicycling Club. They commented that they were motivated to ride more than usual because of the opportunity to help those whose lives were turned upside down from the impact of social distancing.

 

Although your current donors may not be that passionate about a particular activity, you might be able to work with another club in your community who may not be directly raising funds, and ask their members to support you instead.

 

19. Fitness Challenge

Another great way to get your community active while raising funds is to host a fitness challenge. Create a series of short workouts and challenge your participants to tune in to your live-streamed demonstration over a set number of days (feel free to partner with a professional fitness coach to grow your audience too!).

 

People will gladly welcome the opportunity to exercise consistently, especially when they know that hundreds of others are doing it at the same time. Encourage them to tell everyone they know about what they’re doing and ask for donations from family and friends.

 

As with the virtual run or walk, don’t forget to live-stream an opening and closing ceremony and provide your participants with everything they need to fundraise successfully.

 

Who does it well:

 

The CrossFit community created a 7-day workout challenge called United in Movement, raising funds for three charities: Action Against Hunger, the Red Cross and CrossFit Foundation. To date, they’ve had over 13,000 registrants and raised nearly $240,000.

 

 United in Movement

 

20. Game Night

Who doesn’t love games? The possibilities are endless when it comes to organizing a game night.

 

Invite your community to join you virtually for one evening. They can play board games at home, on their phones, online games with their friends remotely, or even their favorite video games.

 

As always, the key with an event like this is to get your registrants excited about participating and encourage them to spread the word to their friends and family.

 

Who does it well:

 

Boston Children’s Hospital just wrapped up their own game night with great success. They invited participants to make donations upon registration, provided them with lots of ideas on what kinds of games to play, and shared impact stories to remind them why their participation is vital and greatly appreciated.

 

 Boston Children's Hospital 

 

21. Virtual Class or Workshop

The one good thing about the pandemic is that it’s allowed nonprofits and associations to introduce events that would be difficult to organize in person. 

 

Take cooking classes, for example. Cooking classes, mixology classes, painting workshops, and etc., have been fun activities for individuals and small groups for some time, but it’s nearly impossible to plan something like a cooking class for hundreds of attendees. That would take a big kitchen!

But by partnering with organizations like Cozymeal and Liberate Your Palate, you can register large groups of people to get access to a video service (Zoom is the most popular) and follow along as a professional shows you how to make a delicious treat. 

 

You could set up the virtual cooking class fundraiser by creating an event on Facebook or through Eventbrite and set a flat price to attend. 

 

Who does it well? 

 

Many companies have successfully planned a virtual cooking class as a fundraiser or as a team-building exercise. 

 

We love how clear and easy it is to use Cozymeal to choose a virtual cooking class that will suit your event needs.

 

 

22. Virtual Movie Night

 

In stressful times, does it get much better than grabbing your favorite snack and watching a good film? 

 

With virtual movie nights, you can give your members and donors something they’re sure to love while doing good for your organization. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there are a few platforms that help organizations set up virtual movie nights like Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) or Kosmi (not attached to any one streaming service) that make it simple to send a link inviting event registrants to the virtual movie theater once you’ve started it. 

 

Who does it well?

 

The University of Alabama hosted a movie night to promote diversity and open discussion on campus. The landing page they created for their virtual movie night is eye-catching, with instructions to join that are easy to follow. 

 

 

23. Virtual Trivia Night

 

We’ll admit: it’s hard to replicate the fun atmosphere of a trivia night with friends at your local pub, but that hasn’t stopped thousands of people from getting a team together and having a good time sharing their knowledge and winning some fun prizes during a rousing virtual trivia game. 

 

And you don’t need to get super fancy with organizing your virtual trivia event. It’s as simple as setting up a webinar or event in your video conference platform of choice (again, Zoom seems to be the virtual event go-to tool), coming up with a set of questions, then having people register as a team and setting a donation amount to attend. 

 

You can make the event extra fun by offering prizes to the winners. 

 

Who does it well?

 

The Villages sent an email out a day before its virtual trivia night that clearly displayed the Zoom link, gave step-by-step instructions on how to enter the event, gave people another opportunity to donate, and ended the message with the name and contact information of someone they could speak with if they had any issues. 

 

 

Read More: 15 Virtual Event Engagement Ideas for Improved Experiences

 

24. Sell Merchandise Online

What’s one of the best parts of attending an event? The swag, of course! It’s always nice to give away a branded swag item like sunglasses, a notebook, a mug, or a t-shirt (they make great prizes for trivia winners!). Still, you can also host a type of online sale or virtual store where you sell items that would benefit your donors. 

 

Who does it well? 

In the case of a swag store that sells physical items, nonprofits like ACES: The Society for Editing has successfully used Threadless for smooth transactions.

 

But if you don’t have a swag store, you can also sell digital products that your members and donors will love, like e-books, gift cards for yearly memberships, online classes, and more.

 

SCASS Digital Downloads Site 

 

 

25. Virtual Concert

 

These days, it’s not uncommon for successful events to include music as an essential element on the agenda, whether it’s carefully choosing a DJ to play during cocktail hours or inviting musicians to play for guests at after-parties or as a way to end the event. 

 

Now, virtual concerts ARE the event. We recommend finding a local musician(s) to feature, or you can’t go wrong with a good cover band. Whether you decide to sell tickets or to invite everyone and ask for donations, it’s guaranteed to be a good time. 

 

Who does it well? 

We’d be remiss if we didn’t feature Facebook LIVE as one of the best tools to use for hosting your virtual conference. Since so many organizations, companies, and potential attendees are already on it, it’s a great way to leverage something nearly everyone is familiar with. 

 

The best part? They make streaming your concert pretty seamless for organizers to set up. You can broadcast your conference straight from an individual’s page, a group page, or an event page.

 

26. Volunteer Grants

You may already know that many large corporations let their employees take paid time off to volunteer for local nonprofit organizations. What you may not know is that a lot of them will not only pay their employees for the time, but also pay you! That’s right — you get the volunteers’ time and a monetary donation. 

The donation is usually set at an hourly rate and determined by how many hours the volunteer spends with your organization. In other words, the more time the volunteer gives your organization, the larger the donation you receive!

Volunteer grants work with both in-person and virtual volunteers. To take advantage of this opportunity virtually, look  for volunteers who can help your organization remotely (for example, with graphic design, social media management, data entry, etc). Ask your volunteers to check with their employer whether or not they have a volunteer grant program. Not every company does, but it ever hurts to ask. Plus, the inquiry might inspire them to implement one! 

Who does it well:

Every year, the Bank of America gives out up to $1,000 per employee in volunteer grants to honor those who give their time to nonprofit organizations. 

Bank of America

27. In-Kind Fundraising

An in-kind donation is a donation of anything that’s not money. This can be physical items like clothes, food, supplies, or equipment. It can also be someone’s time and expertise. 

On your end, soliciting in-kind donations can almost always be done virtually. Simply put out a call to your community and list the items or services you’re looking for. 

To keep the process virtual for the donors, ask them to provide a service remotely or order physical items to be shipped directly to you. 

Who does it well:

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health hosts a Virtual Toy Drive. They publish an Amazon wish list and invite donors to purchase items from the list, shipping them directly to the hospital.

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children's Health

 

28. Pledge Drive 

A pledge is a promise to make a donation at a later point. A fun way to collect pledges is to organize an a-thon type event and have the participants raise funds from their friends and family. The donation amount would be tied to how much the participants are able to accomplish. 

For example, for a walk-a-thon, donors can pledge to donate $5 for every mile that the participant will walk. If after the event is over, the participant walked a total of 20 miles, their friends and family would each have to donate $100. 

This motivates the participants to do something positive — walk, run, cycle, dance, or read — and gives them the power to affect how much money will be raised towards a cause they care about. 

Who does it well:

The Johnson County Public Library Foundation organized a read-a-thon — participants asked their friends and family to pledge a certain amount for every minute they read over the course of a month. 

The Johnson County Public Library Foundation

 

29. Online Raffle

Raffles are a classic way to raise money. They’re fun, they get people excited, and they generate quite a bit of revenue. This is because people’s motivation for donating is not only to support a great cause, but to also increase their chances of winning the big prize. 

Organizing an online raffle is not too different from doing it in-person. Simply set a price for the tickets, decide on the grand prize (or a few), and start getting the word out. You can get dedicated online raffle software to make things even easier, but it’s not a must-have. 

And be sure to check with your state whether or not you’ll need a special raffle license before you can start selling tickets. 

Who does it well:

Check out this ongoing raffle fundraiser put on by Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Foundation

Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Foundation

 

30. Virtual Cocktail Hour

Normally, a cocktail hour is an event that people go to in-person to share a few drinks, enjoy each other’s company, and network. However, nothing says you can’t replicate the same experience in the online space and charge for admission as a way to raise funds. 

Simply invite your guests to get together over Zoom. For the “cocktail” portion of cocktail hour, use a courier to send everyone a kit for making their own cocktails at home. It can also be fun to invite a professional mixologist on the Zoom call to demonstrate a few recipes and talk about their history. 

Who does it well:

The ASRT Foundation hosted a virtual happy hour to raise money for medical imaging and radiation therapy professionals and students. Their event was themed after the Roaring ‘20s — a mixologist shared tips, tricks, and fun trivia, and a dance instructor led everyone through a Charleston lesson. 

ASRT Foundation

 

31. Virtual Talent Show

Talent shows are a fun way to get your community together (and reveal a hidden talent or two!). If the idea of booking a venue, renting A/V equipment, and setting up chairs doesn’t sound too appealing, consider hosting a virtual talent show. Simply invite members of your community to submit videos of them performing and compile them together into a show. On the day of the event, you can get everyone on a Zoom call and have a live MC introduce each act. 

You can raise funds by charging for attendance, but you can also invite people to buy votes and help their favorite act win the grand prize. 

Who does it well:

Penn State Health Children's Hospital put on a virtual talent show. Participants submitted their performance videos, which were published on the fundraiser website. Voters had a chance to browse each video on their own time  and at their own pace, and then make a donation to vote for their favorite acts. 

Penn State Health Children's Hospital

 

32. Virtual Craft Fair

Handmade creations make wonderful gifts! Put together a virtual craft fair and invite your community to shop your online store. You can raise money by charging artisans a small fee to set up a virtual booth on your website, as well as taking a percentage of the sales. 

The artisans will get new customers, the attendees will get lovely handmade pieces, and your organization will raise money to fund your work. It’s a win-win-win! 

Who does it well:

Check out this virtual craft fair organized by the British Red Cross. 

British Red Cross

 

33. Virtual Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger hunts are fun for people of all ages and a great activity to do as a family. Invite your community to participate in support of your organization — they can go out and complete the scavenger hunt on their own time and at their own pace. All you have to do is prepare a list of things they need to find (these can be in your local community and/or somewhere on the Internet) and set a deadline. You can even award prizes for finishing the scavenger hunt in record time or finding bonus items. 

Who does it well:

Check out this virtual scavenger hunt from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Edward Island. 

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Prince Edward Island

 

Which Online Fundraiser Will You Try? 

Hopefully, this list has given you plenty of ideas for how you can raise money online, whether it’s because of social distancing or otherwise! 

When you’ve settled on an idea and are ready to dive into planning your event or campaign, be sure to read The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Successful Virtual Fundraiser

And if you’re looking for online fundraising software that will make planning and executing your fundraiser a breeze, don’t forget to check out WildApricot. Click here to start a free 30-day trial and see for yourself how it can help transform your fundraising. 

Best of luck with your online fundraising!

Read More: 5 Tips to Boost Your Association’s Online Fundraising Efforts

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Comments

  • Jokamason@gmail.com:
    I am a member of University Women of Flagler (Florida) & sent your overview to the members of the UWF Planning Committee in order to brainstorm about our upcoming fund raising plans. Thank you so much for sharing these ideas with others - it is truly appreciated! 😷 Joanne Mason (Membership Chair)
  • Vicki:
    I love the virtual event idea, the virtual silent auction, and the Virtual Run! We usually run multiple events each year and I think online events with some live-streamed content, backed up with a virtual silent auction, will help us raise funds. Thanks for these fantastic suggestions. I've tried to request your Virtual Event Checklist but the Access Now button isn't responding to my clicks. I'll try again later but it would be great it someone could look at that!
  • Tatiana Morand

    Tatiana Morand:
    Hi Vicki, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post! I just checked that post, and the link appears to work for me so hopefully it'll work if you try again.

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