14 Creative Virtual Fundraising Ideas for 2020

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September 23, 2020

You found our list of unique virtual fundraising ideas.

Virtual fundraising is the effort of raising funds online, usually for a charity or non-profit. Virtual fundraising ideas are specific methods you can use, such as launching a video livestream, hosting a virtual auction, or sending email freebies.

For a more intensive online charity experience, you could also structure your fundraising event like a virtual conference.

This list of ideas includes:

  • online fundraising ideas for individuals
  • virtual fundraising events for nonprofits
  • virtual fundraising for schools
  • remote fundraising for clubs

And more 🙂

So, here is the list!

List of virtual fundraising ideas

From online adoptions to email freebies to do-it-yourself tutorials, here is a list of online fundraising events sure to draw attention, spread awareness, and raise funds. Some of these ideas are suitable for virtual Thanksgiving or as part of a virtual holiday party.

1. Celebrity shout-outs

The app Cameo grew quickly in popularity because people enjoy receiving customized messages from celebrities. Though you may not be able to convince Snoop Dogg to sing Happy Birthday to your donors, the big names in your community, such as politicians, city sports stars, pageant winners, business-people, and A-listers with local roots may be willing to donate time to your cause. You can ask these individuals to commit to recording video clips or chatting via Skype with donors who contribute a certain amount. By announcing the partnership on social media, both your channel and the personality’s, you can generate interest.

2. Video livestream

One of the most engaging and interactive virtual fundraising ideas is to host an entertaining video livestream. You can allow viewers to decide the content of the stream by assigning dollar donation amounts to actions.

For instance, perhaps for every $50 of your goal reached, you hand a toddler a whipped cream pie to toss at a captive adult. Or, you stream a playpen of puppies, and introduce a new cute element for every few hundred dollars raised. Maybe an artist graffitis a wall on webcam and introduces different elements into the mural based on live contributions.

This remote fundraising method encourages involvement and makes the audience feel in control of the outcome. Video live streams provide the suspense and fun of the standard charity dunk booth, minus the sunburn and long lines.

3. Do-it-yourself tutorials

There are thousands of do-it-yourself instructions online, but these web tutorials lack a coach to watch our progress and correct our poor form. We may not be able to master a new craft from YouTube videos alone, because as the saying goes, “practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect.” Expert advice and encouragement goes a long way when we take up a new skill.

You can capitalize on this fact by offering personal online lessons as a donation incentive. You can enter all contributors into a raffle, and award the winner with a live Zoom lesson with an accomplished artisan. Tutorials might include woodworking workshops, video game designing question and answer sessions, cooking demonstrations, editing services, or guitar lessons.

You can even host digital events like “pick a neurologist’s brain,” or “learn how to adult with a financial planner and home repairman.” Sending a kit of supplies to accompany the lesson offers a tactile aspect and inspires more participation. Thanks to the educational nature of the lessons, these tutorials are especially great methods of virtual fundraising for schools.

4. Online adoptions

Online adoptions banner

Conservation groups and pet charities have long championed “adopt an animal” initiatives. The internet offers these campaigns an exciting modern twist in the form of live-streams and video. Instead of merely sending donors a photo of an elephant or a representative tiger plushie, you can give the people gifting exclusive access to a webcam stream, and can even allow viewers to interact with the animals by feeding treats or switching camera views. Perhaps you install a whiteboard in the pen and write personalized messages. Maybe subscribers can vote on fun activities like soccer games or painting hours. This kind of customizable interaction and restricted access can form a clearer bond with the animal and serve as greater incentive for patrons to contribute.

Though this approach works best with animals, you could adapt the activity for a non-creature cause as well. For instance, if raising money for a construction project, then you could allow donors to choose decorations for the lobby. Or, you could record personalized thank you videos from grateful beneficiaries. You could even host a playful “adopt-a-nonprofit volunteer” initiative and invite donors to observe live streamed office antics like prank wars or requests-welcome singalongs.

5. Virtual auction

The internet is no stranger to auctions, but you do not need to be an ecommerce giant like eBay to spark a spirited bidding war online. Virtual auctions are great online fundraising ideas for individuals and organizations alike. You can offer items and services through social media, during a video call, or through online auction software such as OneCause or GiveSmart. To set up your auction, decide what articles you will sell, solicit contributions from friends and outside businesses, advertise your wares, and let the bidding begin!

You can auction off both physical and virtual prizes.

Virtual auction item ideas:

  • Online fitness lessons/digital personal trainer
  • Digital streaming subscription or movie credits
  • Social media takeover
  • Skype cooking lesson
  • A few hours with a virtual assistant
  • Artwork commission with live footage of the piece’s making

Be sure to get creative with the advertising of your event, as you want to draw many donors and fetch good final prices.

6. Online show

As video streaming quality improves, online performances become more common. You can rally artists for an online show of music, painting, dance, improvisational theatre, or impromptu storytelling. Once you solidify your lineup, you can sell tickets for admission to the webcam stream or video call. To make the virtual performance more interactive and exciting, you can give viewers the option to make requests with a small donation. Attendees can choose songs, painting subjects, and story developments, playing a part in crafting the masterpiece and making the performance more personal.

7. Digital plaque wall

Traditionally, donating to an organization might merit a plaque on a bench or building that passersby could see. In the internet age, donation can earn a spot on a webpage that could potentially garner thousands of viewings. You can create a digital plaque wall to honor sponsors and other benefactors. Simply dedicate a page of your website to sponsors, and consider hosting links or logos as a thank you to contributors. You could also make your display more intriguing by teasing a unique piece of artwork and revealing one part of the picture every time a patron makes a donation.

This is an easy and effective way to promote remote fundraising for clubs, artistic clubs especially.

8. Email freebies

You may not be able to include address labels or magnets in an email, but you can still send valuable items as per-emptive thanks. You could either include files and downloadable items directly in an email, or you can include a link recipients can follow to claim the prize. Personally, I recommend the second method. Giftees may assume that attachments are viruses or spam, and a clickable link grants you metrics for measuring actionable interest. Plus, once

A few examples of email freebies to include in online fundraising solicitations:

  • Desktop or phone wallpapers
  • Pre-made social media posts or stories
  • Printable cards, stationary, or photo-booth props
  • Guides, instructions, or recipes
  • Coupon codes

You could also pair with a local entity or utility to offer potential donors special offers and discounts. For instance, if your city hosts a festival or big event, then you can offer donors free or discounted admission tickets. If your city uses a particular parking app, then you may be able to wrangle credits for your philanthropists. You will likely be able to broker a deal with a third party, because this approach is a win-win for everyone; you receive funds for your cause, while the outside organization garners attention for a service or event.

9. Peer-to-peer pushes

Peer-to-peer fundraising means that supporters of your cause reach out to social networks to raise money. Participants often use personalized donation pages to track which contributions resulted from which campaigns. You can further customize the crusade by encouraging supporters to offer a unique service or incentive, such as a hand-painted thank you card or a short Zoom dance lesson. You could also provide profile picture frames and filters so that peers can easily identify supporters on social. This approach allows champions of your organization a more active role and ownership of the push. Peer-to-peer campaigns are one of the simplest and most straightforward virtual fundraising ideas, and serve as a great way to get the word out about your organization.

10. Influencer partnerships

If your organizational goals align with an influencer’s mission, then you can pair up for a tag-team online fundraiser. To launch an influencer partnership, assess your current following and donor pool and select potentials with strong social media presence.

These individuals do not necessarily need to have a giant base; often, micro influencers with loyal fans achieve better results than those with masses of followers. Also, you could ask any connected acquaintances to introduce you to possible influencers, or scout mavens whose values align with yours. You do not necessarily want to put an open call out for partnerships, as you are likely to get several responses that are more appropriate for the peer-to-peer format.

Once you connect with your influencer, you can brainstorm ideas for the collaboration together. Because social media marketers are creators, your contact is likely to have innovative and effective ideas for the platform; do not be afraid to defer to their expertise, as long as the message stays in line with your nonprofit’s vision!

11. Choose your own adventure

Choose your own adventure stories have been around for decades, but the internet is especially conducive to the format. You can craft an interactive “you-determine-the-outcome” experience for your backers that encourages donations. To create a choose your own adventure, write a story with multiple narratives and load your prompts into a program like Google Forms. Users can explore multiple endings to the story, but some will require a contribution to receive a clue. These questions will link to a donation page, which will reveal a secret code after the player pays.

Soliciting a gift for every question will create a frustrating experience for participants, so you should write some story-lines that users can complete without paying, with an option to voluntarily contribute at the end. You can also entice players to pick the paid paths by offering fun and interesting outcomes. For instance, “you find the rare and valuable painting of Barack Obama fighting a stegosaurus locked within a safe. You must crack the code to view the masterpiece!” The entertainment factor of the game creates value for the audience and attracts amused patrons.

12. Mystery box

Mystery box banner

People love a good surprise, especially if that surprise is a present. You can capitalize on human curiosity and the popularity of internet unboxing videos by offering donors a mystery box. Donors will provide an address, and you will send a box of goodies for every donor that makes a minimum donation of $25-50,depending on the worth of the box’s contents. In the package, include instructions for the donor to post photos or videos of the haul to social media with a hashtag.

You can ask businesses to donate items for the boxes and can ask giftees to tag the businesses in the posts. This method serves as publicity for the business, in addition to generating more buzz for your campaign. Besides filling boxes with local goods, you can also pack low-cost organizational swag such as stickers, buttons, magnets, informational brochures, and leftover gifts from past campaigns.

Mystery boxes are one of the more unusual virtual fundraising events for nonprofits, but also one of the most thrilling and novel ideas your organization could implement.

13. Social media mascot

People connect more deeply with individuals than with organizations or general causes. Specific stories forge meaningful connections You can help your online fundraising campaign by personalizing your social media campaign. “Help children buy backpacks” does not resonate as strongly as “Give George everything he needs for this upcoming school year.” Instead of posting updates about how much money you raised for a faceless group, you can share photos of George receiving markers, notebooks, and eventually a backpack.

To install a social media mascot, solicit volunteers from your beneficiaries. Then, share this individual’s story on your social channels, personalizing the progress and lending a face to the foundation.

Of course, there are many other ways to humanize your cause online. Your mascots do not need to be human, and your platforms do not need to be traditional social media outlets. For example, Habitat for Humanity might craft a playlist on Spotify titled “Raising the Roof,” or the ASPCA may post a picture of a labrador on a dating app and write the profile, “Cute blonde with blue eyes. Enjoys cuddling, long walks on the beach, and eating burgers. Looking for a soulmate.” These clever features would redirect to a landing page on the charity’s website. Feel free to use similar tactics to spark interest and drive traffic towards your movement! Remember that the internet often rewards creativity!

14. Online endurance test

An online creator recently caused quite a buzz by hosting a competition that challenged participants to keep fingers glued to smartphones. Though this particular app shut down after the three day long event, copycats are likely to arise in the near future. Even if you do not possess a specific technology that facilitates this kind of contest, you can capture the spirit of the competition by challenging your supporters to perform a specific activity. Maybe your contestants listen to “Crocodile Rock” on repeat or click through galleries of adorable kittens while maintaining a poker face. Participants can livestream the efforts, and revelers can watch and donate.

You can organize online team building challenges too.

Conclusion

Virtual fundraisers can be much more dynamic than a simple “donate” button on a website. In fact, with careful planning and creativity, online nonprofit campaigns can be even more engaging and effective than in-person affairs, and can potentially draw a much larger and more geographically diverse audience.

For more information on driving engagement online, check out our post on virtual engagement ideas.

FAQ: Virtual fundraisers

Here are answers to some of the most common questions about virtual fundraisers.

What is virtual fundraising?

Virtual fundraising is any fundraising event that takes place online. Instead of meeting in person to raise money, complete projects, or spread awareness, donors gather on video conferencing software, social media platforms, or other websites to secure funds and show support.

What are some good virtual fundraising ideas?

The best online fundraising ideas create interactive and enjoyable experiences for potential donors. Some good virtual fundraising ideas include virtual auctions, social media mascots, and peer to peer pushes.

How do you make a virtual fundraising event exciting?

The internet offers many benefits, and you should leverage your online opportunities and utilize technology when planning your online fundraising event. Social media can capture a wider audience, for instance, and software can help facilitate easier participation between event organizers and supportive crowds. With the internet as a stage, you can involve collaborators from across the world.

How do you plan a virtual fundraising event?

To plan a virtual fundraising event, first decide on an activity, and then secure the software you will need to execute the affair. Be sure to perform a test on your technology prior to launch to ensure that all systems are ready. Reach out to potential collaborators to plan entertainment and giveaways. Once you nail down your details, use the web to promote your event. When the campaign arrives, host your program and interact with contributors using technology like video conferencing software, apps, websites, social media channels, and email.

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Author: Angela Robinson

Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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