24 Proven Virtual Fundraising Ideas For Charities & NGOs

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The fundraising landscape has changed. The COVID19 pandemic has rapidly accelerated the use of new virtual communication technologies. As a consequence, new opportunities for NGOs & Charites present themselves. Here we list 24 of the best ideas for virtual fundraising.

The sheer volume of things on the Internet, from pesky pop-ups to Wikipedia wormholes, means we're only ever a couple of clicks away from a new focal point, and the rate at which we absorb all that information means so much content is here one second and forgotten the next.

Long before the coronavirus pandemic moved a good chunk of our world online, we all knew one of the biggest challenges facing brands is audience engagement. Nowhere is this question more crucial than in fundraising, wherein the act of grabbing attention can mean the difference between drumming up support for a worthy cause, or not. So how can we drum up this kind of engagement at a virtual fundraiser?

Swathes of the population are rapidly moving online for work since the pandemic

As one of the world's leading ticketing and virtual event platforms, Eventcube has seen a host of virtual fundraising ideas tried and tested. Some have wound up on this list of 24 proven virtual fundraising ideas, others are probably best left on the shelf. Having spent some time separating the wheat from chaff, let's cut to the chase and concentrate on the concepts that did work, and when you're done here, we recommend looking at these virtual event planning tools that can make pulling any of these off much easier.

Our 24 proven virtual fundraising ideas are:

  1. Host a virtual auction
  2. Online pub quiz (with partners)
  3. Livestreamed concert with donated tickets
  4. Social media campaign
  5. Celebrity shout outs for virtual fundraising
  6. Using emails as a virtual fundraising campaign
  7. Online learn along (with an expert)
  8. Virtual game night to raise money
  9. Digital plaque wall as a fundraising event
  10. Virtual book club
  11. Exclusive subscriber content
  12. Peer-to-peer fundraising
  13. Donation matching
  14. Virtual coffee break
  15. Mystery box
  16. Birthday as a virtual fundraiser
  17. Partner with influencers
  18. A-thons (powerful virtual fundraising idea)
  19. TED talk virtual events
  20. Raffle as a virtual fundraiser
  21. Virtual guest talk (with an expert/celebrity)
  22. Multi-day virtual conference
  23. Online exercise classes
  24. Digital gala dinner as a virtual fundraising event

1. Host a virtual auction

Auctions are a tried and tested way to fundraise, and luckily they translate particularly well online. Participants can join from wherever they are in the world and bid on given items. With virtual venue software like we offer at Eventcube, you can build a totally custom experience - perfect for something like an auction. 

That's precisely why auctions are among more popular virtual fundraising ideas these days. Create private chat rooms where viewers can place bids, store content of items for sale that can be viewed at any time and create breakout rooms for 1-to-1 video calls for clients that want private discussions.

2. Create a branded online pub quiz (with partners)

As with several of our virtual fundraising ideas, you'll probably want to bring in some partners that can donate exciting prizes to pique the interest of would-be players or teams.

We'd also recommend trying to create bespoke rounds that tie an overall theme together relating to the brand or cause. Apart from that, an online pub quiz is also a pretty simple way to sell tickets, ask questions, test knowledge or skills, crown victor(s) and hand out the spoils.

3. Organise a livestreamed concert with donated tickets

Eventcube has an unbeatable platform for hosting your live stream event, and whether you want to run this for free or choose to sell tickets, it's possible to incorporate options for the audience to donate as they watch.

It is a method that has proved particularly successful within music and performing arts during the pandemic, with special performances laid on by collectives, labels and more, with the intention of drumming up the funds they need to survive.

4. Run a paid/organic social media campaign

People spend the majority of their time on social media. It is not hard to imagine that you can make good use of this habit. Having said that, you need to decide which social platform you want to focus on and plan accordingly.

First, note down the nuances of the platform. Social media is a constantly changing landscape, with new trends popping up all the time. You should be able to adapt your content quickly by following what's hot at any given moment. For example, if some people prefer short 10-sec video clips over memes or Gifs, you should go with the flow and give them what they want.

The best way to engage your supporters and get them involved in the cause you care about most is by directing them towards a donation landing page. Just Giving provides a quick way to get a donation landing page setup and you can do this in minutes. You can do this on Facebook, Instagram, or other popular social media channels-whatever works for your audience. Just make sure that they see their name plastered across an active campaign, which means there will be enough interest from others who might want to participate as well.

You could create further engagement by asking followers to do something fun and challenging, like posting under a designated hashtag (like #supportXYZ). If you plan well, it is not at all difficult to convert all the engagement and attention you receive into a donation for your cause.

5. Utilise celebrity shout outs for virtual fundraising

It's probably important to talk about managing expectations at this point. Clearly, you may not be able to secure the services of Hollywood movie A-listers or stadium-filling rock stars, but that's not to say you can't get some prominent figures on the side to record unique messages to members of your audience. Think local sporting heroes and industry idols wishing someone Happy Birthday.

The celeb shout outs are definitely one of the few simple yet effective virtual fundraising ideas. There are a number of ways to monetise this, from simply putting individual messages up for auction to specific donation targets triggering new, live improvisations. The format is so popular entire businesses have sprung up around the idea.

6. Send an email campaign to your virtual fundraising campaign

Many people underestimate the far-reaching potential of conventional emails for fundraising. Given that email fundraising is a proven and result-oriented tactic, it is the perfect way to create a well-planned strategy that will work more often than not. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Reaching the right audience is important. So don't try and send bulk emails thinking that a "one size fits all" approach would work. Instead, try and segment your audience based on their interests and roles.
  • Send emails at the right time. The beginning of the week or the beginning of the day is not a good time to send out a series of emails asking for donations.
  • The content of the email matters a lot. But what matters more is the subject line. Craft a subject line that expresses urgency end well suited to the receiver's interests.
  • Keep it concise. Two to four paragraphs seem ideal. With reducing attention spans, being short and sweet is the right strategy.

Don't forget to add compelling visuals and a nice call to action at the end of the email. You can also give them the option to make recurring donations (monthly, quarterly, e.g.) so that your virtual fundraiser will yield good results for a longer period.

7. Host an online learn along (with an expert)

If your brand sits within a field that requires specialist expertise in order to create whatever it is you create, then those skills should be seen as something that can be turned into revenue streams, even without commercial clients.

Members of the public are keen to learn from the best, so whether you're a water-colourist, cook or expert at handicraft, you can sell event access to hobbyists who want to improve their skills. The learn-along is evergreen is one of the few virtual fundraising event ideas that works every time. Just make sure to choose the right webinar platform to host the tutorial in.

8. Run a virtual games night to raise money

One of the easiest ways to bring people together is by playing games. Games are also an excellent way for virtual fundraisers because they allow everyone to socialise while connecting over a common interest.

Pictionary, Bingo, Cups & Coins are among several options out there that will fit any mood or preference. Make sure that you pick a simple virtual game that requires no strategy whatsoever but still leaves everyone feeling accomplished when all is done because it was successful enough just doing what came naturally without being too challenging.

It will be a blast to support your cause with an epic gaming tournament. First, you'll need to decide which multiplayer game is suitable for your audience. The scores should also have some kind of time limit, so things don't go on indefinitely.

Then you have video games as well. Most virtual video game tournaments include popular names like Call of Duty, Rock Band, Mario Kart and FIFA. Once you decide what date/time works best for your event, as well as which type (single elimination or double eliminations), participants can register. It's a fun way to enjoy with others while doing something good by raising funds and collecting donations.

9. Create a digital plaque wall as a fundraising event

This proven virtual fundraising idea really relies on a level of personal connection and emotional investment. As such we'd say it's most effective with small members clubs, social enterprises, grassroots organisations and fan-led societies.

Much in the same way patrons can leave their legacy on the wall of a museum, set up a digital area of your website as a place to remember the inner-circle of supporters who made the day possible in exchange for a donation, of course.

10. Setup a virtual book club

How about a virtual book club? You can get your friends together and enjoy good conversation. You can organise the meeting times. Maybe it's every week, fortnightly or even monthly?

It might sound crazy at first glance but think about how amazing this might feel when everyone gets together for one activity (and cause!) The virtual club can be hosted on any video calling platform such as Zoom and Google Meet. Eventcube also offers a host of more feature rich streaming tools to manage online gatherings.

To make fundraising easier for your virtual group, encourage them to donate on your fundraising page, preferably ahead of each meeting. Pro tip - They could offer to donate the amount normally spent for their drink and snacks if the meeting was being held outside.

11. Offer exclusive content for subscribers

Platforms like Substack have exploded in recent years, proving that newsletters can be potential revenue sources for content creators, but those creators don't necessarily have to be in the business of creating content.

You can get people signed up for a monthly fee as a donation. Then plan to send a decent digital offering in return. That could be anything digital you can think of, including exclusive articles, behind the scenes videos or even exclusive desktop wallpapers.  This is one of the most valuable virtual fundraising ideas that you can get up and running in no time.

12. Test peer-to-peer fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising is the most effective way to get your supporters engaged for a cause. Setting up personal pages and encouraging them can make it easier for individuals who may be less confident about giving financial donations because they don't want their money wasted.

For instance, you might ask people for small amounts as a donation. Anyone will feel more attached after making a small contribution than sending out one large check every single time.

If your supporters know you well, you can tap into the networks that these folks already have. These new connections would also support your other virtual fundraising ideas.

One of the most effective types of marketing is word-of-mouth. When your supporters share stories and spread messages among peers, it makes your campaign even more successful. There's no need to run expensive ads when all you need is your circle advocating for your cause.

Every small donation counts because they're coming directly out of someone's heart. Plus, it is easy. With powerful tools like Eventcube at your disposal, you can start an online peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and invite your supporters right away.

13. Start donation matching

Donors love knowing their money is going to have the most impact possible. This wish can be fulfilled by matching their donation amount. So reach out to your support network, and ask if they'll match a percentage of donations you receive.

Matching gift campaigns are perfect for keeping the fundraising momentum going. Matching your donations can also help you ensure that people continue giving, and it's especially successful when contributions start tapering off. 

Frankly, they'll still feel persuaded to donate in order to keep up appearances and stop the campaign from dying altogether. So you can raise money for a more extended period.

14. Host a virtual coffee break

Who doesn't love coffee breaks? Employers can provide virtual coffee breaks in the form of a virtual happy hour. You can have a virtual happy hour at any time, anywhere. It's just like a regular ol' happy hour but with the bonus of not having to travel anywhere!

People love to know that their cup has become even sweeter with their money going into making someone's life better.

Running virtual coffee breaks is a great way to bring employees closer together. Offering the price of one cup of coffee as charity is the icing on the cake.

15. Create a mystery box

This can really be used in digital or physical, real-world form. Piece together a fun, useful or fascinating goody bag of stuff that will appeal to your audience, but don't tell them what the pack contains. There are many creative ways to take this excellent virtual fundraising idea to the next level.

Always set a reasonable value based on what's inside, and then put these boxes up for sale online, obviously ensuring the price point allows for leftovers after costs. It is a simple yet effective way to raise money.

16. Offer birthday virtual fundraisers

Birthday fundraisers are more popular than ever before. They are widely used to raise money for every cause possible. Just ask all the people who support you if they would be willing to set up an online fundraiser in lieu of gifts when it comes the time to celebrate birthdays.

You could also suggest organising a virtual birthday party on any modern event platform and collecting donations. Virtual Birthday fundraisers present an easy way of increasing engagement and donations. Try it out.

17. Partner with influencers

You may remember influencers from our recent blog post on event marketing strategies (that actually work). Well, here come the YouTubers, Twitterati and Instagram sensations once more, confirming that nothing beats the power of trusted faces.

To encourage donations, the classic approach would be to tie those familiar folk to one of our other virtual fundraising ideas, relying on these recognisable spokespeople to drum up support. But there's no accounting for originality in this world, so think outside the box.

18. Encourage your audience to host virtual-A-thons

Just because it's a virtual fundraising event doesn't mean it has to be stuck in a box (unless it's a mystery box, of course.) Thanks to the wonders of live video, it's possible to orchestrate all manner of a-thons, wherein participants throw themselves into an endurance test to see how long they can hold out for.

For example, in a digital format it could be a 24 hour DJ stream, or 24 hour YouTube steam on a subject of your choice. DJ EZ managed to raise almost £90,000 doing just that. You can raise money simply as a way of the public showing support for those involved, encouraging them to keep going, but for something more exciting, how about placing bets on competitors in the same way you might wager on a horse race?

19. Host a "TED" style virtual talk

TED talks are great for sharing knowledge. You can have a TED talk-style event by recruiting speakers on any topic of your choosing. It's like having your own event like TED talks but instead focusing on important topics relating to a charity. Listeners would enjoy the in-depth discussion about complex things that are otherwise not addressed because they're too difficult.

You can make a post-event Q&A video with the speaker and let the attendees enjoy the engagement and clear their doubts. To make it successful, the attendees must be willing to spend money. You could charge them an admission fee or ask for donations at the end of the discussion and see what kind of generosity comes in.

20. Run a raffle as a virtual fundraiser

Raffles are a fun and exciting way to fundraise. The more you buy, the better your chance of winning. People also get something really desirable without having to pay top dollar. It's a fantastic activity that offers guaranteed satisfaction every time.

Can you do this virtually? You can. Simply market your raffle drawing on social media or within any group like your colleagues. The more you share, the better it is for overall impact. Use email campaigns with other promotional strategies for maximum impact. Once everything is set up in advance, use a random number generator to choose a winner who will livestream them receiving the gifts or the prize money.

You can organise a fundraiser to raise money and use the virtual raffle as a fun activity that's done for the greater good. You'll need some great prizes if you want to get the virtual fundraiser started. That's how you get people involved and excited. Pro tip - Donations from local businesses like restaurants and retailers will make you the talk of the town.

21. Host a virtual guest talk with a celebrity

Celebrity guest talks are always a lot of fun, but they can also be a great way to encourage people to throw their support (and cash) behind a cause or organisation. You can easily organise a guest talk, so this really comes down to good curation rather than technical expertise. Such virtual fundraising events seem ideal under present circumstances, as you can plan everything more efficiently and in a cost-effective manner.

Choose a popular guest speaker, or a selection of speakers with direct links to the issue you want to focus on, add a donate button to the stream and then watch as the audience becomes more engrossed in the subject and more willing to help.

22. Run a multi-day virtual conference

You can have a meaningful discussion with your supporters by holding a multi-day conference, making it a terrific virtual fundraising idea.

Virtual fundraising events don't have any geographic limitations like other types of fundraisers do. That's a serious advantage at your disposal. Use it well by organising a schedule of multiple speakers over 2-3 days. Eventcube has all the tools you need with it's Virtual Venue feature:

You can start by recruiting leaders within your organisation or in your niche. Always be aware that promoting your registration form is the real key to gathering donations for such events. Also, make sure you have a website and promote it heavily, so people will know where they need to go if interested in donating or registering their support.

The idea of a virtual conference comes with its own set of challenges, but it offers an unlimited range in terms that you can use. Think about the impactful stories or conversations you can have. All it takes is this one event to develop your connections during a challenging period of humanity.

23. Offer online exercise classes

You can't keep people healthy if they don't move, and with the COVID-19 pandemic eating away at your community's physical activity levels, you need a way to get active again. Offerings such as online exercise classes will allow them freedom while also positively representing their organisation in this new digital age.

The best part. Almost every health-conscious person wants to join some sort of fitness class. With virtual classes, all they need is a laptop, internet connection and the willingness to work hard. It's an easy sell. Simply request that supporters can join the class with a small donation.

You'll need to find a coach who can help teach the online classes. Don't forget to be creative with your class offerings. You can hold yoga, jump rope and dance classes in addition to interesting workouts for some variety. Check out online sites to offer ideas about which types of classes might work best depending on the crowd you attract. It would certainly help stream your sessions live and let everyone comment during the breaks.

To inspire as many people as to attend your course. Use your office groups, social media and other platforms. This will make the opportunity most visible for the right folks who could potentially take advantage of better health and a chance to be a part of something they'll cherish. That's why online exercise classes are one of our favourite virtual fundraising ideas. It's a win-win for everyone!

24. Host a digital gala dinner as a virtual fundraising event

In December, we blogged about virtual Christmas office parties, and our tips included sending packs of food or drinks to the staff at home, and having them cook, eat, mix and drink-a-long with each other via the now all-too-familiar video call screen. Digital gala dinners kind of work in the same way, so hampers of goodies are sent out to those who buy a ticket, with online entertainment laid on to keep them interested while they gorge.

Prior to the nightmare of COVID-19, this may have sounded like a stretch, but given the high standard set by home-cook and delivery restaurant meals in 2020-21, we honestly believe it's a recipe for success (ahem!). Not least as it opens up attendance, and donations, to a wider audience a feast hosted by American Ireland Funds in New York raised $3.5million this way, with more than $600,000 coming from audiences in Ireland.

As you can see, virtual fundraising is a relatively effortless way to raise money for any cause. These events can be held at a time when in-person fundraising is difficult. Additionally, it requires less travel, which means they cost much less than traditional fundraisers as well. In fact, it has never been easier or more accessible than it currently stands, with many people able to donate from their homes via internet connection alone.

Hopefully, you can use these virtual fundraising ideas as a starting point. It is safe to say that virtual fundraising events are the way of the future. These opportunities allow organisations to engage with their supporters without requiring them to travel all over town or even across the country just for a physical gathering!

It's not enough to just have a plan; you need something that can be executed well. So always choose the best virtual fundraising idea based on practicality and effectiveness. The list of ideas on this page should help you get started with some ways that work well.

That's it for now folks! Thanks for spending your time with us and we hope we've helped inspire you with these unique virtual fundraising ideas. If you're looking for a platform to help run your next virtual event, Eventcube's virtual venue, conferencing and events platform could be a great option. Feel free to book a free demo with us here to get a free walkthrough of the platform and how it works.

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