Bristol Organizations

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10 Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits

By Kristy Fontelera


2020 was going to be a big year for nonprofits and social good organizations. But things haven't quite turned out as planned. So we've been listening to our nonprofit partners, and one of the things that has become apparent is that virtual fundraising is a big topic. And there's also a lot of demand for even more fundraising ideas for nonprofits.


Recently, I had the privilege to lead a webinar on this topic. Over 1,000 people from all around the world participated. That enormous turnout demonstrated that the need is significant for virtual fundraising ideas for nonprofits. Therefore, I decided to share some of the discussions from the webinar with you in this post, and you can also get everything from the webinar here.


10 Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits

Similar to the webinar, this post counts down our top 10 fundraising ideas that could be done virtually. So let’s countdown from 10 to one:


10. Online Contest or Competition

Online competitions are fun and interactive for raising money. And as we learned, millions of people are now online and have gotten used to technology. For an online contest, ask contestants to pay an entrance fee into the competition. Also, you can ask voters to donate. Only your imagination limits the ideas for what you could do for a contest. For instance, you can do photography, costume or essay contests.


9. Social Media Takeover

For this fundraising idea for nonprofits, you ask a corporate partner or group to "donate" their social profiles to your organization for one day. It then allows you to promote your campaign to all of their followers as the chances are that corporate partners may have thousands or millions of followers. Share posts about behind-the-scenes work you do and also interview donors. And make sure to use Instagram Stories and feeds.


8. Virtual Fundraiser 

People want to have fun, so with this fundraising idea, for example, you can partner with a local bar or restaurant. Then you ask the bartender to teach people online to make awesome cocktails. To make it into a great virtual fundraiser, ask participants to text you a donation for participating. And depending on the platform you use, you can have people message or ask questions vocally as the mixologist teaches their craft.


7. Donation Matching Drive

For a donation matching drive, what you want to do is to get a match from a corporation or major donor for everything you earn in your email fundraiser. This kind of virtual fundraiser is excellent because you drive urgency by telling people that you need to raise $X before (give a deadline) to get funds matched by a generous corporation or major donor.


6. Virtual Movie Night or Netflix Party

As many of you know, because of stay-at-home orders, many people started to have virtual movie nights or watch parties. And they had so much fun doing it that it caught on as a virtual fundraiser. Choose a film or documentation for your virtual movie night on one of these services. Attendees purchase a ticket to the event or donate for attending and sharing the experience.


5. Paint and Sip Night

This is an easy fundraising idea for nonprofits that virtually any group can do! All you have to do is to partner with a local artist or paint and sip store that would consider donating a portion of the proceeds from the evening. Then, you set up a fundraising page and sell tickets to the event. People love the idea of getting creative and enjoying the company of others, virtually, or it can also happen in person.


4. Host an ‘Ungala’

We all know what a gala is, but have you ever heard of an “ungala”? Essentially, it’s a peer-to-peer fundraising idea for nonprofits. All you do is invite everyone to a virtual event for a donation. And sure, you can ask everyone to get dressed up or show up however they want. Ask your attendees to purchase food and drinks from a local restaurant to support a small business. Then, have your event as you would a formal gala, but everyone can be in the comfort of their homes.


3. Video Game Tournament

As you know, many people are gamers, and a video game tournament is a fun and creative fundraising idea. Ask participants and attendees to donate to your cause for attending the tournament. Then, livestream the event using a platform such as Twitch or YouTube. For more detailed information about how you can do a video game tournament, get your free guide on the topic.


2. Online Auction

As we know, online auctions have been around for a while. And there’s a reason for it — they work! When you use an online auction platform, you get rid of bid sheets, since everything gets tracked with the click of a button. Further, it doesn't matter where people are located; they can bid from anywhere! All you want to do is to make sure you have fantastic auction items. For instance, sports memorabilia, travel and spa items do well.


1. Shoe Drive Fundraiser

And now, to our No. 1 virtual or in-person fundraising idea for nonprofits. It’s a shoe drive fundraiser! When you do a shoe drive fundraiser, you don’t have to ask for money or sell merchandise. You collect gently worn, used and new shoes and then get a fundraising check issued to you by a global social enterprise. Further, you clean out your closets, help the environment since shoes don’t get trashed and support micro-entrepreneurs in developing nations.


So that’s our top 10 virtual fundraising ideas for nonprofits from the webinar, and you can get everything from it, including the deck, here. However, as a marketer, I also know that every fundraiser requires promotion and marketing. Please take a look at these articles, available exclusively on NonProfit PRO, about how to take your marketing and social media efforts to the next level.


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