Virtual Events

5 Virtual Fundraising Ideas Any Nonprofit Can Pull Off

Virtual fundraising is now a permanent part of the nonprofit world. Try these easy online fundraiser ideas or incorporate them into your traditional campaigns.
Virtual fundraising is now a permanent part of the nonprofit world. Try these easy online fundraiser ideas or incorporate them into your traditional campaigns.

This post was contributed by Donately.

The world of online fundraising progresses further every day, and nonprofits have to keep up. In recent years, we’ve seen nonprofits adapt to the sector’s changing landscape by coming up with creative ways to combine aspects of virtual and traditional fundraising. From running silent auctions online to creating product fundraising web stores, there are plenty of ways to incorporate traditional fundraising ideas into the online space.

These fundraising methods are effective because they meet donors where they are—online. Whether it means hosting virtual events or relying more heavily on online donation software, virtual fundraising is here to stay.

If you need some guidance to solidify your updated strategy or you just need fresh ideas to keep donors on their toes, we’re here to help! We’ve compiled a list of top virtual fundraising strategies any nonprofit can pull off.

Throughout this guide, we’ll walk through the following ideas and give you some actionable tips for success along the way:

  1. Peer-to-Peer Fundraisers
  2. Online Auctions
  3. Online Giving Days
  4. Matching Gift Campaigns
  5. Text-to-Donate Campaigns

Remember that you can combine any of these virtual fundraising ideas with traditional, in-person aspects. You know your base of supporters best, so design fundraising campaigns that align with their specific needs and preferences. Use these ideas as a jumping off point, and incorporate whichever aspects work best for your organization.


1. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraisers have been used successfully by nonprofits for a number of years, but they’re only increasing in popularity. These campaigns can spread like wildfire when they’re run effectively because they harness the power of social proof and competition to fuel your volunteer fundraisers.

Social proof is the idea that people follow the actions of others. People trust what their friends trust, or in the case of fundraising, support what their friends support. For your nonprofit, this means that your supporters who volunteer to raise money on your behalf during a peer-to-peer fundraiser will quickly gain the support of their friends and family. Add some friendly competition amongst your fundraisers, too, and you have a recipe for virtual fundraising success!

So that you can effectively leverage this idea, let’s walk through the steps nonprofits need to take to set up a peer-to-peer campaign:

  1. Set an aspirational fundraising goal.
  2. Create your main campaign page using a peer-to-peer fundraising platform.
  3. Recruit volunteer fundraisers to customize their individual campaign pages.
  4. Encourage your volunteers to share their personal giving pages with family and friends via social media, email, and word of mouth promotion.
  5. Track overall campaign progress and refine your strategies as you go.

Along with raising funds efficiently online, peer-to-peer fundraisers can empower your supporters who volunteer to get more involved with your organization. With the right strategy, you’ll raise funds and cultivate strong, lasting relationships with supporters.

Set your peer fundraisers up for success by preparing templates and materials so they have an easier time with their donation appeals. For example, create an email message template that your fundraisers can copy and use for their messages. Or, provide images for social media posts to Instagram so they don’t have to worry about graphic design.


2. Online Auctions

If you’ve never hosted an online auction before, it may be just what you need to motivate donors to give in a new and exciting way. So long as you’re backed by powerful silent auction software, hosting an online auction is a breeze.

Virtual auctions can be as captivating for supporters as traditional auctions, but only if you approach them with the right attitude and a few best practices. So you’re fully prepared to run an online auction, let’s walk through some tips:

  • Actively promote your auction. Start marketing well in advance to amp up excitement about this engagement opportunity. Share the link to your auction site across all communication channels, from social media to email to your website. The more people who hear about it, the better!
  • Choose your items carefully. Keep your donors’ interests in mind when procuring items for your auction. Since expensive travel packages don’t suit every prospect’s budget, select items across a vast price range, so there’s something for everyone!
  • Let attendees know the rules ahead of time. Creating a set of guidelines or rules for your auction ensures the process runs smoothly for everyone involved. Send these out to attendees before the event so they know what to expect.
  • Live stream during your event. Live streaming addresses by keynote speakers adds a personal element to your virtual fundraiser by allowing you to connect with your audience and encourage bidding and donations. Make sure your software allows you to stream within the platform, so bidders won’t have to access the video feed from a separate screen.

Hosting a charity auction may seem daunting considering all the nuances that go into it, but pulling one off doesn’t have to be overly difficult. With the right software, you can host one in-person, virtually, or even a hybrid of the two! Well-run auction events use online and mobile bidding to facilitate audience involvement and easy check-out options to ensure a smooth event from beginning to end.


3. Online Giving Days

Online giving days have proven to be a powerful fundraising opportunity for organizations of every size. Giving days are 24-hour long fundraising challenges that aim to spread awareness for a cause and capture donations. They work so well because they create a sense of urgency among donors, encouraging them to act now rather than wait to contribute later on.

The most notable giving day out there is Giving Tuesday, which takes place the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and is celebrated as a widespread day of charitable giving. The popularity and success of Giving Tuesday campaigns everywhere shows the power of a well-timed campaign combined with an accelerated timeline.

So you can harness this power, you’ll want to take a proactive approach by leveraging fundraising best practices. Consider these actionable tips as you start planning your giving day:

  • Solidify your communications plan. The best online campaigns solidify their marketing strategy before the official launch. Leading up to the campaign, spread the word far and wide through social media posts, emails, blog updates, and more! Plus, be sure to promote your giving day on your nonprofit’s website.
  • Send updates during the day itself. While properly marketing your giving day before the event is important for its success, keep your supporters informed and engaged by sending updates on the big day. Add visual appeal and a competitive edge with fundraising thermometers or donation leaderboards on your website that encourage supporters to give!
  • Offer other engagement opportunities. Not everyone is able or willing to donate their hard-earned cash at the moment of the appeal. Let supporters know of other helpful ways they can get involved, such as sharing your giving day posts or signing up for your newsletter.

For a giving day campaign to work successfully, you’ll need to have an easy-to-use, mobile-responsive donation form hosted on your website so donors can give at any point and on any device. If your nonprofit's donation page is in need of an update, make sure you're looking for the top features that will help you raise funds. For instance, some of the shared features listed in Donately's list of top fundraising websites include mobile responsiveness, multiple giving options, suggested giving amounts, and access to valuable donor data.

4. Matching Gift Campaigns

Did you know that many of your donors may have access to corporate matching gift programs that can benefit your organization? They may not know either!

Many companies offer philanthropy programs in which they’ll match their employees’ donations to eligible nonprofits at a specified ratio, such as 1:1 or 2:1. Matching gifts are a valuable opportunity to increase revenue for your organization easily, virtually, and without adding pressure on donors.

To get the word out about this opportunity, run a matching gift campaign using your online marketing channels. Promote matching gifts in conjunction with your online giving day or as its own virtual campaign.

Here are some general ways to promote matching gift opportunities online:

  • Run a social media campaign. Use eye-catching statistics that show your supporters the lucrative potential of matching gifts. Emphasize the additional impact they can make on your organization without increasing the size of their personal donation or taking up too much of their time.
  • Add a section in your email newsletter. Your regular newsletter is a great place to reach longtime supporters who may not regularly check your nonprofit’s social media profile. You can make announcements in a few editions, or you can add a permanent section to the newsletter to give progress updates on how much you’ve raised through matching gifts.
  • Create a dedicated page on your website. Write a blog post or create a page that explains the matching gift process to your donors, along with the benefits. Provide guidance on how donors can find out if they’re match-eligible, and highlight any matching gift software that your nonprofit uses.

Research if your nonprofit is match-eligible by reviewing the matching gift guidelines of local companies. This will also help you pinpoint which organizations offer this type of program. If you find businesses that don’t offer matching gifts, consider reaching out to them and pitching the idea. Focus on the benefits that matching gifts bring to them—for example, let businesses know that empowering employees to give results in increased employee engagement, which in turn raises productivity and profitability.

For more information about how to develop your campaign, 360MatchPro’s complete matching gift guide provides additional tips and statistics you can use to help inspire donors. For example, according to the guide, 78% of match eligible donors have no idea about their eligibility. This statistic might be enough to encourage your supporters to check their own potential eligibility. Focus on expressing to donors that they can make a greater impact by taking advantage of this opportunity.

5. Text-to-Donate Campaigns

Mobile giving is becoming more and more popular with donors, making it an impactful fundraising opportunity for nonprofits. Much like peer-to-peer campaigns and online auctions, your fundraising tools will do all the heavy lifting!

First, you’ll need to set up a mobile-responsive donation page using your online donation software. Then, work with a text-to-donate platform to set up a keyword and designated number that supporters can text to receive a link to your donation page. From there, they'll be directed to your mobile-responsive form, where they can contribute directly from their phones while motivation is high instead of waiting until they have access to a computer.

As with any virtual fundraiser, there are some best practices to keep in mind when launching a text-to-donate campaign. Let’s explore a few different options:

  • Keep it simple. The more complicated the process, the more likely prospects will abandon their donations. Use a simple keyword such as “donate” or “give.” This eliminates the likelihood of spelling errors and typos that could accidentally prevent donations.
  • Pair it with another virtual fundraiser. Combining two fundraisers is a great way to maximize donations. The accessibility of text-to-donate means you can easily pair it with nearly any event, such as a virtual auction or concert. Use it as a form of registration or encourage those who are feeling extra generous to submit an additional donation during the event.
  • Follow up. If the last communication a donor receives from you is a tax receipt, they likely won’t give again in the future. You should follow up, whether it’s with a shoutout on social media or a quick thank you text to confirm their donation was received.

Text-to-donate has become a real game-changer for nonprofits because it allows organizations to reach supporters and secure donations with just a few simple steps. Tap into this opportunity to make the donation process easier for both you and your donors.

Online fundraising doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, it can be fun and exciting with a motivated team and the right fundraising idea. No matter what idea you choose or how you make it your own, be sure to develop a proactive game plan that prioritizes the donor experience. With these ideas and best practices, you’ll be well on your way to virtual fundraising success!


Author: Andrew Berry

Donately_Handbid_4 Virtual Fundraising Ideas Any Nonprofit Can Pull Off_Guest Author

Andrew is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.


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