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30+ virtual fundraising ideas to drive more engagement

Learn innovative ways to use virtual tools to boost fundraising and engagement!

The pandemic has brought forth a variety of changes in the way organizations and donors interact, as well as shifts in donor habits and preferences. With all of these transitions, there is still a need for organizations to reach their supporters. As a result, virtual fundraising and proactive supporter engagement have become increasingly important to the welfare of organizations and campaigns.

At Mobilize, we’ve helped organizations of all sizes drive more than 15 million supporter interactions. We know what it takes to attract, engage, and retain online supporters, so we wanted to share a few of our favorite ideas.

Table of Contents:

  • Ideas for Virtual Events
  • Ideas for Virtual Campaigns
  • Year-Round Virtual Fundraising
  • Virtual Fundraising FAQ

Ideas for Virtual Fundraising Events:

As the world emerges from the pandemic, uncertainty lingers as to whether in-person events will fully make a return. During this time, many organizations have turned to virtual events, thus, it helps to be prepared and know best practices for virtual engagement with donors in order to safeguard funding and continue to advance your mission. Here are some ideas to consider when planning to engage your networks.

1. Virtual Gala or Celebration

Hosting a virtual gala or celebration is a great way to facilitate engagement and raise funds as donors can participate from any location through a centralized, online platform. In addition to reaching larger audiences, virtual galas have proven to be far more cost-effective than in-person events.

Live streamed or pre-recorded video can be used to showcase presenters, beneficiaries, or board members to a respective audience. Create a virtual gala that engages supporters, advances goals, and brings everyone together to convene and contribute to your overall mission. Mobilize makes this process easy by integrating fundraising features into the event management platform so that donors can contribute directly to your next event. 

2. Virtual Volunteer Opportunities

In the same manner that the world has adapted to remote working, volunteering has also shifted to virtual settings. Virtual volunteering allows supporters to contribute their valuable time and efforts to organizations and campaigns without being physically present. Volunteers can offer their support through the use of almost any digital device, such as a phone, tablet, or computer. 

Virtual volunteers can provide a number of services that support an organization. Some of these include phone banking, email marketing, social media management, and many more services that can be done in remote locations. Tapping into the essential resource of virtual volunteers can serve to increase capabilities and enlarge the number of supporters driving a mission forward. 

Need help recruiting and managing volunteers remotely? Check out these 5 steps that you can take to supercharge your volunteer program here!

3. Virtual Auction

An auction is another fun event that can be successfully applied to virtual platforms. They are fruitful and engaging events that have had great success for nonprofit, charity, and other organization’s fundraising goals. When planning a virtual auction, organizers can invite participants to join a live-streaming platform at a specific date and time. Similar to any auction held in-person, attendees can enjoy placing bids on items being showcased and do their part to contribute to the goals of your organization. 

4. Viewing Parties

A viewing party can bring an organization’s supporters, donors, and volunteers together to watch any event such as an award ceremony, gala, or film. As a virtual event, there can be added excitement with various inclusions. Organizers can create vibrant digital invitations, at-home food and cocktail recipes, and even a suggested dress code. Such ideas can make attendees forget that the event is virtual and create a lively atmosphere surrounding its purpose and the overall mission. 

5. Virtual 5K or Walkathon

A 5K or Walkathon is a great way to motivate people to get active while contributing to your organization’s cause. When organizing such an event, participant registration can be done on an online platform that offers fundraising features, such as Mobilize! Here are some tips to make the most of the virtual event, create a fun experience for participants, and raise funds. Within a registration fee, organizers can include a running gear package that contains event apparel, a reusable water bottle, snacks, or anything that participants will need to complete their race. Keeping in mind that some individuals may not physically be able to participate, this package is an all encompassing way to get everyone involved.

6. Telethon-Style Live Streams

While telethons have been typically televised, live streaming capabilities offer a wide range of activities to occur from many different locations with ease. A telethon is a fundraising event that can involve live entertainment, prominent figure features, or beneficiary interviews, all aimed at identifying a certain cause and acquiring pledges for donations. With the massive outreach provided by virtual events and the efficiency of online fundraising features, organizing a telethon can be an effective and exciting method of fundraising for your organization or campaign.

7. Community Discussions

Hosting discussions, or forums, on a virtual platform is an excellent way to have productive conversations with a community of supporters. Through these discussions, one can keep donors informed on the activities of an organization, its accomplishments, and its needs. Consistent communication will strengthen the bond between your organization and the community that surrounds it, ensuring the needs of every party involved are met. 

8. Virtual Tournaments

Fundraise with fun and a little bit of competition by organizing a virtual sporting tournament. Event planning and ticket fundraising can be made using simple online platforms and participants can use sporting facilities in their local areas. Choose a sport, whether golf, tennis, or basketball, and give participants a time frame to play at their convenience. Participants can form teams within their local bubbles and compete against each other in support of your organization’s cause. Portions of the tournament can be live-streamed for those who are not able to participate or those who want to stay up to date on who is topping the leaderboards!

9. Happy Hours and Casual Gatherings

Meeting face-to-face with your network for leisure may not always be possible, so virtual tools have made connection opportunities more accessible. If you’d like to engage with your supporters or donors for casual interaction, planning a virtual happy hour or hangout or hangout is a great option! Using a virtual invitation for the event, you can suggest cocktails, specific types of wine or beer, or even tell your supporters to have their favorite drink on hand for the occasion. Like everything in life, keeping a balance is important, so be sure to include casual events into your stream of communication with your supporters.

10. Q&A with Community Leaders

Community leaders are designated to represent, guide, and develop solutions for the people of their communities. Hosting a virtual Q&A with these individuals can serve to address the needs of their communities, listen to concerns, and circulate information with residents, organizations, donors, and volunteers. This can be done using video conferencing technology in the form of a webinar, where participants can ask questions through Q&A features in chat rooms. 

Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Campaigns

The success of a campaign is dependent on the people that believe in them, support them, and fund them. With all of the changes in how campaigns and their supporters are able to interact, establishing virtual points of engagement is a positive step in the right direction. Many campaigns, including the Biden-Harris, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, and Elizabeth Warren campaigns, have turned to virtual fundraising in order to support their efforts. Making use of these platforms will allow your campaign to maintain and grow your supporter base and the valuable resources that they provide. Here are some innovative ideas for your campaign. 

1.Virtual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising involves supporters reaching out to their peers on behalf of a campaign. These individuals could be looking to friends, family, co-workers, and anyone that they may know to garner additional support. Nonprofit organizations and campaigns have made significant use of this type of fundraising effort because of its proven effectiveness. With the expansive range of virtual communication and social media, peer-to-peer fundraising can generate an immense amount of funding from the networks of your existing supporters. 

2. Virtual Challenge Campaigns

Challenge fundraising campaigns have become increasingly popular among nonprofits and foundations as they are a highly effective way to increase engagement amongst various groups of people, especially younger generations. For example, the popular ALS Ice Bucket Challenge became a global phenomenon that was able to raise over $200 million for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis research. Similar challenge campaigns make use of virtual platforms to advertise and encourage supporters and the general public to participate in a certain activity, whether dumping a bucket of water over your head or limiting your daily plastic waste. Participants can be asked to partake in the challenge and/or donate to the cause, all while nominating their peers to do the same through social media. 

3. Virtual Awareness Campaigns

The purpose of an awareness campaign is to increase the public visibility of an organization or a specific cause. While not directly pinpointing fundraising, spreading awareness results in the attraction of larger audiences that support a particular mission and will likely lead to future donations. Making strategic use of virtual events and social media channels to spread information can place your organization and its mission in the spotlight. If a certain month or day exists that promotes your cause, use virtual resources, such as social media, to highlight your organization and the work it does. 

4. Crowdfunding Campaigns 

Rather than targeting a small number of donors that contribute large amounts, crowdfunding campaigns aim to derive small donations from a large group of people. Social media promotion can be used to spread awareness about your organization or mission so you can get the attention of the public. The public can then be directed to contribute through donations using various virtual crowdfunding programs, which provide a simple and easy process.

5. Merchandise Design Contests

A merchandise design contest is an inclusive and fun way to fundraise, as it showcases talent and adds a bit of friendly competition. There are various ways to plan this type of contest, but in a simplified form, it involves participants submitting a piece of digital artwork related to the organization or mission, then winners are selected. The subject of the artwork can be a new logo for the organization, creative designs for t-shirts, or wherever art can be included. In terms of fundraising, participants can pay an entrance fee, which will serve to benefit the organization, and as an incentive, the winner(s) can receive a prize, whether that be a visa gift card or a gift basket.

6. Online Pledge Drive

A pledge drive is a fundraising event that occurs over an extended period of time where supporters “pledge” or promise to donate a specific amount of money. For example, an individual may make a pledge to donate $10 per month over the course of 6 months to support your campaign. The drive can be created and promoted using virtual resources for advertising, communication, and fundraising transactions, where social media posts can inform the public about the drive, email and phone calls can be used to maintain contact, and fundraising platforms can be used to collect donations.

7. Matching Gift Drive

A matching gift drive is a fundraising idea that can strengthen partnerships and yield high amounts of donations. This drive is similar to a standard fundraising campaign, where donations are sources from supporters, but a certain corporation will match the amount of donations received. In order to have a matching gift drive, it is necessary to reach out to organizations and ask if they’d be willing to sponsor your campaign. Start with organizations that have, either, consistently supported your campaign or have contributed in the past. Overall, this method of fundraising benefits all parties involved, as your organization receives increased donations, and the sponsoring corporation is advertised and can donate to a cause that they support!

8. Social Media Fundraising Campaigns 

Social media stands as one of the biggest platforms for communication around the world. Whether on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, billions of people use social media to share and consume information. With the massive audience offered by social platforms, launching a social media campaign can be a simple and highly effective way to get your organization’s name out there. By posting creative content on social media that directs attention to the core mission of your organization and the support that it needs, viewers can be compelled to contribute to the cause and/or share the post with peers in order to reach even larger audiences. 

9. Virtual Membership Drive

A membership drive can provide an organization with opportunities for expanding the supporter base, publicity, and greater recognition. Memberships to an organization can provide supporters with benefits, such as access to internal information, exclusive events, and possibly stakes in decision making for the organization. As an element of fundraising, members are often asked to pay annual dues, which are intended to benefit the activities of the organization. In order to spread awareness around your organizations memberships, planning and advertising virtual webinars or open houses can attract those who are interested to attend and eventually become contributing forces behind the mission!

10. Virtual Food Drive 

In addition to physically donating food products, a virtual food drive is a wonderful way to raise funds for food banks in local communities and extend donations to those that are not in your region. Organizing a food drive online is just like advertising an event, where people are informed about a cause and asked to donate using simplified virtual platforms. Extend the reach of your contributions and make use of the benefits offered by hosting this virtual fundraising event.

Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Year-Round Engagement

Consistent engagement with networks often results in the maintaining and increasing of support for any organization, campaign, or event. Retaining a healthy support base is crucial in providing the resources necessary for the continuation of a mission. By utilizing virtual technology in productive and strategic ways, valuable partnerships and stability can be cemented. 

1. Peer-to-Peer Recruiting

Peer-to-Peer recruiting utilizes existing relationships to increase the size of donor networks. Your existing network is made up of people and organizations that you trust, thus you can trust them to recommend others to support your mission. For virtual events, you can advocate for attendees to bring a friend. 

Many virtual platforms, such as Mobilize, offer features that allow those who sign up for an event to invite friends via sending a link. At critical moments in the event signup process, supporters are prompted to bring friends with them. More than 14% of registrations come from these automated prompts, and 22% of people who register in a month do so at least once from a bring-a-friend invite. This is a simple process that holds the potential to substantially increase your number of supporters without significant effort.

2. DIY-Style Peer-to-Peer Pages

The kind of peer-to-peer fundraising method involves members of your network creating personal fundraising pages on your behalf. Using these pages, individuals can advertise your campaign with their peers, who could be friends, family, and members of their community. These pages will accrue funds, and those donations that will, respectively, flow into your central campaign. 

3. Virtual Membership Perks

Offering perks for virtual membership to your organization or campaign can serve to incentivize membership and give back to those who have given their support. Various inclusions can be packaged into your organization’s membership that garner interest and prompt people to make a commitment. Based on ability, perks can range from newsletters and branded merchandise to discounts on products. Whether large or small, providing perks to members is a good way to demonstrate mutual gratitude.

4. Virtual Boo Clubs

A book club is one way to gather and promote conversation among your network. Book clubs often involve planned group meetings where participants discuss books that are a part of a designated reading list. While in-person book clubs meet in designated locations, such as libraries or private homes, hosting such an event on a virtual platform allows for increased participation among members that may be in various geographic locations. 

5. Subscriptions Boxes

In recent years, subscription based products have become extremely popular. Whether food, beauty products, or entertainment, companies and consumers have found this method of distribution to be mutually beneficial, as consumers often pay a monthly fee for scheduled deliveries of a package of their choice of goods. If you would like to design a box for your organization, choose items that your supporters would be interested in, such as those that may be associated with the work that your organization conducts. Once you have created a plan for your subscription boxes, spread the word through advertising outlets, and begin the process of raising funds.

6. Volunteer Grants

Volunteer grants are corporate giving programs where corporations appropriate funds to nonprofit organizations based on their volunteer base and eligibility. Volunteers at your organization may be employed by organizations that participate in these programs, and the valuable time and effort that volunteers put into your nonprofit may be translated into beneficial funds. Encourage your volunteers to use volunteer grant databases and determine whether their employers can offer volunteer grant funding for your organization!

7. Online Merch Sales

Supporters are happy to represent your organization, and what better way is there other than branded merchandise? There is room for creativity when creating merch, as your organization can make shirts, sweatshirts, water bottles, key chains, and a variety of other products that display the name or logo. In order to sell these products, one can advertise to existing networks and post on social channels to get the word out. Adding a store to your organization’s website can offer a centralized place for those who are interested to purchase their desired merchandise. Merch sales are great ways to raise funds and advertise your organization!

8. Viral Challenges

Viral challenges have flooded social media over the years, garnering millions to billions of views and donations for worthy causes. Challenges are highly engaging, as they ask the public to partake in a variety of activities in support of a particular movement or organization. These individuals can then donate money, share their participation on social media, and/or nominate their peers to participate in the challenge. If you’d like to join this trend and tap into the resources that are offered by virtual visibility, think of creative ideas for challenges and launch a social media campaign. For reference, maybe a pushup challenge or an ice plunge. Get the word out, and get your network involved!

9. Community Partnerships

Fostering healthy and valuable relationships with members of a community that share a common goal is a fundamental part of an organization’s or campaign’s success. Partnerships can allow for a mutual expansion of support bases, collaboration on projects, and the sharing of information. Partnerships within the community can also serve to enhance an organization’s image and visibility, which can open the door for future benefits. Reach out in your community and find schools, churches, businesses, and other organizations that share your vision and goals in order to build together.

10. Online Raffles and Contests

Virtual technology has made online raffles easy to plan and run. A raffle is an exciting fundraising opportunity that allows for supporters to purchase a ticket and earn a chance to win a prize, while simultaneously donating to a worthy cause. Various fundraising sites offer raffle features so organizing your next raffle is simple. Be sure to advertise your raffle using online platforms, such as event management sites, social media, and email communication, that way you can maximize the number of participants. Think of interesting prizes for the lucky winner(s), such as a golf pass, visa gift card, or kitchen set.

11. Virtual Classes

Those who support your organization or campaign are likely open to additional information on the cause and the status of the movement. Offering virtual classes is a highly engaging practice that can educate supporters and members of the community on a wide range of topics. Classes can be centered around topics associated with your organization in order to provide additional clarity and understanding among participants. For example, class topics can include political activism, environmental conservation, urban planning, or anything that your organization deems to be valuable. Virtual classes are mutually beneficial in the way that participants are given learning opportunities and your organization maintains engagement with community members near and far.

Virtual Fundraising FAQs

What is virtual fundraising?

Virtual fundraising is a method that sources donations through the use of online giving platforms and virtual events in lieu of traditional in-person fundraising activities.

Why is virtual fundraising important in 2021 and beyond?

Much of the world shifted to online platforms for business, education, and communication due to the pandemic, and many have seen the advantages and efficiency offered by virtual platforms. As we emerge from the pandemic, organizations and businesses have looked to adapt hybrid structures in order to maximize the benefits of both online and in-person conduct. It is important to be prepared to utilize virtual tools for fundraising, both to capitalize on its benefits and ensure stability as world circumstances change.

What are the benefits of virtual fundraising and engagement?

The virtual element of fundraising and engagement allows for a larger audience to be reached, one that is not limited by geographic location. Through the use of online platforms, an organization can maintain consistent engagement with supporters and source funds from networks around the country without needing their physical presence.

What do you need to run a virtual campaign or event?

Virtual event or campaign planning and execution can be made simple by having the appropriate resources for advertising, registration, and video communication. All-inclusive platforms, such as Mobilize, offer many of the essential features for virtual campaigns and events in one centralized place. If you would like to learn more about the services that online platforms can provide, check out Mobilize.

How do you sustain virtual engagement over time?

There are three key elements to sustaining virtual engagement: diversification, efficiency, and accessibility. When using virtual tools to communicate and host events, it's important to develop creative ways of engaging your support base. Additionally, simplified virtual platforms like Mobilize make it easy for individuals to engage and can increase and maintain the willingness to participate among supporters.

Wrapping Up

We’ve shared various tips and strategies for improving virtual fundraising and engagement for your organization or campaign amidst the ever changing world. With the benefits provided by online resources in the form of maximizing outreach and fundraising potential, get started on planning your next virtual event. 

Get started with a free Mobilize demo today!

Want to learn more? Check out our case studies and blogs for additional resources!

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