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25 Easy Virtual Fundraising Ideas
Looking for new ways to fundraise? Rosterfy has pulled together 25 simple virtual fundraising ideas designed to raise funds for your organization.
We became accustomed to doing so many day-to-day tasks virtually during the pandemic, including attending events and fundraising. While the initial adjustment was tough, now many organizations are realizing that virtual charity events often have a high ROI, fewer overheads, and are less labor-intensive than in-person events. Plus, online events are easy to repeat, easy to manage with a small team of volunteers, and are accessible to a wider audience.
So if you’re considering running a virtual fundraiser, we’ve compiled our top 25 easy virtual fundraising ideas. These are simple, yet effective virtual fundraising ideas for nonprofits, schools and workplaces that want to raise funds for a charity.
How do virtual events fundraise?
There are three main ways virtual charity events fundraise:
- They sell tickets ahead of time.
- They offer events for free but encourage donations during and after the event.
- They encourage participants to raise funds through pledges from family and friends.
How do I collect donations virtually?
If you want to collect donations virtually, there are a few platforms that you can use to handle the collections:
We also recommend checking out this comprehensive article that covers the 10 Important Steps to Planning a Fundraiser.
Virtual fundraising ideas for nonprofits
1. Virtual Games Night
A virtual games night is a great way to engage with a number of potential donors and have fun along the way. You can charge an admission fee and hold the event over any video conferencing platform such as Zoom or Houseparty. There are also plenty of companies that can organize and host the whole event, letting you focus on raising funds.
If you choose to run the night yourself, make sure you recruit great volunteers to help the night run smoothly by facilitating different games, explaining the rules and organizing break out groups.
Game options include:
Volunteer management software such as Rosterfy makes it easy to manage virtual volunteers via one centralized system. With the ability to recruit, screen, train, engage and retain your volunteers, Rosterfy allows you to save time and money so that you can focus on what’s important- like fundraising!
2. Online Auction
An online auction is one of the most popular and effective nonprofit virtual fundraising ideas. The amount of funds raised depends on the quality of the prizes, so take the time to reach out to local businesses and companies that may be interested in supporting your cause to ask for donated prizes. This is a great role for volunteers, as they will have their own networks they can approach.
You can either run the auction as a live event on a platform such as Zoom with an auctioneer, or use a dedicated virtual auction platform to allow bidders to view and bid for items in advance in more of a silent auction format. You can send out reminder emails and social media posts towards the end of the auction and generate a last-minute flurry of bids!
3. Virtual Movie Night
A virtual movie night is an easy virtual fundraiser to organize and a real crowd-pleaser, who doesn’t love a movie night.
Simply create an event invite that lists the time, virtual place and chosen movie. Remember to pick a movie that appeals to your audience, for example, a family-friendly movie if kids will be watching, or a documentary about a specific topic related to your organization's mission.
Make sure your event invite lists how people can watch, which technology they need to use, and reiterate that the aim of the night is to raise funds.
There are two main ways to raise funds for a virtual movie night:
- Sell virtual tickets
- Set up a donate button on the event page.
When it comes to the tech set-up, there are a couple of options:
- Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu all have built-in watch-party extensions. The only thing is all attendees need to have a subscription to watch.
- Set up a Zoom meeting, where the event organizer plays the movie on their computer and simply shares their screen. However, remember free accounts only allow for 40-minute meetings.
- Install the Scener browser extension.
4. Virtual race
Virtual races work great for organizations with a committed group of supporters and passionate volunteers. Virtual races work just like in-person mass participation events, but participants take part alone from their own location.
You may set the race up as a 10km or 6-mile distance, or alternatively ask people to pledge to donate a certain amount for each mile they walk, run or cycle.
All they need to do is track their time and distance using an app or fitness watch, then submit their completed activity and photos. It’s also a great way to generate some buzz on social media!
You can set beginner, intermediate or advanced distances to accommodate varying fitness levels and make it as inclusive as possible.
5. Birthday fundraiser
Birthday fundraisers work well for charity supporters who would love to ask their friends and family to make online donations to their favorite charity in lieu of birthday gifts.
Simply ask your supporters to consider setting up a virtual fundraiser for their birthday, and let them know the easiest way to do it is by using Facebook!
6. Peer to peer fundraising
The beauty of peer-to-peer fundraising is that it has always been a creative fundraising idea that works perfectly online, and you don’t have to do anything!
As virtual events go, virtual peer-to-peer fundraisers can increase the reach of your organization, in a cost-effective and low-effort way. Supporters set up a donation page on a platform such as GoFundMe or Paypal and ask for donations for their favorite charity or non profit.
You may wish to put together some fundraising kits to make sure supporters have the right information. This might be a page on your website that outlines the use of your name and logo, and other important information.
7. Donation matching
Donation matching is a great way to generate some buzz and a sense of urgency when it comes to your fundraising campaign.
The most effective way to run a donation matching drive is by reaching out to a large company, perhaps in your area or affiliated with your board of directors, and asking if they’ll match donations, up to a certain amount or time period.
Donors will love to feel like their donation is going further, and your organization will get a substantial financial boost.
8. Email campaign
An email campaign can be a stand-alone fundraising idea, or run in combination with any of the other ideas. If you have a database of existing volunteers, donors and supporters, reach out to them via email and share an update, your fundraising goals, and a very clear donation button.
If you can tie it into an important day such as International Women’s Day or an upcoming event such as your annual gala, you’ll be able to craft a compelling story as well as create a sense of urgency for this one important day.
Read more about how Cancer Council Victoria used Rosterfy to manage their annual Daffodil Day fundraising event.
9. Virtual raffles
A raffle is another one of those classic fundraising ideas that can be easily adapted to be run virtually.
Once you have a few exciting prizes and gift opportunities, simply use virtual fundraising software such as rallyup.com or galabid.com to sell digital raffle tickets.
Then it’s just about promoting the online fundraiser via email, social media, your website and through word-of-mouth to maximize ticket sales.
10. Virtual comedy night
Give everyone a laugh by hosting a virtual comedy night. This is a great Zoom fundraising idea that is accessible to all. Simply promote and sell tickets in advance, then share the private link with all event attendees.
You may want to choose one well-known comedian to perform a set, or recruit a few different comedians and create a comedy gala.
Set each comedian up on Zoom and allocate them as the meeting host when it’s their turn to perform. Encourage everyone to keep their cameras on and mics unmuted so their laughter and smiles recreate the lively vibe of a comedy show.
11. Giving days
Giving days are a great way to create a sense of urgency around a virtual fundraising drive. Donors will feel more compelled to give on a certain day, and you’ll have a clear message to promote on social media.
Some charities choose Giving Tuesday towards the end of the year, but there’s nothing stopping you from coming up with your own day that has a personal connection. That way, you can make it an annual event that donors come to know and expect.
Set a financial goal for the day, then set up a live donation tracker on your website so people can see how close you are getting to reaching, or smashing that goal! And remember to aim high!
12. Viral challenges
Who remembers the ice bucket challenge? Or the mannequin challenge? These viral challenges exploded on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok and created a lot of buzz and awareness.
So why not create your own viral challenge, encouraging people to donate, or sponsor for taking part? While there’s no way of knowing what will go viral, there are a few ways to help your challenge spread.
- Make it funny
- Ask your ambassadors, staff and volunteers to kick it off by sharing their own videos.
- Make it simple for any age group to do
- Make it watchable and shareable on video
- Don’t forget the most important part- a call to action for donations for your charity.
13. Wishlist drives
While some people are happy to donate money, others prefer to donate physical items that they know will get used.
Wishlist drives are a great way to tap into this group of people and generate support without asking for money.
Simply create an online wishlist of the tangible goods you need, it could be anything from pet beds and towels at a pet shelter, to food and cleaning products for a flood relief drive.
You will need to be able to physically collect the items in person at a certain location and time, so it won’t work for 100% virtual organizations.
Recruit your army of volunteers to start dialing. Call-a-thons work well in conjunction with giving days or when selling raffle tickets, as you have a clear call to action.
Simply create a basic script for volunteers to follow, and give each volunteer a sheet of phone numbers of past donors or supporters.
It’s a highly effective way to generate funds, and best of all, it’s a great job for virtual volunteers to do from anywhere.
15. Social media contest
If you have a good social media following, why not offer them a fun way to get involved and potentially win a prize
Simple contests like ‘Caption this photo’, ‘Tag a friend to enter’ or ‘vote for your favorite’ are easy ones for followers to join.
Once you’ve got your contest ideas, simply offer an enticing prize, a clear way to pick a winner and a deadline for entries.
While this is not about generating funds, the more people who enter, the more widely it will be shared on social media, increasing your network of followers exponentially. So when it comes to implementing your non profit social media strategy, you’ll reach a much larger audience.
16. Facebook and Instagram fundraisers
Facebook allows organizations to create Fundraisers directly from your page. You’ve got nothing to lose by setting it up, as it’s a frictionless way for followers to donate without having to leave Facebook.
And now on Instagram, people can make donations directly from your profile, or you can add a “Donate” sticker to Instagram stories. So if you’re sharing a behind the scenes look at your organization, or perhaps sharing an update from the founder, why not add the ‘Donate’ sticker and capture a few extra donations from anyone who enjoys watching.
Virtual fundraising ideas for workplaces
17. Virtual happy hour
Virtual happy hours really took off during the pandemic as colleagues looked for a way to unwind amidst all the stress. But they are also great virtual fundraising ideas for workplaces.
Simply set a date, promote it to your team, and pick a loose topic of discussion.
Then as everyone joins and sips a drink, simply encourage them to donate the amount they would have spent going out to the pub for a drink to the chosen charity.
This is also a nice way to reward and engage virtual volunteers in a fun and relaxed way.
Why not turn your fundraiser into an educational opportunity? Host a webinar on a topic related to your company or the charity you are supporting. You could invite a guest speaker to present the webinar. Run it during business hours, or combine it with a virtual happy hour after work.
Choose to sell tickets or make the webinar free, but set up a donation page to encourage people to donate.
19. Virtual workshop or class
Another educational opportunity, a virtual workshop or class is a chance to learn a new skill or craft online.
Popular workshops include wine tasting, kokedama making, cooking classes, or painting workshops. Not only do these events bring colleagues together in a relaxed and fun way, they are also a great creative outlet and way to let off some steam. The only thing you’ll need to do is post out supplies ahead of time and set up a Zoom call and encourage everyone to keep their cameras on. You may even generate a little bit of healthy competition around who can paint the best Frida Kahlo inspired self-portrait!
Opt to sell tickets, with all proceeds going to charity, or simply encourage participants to donate if they had fun.
20. Online trivia night
Another virtual fundraising event that's sure to generate some healthy competition amongst colleagues is a virtual trivia night. Sell tickets ahead of time so you know how many people will attend, and then create small teams.
Ask the questions, break colleagues into small teams, and use the break out rooms function on Zoom to enable teams to chat and discuss answers.
Ask everyone to submit their answers in the text box, and then count up the scores and announce the winners.
Even a small prize such as a gift voucher or bragging rights will be enough to motivate teams!
Virtual fundraising ideas for schools
21. Virtual crazy hair/hat/clothes day
If students are still learning from home, that doesn’t mean that they should miss out on the fun! Set up a virtual crazy hair, hat, clothes or anything else you can think of that will get the students excited. Make sure to turn on your cameras for the first lesson of the day so everyone can show off their crazy outfits!
Encourage students to make a small donation if they want to participate, and share a link to the online fundraising page. But make sure you get the parents involved, as they will need to be the ones to make the donation!
22. Virtual read-a-thon
Literacy is such an important life skill. The more students read, the more likely they are to test well in reading, math, and science. Virtual read-a-thons encourage students to read as much as they can, while fundraising for the school, whether it be for a new library or school camp.
Students can reach out to grandparents, family members, neighbors and family friends to ask them to pledge a donation for every book they read during the read-a-thon.
You may even be able to offer prizes for the biggest fundraisers or biggest readers.
Check out virtual read-a-thon platforms that can handle the whole process.
Everyone has a favorite recipe or go to mid-week dinner. So why not collect all these recipes and make a special cookbook just for your school?
You can ask parents (or kids) to submit their favorite recipes along with a photo, and then recruit a tech-savvy volunteer to collate them all online into a digital book to send off to the printers.
Raise funds by selling the books online to families and locals or at shops in the local area.
24. Coupon books
Selling coupon books is a popular way for schools and nonprofits to raise money, and it can be easily done virtually.
This type of fundraiser involves on-selling coupon books that contain various discounts and offers for local businesses. With over 90% of Americans using coupons for shopping, you’ll find it’s not a hard sell!
Simply search ‘Coupon Books’ on Google to see the range of companies offering these books, and pick the one that has offers that will appeal the most to your network.
25. Virtual celebrity night
Generate some buzz by hosting a virtual celebrity night for your school. While it would be great to get someone like Justin Beiber to attend, that’s probably not achievable. Instead look for a local hero, author, TV personality, or even an ex alumnus who’s gone on to do something interesting after school to inspire the kids.
Charge a small admission fee to attend, and set up the event on Zoom. You could also make it into a classroom exercise afterwards, by asking the students to share what they learned and enjoyed about the talk.
These are just a small sample of the hundreds of virtual fundraising ideas out there. When choosing which idea is right for you, consider your audience, goals and available resources to ensure you plan something that is achievable and successful!
To keep learning about virtual fundraising, check out these additional resources:
- 10 Important Steps to Planning a Fundraiser
- GivenGain and Rosterfy partnership lets charities combine volunteering & fundraising
- Rosterfy’s guide to Virtual Volunteering
Every fundraising event, virtual or in-person will need a great team of volunteers to help it run smoothly.
Rosterfy exists to connect communities to events and causes they are passionate about through volunteer and paid workforce management technology. Our proven end to end technology allows charities, events and organizations to recruit, register, screen, train, manage and report with ease, replacing manual processes with automations to better engage and retain your volunteers and paid staff.