Virtual fundraising ideas: how to acquire donors through digital events

Jun 14, 2024
Sage Avarda
Content Marketing Manager

Pre-pandemic, many nonprofits relied on in-person fundraising events to hit their financial goals. Then COVID-19 changed everything, making virtual fundraising a lifeline for nonprofits to reach donors.

While social distancing mandates are behind us, successes and lessons learned during the pandemic have inspired many nonprofits to make virtual fundraising and digital events an integral part of their annual strategies.

In this article, we'll explore how nonprofits are using virtual fundraising to attract, engage, and retain donors. Whether your organization is new to virtual fundraising—or it’s just looking for new ideas—we have some ideas to help your nonprofit get started.

Benefits of virtual fundraising

Virtual fundraising is a valuable tool that allows nonprofits to connect with donors in creative, convenient, and cost-effective ways. Here are a few benefits of adding online donation options to your organization’s toolset:

Expand the reach of your fundraiser

Holding an event at a physical venue puts a cap on the number of participants; however, the internet is endless. Virtual fundraising allows your organization to reach both local and global donors.

Increase accessibility

Whether due to location or physical abilities, in-person fundraising events may not be accessible to everyone who would like to attend. Online options break down these barriers and provide an inclusive platform that allows everybody to support the causes they believe in.

Simplify the donation process

The right digital fundraising tech stack reduces friction and makes it easy for donors to give and for nonprofits to accept and process payments. Fundraising software also provides analytics that allow your organization to monitor campaign performance, track donor behavior, and refine strategy by testing different messages, channels, and offers.

Reduce costs

Although there may be some initial investment in technology, in the long term, virtual fundraising reduces costs. It increases profit by eliminating expenses of in-person events, such as venue rental, event staffing, food and beverages, and insurance.

6 Ideas for virtual fundraising

There are many ways to connect virtually with existing and potential donors, but we selected six of our favorite low-friction, high-impact ideas to help your organization incorporate online events and virtual giving opportunities into its fundraising strategy.

1. Livestream event

With the right technology, your nonprofit can create a dynamic virtual take on the classic in-person event. The key (and the challenge) is to make the online event engaging and entertaining. Interactive elements are pivotal in livestream fundraising events. Some ideas include small group breakout sessions, live entertainment, mission spotlights, impact stories, prerecorded interviews, trivia, auctions, and raffles.

2. Peer-to-peer fundraising

A Peer-to-Peer Professional Forum study found that the top 30 U.S. peer-to-peer fundraising programs collectively raised $1.1 billion in revenue in 2023. Your nonprofit may not have the same reach as the American Heart Association, but giving donors tools and messaging to set up peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and promote them to their personal and professional networks is an effective approach to expanding your campaign’s reach and amplifying its impact.

3. Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding campaigns are driven by community involvement, whether it’s a geographical community or a group of individuals connected by a common cause. Impact stories that illustrate how every donation makes a difference to the community’s cause are an excellent way to generate excitement, create emotional connections, and encourage giving.

4. Invitation-only donor meetup

Invite a small group of existing and/or potential donors to a Zoom meeting with your organization’s leadership team and update attendees on the nonprofit’s mission, recent successes, and specific outstanding needs. During the event, ask donors for their input, opinions, and advice. This will increase engagement and make donors feel like they are an active part of the solution.

5. Online workshop

Host a virtual workshop where attendees can learn a new skill from an expert in exchange for donating. For example, invite past and potential donors to an online master gardener-led workshop on how to attract pollinators or start a community garden. Keep the conversation going by inviting the participants to post their projects and tag your organization on social media.

6. Game night

Use a collaboration platform such as Zoom, Google Meet, or Kahoot! to bring out donors’ competitive sides with interactive games such as trivia, Scattergories, and Pictionary. This is the perfect opportunity to raise funds and increase awareness of your nonprofit’s mission and goals by mixing in questions about your organization and the work it does.

Engage donors on a virtual level

Adding virtual fundraising strategies to your nonprofit’s tool kit will provide flexible, cost-effective, and easy-to-implement opportunities to connect with new and recurring supporters, extend its reach, raise essential funds, and further your nonprofit’s mission in innovative and engaging ways.

Fundraise Up’s Checkout feature amplifies the impact of your nonprofit’s virtual fundraisers by reducing friction, expanding payment options, growing recurring support, and doubling conversion rates.

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