Like many industries, the nonprofit sector was hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. In 2020, 83% of organizations reported a loss in revenue, while over half saw declines in individual giving.
One reason for a reduction in annual giving? Canceled and postponed fundraising events. Organizers were forced to transition all campaigns online due to COVID-19 or adopt a hybrid model. At Givebutter, we watched organizations of all types — schools, sports teams, nonprofits, and clubs — rise to the challenge by executing innovative campaigns throughout the pandemic.
We've witnessed changemakers hit (or even surpass) their fundraising goals through fresh, virtual takes on their annual campaigns. Below, we share the best virtual fundraising ideas we've seen from the Givebutter Fam.
8 virtual fundraising ideas during COVID-19 we can't stop thinking about
Below, we share innovative fundraising ideas to use during COVID-19 and in the aftermath. From virtual galas to online raffles, these fundraisers can help rally support for your good cause.
1. Host a virtual gala 💃
If the Grammys, Oscars, and Emmys can be hosted virtually, there's no reason you can't stream your own gala.
A virtual gala is a fun way to raise money for a good cause.
(And a good excuse to change out of the yoga pants you wore for the third day in a row.)
The Center for Adoption Support and Education (C.A.S.E.) hosts an annual gala to empower the foster care and adoption community. With the outbreak of coronavirus, event organizers couldn't pack 300+ guests into a ballroom — so they moved their event online. In their first-ever live stream event, they attracted 1,200 supporters (quadruple the support of last year's in-person event!).
2. Organize a walkathon 👟
A 5K walk or road race is one of our favorite ways to raise funds for a good cause. First, exercise is always more fun with friends, and two, who doesn't enjoy starting their morning with a little endorphin high?
Mia's Miracles Foundation is an organization seeking to support families facing financial strain due to medical emergencies. The family who founded Mia's Miracles took a morning walk each day as a way to ground themselves, and wanted a walkathon to hold a place in the organization's fundraising strategy.
Due to COVID, their walkathon shifted online. Over a five-week span, supporters participated in a virtual walk. The fundraising page served as a central hub of camaraderie, with supporters chatting through the feed and watching videos from the founders. At the end of five weeks, the foundation raised $83,000.
3. Create a virtual scavenger hunt 🔍
During the pandemic, it's safe to say we all came down with cabin fever.
Time spent outdoors became a treasured activity to escape the walls of our homes (which doubled as offices and daycare centers).
For a fun yet safe fundraising opportunity, organize a virtual scavenger hunt in your community.
Sy's Fun, a nonprofit helping young adults with cancer pursue their creative passion, organized a scavenger hunt as their fundraising campaign. To encourage social distancing, supporters registered as individuals or within their "pods" (up to four people). Once they donated their entry fee through Givebutter, supporters downloaded Let's Roam, a scavenger hunt mobile app. Supporters spent a spring afternoon searching for over 30 different objects while successfully raising over $10,000 for their cause.
4. Take advantage of peer fundraising 👫
You can accomplish more as a team than you can on your own, especially when it comes to raising money for a cause you care about.
PEER Services took advantage of team fundraising (also called peer-to-peer fundraising) to provide substance disorder treatment for those in need. For their annual fundraising campaign, supporters climbed flights of steps, usually alongside family and friends.
With the onset of COVID-19, the campaign shifted to a virtual fundraising event. While supporters could no longer march arm-and-arm with friends, they could maintain a little friendly competition through team donation pages. Top supporters from prior years built their own pages, then rallied friends to give, resulting in $53,000 in raised funds.
5. Organize a telethon 📲
Here's one crowdfunding strategy you can steal from PBS and NPR: hosting a telethon. Through hours of live stream, lots of laughs, and a strong community pushing you through the finish line, it can be a successful virtual event.
When campaign organizers of MAGFest (short for Music and Gaming Festival) tossed the idea of a telethon in the ring, it was done as a joke. But once they started planning, they realized they could do this their way. As a nonprofit organization that exists to help people find joy through music and video games, they knew they could make anything fun.
The telethon was full of improv and comedic relief, all live streamed for viewers. Organizers wore face masks while dumping bags of beans on people, dancing at the cameras, and even walking barefoot across Legos to boost online donations. By the end of the day, they raised $112,000.
6. Arrange an online bake sale 🍪
Bake sales are a great fundraising strategy for schools, clubs, and sports teams. By implementing a drive-through component, you can stick to your annual bake sale — even in the midst of a pandemic.
The Texas Food & Wine Alliance hosted the Citywide Sugar High online bake sale to raise money for local businesses hurt by COVID-19. Bakeries, cafes, and restaurants made various sweet treats, then sold them through Givebutter's fundraising platform. Community members enjoyed freshly baked goods while rallying to save local businesses.
7. Host an online auction or raffle 🎟
Supplementing your online fundraising efforts with an activity can take your campaign to the next level. Webinars, virtual happy hours, T-shirt making kits, and silent auctions are just a few event ideas that fuel a sense of camaraderie, even in a virtual space.
Teton Adaptive Sports, which provides adapting skiing lessons to people of all abilities, typically organizes an auction or raffle as their annual fundraiser. With the onset of COVID-19, they shifted their campaign efforts to a hybrid model with a virtual auction component.
Campaign organizers auctioned off gift cards, hats, buffs, and other prizes, and sold raffle tickets through Givebutter. They raised $52,000! As a bonus, they got to have a bit of human connection when supporters picked up their auction items in person.
8. Offer an online cooking class 🍳
Most people are past the banana bread baking phase of COVID-19, but that doesn't mean they don't still love experimenting in the kitchen. Offering the opportunity to learn something new — a cooking class, mixology class, or cake decorating class — is a wonderful way to get people involved.
Rodman for Kids hosted an interactive poke-making class as a fun campaign idea. After donating to the cause, supporters received an automated receipt linking them to a recipe card and Zoom link. During the class, the chef taught supporters how to make poke bowls, including instructions for cooking sushi rice, butchering fresh tuna, and preparing vegetables.
Use Givebutter to launch your next virtual campaign
With the right fundraising tools and a little creativity, you can host a successful virtual campaign. Through online auctions, raffles, and even scavenger hunts, you can engage your supporter base while raising funds for a good cause.
With over 70+ features at your fingertips and some of the lowest platform fees in the industry, Givebutter can help you run a successful campaign. With fresh options for live streams, ticketed events, flexible payments, social media tools, and supporter feeds, you’ll easily rally those Zoom-fatigued supporters.
Ready to get started? Launch your free Givebutter account today to start designing your campaign.
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.