What are some virtual fundraising ideas? This question has been on the mind of many this past year, as more and more organizations have shifted to raising money online.
And no wonder – with social distancing, stay-at-home orders and lockdowns bringing business as usual to an unceremonious halt. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, society has adjusted to supporting causes on the internet, instead of at live events – out of social necessity.
The upside is that online donations are booming!
Our team has assembled a mega-list of the best fundraising ideas for nonprofits and organizations that want to achieve their goals online. Split into 8 categories, we give you several fundraising ideas for each so that you can choose the start of a unique and high impact virtual campaign.
Begin your research with these categories:
There are over 47 different ideas collected here, so you’re bound to come across the winning concept for your next campaign.
Plus – investing time into raising money virtually comes with a host of benefits. Decreased costs, unlimited attendance potential, and impact that can be tracked, measured, and analyzed for a greater understanding of what makes a fundraiser successful, can skyrocket projected donations.
The internet can unlock incredible growth for nonprofits and private organizations ready to embrace new ideas, concepts, and innovations in the virtual fundraising space. Online fundraising is just more effective at getting much-needed donations than live fundraisers!
Choosing to raise money online in 2021 is the creative solution every organization needs. Sidestep the instability of a global crisis, and increase your ability to achieve your fundraising goals with the right idea for your next big fundraiser.
Here are some extraordinary ideas for fundraising online.
Virtual Raffle Fundraising Ideas
A virtual raffle has the same components as a live raffle – tickets are sold, prizes are promoted, and a draw is held to declare the winner. The only real difference is that this all happens online.
Technology takes over the legwork of finding raffle prizes, selling tickets at live kiosks or malls, and physically drawing the winning ticket. Here are some online raffle ideas that will get you noticed.
#1: Cash Prize Virtual Raffle
Offer an attractive cash prize, or set of cash prizes, as part of your virtual raffle.
People love cash prizes and when you tier them right, they can encourage a lot of ticket sales. Experiment with a large grand prize, a second prize, and several smaller prizes to entice people. When your winners are drawn, make sure everyone sees them so that your next raffle is bigger.
#2: Virtual Car Drop Raffle
Promote a car grand prize as your raffle incentive and drop it at the winner’s front door.
Car raffles have always been popular, and this is a spin on the traditional model. Take lots of pictures, videos, and promotional materials to showcase the car. Don’t forget to collect media from the winner so that you can make sure your second car raffle is a smash hit.
#3: Instant Gift Card Raffle
Run a quick raffle that awards gift e-cards to the winners to inspire people to buy tickets.
The instant gift card is a one of those speedy virtual fundraising ideas that creates results. Buy a ticket to win a gift card, all within 24 hours. Play with short time periods to land on the right formula for this creative online raffle.
#4: Fun Experience Raffle
Encourage ticket sales by promoting a fun experience, or set of experiences, as the grand prize.
A relaxing massage, or an adventure weekend away with a loved one – experiences appeal to the millennial market and will boost ticket sales. Pick a great experience and promote it everywhere.
#5: Celebrity Dinner Guest Raffle
Offer an exclusive online dinner prize featuring a celebrity guest.
Get a celebrity to sponsor your charity event, and offer an hour of their time enjoying a virtual meal in a Zoom call with 10 other people. The winner of the raffle will be awarded 9 exclusive e-vites that they can send to their closest friends.
#6: Virtual 50/50 Raffle
Split the proceeds of the raffle between your organization and the winner of the raffle.
One easy way of making a raffle attractive is to pledge 50% of the raffle ticket sales as the grand prize. The more people buy tickets, the higher the prize – and you get to keep 50% of the proceeds.
Virtual A-Thon Fundraising Ideas
A virtual a-thon fundraiser automates the process of finding and collecting pledges for a fundraising event. Donors pledge the amount per activity that your participants will achieve for your campaign.
A-thons can be run anywhere – privately at home, or in groups. The virtual nature of pledging and collections makes the process instant, depending on the participants success.
#7: Online Runathon
The participants of your run-a-thon will run a specific course or lap set, for as long as they can.
Host an event where people have to run as far as they can go to earn pledges per mile, or lap. With activity trackers, video and live-calls you can get creative – and even do this from a treadmill.
#8: Virtual Danceathon
Those who take part in your dance-a-thon (dance marathon) will dance during a timed event.
Some of the best virtual fundraising ideas involved groups of people dancing together in the online space. In this one, pick specific moves, do music switches, and host the a-thon in a mass live-stream.
#9: Virtual Bikeathon
The people who sign-up for your bike-a-thon will cycle for as long as possible to earn pledges.
Get creative with a peer-to-peer bikeathon, done alone, at-home on a bike, or in small groups – linked together by technology. Use virtual courses, trackers, and live steams to keep it interesting.
#10: Neighborhood Sleepoutathon
Your participants will spend as many nights as they can sleeping outside to raise money.
Engage a local community in a week’s worth of sleeping under the stars for charity. This is a great one to include if you’re running more than 1 idea simultaneously. Sleep out to get pledges in!
#11: Tracked Dogwalkathon
Promote a dog-walk-a-thon that has people walking different dogs at community shelters all day.
A twist on a walkathon that has positive benefits for lonely shelter dogs. Get participants to walk as many dogs as they can within the allotted time period to raise money for your cause. Use trackers.
#12: Virtual Pushupathon
See how many push-ups participants can do to get those pledges rolling in.
A strong example of a niche athon is to rally different gyms in the area and host a virtual pushup marathon. Light competition will inspire people to do more, especially if you get local media involved. This can be done via live-stream, so it’s a COVID-19 safe way to get donations.
Virtual Auction Fundraising Ideas
A virtual auction is an exciting live event that is broadcast online, and attracts as many people as possible to the bidding. Using modern live-streaming customers can join from anywhere.
Like a traditional auction, items will be auctioned off to the highest bidder in real time. The more bidders per item, the higher they will sell for. It’s the perfect way for your organization to raise money.
#13: Virtual Themed Auction
Pick a theme and only auction items that relate to that theme on the day.
Art pieces, comic memorabilia, interior-design packs, architect services – pick a niche theme and run with it. Then invite enthusiasts through targeted advertising online to join the auction and bid.
#14: Open-Mic Auction
Invite various celebrity auctioneers to sell your items for you on the virtual stage.
Sometimes the items aren’t the star of the auction, the auctioneers are. As virtual fundraising ideas go, it’s always a good idea to bet on a well-known host, comic, or celebrity to sell your charity items.
#15: Virtual Holiday Auction
Gather together a list of holiday experiences and auction them to the highest bidder.
Advent calendars, imported trees, singing turkeys and ugly sweaters. Focus your auction on donated Christmas, New Year and Thanksgiving items – when people are looking for holiday inspiration and a cause to support.
#16: Virtual Live Stream
Auction a virtual live stream experience for a fan and their favorite sports team.
There are die-hard fans everywhere, and this makes auctioning sports live-streams a brilliant way to raise money. Get a sports hero to pledge time live streaming with a fan, then auction it online.
#17: Business Mentorship Auction
Auction a business tutoring or mentorship experience to a company.
With this auction you’re selling a unique mentorship program or experience to a company. Highlight the benefits of the program and get a top business personality involved – like Gary Vaynerchuk.
#18: Virtual Experience Auction
Host a virtual auction that sells niche experiences to a specific target group.
Virtual fundraisers are easier to execute when a target audience is well-defined. For this idea, collect experiences that fit into a common theme (hiking along various trails for example) and promote the auction on social media to attract interested bidders.
Virtual Event Fundraising Ideas
A virtual event fundraiser is a broader term for creative fundraising campaigns hosted online. Because the event exists in cyber-space, people don’t gather in person.
A virtual fundraising event utilizes a wide range of online technologies to amplify reach, attendance, and engagement – video, live chat, software, live-streaming and everything in-between.
#19: Virtual Gala
Host a virtual gala with special performances and entertainment for your ticket holders.
A well-planned virtual gala can attract thousands of people. Consider charging for entry, or offer it free – and sell the advertising space to sponsors instead. Get performers and offer free giveaways.
#20: Online Movie Experience
Offer a unique watch party experience for a feature film.
Popular with superfans and younger donors is the watch party – establish a time when the movie will begin and get people to watch it together. This can be monetized in many different ways, including entry fees, advertising, even a simple donate button. Movies, documentaries, talks, and shows apply.
#21: Virtual Concert
Sell tickets for a virtual concert and host an online music festival or show.
Showcase musical performances in an exclusive and unique way to raise money. Bands, orchestras, students, individual musicians, many musical performances – use them to create your own festival.
#22: Online Book Club
Gather book lovers together on a virtual platform for a book club experience.
The book club video call is one of those virtual fundraising ideas that never goes out of date. Book lovers can take part in discussions about their favorite books, chat and meet regularly.
#23: Virtual Awards Show
Host a virtual awards show with tickets sales, or get sponsored by corporate interests.
Recognize people in a specific industry and leverage the niche to find sponsors, honor important players and get donations for your related cause.
#24: Virtual Quiz Night
Promote tickets for a fun virtual quiz evening, making each a themed quiz with prizes.
As an ongoing fundraiser, host virtual quiz evenings with a small entry fee and a shot at the quiz-master title. Invite people to play, keep a leaderboard and award teams with small prizes.
#25: Virtual Drinks or Happy Hour
Build a virtual happy hour around a personality or brand advocate to inspire sales.
Help people stay connected with mix and match happy hours in a safe virtual setting. These can be ongoing, and should feature exciting guests that stoke the conversation and make it fun.
#26: Remote Collection Drive
Ask people to pledge to drop donated items at a remote collection point.
Use your email list to prompt donors to assemble specific items for your cause, then drop them at a local collection point. Inspire participation using video showing them the difference they will make.
#27: Virtual Business Fair
Invite businesses from your niche and sell tickets to a vibrant, discussion-rich business fair.
It’s getting harder to engage in business networking, so providing a platform for it is an excellent fundraising idea. Invite companies to join the fair and host virtual discussions and workshops.
#28: Social Media Takeover
Offer your social media to a celebrity, or take over a celebrity account for the day.
Find a celebrity willing to lend you their platform for a day (or switch), then get the message out to a huge audience. Prepare quality media for the day, and engage with people to encourage donations.
#29: Virtual Conference
Get people to buy tickets to a virtual conference and build an interesting guest line-up.
Sell tickets to a virtual conference by recruiting a line-up of the most amazing niche speakers. Allow comments and networking during the live event so that attendees can engage and connect.
#30: Virtual Scavenger Hunt
Host an online scavenger hunt where participants have to search online to piece together clues.
Create a timed hunt for participants that comes with special prizes. Locate several online properties and identify markers, then create clues that your hunters have to crack. Live streaming is fun!
#31: Online Gaming Championship
Encourage people to enter an online gaming championship that supports your charity.
There are millions of avid gamers out there that want to support a good cause. Set up a gaming championship and offer a range of prizes, games, and live streams. Among us is a great choice.
#32: Virtual Food Drive
Instigate a viral food drive that happens in people’s homes.
Leverage video and social media to encourage a virtual food drive in multiple areas. If your organization needs physical donations, create a hashtag, and put out a call for what you need.
#33: Design Contest
Host a design contest for entrants with a prize for the selected winner.
Create a competition event and invite talented entrants to send in their entries. Promote the contest prizes and winning title, and mention what the design will be used for. This idea can be reworked for anything your charity needs done for free.
Virtual Sales Fundraising Ideas
A virtual sale aims to raise money for your cause, using the internet as an easy platform for finding customers and accepting payments. Any merchandise can be sold online, in any batch size.
There are dozens of ways to establish a virtual sale and promote it to your email lists, or to people in your social network. If you have products or services to sell, this could be your big idea.
#34: Virtual Discount Sale
Send your email list virtual discounts or coupons for a merchandise sale.
Host flash sales with timed discounts that only last for an hour or two, then share them with your social media following. This will boost merchandise sales and attract more social media followers.
#35: Virtual Workshop
Sell tickets to an in-demand workshop where participants will learn something valuable.
If you sell a skill, offering a free workshop to teach others about that skill can be lucrative.
Virtual fundraising ideas like this offer value first, then ask for donations after the workshop ends.
#36: Online Painting Class
Sell people spots in an exclusive painting class with limited availability.
The limited class availability model is popular for ongoing fundraising in the virtual space. Teach these classes a specific painting technique and charge entry, or ask for donations afterwards.
#37: A Community Toy Sale
Encourage participants to buy pre-loved and donated toys to support charity.
Host a toy drive in your area, then list the donated toys for sale online. A community toy sale raises money for your cause, and recycles toys that can still give kids joy.
#38: Merchandise Giving Day
Get companies to promote a day of giving each month, with free merchandise in return.
Ask local businesses to sponsor your cause by hosting monthly giving days. Online fundraisers work well in smaller settings, so when a company promotes your cause among their employees it’s a strong source of funding. In return, offer your sponsors free merchandise.
Virtual Challenge Fundraising Ideas
A virtual challenge adds a competitive, viral edge to the act of giving. Instead of doing something at a live event – creative challenges are performed at home (or anywhere) and shared online.
Any organization can start a virtual challenge that becomes a viral trend. These can be incentivized, modified, or used to support other fundraising campaigns. Get everyone involved!
#39: Virtual Obstacle Course Challenge
Challenge participants to complete a home-built obstacle course.
Lay out the rules for completion and promote the prize that the winners will receive. Building and completing the obstacle course gets them free entry, but they have to share the video on social media using the hashtag you create.
#40: TikTok Challenge
Create a viral TikTok challenge and approach key influencers to support it.
TikTok is a brilliant platform for viral challenges – think dances, song mimes, creative fight scenes, family comedy shows – the list is endless. Spark engagement with the right influencer showcase.
#41: The Grocery Drop Challenge
Challenge people to upload videos of food donations making an impact.
Some virtual fundraising ideas work because of the ‘feel good’ factor. In this challenge, participants must video their grocery drop and upload it online. The goal is sharing and video engagement, and to see who can do it in the most stylish/outlandish/interesting way.
#42: Best Picture Challenge
Host a challenge where participants must get the best picture possible.
Images are shared on social media like wildfire, but they have to be unique. Challenge participants to photograph a cause-related subject or act, and share it online. The winner gets an amazing prize.
#43: Viral Matching
A participant’s donation is matched by a company sponsor, friend, or family member.
A matching challenge happens when a participant donates (or performs) and then tags other people in their post, to challenge a response. This can be matching donation amounts, outdoing each other with the challenge itself or sharing it with more people.
#44: Virtual Talent Show
Hold a talent show where participants can entertain their way to winnings.
Few things are as entertaining a local talent show broadcast on a live stream. Get local company sponsors, charge ticket costs or entry fees, and add donation requests throughout the show.
Virtual Sweepstakes Fundraising Ideas
An online charity sweepstakes is based on real-world sweepstakes. An online contest is run, with a randomly drawn winner at the end. The prizes are usually enough to attract lots of entries.
These chance promotions can be extraordinarily successful on the internet, especially when they are used for cause-based fundraising. Instead of donations, promise a chance at an amazing prize.
#45: A Product Contest
Choose a physical product that your entrants really want to win and run a contest.
Online fundraising ideas using the sweepstakes model work best with ‘dream’ products that come in tiers or levels. Promote your physical product prizes and deadline to get contest entries fast.
#46: An Experience Contest
Pick an experience that is so amazing your entrants can’t help but enter the competition.
Some excellent virtual fundraising ideas that focus on sweepstakes experiences, include international dream holidays, all-expenses paid cruises, and luxury resort stays.
Virtual crowdfunding is something of a misnomer because crowdfunding started online. It’s a skillful way to raise money quickly, inviting friends, family, and investors to contribute to your goal.
Virtual fundraising ideas that tap into the power of ‘the crowd’ are often successful. All you need is a platform, a product, service or cause that needs funding – and the right promotions.
#47: Fund an Urgent Cause
Start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for a specific and urgent cause.
Sometimes a specific need has to be funded, like more blankets for a cold winter at the animal shelter, or PPE for front-line workers. Get your cause funded by telling its story on a fundraising page where donations, and a donation target tracker are visible.
#48: Fund a Critical Item
Use crowdfunding to get a life-changing item that will help your cause make a difference.
The best fundraising ideas are shared using vivid media (videos, images, stories) to communicate to donors what the item will do, and why it is needed. Start a page, and get that item funded.
What is Virtual Fundraising?
Virtual fundraising happens when your organization decides to raise money online, instead of doing it in the real-world. Nearly all charity ideas translate well in the online space.
A virtual fundraiser often requires a partner platform, specialized content and promotions, and an understanding of how specific events translate into the online arena to encourage donations.
How do Virtual Fundraisers Work?
There are several categories of online fundraiser that you can choose from when planning your next campaign. How it works depends on the category you choose and the platform you use.
Most fundraisers on the internet are managed through a single, or an all-in-one platform (like ours!) that provides you with advice, support, a fundraising page, and the promotional tools you need.
Choose one of these incredible virtual fundraising ideas to kick-off your online fundraiser.
How do I Host a Virtual Fundraiser?
It’s simple to start a virtual fundraiser based on a creative idea and a defined category. Hosting a successful event means building a plan, and executing it so that your fundraising goals are achieved.
Starting out your virtual fundraising event ideas should be easy, so that you can practice working with the online tools, media and platforms required to raise the money you need. Set goals, know your audience and work with your platform’s team to get the most out of being online.
If you’re looking for an experienced partner that will get your campaign where it needs to go, we’re ready to jump on board to help. Because of the way our model is structured, we are quickly becoming the most trusted platform available in the US.
Evgeny is the Head of Marketing at RallyUp. He lives in Canada, where he spends most of his time removing snow. He also has years of experience in helping nonprofit organizations grow their supporter base.