Virtual Fundraising: 18 Ideas for Nonprofit Revenue
By: Melissa Lagowski
Big Buzz Idea Group
COVID-19 has wreaked havoc with nonprofit organizations this year, and many organizations have been forced to cancel or postpone their fundraising initiatives. We have seen organizations focus on their individual giving campaigns, and we have heard some greatly inspiring stories about donors who have really stepped up for causes close to their hearts.
But on the other side, there are also many NPOs that are not traditional 501c3 organizations. Many of these other organizations do not have access to grants, donations or governmental funding, so what are they to do during this time? Or what if you work for an organization that has no access to individual funders at this time?
In an effort to help get your creative juices flowing, the team at Big Buzz Idea Group has worked to create a list of virtual fundraising ideas to spark a little fun and funding during these unprecedented times.
Birthday Fundraisers – The growing trend for birthday fundraisers on Facebook is a great way to solicit more contributions to your organization if you are a 501c3. Create an outline to share with your most avid supporters (staff, board, volunteers, local businesses, sponsors, etc.) and invite them to host a birthday fundraiser for your organization. Beyond sharing the information and recognizing donors where you can, there is very little work required, so be sure to take advantage of this program if you can.
Host a Tel-A-Thon – Many organizations host lengthy fundraising events where they provide entertainment in exchange for donations (think public television) or share stories about the work they do and ask for donations (think St. Jude’s radiothon). Your organization can invite Board members, program beneficiaries, local politicians, and others to talk about the impact that your organization has made while asking for donations to continue your mission. These events could span one evening, one business day or 24 hours, but this is a great way to tell your story and ask for support. The videos gathered along the way can also be repurposed for additional promotion about the amazing work you do throughout the year via newsletters and social media.
Dining Partnerships – Connect with a local restaurant to create a package where people can order meals to-go, and a portion of their bill will be donated to your charity. This can be a great way to promote local businesses who are trying to rebuild while also supporting your organization. For maximum success, you could secure a different partner every week for a month or do it every month for a year.
Shopping Nights – Think old-school Tupperware Parties whereby you partner with a local retailer and virtually take guests into their shop one evening. The shop owner can showcase different products and, again, a pre-determined percent of sales will go back to your nonprofit at the end of the event.
Game Night – To add a little fun these days, why not host a virtual game night? Games such as Bingo, charades or trivia can easily be taken online where you can charge guests for participation and turn them into a fundraiser. Other games such as Cards Against Humanity also have created online versions.
Surprise Packages – Who wouldn’t love a pleasant surprise these days? For a $500 donation to your organization, you can sell packages that include a gift card paired with an item for your donors. Use a themed package [such as dinner at home including a $100 gift card and a bottle of wine, or a random business gift card for $50, $75 or $100 paired with a box of chocolate from a local business]. The combinations here are endless, and then you can have volunteers deliver the packages on a certain day/time or – if you stick with only a mystery gift card package – simply mail out the prizes. The goal here is to keep costs to $100 or $150 so that you are clearing a few hundred dollars per package.
Online Auction – Take your standard auction online! There are many virtual platforms that allow you to post prize packages and let your fans and followers bid. These auctions can be promoted far and wide as bidders are no longer limited by geography – although you may want to be sure to list shipping limitations or restrictions on the front end so there are no surprises on the backend.
Yard Sale – Take the online auction concept and host a virtual yard sale. Board members, staff and volunteers can share photos of what they will contribute which you then post online through an auction platform and open the bidding. Items can then be packaged for curbside pickup at a pre-determined destination during an established timeframe.
Concerts – Many people are missing their live music venues these days as social distancing restrictions are still in place. Partner with a favorite local band to host a concert via Zoom, Facebook Live or any other platform that you use. Invite people to purchase a ticket and then solicit additional donations during the event.
Electronic Paddle Raise – Many NPOs have great success when they create tiered giving levels at their annual events, and this same concept can be extremely useful now. For example, if you are a food pantry, how many meals can you serve for $50? $100? $250? Create a demonstration of what your organization can provide at each level and electronically build a promotional campaign around it. Many individuals are looking for ways to support others during this difficult time, so this allows the participant to feel good while helping others in a time of need.
Networking Event – Host a networking event that allows professionals in your community to come together. Many people are looking for ways to connect with other businesspeople as they try to get back into business following the pandemic. As the host, you can charge a fee for organizing and coordinating this initiative. And again, this could become a monthly activity.
Happy Hour or Coffee Connection – Bring members of your NPO together online! Many people are feeling lonely and isolated. They miss connecting with the people that they usually see at in-person events, so by hosting happy hours or coffee connections, you can raise money and keep fans engaged with one another and your cause.
Offer a Delivery Service – Your NPO could offer a delivery service for a fee. If you have a solid volunteer base, this is a great way to get them involved and, on a certain day or weekend, your organization can pick up and drop off packages.
Create an “A-Thon” – While runs and walks may be limited, consider holding a walk-a-thon, bike-a-thon, read-a-thon or garden-a-thon. Individuals or teams can secure sponsorship for the miles they clock, books they read or minutes they garden. Other ideas include a wash-a-thon or paint-a-thon where people can pay for a service to be done by your volunteers in a contactless environment. The possibilities are endless: care-a-thon, feed-a-thon, kick-a-thon, jump-a-thon, math-a-thon, create-a-thon, etc.
Virtual Tours – Do you have an interesting history in your neighborhood, or unique businesses, theatres, sports venues near you? Consider recording a virtual tour that shares these stories or venues with the public. For a fee, your guests get to see “behind the scenes” while supporting a great cause.
Contests – Hold a contest that will provide you with a fundraising opportunity, social media content and entertainment value! Contestants pay a registration fee to your organization with their submission. Contestants get posted on your social media and promoted via email encouraging people to vote. Then to take it up a notch, ask viewers for donations, have people pay to vote ($1/vote) or auction off the pieces. Some contest ideas might be art, talent, photography, costume, calendar or t-shirt. If you host a calendar or t-shirt contest you can use the winning entry to create a product that your NPO can sell for additional revenue.
Online Recipe Book – Everyone is cooking at home more than ever, so why not create a fundraiser that helps people share recipes to spice up mealtime? As with many of these ideas, this could work a couple of different ways. Participants could submit a recipe with donation that is then placed on your website and/or social media. Or if your website has the ability, you could have a site that donors could access to find the 2020 recipe collection. This is a relatively simple program that would hopefully not be taxing on your staff.
Set a Guinness Record – Scroll through the Guinness Record Book for a host of possibilities. They have virtual specific options in addition to a host of other record categories. Select a category that might be right for your organization and ask participants to contribute financially to your charity while trying to set a new record. Be sure to encourage participants to also invite their family, friends and colleagues to help put your NPO in the record book.
Whether you are looking to supplement your current budget, replace lost funding or simply offer your members and/or supporters a little entertainment during these dry days, we hope that this list will spark an opportunity for you and your organization to continue fostering your mission in a meaningful way. Always keep your mission in mind and adapt these ideas in ways that suit your organization best.