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Sep 10, 2020 BY Abby Jarvis Marketing

3 Ingenious Ways to Have More Fun with Your Next Virtual Fundraiser

Note: This is a guest post from QGiv.

A few months ago, the Qgiv team asked our clients what new problems they’re facing during the COVID-19 pandemic and how they’re adjusting. They’re so creative! Their recent fundraisers, virtual events, and new programs prove that nonprofit fundraisers are resilient, creative, and totally awe inspiring.

If you’re planning a virtual fundraising campaign and need a little (or a lot of) inspiration, here are a few ingenious fundraising ideas from nonprofit fundraisers just like you!

Idea #1: Give virtual event attendees something they’ll love

One question we see pop up frequently in nonprofit groups and forums is about how nonprofits can make virtual events worth paying for. When you ask supporters to pay for tickets to galas or other fundraising events, you usually also give them something. Donors buy tickets knowing they’ll get a catered dinner, see a concert or performance, or get hands-on experiences with your nonprofit. But what can you do if your event is held online?

Try giving your donors a fun experience that they’d be willing to pay for under “normal” circumstances. Some experiences translate really well to streaming video. Work with local musicians to offer a concert or performance, invite local artists or makers to teach a class, or have someone teach about a particular skill or hobby.

Backyard burlesque flyer


The Pearce Family Foundation, for example, sold tickets to a virtual event that featured a dance class, a bartending class, and an online raffle. Ticket buyers received a link to a private Zoom meeting, and they prepared for the classes ahead of time. If you decide to host a class that requires materials, like the bartending class, you could send participants a list of the supplies they’ll need with enough time to get them from local stores. You could also go the extra mile and sell (or give) your participants kits containing the supplies they need.

Our friends over at Solid Ground hosted a “Virtual Lunch-IN” that included a telethon-style streaming video and cooking demonstration (check out their recording!) that engaged and inspired their donors, even though they couldn’t be present in person.

virtual luncheon

What you can do

Ask yourself what fun at-home activities you could include in your fundraising campaign. Get creative! You probably have board members, donors, staff, or volunteers that could lead a workshop, teach a class, or give a performance. Who knows? They could be willing to help you raise money by giving an exclusive performance or class.

Idea #2: Offer activities that are fun for the whole family

Families are at home together, which means many of your donors are looking for ways to keep their kids occupied. Help them out! When you plan your next virtual fundraiser, think of ways you can engage your donors and their kids.

One creative example was this wildflower bingo card from the Palouse Land Trust. It got families out of the house and connected to the land. It also supported local businesses—they bought gift cards from some of their biggest commercial supporters to award as prizes to people who filled out their card. The Trust also invited people to pick up a copy of their Prairie Field Guide for extra help with plant identification and to support their conservation activities.

Palouse Spring Wildflower Bingo

We also loved the family-friendly activities that Seattle Shakespeare included in their annual gala. The yearly event, called “Bill’s Bash,” took place entirely virtually, which meant that donors needed to keep their kids occupied during the event. While adults bid on silent auction items and hosted (or participated in) Mini Bashes, kids could color special downloadable coloring sheets or make their own Elizabethan ruff. There were even downloadable Zoom backgrounds that featured the event’s style and branding! These low-cost activities—aside from being adorable—meant that the whole family could get in on the 2020 Bill’s Bash.

Bill's Bash online

What you can do

Flex your creative muscles! Put yourself in your donors’ shoes: what would you enjoy doing with your family? What fun activities can you think of that connect well to your mission? Let your imagination go wild: coloring pages, scavenger hunts, bingo games, trivia contests, virtual Easter egg hunts, weekly story time for kids, and at-home summer camp sing-alongs are all ideas we’ve seen nonprofits turn into fun, successful fundraising campaigns.

Idea #3: Run a virtual supply drive

As people spend more and more time at home, online shopping is booming. Tap into that trend with a virtual supply drive! If your nonprofit depends on in-kind donations to keep your programs running, this can be a great way to keep your shelves filled without putting your donors or staff at risk.

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Demand for services skyrocketed at Hope Center when the pandemic hit. They’re an organization that provides services to homeless and at-risk people in their community, and they needed to get creative if they wanted to help the growing number of people in need. They launched an “Undies for Everyone” campaign and invited people to donate new underwear at special drop-off locations or by shopping their Amazon wish list. With Amazon, people could pull up the organization’s wish list, buy what they wanted, and have it shipped directly to the nonprofit’s facility. It was an easy, safe way to help meet a big need, and it was an easy way to engage donors with an activity they were already doing—shopping online!

Hope Center undies for everyone social media post

Another great example of a virtual supply drive comes from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. They, too, saw an increased need in their community, and they put together a virtual food drive to help meet that need. Instead of asking people to buy food and have it shipped to them (or to drop it off), they set up a kind of virtual grocery store where donors could choose what kind of food they wanted to donate and in what quantities. They offered everything from Family Food Boxes to boxes for children, seniors, and other groups.

food box selections page

If you don’t depend on in-kind donations, you can accomplish something similar by letting donors “buy” services for one of your clients. This form was built before the COVID-19 outbreak, but it’s a great example of this concept: Yellowstone Academy gave their donors the online shopping experience by showing them what different gift levels could achieve. Donors could buy breakfast or books for students, or they could pay for a field trip or one-on-one instruction for a student. This is a neat way to help donors visualize what they’re “buying” when they make a gift!

Yellowstone academy donation amounts

What you can do

Your donors are shopping online—it’s a part of their routine, and they’re used to doing it! Tap into that pattern by giving them a similar experience when they donate to you. Set up a virtual supply drive, share an Amazon wish list, or set up a “store” where donors can pay for services. It’s a simple and effective way to raise money by connecting with donors in a format they understand.

Virtual fundraising works! Don’t be afraid to get creative.

Your donors love you and they care about the work you do. They wouldn’t be donors if they didn’t! Give them the opportunity to continue supporting you during this very weird period of history. Connect with them through fun virtual events, give them activities they can do with their families, and set up virtual supply drives. As the COVID-19 pandemic wears on and we adjust to “the new normal,” donors are proving over and over again that they’re ready to support nonprofits. We hope these examples and ideas spark your next big fundraising idea. Go get ‘em!

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Bio

Abby Jarvis is the Nonprofit Education Manager at Qgiv. She’s passionate about understanding industry best practices, learning how they can help nonprofits be more effective, and sharing that information with other fundraisers.


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