Tips

Best Virtual Fundraising Ideas for 2021

You cannot expect traditional events to return to full form in the next two years. That’s why virtual events and community engagement is key in your fundraising goals.


Virtual fundraising ideas for schools and nonprofits are more in demand than ever before.

The days of in-person community events, public rallies for important causes, or benefits may be behind us in the wake of COVID. They certainly have changed significantly in the last year. Nonprofits rely on sponsors and donations to help carry out their missions and unfortunately, these important community nonprofits need help now more than ever to meet their fundraising goals. With the rise of people needing extra assistance, those missions are that much more important. 

The funds to accomplish important missions are harder to come by with corporations tightening their purse strings and individual donors concerned about their own financial well-being. With in-person events moving to virtual - how can nonprofits continue to meet their goals? The good news is, nonprofits may be able to use a virtual fundraiser to reach even more people than ever before. 

With many schools also forced to change and adapt to virtual learning, a traditional bake sales or door-to-door fundraiser are no longer an option. Virtual fundraising for schools will have to rely on online community events and participation. 

You cannot expect traditional events to return to full form in the next two years. That’s why virtual events and community engagement is key in your fundraising goals.

What does a virtual fundraiser look like? Is it as effective as a traditional fundraiser? How much does it cost? Let's tackle some of these questions and provide some virtual event ideas for nonprofits. 

Virtual fundraisers typically are executed with a virtual fundraising event software that allows people to gather online to participate in live stream segments, an online raffle, or a virtual auction. You might not be organizing an in-person 5K, but there are still ways to get participation from the community. Because of the reach of virtual events, you also might find that your community is larger than ever.

Virtual fundraisers can sometimes be more effective, since people can access them at their own time, stretching the event’s possibilities past a single night. Instead of hosting a one-night virtual fundraiser, you can host a week-long online fundraising push with special speakers, peer testimonials, educational seminars, an online raffle, and even a virtual gala. 

At Jumbo, we’ve executed tons of virtual fundraisers, resulting in over $2.5M raised for nonprofits. Instead of being rushed into a decision about giving to the cause, attendees can think and reflect over the week to determine how much they can donate. The more time in front of your attendees’ eyes, the better. 

We broke down the cost of a virtual event in a recent blog post, but a virtual fundraising event could cost even less. Many platforms offer nonprofit pricing.

In a world where community matters, we have some virtual fundraising ideas for 2021 that could change how you look at events. 

With that in mind, here are the best virtual fundraiser ideas for 2021.

1) Virtual bachelor auction / bachelorette auction

You might hear this idea and cringe, but trust us - there are other options than auctioning off a date with a hottie or hunk. Let’s face it, that was so 2010 right?

Try auctioning off time with a noted professional or influential speaker. Your attendees will jump at the chance to sit (virtually, of course) and pick the brain of an educated expert. 

We recommend promoting this virtual auction all week, turning it into your headline event (at an online gala perhaps), and running digital advertising around it to push attendance.

During the online auction, you can live stream the individual and hype them up while your attendees bid using the live chat feature that any virtual fundraising software should have. If you want to integrate a payment platform, you can have people pay as soon as they win the bid.

2) Online raffle

Who doesn't love a good raffle? Sell tickets to your event, and to an online raffle in advance through a landing page integrated with a payment tool. Virtual fundraising softwares make it simple to capture your branding and have an easy user experience.

Include pictures of the prizes, but also step up the engagement by including fun videos or GIFs of your team holding the prizes. 

Setting your virtual fundraising apart from others is important in the current environment. The more opportunities you have to promote guest interaction the better. One virtual fundraising idea for nonprofits to increase engagement is to livestream the selecting of the raffle winners while sharing stories about what your organization does so that you can explain why it’s important that guests continue to support you.

3) Documentary premiere

A documentary is a great way to tell the story of your organization. Plus, video is the most viral-ready form of content today. If you don’t have a videographer on your team, there is plenty of local talent ready to work. Work with a local production company or even a videographer if your budget is tight to shoot and edit a short documentary about your organization.

Some tips for success include personal stories from your team, interviews of people your organization has impacted, and action shots to show the effects you have in your community. 

Once your documentary is ready, it’s time to plan a premier. Start your night with premiering the documentary and then livestream a panel discussion with your team members and people of the community. Add some extra sizzle and include behind the scenes footage, a sort of “making of” special. At the end of the night you can push for donations, explaining how the donations help your organization continue to do its important work.

Marketing your event beforehand to get attendance will be key for hosting a successful virtual fundraiser. Cut up footage from your documentary to make a trailer and use it across digital advertising platforms with a link to your registration page.

You can sell tickets, send attendees special swag bags, and even do an online raffle to give away a few tickets to the premier. Of course, make sure your virtual fundraising event software comes with a robust email marketing integration. 

4) Socially distanced 5K/10K

Charity runs or races are an integral part of fundraising, and unfortunately COVID has changed the way they can take place. Packing everyone together at a start line won’t be possible for a while, so what CAN you do?

Many people are still hosting 5 or 10Ks, just with some new rules and limitations. The good news is that people are looking for an excuse to get outside into the fresh air - so make the most of it and raise money for your nonprofit.

Try making the event distanced by having folks run the race on their own and submit their times to a system. You could even choose a few influencers who livestream their race to your website to encourage their followers to participate.

Sponsorship opportunities help pay for the race, and you get even further promotion to their customers. To encourage sponsor engagement, you can create a site that requires users to view pre-filmed sponsor content prior to receiving their race credentials. You can blend this seamlessly into the same site you use for registration and reporting the results. A sponsor might not be getting their logo on race signage, but they will get even deeper analytics and ROI tracking with digital placements on your website. 

Conclusion: What’s the best virtual fundraiser idea?

The truth is, it depends on your organization. Fun and quirky, or stoic and impactful - you’ll be able to find a blend of ideas for you. It all comes down to what your audience expects.

The most important thing is to offer pristine, well organized, and easy-to-use experience for your attendees. A low barrier entry makes it easier to donate, and increases your funds. Meaning, invest in audio & video equipment or a full-service remote production studio to help.

The platform that you host on should be user-friendly, integrated with a payment provider, and have the bandwidth to host your community. 

If you have questions or want to learn more about what it takes to host a virtual fundraising event, we are here to help. Let’s chat about your fundraiser goals and make an impact together.

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