In-person fundraising events like galas, races, and auctions, are typically big fundraisers for many nonprofits.  However, due to the continuing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, many nonprofits have been forced to cancel their events.  Because these events typically bring in large sums of revenue, many organizations pivoted and turned their in-person events into virtual fundraisers.  These virtual fundraisers also helped many nonprofits expand their mission since organizations could invite more people than they would have if they were restricted to an in-person event.  Virtual fundraising events are also typically less expensive to produce, allowing nonprofits to achieve a higher return on investment.

We’ve put together some examples of virtual fundraising events as well as some tips on how to get started.  Use these tips and examples to inspire your own virtual event.  Let’s get into it!

How to Get Started With Virtual Fundraising

Before you start creating your event, it’s important that you get all your ducks in a row.  One of the first things you will want to do is to make sure that your website and donation form are optimized.  You don’t want to create an amazing virtual fundraiser and then drive supporters to a poor online donation experience.  So, make sure that your website is following industry best practices.  You should also create a dedicated landing page for your virtual event.  Make sure that the landing page uses the same branding as the overall event and includes a clear call to action that asks people to support you financially.  Incorporating stories of the people you have helped and impact statistics are also tactics to include.  Now that we have gotten the basics out of the way, let’s get into some examples!

Examples of Virtual Fundraising Events

There are endless ideas for virtual events that you could create.  However, we recommend creating ones that your audience would find entertaining.  Because let’s face it, there is a lot going on in the world and we need as much joy and entertainment as we can get.

  1. Virtual Concerts

Because we won’t be able to crowd into packed stadiums and sing our lungs out at live concerts anytime soon (btw….we can’t wait to see Beyonce live on the stage again), it doesn’t mean that we can’t still enjoy seeing artists perform live.  One great virtual fundraiser we have seen nonprofits employ is virtual concerts.  With a virtual concert, you can bring local musicians together and host a concert that benefits your nonprofit.  You can sell tickets to the event, which allows attendees to view the livestream performances.  Consider selling merchandise like t-shirts and online meet and greets with the performers to raise more money.

Check out this concert, Tonic for the Times, which raised $50,000 for Covid-19 relief.

  1. Online Galas

Just because we are all stuck at home, doesn’t mean that the party has to stop!  Instead of canceling your dinner gala, host it via a video call.  Similar to your in-person events, sell tickets to the gala online but then execute all the components virtually.  For example, you can work with a local restaurant to create a menu and ship each attendee a meal.  To help create a festive atmosphere, send attendees a “party in a box” filled with decorations like the dinner menu, name cards, hats, etc.  Feel free to encourage your attendees to dress up as well.  After almost a year of living in sweatpants and hoodies, they may appreciate the chance to wear something fancy.

  1. Online Auction

Similar to galas, you can move your auction to be hosted virtually.  Reach out to local businesses to see if they would be interested in donating items to feature in the auction.  Chances are they will because not only will they want to support a good cause (yours) but it is a great way for them to market their business to your supporters.  To run an online auction, create a page that lists all of the auction items that can be reviewed and bid on. There are several online auction platform sites so do your research before deciding on one.  You can use a software review site like G2 to help you choose the right platform.  Announce the winners of the auction during another live event such as your gala dinner.

  1. Virtual Cooking Class

One of the outcomes from the pandemic is that many of us have embraced our inner Julia Child and are cooking a lot more!  Your nonprofit could tap into this trend and create a cooking class, whose ticket proceeds benefit your nonprofit.  Partner with local chefs in your community to create a cooking class that is live streamed on Facebook or YouTube.  The chefs could create a menu, which would be sent out beforehand so supporters could gather the necessary ingredients.  If cooking isn’t your jam, create a class out of something else – yoga, knitting, woodwork, etc. Think about what your audience would want and create an event based off of that.

Check out this cooking event from the Soul of Seattle.

  1. Virtual Race

Events like runs, walks, and ride-a-thons can easily be adapted and made virtual.  They also have the added benefit of giving your supporters a good excuse to press pause on Netflix for a little bit and get in a good workout.  Virtual events work just like in-person events but participants complete the activity on their own.  Ask people to donate in proportion to how many miles they plan to run, walk, or bike.  For example, you can ask them to walk 50 miles this month to raise funds for hunger relief.  Encourage them to post pictures on their social media accounts, tag your nonprofit, and include any relevant donation links.  Be sure to repost the best content and engage with your audience.

These are just a few ideas to help inspire you and get you started. Almost any in-person event that your nonprofit used to have can be adapted to a virtual event.  Good luck!

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Market Me Consulting is a consulting firm that develops marketing, strategy, and fundraising solutions for nonprofits and socially conscious small businesses.  We combine analytics with creativity to build strategies, campaigns, and programs that help our clients achieve their goals.  With over 15 years of experience in driving results for nonprofits, universities, local governments, and small businesses, our team has the skills and experiences to deliver results for our clients.