The need for small online and virtual fundraising events has never been greater. Nonprofits, Main Street organizations, and community service organizations are seeking new ways to engage their community and raise funds for their programs. This article provides a wealth of ideas based on what is working in 2020. If you would like help creating an online fundraiser or reviewing upcoming events to make them more successful, get on Jeff’s calendar to find out if we’re a fit for working together.

What Is A Virtual Fundraising Event?

A virtual fundraiser is an event that generates donations for your organization that is primarily executed online. Donations and registrations are typically accepted via the organization website and publicity is via social media, email lists, and local partnerships.

Organizations seeing success with online fundraisers include:

  • Rotary Clubs
  • Kiwanis Clubs
  • Main Street Organizations
  • Local Impact Organizations
  • Nonprofits

Why Host A Virtual Fundraiser?

Virtual fundraisers typically raise as much or more in net profit than in-person fundraisers because the expenses and volunteer time required to execute them are so much lower.

Expenses that are not needed with virtual or online fundraisers

  • Location rentals
  • Procurement
  • Permits & insurance
  • Table/chair/equipment rentals

Those savings are transformed into profits.

The Most Important First Step

If your team hasn’t hosted an online event before, or is considering trying a new event, get help from a marketing pro that helps organizations raise more money in online fundraisers. We offer affordable consultation and strategy packages.

The Landing Zone For All Your Events

The website of the organization is the most critical tool for online fundraising. On the website you will place information pages, accept donations, let participants register, and provide the resources participants need to be successful. If you need to update the website or are just starting out and need a website, we can help.

Virtual Wine Tasting Event

Partner with a local winery or wine shop that single glass sized-bottles they can sell in a set. Not all wineries offer this size. Then, find someone knowledgeable in wine to give a live stream tasting overview and answer questions. Now, pre-sell wine kits (with your swag or other bonus items) for pickup the day before the live stream. Mark them up to make a profit. If you need help with the live stream production contact a local videographer.

Here’s a great example from the Renton Downtown Partnership. Here’s the Facebook Event they created.

Online Ladies Night Fundraiser

What better way to engage the community than hosting a Ladies Night. These are typically popular in-person events and are easily transitioned online. Determine what activities you want to include in a live stream and create a package for local ladies to purchase so they’re ready for the event. Host a pickup time for participants to get their ladies night kits and work with a videographer on producing the live stream.

Get Help With Online Fundraisers

Virtual 5k

At-home fitness events are a great way to get the community moving and raise some money. You’ll need:

  • Shirts, medals, or other swag to offer
  • Race bib & finisher certificate
  • The ability to accept registration on the website

Arrange these before choosing the participation price and choose an event date when participants complete the event. Ship out the packages in time for participants to have them for the event and encourage everyone to post to social media.

Continue selling participant packages for up to 5 days after the event, just make sure that when the pre-race shipping deadline is passed, you’re clear that kits will arrive after the event. This allows people who see the commotion on social media to jump in and participate.

Virtual Watch Party Netflix/Amazon Prime

Consider hosting a socially distant watch party. With social distancing in effect people all around you are doing this already on a personal/friendship/family level. As of this writing the only known method that stays within copyright and licensing permissions is to use Twitch to play the movie and Zoom or another platform for communicating with the group. This will likely change shortly.

Financially, you’re looking to accept donations to admit people to the event. This is why licensing and copyright and terms of service matter.

What you’ll need:

  • A movie
  • A twitch account (or other party watching platform)
  • A registration/payment page on the website
  • Promotion of the event
  • Skype/zoom/conference call for everyone to share their thoughts and laughs


Online Cash Mob Deals

A Cash Mob is the name given to a group of people that swarm a local business to support it. Put an online twist on this old idea by working with local businesses to put together a unique exclusive product, service, menu item, or package and sell it on your website for a markup. Pickup should be at the business or via shipping for folks out of the area. 

Starting a weekly Online Cash Mob is a great way to generate repeat business that generates profit for your organization.

An alternative model is to have your audience pay the business directly with a written agreement that each item sold generates a certain monetary donation.

Here’s an in-person example.

Moving A Gala Online?

Online Gaming Fundraiser

Do you have any online gamers in your network? Do you know anyone who plays games and streams to a service like Twitch or has a YouTube channel? If so, this community is used to charity gaming and will likely contribute to your online gaming fundraiser.

Choose a game, make some gamer contacts for guidance, charge for entry via your website, include some cool prizes, and live stream the event.

You can ask people to support the gamers with donations to their “Table” and make it a fundraising competition.

Virtual Beer Tasting Event

Partner with a brewery, bar, or pub that offer craft bottles in a set of various varieties. Then, find someone knowledgeable in craft beer to give a live tasting overview, answer questions, and talk about home brewing. You may be able to sell home brew kits with the tasking kit. If you need help with the live stream production contact a local videographer.

Virtual Cooking Lesson Fundraiser

With so many people spending so much more time at home, the time people spend cooking has exploded. Help those at home by organizing cooking classes. Local restaurants and caterers will typically be happy to provide the expertise. You work to setup a price and ingredients kit so everyone can follow along and sell tickets on the website. Work with a live streamer to prepare the program. Then, at the arranged day and time, give everyone a great experience that generates funds for your club or nonprofit. 

Virtual Bike Ride

With gyms closed, cycling events canceled, and so many people staying home, many cyclists and other fitness minded community members will enjoy participating.

Arrange for:

  • Shirts, jerseys, or swag
  • Participant bib or bike tags
  • Finisher certificates
  • Taking registrations on your website
  • A date to host the event

With the planning figured out, start selling registrations and ship out participant kits in time for the big day. Make sure everyone knows to share their participation on social media, tagging your social accounts.

People can participate any way they like, a stationary bike, or spin bike in the garage works great.

Keep registration open for 5 to 7 days after the event in case people see the event on social media and want to participate after the fact.

Get some good ideas from this virtual ride platform but realize you can execute this yourself.

Taste Of The Town

Have several local restaurants and food businesses create a unique to-go package representing their specialty. Create a Taste of _____ event and have people purchase meals from your organization or the business directly. Add a markup or arrange a donation per order. You can add a live stream entertainment component to sweeten the deal.


Consultation Packages

Food Truck Rodeo With Outdoor Dining Room

A hybrid event that can help restart or activate a downtown community and support small businesses. Gathering some food trucks in a parking lot or gravel lot and create a properly socially distanced outdoor dining area. Invite everyone, and enjoy the event.

You can ask for donations at the event, sell tickets for certificates that can be redeemed at the trucks, or sell merchandise and other items at the event.

Be very careful to follow all local and health department regulation in your area at the time.

For an example, check out the COVID-19 Roll Up Article

Backyard Games Tournament

Choose a set of games and have families, roommates, or video conference friends compete to see who gets the highest score in each game. Participants pay to enter and winners get fun prizes. Ask all participants to stream or post on social media to generate visibility.

You can ask locally known people, personalities, or entertainers to participate to help as well.

Consider randomly choosing tournament winners if collecting reliable scores is an issue.

Art / Photo / Craft / Talent / Costume Contest

Setup the contest, choose a prize (likely donated from a local business) and charge participants to enter. Find a local authority on the subject of the contest and have them judge or setup community voting and charge $1 per vote with a 5-vote minimum package.

Cheese Making Class

Cheese making classes are a novelty right now and very trendy. If you have a local cheese shop or cheese maker that can teach making simple mozarella or other cheeses, hosting an online class is a fantastic fundraiser. Sell entry to the class with a starter kit from the cheese shop and have people pickup their kit ahead of time. Arrange a price with the instructor for the class and kits and direct supporters to your website to purchase a spot.

Water Color & Wine

In the last several years painting and wine have grown in popularity. Many shops have opened offering these sorts of scheduled events but with social distancing options can be limited. Offer an at home version.

You’ll need:

  • A watercolor that can provide canvas and paint kits.
  • A videographer or live streamer
  • A wine provider
  • A website where you can sell tickets

Arrange for the day and time with the event team and start promotion to sell tickets.

Here’s an example from the Gunnison Art Center.

Virtual Hike

Hosting a virtual hike fundraiser is a great way to encourage health, good nutrition, and community fundraising. Virtual hikes can take place anywhere and are often setup as a “Virtual 5 Mile Hike” or the like.

Setup the following:

  • T-shits or swag
  • Finisher certificate
  • Taking registrations on your website
  • A target week for hikers to do their thing

People can participate as a walk in their neighborhood

Remote Work Networking Meetups

With so many people working from home, this is a great time to build some personal connections between workers. You can use Meetup to create events and charge a nominal fee for an online event where people can meet each other and learn new tips and tricks for working from home. It could include topics/presenters like nutrition, time productivity, quick cooking, easy homeschooling hacks, and the like.

 Here’s a very active meetup networking group to use for ideas.

Online Auction

Gather some donation items or package various items into experience or themed kits and host an online auction. Auctions in 2020 are generating less in proceeds than in past years and during in-person events, so be aware that you may need to experiment with the items you include. Keep in mind that major travel is less popular and local travel and supporting downtown businesses is popular.

Online platforms for auctions include:

Run the auction over several days and work promotion and daily updates heavily.

Birthday Challenge Virtual Fundraiser

Facebook fundraiser on their birthday asking for a donation in the amount of their age. Provide swag to those that create birthday fundrasers on Facebook or your peer to peer fundraising platform. And, take time to brag about them on your website or social media accounts to help others be enticed to participate.

Here’s an ongoing progam by Notice how they accept registrations to remind people and provide instructions. This system is easy to setup on your website.

Gift Card Auction

Communities typically have favorite restaurants, and shops that offer gift cards and perform well at charity auctions. Target higher priced stores and restaurants. Hold a mini-online auction for those gift certificates. If you know a gift card moves really well, consider supporting that restaurant by purchasing the gift card. You’ll need an online auction platform, some gift cards, and some good old fashion promotion. 

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