There have been a number of adjustments made to everyday life since our COVID-19 situation. Social distancing canceled many plans, and it seems as if there is no end to self-quarantine in sight. With the disruption imposed by this pandemic, many individuals have tapped into their creativity and found ways to work within the limitations presented to them. Schools ingeniously put together virtual graduations. Families and friends came up with unique ways to celebrate birthdays. The entertainment industry took advantage of technology to piece together live programming. Our society proved its resilience by adjusting to an unfortunate situation, and the nonprofit sector is following suit.  As of right now, physical social gatherings are no longer a viable option for fundraising; but with the use of technology, many organizations are finding ways to bring communities together while raising money. The social climate has called many eager individuals to action, and nonprofit organizations are now in the position to promote a great amount of change. It may seem nearly impossible to fund-raise while social distancing, but this list of virtual fundraisers and events provides many fun and unique ideas. 

  1. Host a Movie or Documentary Showing
  2. Register Your Nonprofit with Amazon Smile
  3. Invite the Community to a Zoom Discussion
  4. Host a Virtual Walk or Run
  5. Host a Virtual Seminar
  6. Host an Online Auction or Sale
  7. Offer Virtual Classes to the Community
  8. Sell Celebrity Messages
  9. Organize a Virtual Raffle Fundraiser
  10. Host a T-Shirt Fundraiser
  11. Do a Pledge Challenge
  12. Throw a Virtual Dance
  13. Host a Virtual Contest
  14. Fast for a Cause
  15. Challenge Yourself with a Marathon
  16. Provide a Free Download with Donation
  17. Host a Virtual Open Mic
  18. Raise Awareness with a Social Media Challenge
  19. Host a Virtual Game Night

 

1. Host a Movie or Documentary Showing

Stream a movie or a documentary on your website’s page! For a more interactive setting, stream the video on Youtube or host a Zoom seminar so viewers can discuss what is happening in live time. It is important to have a landing page for either viewing option so that the event’s cause is clear, people have access to background information, and viewers can find additional ways to help. The landing page can also serve as a “ticket booth” or “donation table.” Either place a donation portal on the page so that viewers can give as they please or add an eCommerce feature so that people can purchase a Zoom or Youtube stream link. Both methods boost donations and awareness.  The Coolidge Theater, a nonprofit with a mission to build a vital community through film culture, is among the many nonprofits within the film industry to host virtual screenings. Their Virtual Education Seminars take place throughout a week on the viewers own time, incorporating Zoom, video downloads, and third party streaming services. The setup is intricate, but their web design and navigation capabilities make everything easy to use and accessible, providing an amazing user experience! With the right help and strong determination, any nonprofit can host their own movie or documentary showing!

2. Register Your Nonprofit with Amazon Smile

If your nonprofit is listed by GuideStar and meets Amazon Smile’s criteria, you can use Amazon Smile to receive 0.5% of the price of your supporters’ Amazon Smile purchases.  Registering is easy and is an effortless way to receive donations without throwing an event. It is also easy for supporters. Supporters simply sign into their Amazon prime account on Amazon Smiles and shop. It is the same products and prices!

3. Invite the Community to a Zoom Discussion

A Zoom discussion is a great way to spread information and ideas as well as to call people to action. Hosting a discussion via Zoom brings faces together and creates an immediate community. The link can either be distributed via an event landing page or it can be distributed using social media pages. For a more intimate Zoom discussion, advertise and send the link out within emails sent only to those on your mailing list.    There are so many great examples of Zoom discussions taking place all over the country. Colleges are using Zoom to discuss reopening plans with their students, and the Black Lives Matter movement has been utilizing Zoom discussion to organize and educate.  The Unitarian Universalist Mass Action is among those who are taking advantage of Zoom. Their organization hosted a Black Lives Matter Zoom discussion and has held continuous Zoom discussions throughout quarantine. All information about their meetings is featured on their website along with information outlining discussion points.  It is extremely comprehensive and an excellent use of their website. 

4. Host a Virtual Walk or Run

Walks and runs are a classic way to raise money, but social distancing has made it difficult to host them… but not impossible! Using social media and websites, a nonprofit can host a walk or run for their cause without the risk of breaking social distancing. Invite supporters to participate in the event by walking around their neighborhood or local park. Bring people together virtually by creating a hashtag to post pictures of participants or by having participants send their picture to you so it can be featured on the event’s page. You can even send out shirts to build a stronger sense of community. The Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee hosted a virtual 5k to raise awareness and funds for epilepsy research. Participants paid a registration fee which included participation in the 5k, a running bib, and a medal.  It’s simple for runners: Print out the bib, run the 5k, and post their participation under the hashtag #run4epilepsyTN. Runners can run any day within the time frame of a week, and the event culminates in a Facebook Live celebration that really brings everyone together.  The foundation’s virtual 5k was all promoted through their Facebook page, tickets were bought on Eventbrite, runners utilized Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to showcase their participation and spread awareness, and everything finished back on Facebook. The Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee used multiple forms of technology to throw a great event with an even greater impact.

5. Host a Virtual Seminar

Virtual Seminars are similar to Zoom Discussions, but they are centered around having experts speak. Seminars are an amazing way to bring the community together and to people about your cause. They bring awareness and call viewers to action. Options for link distribution are identical to those of a Zoom Discussion. Although they are not a nonprofit, the Berkeley Lab hosts virtual seminars throughout the summer to prepare high school students for STEM careers. They are advertised through Eventbrite, and they send a Zoom link upon the day of the seminar. Technologically, it is easy for both the event planners and the event participants.

6. Host an Online Auction or Sale

Online auctions and sales give something to both the nonprofit and the supporter. You can sell or auction customized t-shirts, merchandise specific to your nonprofit, or homemade gifts. Online auctions and sales have been used for years, and they always provide a great experience on both ends of the sale. The event can take place over Zoom or Youtube Stream, it can stream from your website with viewers calling in to purchase an item, or it can simply take place on an online shop that is up for a duration of time.  The Friendship Community, a Christian ministry dedicated to working with individuals with intellectual disabilities and Autism, hosts a virtual auction for their Friendship Heart Gallery and Studio. Their website features a comprehensive landing page that describes the event’s cause, the event’s schedule, an event introduction video, a registration portal, and an auction preview. The auction preview also includes videos for their Fund-a-Needs which explains how the item you’re funding will benefit the organization. The landing page is beautifully designed, and it showcases the artists and their artwork, warming the hearts of potential bidders. This web page is a superb inspiration for a nonprofit who is considering throwing an auction or sale!

7. Offer Virtual Classes to the Community

Engage the community by hosting classes! These classes, conducted over Zoom, can be formal classes that distribute information or they can be fun skills classes. Fun class ideas include cooking classes and craft nights. These classes can include the family as well! The Public Library of Brookline has continued serving the community while practicing social distancing. Their website advertises many different virtual classes that would have otherwise been held in person. The library offers an ideaSPACE Craft-Along which is advertised on their website, but takes you to Eventbrite to register. On Eventbrite you can reserve your Craft-Along Kit and schedule a contactless pick-up to receive said kit. This kit includes the materials for the craft and a short link to a video workshop. The Public Library of Brookline is using technology in an amazing way to keep their community together just as you can!

8. Sell Celebrity Messages

Who doesn’t want a customized message from a celebrity? This fundraiser does require some connections and generous celebrities, but when done correctly, it really does bring in donations and awareness. Remember, the celebrity does not need to be of Justin Bieber standards! Local celebrities provide just as much joy and arguably a more intimate moment. Public officials count as well! Additionally, celebrities and public officials can provide their platform to raise awareness. Having people in the public eye speak on a cause seems to always bring a greater “importance” to it. If your nonprofit has garnered the attention and support of a celebrity or public official, people regard it as a really pressing matter and want to help out more.  Cameo has capitalized on people’s desire to interact with celebrities and created a service where people can buy a message or Zoom call with their favorite celebrity. In just the two years of its founding, the company recorded roughly 100,000 transactions, proving the potential that this kind of fundraiser holds. Selling a celebrity message and/or Zoom call brings festivities to your fundraiser and is a great way to garner support from your community.

9. Organize a Virtual Raffle Fundraiser

Raffles have been a staple fundraiser throughout the decades. They are simple and require little effort. The raffle can be presented and advertised through websites, social medias, and emailing lists. Having a landing page for the event provides background information, and it can also offer more festivities for the event if videos and pictures are featured on said landing page.  Chance2Win is an online program that sets up virtual raffles, but their service fees are on the expensive side, especially for smaller nonprofits. Fortunately, setting up a raffle through your website is inexpensive and quite easy. Using an eCommerce software such as Shopify, you can sell a raffle ticket and enter the purchaser’s order number in the raffle. Just make sure to tell your purchaser to remember their order number. The raffle prize announcements can be a simple email or it can culminate in a Facebook or Instagram Live event.

10. Host a T-Shirt Fundraiser

A T-Shirt fundraiser incorporates multiple different fundraisers into one fun family friendly event! Sell plain, white t-shirts featuring your nonprofit’s logo via an eCommerce feature on your website. On the time of the event, host a Zoom call with music and announcements. During the call, families can decorate the shirt that they received. To add some more excitement to the event, you can hold a t-shirt contest at the end of the day. This fundraiser brings families together in their home and a community together online. It is a fun event to host that adds joy to social distancing. 

11. Do a Pledge Challenge

Pledge challenges are an excellent way to raise money for your organization. This age old fundraising tactic observed social distancing before social distancing was even a thing! The pledge fundraiser can be twisted and turned in many ways. A nonprofit can promise a certain number of repetitions of a task per dollar donated. Or a donor can pledge a certain amount of money per repetition of a task completed by a volunteer from the organization. The two sound very similar, but in the first example, donations dictate the number of reps, and in the second example, the number of reps dictate the donations. Your nonprofit can use either model depending on how you want to engage your audience.  Kelly Elementary’s PTA has an amazing set up for their Jog-a-Thon and Read-a-Thon fundraiser. The events’ landing pages clearly explain what the donations are going towards, provide answers to frequently asked questions, and include a link to a registration page. Friends and family members of the students participating in the fundraisers are asked for either a flat donation or to sponsor a child for every lap jogged or page read. This fundraiser instills good habits and practices in the students while raising money for a good cause!

12. Throw a Virtual Dance

Virtual dances are a great way to engage your community and get everyone active. They also serve as a fun family activity. You can either sell tickets on the event’s landing page and provide a Zoom or Youtube streaming link with the purchase or you can provide the link for free and place a donation portal below it.  Windsong, Cleveland’s Feminist Chorus hosted a Windsong PRIDE Virtual Dance Party Fundraiser via Zoom. Tickets were $9 per household, song requests were $5, and song request boosters were $10. The fundraiser was a simple, but impactful event that raised funds for a great organization. 

13. Host a Virtual Contest

Competition is always a good way to get people engaged! Participants can compete against each other, creating a community with a cause from the comfort and safety of each person’s home. The contest can be conducted completely through social media, having your participants post their submissions using a hashtag associated with the competition. This method is not only the easiest, but it also brings awareness to your nonprofit as the participants’ friends and family will see the post as well.  Another option is to have the submissions sent directly to an email or a Google Form. This allows for more restriction in regards to viewing submissions. Creating a landing page for the contest will also offer more information about the cause to participants.  Cake, a plus size resale store, hosts an annual virtual costume contest that would be a great model to follow. Submissions are sent directly to an email then are voted on via Facebook. This method ensures that every submission is filtered, but it still allows the community to view the contest. It is a fun and easy event to host!

14. Fast for a Cause

At first glance, this sounds like an extreme fundraiser, but you can get extremely creative with “Fasting for a Cause.” The fast does not need to be an abstinence of food altogether. You can challenge your social media followers to give up coffee for a week and ask them to donate the money that would have been spent on coffee to your nonprofit. Social media followers can give up an hour of TV time per day to play a board game or something else related to your nonprofit. There are many ways to challenge your community to take something out of their daily routine for your cause. Use a hashtag to gather all participants together virtually. Things posted under the event’s hashtag can document the ups and downs of the “fasting.” The community will have laughter, inspiration, and encouragement which will make the experience even more enjoyable. 

15. Challenge Yourself with a Marathon

No, this method of fundraising does not have to include running if you don’t want it to! Marathon challenges show a certain level of commitment to the cause on the organization’s part. A nonprofit can set a goal for the amount of money they would like to raise, and until that goal is reached, let the marathon continue! You can dance until you have reached your goal. You can play an instrument. You can paint until the goal is reached. Just make sure your goal is realistic, or else you might find yourself dancing, reading, or painting for a long time! For those who are more sane, you can set a time limit for the marathon. You can pledge to read the entire Harry Potter series, promise to like and comment on all of the Kardashian/Jenner family social media posts, or clean out your forgotten attic. One man named Jesse Carey sat in a room and watched nothing but Nicholas Cage films for 24 hours. This crazy test of endurance raised over $30,000 for the charity Water! Marathon challenges bring a perfect blend of humor and discipline into charity, and in this case, the crazier, the better!  

16. Provide a Free Download with Donation

Similar to online auctions and sales, free downloads with a donation provide the donor with a tangible item after donating. Downloads can include videos and pictures, puzzles and quizzes, coupons and store vouchers, or other small virtual trinkets. Whatever it is, it is important to provide a preview of the download that is offered. Advertise the fundraiser via social media and your mailing list and include a link that takes viewers directly to the fundraiser’s landing page. Offering a free download with donation does not require an out of pocket expense for the nonprofit while still expressing gratitude towards the donor. 

17. Host a Virtual Open Mic

What better way to bring a community together than open mics? Open mics invite all kinds of creativity to one virtual stage, and the act of sharing talents really fosters an intimate environment.  Depending on the space you want to create, there can be sign ups for time slots or it can simply be a “share your talent when you feel moved to do so” environment. The fact that the event takes place on a virtual platform can be encouraging for those who don’t often get up on the stage to perform, so you may be surprised to see how many attendees feel encouraged to spontaneously share their talent. Whether or not there is a fee to attend and/or perform is up to you, but make sure that throughout the event attendees are being reminded why they are all gathered today. A landing page or social media account to continuously refer back to will help cement your organization’s purpose into the audience’s mind and bring awareness to your cause. 

18. Raise Awareness with a Social Media Challenge

We have to give props to Instagram and Tik Tok for this idea. Virtual community challenges are a fun and effective way to bring awareness to your organization. Using a hashtag on social media, challenge your supporters to participate in a dance or activity related to your cause. From there, let math work its magic! The awareness of your cause will grow exponentially. With an initial volunteer challenging 5 other volunteers and those 5 volunteers each challenging 5 other volunteers, support for your cause will increase in the matter of hours or days. Simply think back to the Ice Bucket Challenge for the ALS Association which increased ALS’s annual funding for research by 187%! What is so great about this virtual event is that it is so easy to do on both the event coordinator’s and the participant’s end. All it takes is a catchy hashtag, a fun challenge, and a social media account to get going. 

19. Host a Virtual Game Night

Virtual game nights bring families and communities together all in one space. There are so many different ways to format this event. You can encourage your community to sit down in their homes for a game night while streaming music. You can invite families to compete against each other in a trivia night via Zoom. You can even go crazy and create a game yourself that is related to your organization and send it to families so that they can play it and post about it on social media.  The Bi+ Youth Project hosts game nights via Zoom to raise awareness for their cause and create a safe space for LGBTQ+ individuals. The event is registered via Eventbrite, and the Zoom link to the event is sent out on the day of the game night. It is a fun way to bring everyone together in the midst of social distancing. With all of the different formatting options for this night, virtual game nights encourage families to spend time together and perhaps properly get along for the first time since being stuck in the same house!   Social distancing does not have to stop all social gatherings. People can come together virtually and still have just as much fun! It is even better when people come together for a similar cause. Nonprofits have the advantage of technology to continue to promote change and build a community for their cause, and it does not always require technological masters to do so. All you need is a website and a social media to continue to bring awareness and make a change. 

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