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Virtual Fundraising Ideas to Help You Make a Difference

by New York University
June 10, 2024
11 min read
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Virtual fundraising has changed the way nonprofits raise money in the digital age. By using online platforms, organizations can now reach more people and involve donors in new ways.

The popularity of online fundraising methods continues to rise. Traditional events are being transformed for the virtual world, making it simpler for nonprofits to connect with supporters worldwide and raise money.

This change isn't just a temporary fad but rather a necessary shift. To remain relevant and successful, nonprofits need to think outside the box and adjust to virtual strategies.

Virtual Fundraising Ideas allow organizations to:

  • Engage a wider audience: Online platforms break geographical barriers.
  • Reduce costs: Virtual events often have lower overhead costs compared to physical ones.
  • Increased convenience: Donors can participate from anywhere, at any time.

Attuning to these strategies enables nonprofits to thrive in an increasingly digital world, ensuring they can continue their vital work regardless of physical limitations.

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Creative Online Fundraising Ideas

Engaging donors through virtual activities can be both innovative and enjoyable. Here are some creative virtual fundraising ideas that nonprofits can explore to capture the interest of their supporters.

Host a Virtual Gala

A virtual gala offers an excellent opportunity to engage donors with interactive elements:

  • Live Entertainment: Include performances by artists, musicians, or comedians to keep the audience entertained.
  • Online Auctions: Allow participants to bid on unique items or experiences from the comfort of their homes.
  • Virtual Photo Booths: Create a fun experience where attendees can take and share photos, adding a personal touch to the event.

Organize Fun and Creative Virtual Fundraisers

Incorporating various activities can make your virtual fundraisers more dynamic:

  • Virtual Scavenger Hunts: Encourage teams or individuals to find items within their homes based on clues given online.
  • Online Cooking Classes: Partner with chefs to host live cooking sessions where participants can learn new recipes while donating to your cause.
  • Virtual Fitness Challenges: Organize fitness events like yoga sessions, 5K runs, or dance marathons where participants can join in and raise funds through sponsorships.

Plan a Virtual Happy Hour

A virtual happy hour is an engaging way for supporters to socialize and contribute:

  • Interactive Sessions: Host themed happy hours where attendees can enjoy drinks or snacks together via video call.
  • Donation Opportunities: Encourage donations through ticket sales or raffles during the event.
  • Entertainment: Include live music, trivia games, or cocktail-making demonstrations to keep the atmosphere lively.

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Key Considerations for Hosting a Virtual Event

When planning your fundraising ideas for nonprofits, keeping certain points in mind ensures a smooth experience:

  1. Platform Selection: Choose reliable streaming and event management platforms that cater to your audience's needs.
  2. Promotion Strategy: Utilize social media platforms and email marketing to spread the word about your event.
  3. Engagement Tactics: Incorporate interactive elements like live chats, Q&A sessions, and polls to maintain donor engagement throughout the event.
  4. Technical Support: Offer technical assistance before and during the event to help attendees navigate any issues they encounter.

These best online fundraising ideas not only foster community spirit but also help nonprofits achieve their goals effectively.

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The Benefits of Embracing Virtual Fundraising

Virtual fundraising offers many advantages for nonprofits. By using these methods, a nonprofit can better connect with donors and effectively work towards its goals.

1. Increased Accessibility and Wider Reach

Online platforms empower nonprofits to connect with a broader audience. Unlike traditional fundraising events, which are often limited by geographical constraints, virtual fundraisers can reach potential donors across the globe. This expanded reach allows organizations to:

  • Engage with supporters who may not be able to attend in-person events due to distance or other commitments.
  • Utilize social media and email marketing to spread their message far and wide, tapping into new networks of potential donors.
  • Leverage the power of community, where enthusiastic supporters can easily share event details with their own networks, further amplifying the reach.

2. Cost-effectiveness and Efficiency

Virtual fundraising methods are often more affordable and streamlined than traditional approaches. By eliminating costs associated with venue rental, catering, and travel, nonprofits can allocate more funds directly toward their cause. Aside from reducing overhead expenses, key benefits include:

  • Time savings: Planning and executing an online fundraiser can be more efficient, allowing teams to focus on other critical tasks.
  • Flexibility in scheduling: Virtual events can be hosted at any time, accommodating different time zones and increasing donor participation.

3. Global Donor Engagement

Nonprofits have the potential to attract support from around the world through virtual initiatives. This global reach is crucial for fostering diverse donor bases and creating lasting impact. Benefits of global donor engagement include:

  • Access to international donors who are passionate about your cause but geographically distant.
  • Opportunities for cultural exchange and collaboration, enriching the nonprofit’s community.
  • Increased visibility on a global scale, helping to raise awareness about important issues beyond local borders.

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By integrating these elements into their strategies, nonprofits can unlock new opportunities for growth and sustainability through virtual fundraising.

virtual fundraising ideas

Harnessing Technology for Successful Virtual Events and Campaigns

Utilizing Technology Tools for Seamless Event Management

In the world of virtual fundraising, the right technology can make or break your event. Event planning software and live-streaming platforms play a crucial role in creating a seamless experience for attendees.

Event Planning Software:

  • Streamline logistics: Simplify the registration process, manage schedules, and handle ticket sales all in one place.
  • Automate tasks: Send automated reminders, confirmations, and follow-ups to keep everything on track.
  • Customization: Tailor the virtual event to reflect your brand’s identity with customized landing pages and email templates.

Live-Streaming Platforms:

  • Enhance engagement: Use interactive features such as live polls, Q&A sessions, and chat functions to keep participants engaged.
  • High-quality streaming: Ensure your content is delivered smoothly without technical glitches that could detract from the viewer experience.
  • Integration with social media platforms: Amplify your reach by live-streaming simultaneously across multiple channels like Facebook Live, YouTube, and Instagram.

Tracking Donor Engagement with Analytics

Understanding donor behavior is key to optimizing your online fundraising strategies. Leveraging data insights allows nonprofits to fine-tune their approaches and build lasting relationships with supporters.

Data Collection:

  • Donation pages: Track metrics such as page views, bounce rates, and conversion rates to understand how well your donation page performs.
  • Email campaigns: Monitor open rates, click-through rates, and donation conversions from email appeals.

Analyzing Donor Behavior:

  • Identify patterns in donor contributions – who donate, when they donate, and how much they give.
  • Segment donors based on their engagement levels and tailor communication strategies accordingly.

Optimizing Fundraising Strategies:

  • Use A/B testing to determine which messages resonate most with your audience.
  • Adjust timing and frequency of communications based on donor preferences revealed through data analytics.

Cultivating Long-term Relationships:

  • Implement personalized outreach – send thank-you notes, updates on the impact of donations, and exclusive invitations to future events.
  • Build loyalty through consistent engagement across multiple touchpoints like social media platforms, newsletters, and virtual events.

Harnessing these technological tools not only streamlines virtual events but also helps in making data-driven decisions. This ensures that every online fundraiser is optimized for maximum impact.

Case Studies: Inspiring Examples of Successful Virtual Fundraising Campaigns

Case Study 1:'s Virtual Scholarship Fundraiser

Campaign Overview: launched a virtual scholarship fundraiser to combat student debt by engaging donors through an interactive online platform. The campaign allowed donors to create free profiles and fund scholarships, fellowships, and grants tailored to specific educational needs.

Key Takeaways:

  • Interactive Platforms: Utilizing an engaging online platform can simplify the process for donors and applicants, enhancing participation.
  • Targeted Funds: Creating targeted funds for specific causes or demographics can attract more focused support from potential donors.
  • 100% Tax-Deductible Donations: Emphasizing the tax benefits of donations can incentivize higher donor engagement.

Case Study 2: American Cancer Society’s Virtual Relay For Life

Campaign Overview: Faced with the inability to host in-person events, the American Cancer Society adapted its Relay For Life initiative into a virtual format. Participants engaged in virtual activities such as live-streamed walks, online team meetups, and digital fundraising challenges.

Key Takeaways:

  • Virtual Activities: Incorporating familiar activities in a virtual format helps maintain participant engagement and community spirit.
  • Digital Challenges: Implementing fun digital challenges can encourage competition and increase fundraising efforts.
  • Community Engagement: Maintaining a sense of community is crucial; use tools like live-streams and virtual meetups to keep participants connected.

Case Study 3: Save the Children’s Virtual Gala

Campaign Overview: Save the Children hosted a virtual gala with elements like live entertainment, real-time donation tracking, and interactive segments featuring stories from beneficiaries. This approach replicated the excitement of an in-person gala while reaching a global audience.

Key Takeaways:

  • Live Entertainment & Storytelling: Combining entertainment with impactful storytelling can create a compelling donor experience.
  • Real-Time Donation Tracking: Showcasing donation progress live encourages immediate contributions and creates a sense of urgency.
  • Global Reach: Virtual galas can transcend geographical boundaries, attracting international support through accessible online platforms.

By examining these cases, you’ll find multiple innovative approaches that demonstrate how successful virtual fundraising campaigns leverage technology and creativity to achieve remarkable results.

virtual fundraiser

The Future of Fundraising is Virtual

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed how nonprofits raise money. A shift to online spaces immediately sparked a need for donors to come up with a creative virtual fundraising idea for their events.

Traditional in-person events were quickly replaced with innovative online fundraisers, speeding up the move towards virtual fundraising. This change is not temporary but something that will continue to shape how people give and support causes in the future.

Accelerated Shift Due to COVID-19

Virtual fundraising became a lifeline for many organizations during the pandemic. With social distancing measures in place, nonprofits had to shift their focus to digital platforms to stay connected with donors and supporters:

  • Increased Accessibility: Virtual events removed geographical barriers, allowing people from different locations to participate.
  • Cost Efficiency: Hosting events online drastically reduced expenses related to venues, travel, and physical materials.

This quick change showed that using technology for fundraising can be just as effective, if not more so, than traditional methods.

Long-Term Strategy in a Post-Pandemic World

Even as we move into a post-pandemic era, the benefits of virtual fundraising remain clear. Nonprofits need to keep embracing these digital changes for sustainable growth:

  • Wider Reach: Digital platforms enable nonprofits to connect with a global audience, tapping into international support.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Using technology allows for better tracking and analysis of donor engagement through analytics tools.

However, it's important to find a balance between virtual and in-person strategies. While online methods have many advantages, we shouldn't forget the value of face-to-face interactions:

By combining both approaches, nonprofits can create a strong fundraising plan that reaches more people and creates a bigger impact.

Embracing Digital Transformation

To succeed in this new way of fundraising, nonprofits should focus on:

  • Using Advanced Technology Tools: Make use of event management software and live-streaming platforms for smooth and successful online events.
  • Encouraging Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: Motivate supporters to create their own fundraising pages and share them with their networks.

These steps will ensure that organizations can adapt to future challenges while still effectively involving donors.

The move towards virtual fundraising is not just a response to current circumstances but a change that will continue to shape the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits that welcome this shift will be in a strong position to create positive change and leave a lasting impression.

The Power of Online Fundraising

Virtual fundraising has proven itself to be a powerful tool for driving positive change and making a significant impact. The ability to raise money through virtual events and online donations offers nonprofit organizations an unprecedented level of flexibility and reach. Whether it's through hosting a virtual gala, organizing a virtual auction, or engaging donors via social media platforms, the potential for innovation is immense.

Exploring the virtual fundraising ideas discussed in this article can open new doors for your organization:

  • Interactive virtual galas with live entertainment
  • Engaging in virtual scavenger hunts and fitness challenges
  • Cozy virtual happy hour events

Each idea provides a unique way to connect with supporters and drive fundraising revenue.

Key Takeaways for Hosting A Virtual Event

As discussed, a virtual fundraising event is cost-effective, taps into a greater audience, and can effectively raise money for any cause. Consider whether you can tailor or adapt an online fundraising idea for your event to attract more donors and participants— fun, creative formats for your virtual fundraising events are vital.

Some of the best online fundraising ideas relate directly to the theme of the fundraiser or appeal to a specific audience.

For example, a charity walk usually held at Northwestern university was moved online during the pandemic. Participants logged on to a 3D virtual space that was modeled after Northwestern University's athletics center. Anyone who would have attended the event in person would have recognized the online space immediately, helping them feel more connected to the event.

Embrace these new opportunities! Virtual fundraisers allow nonprofits to adapt to changing times and leverage technology for greater impact. The shift towards digital transformation isn't just a trend; it's a necessity for long-term sustainability.

By harnessing the power of data analytics, event planning software, and live-streaming platforms, your organization can optimize its strategies and cultivate lasting relationships with donors.

The future of fundraising is virtual. By embracing these opportunities, you can continue to make a difference in your community and beyond.

Sign up as a donor with to make a difference with your fundraiser campaign. By awarding a scholarship to a deserving student, you can make someone's educational journey brighter. Let's keep driving forward, exploring new ways to engage supporters, and raising funds for the causes that matter most.

virtual fundraising events and ideas

Frequently Asked Questions About Virtual Fundraising

What is virtual fundraising?

Virtual fundraising is the process of raising funds through online platforms and digital means. This can include virtual events, online donation campaigns, social media fundraisers, and more. It utilizes technology to reach a wider audience and engage donors from anywhere in the world.

How do I host a successful virtual fundraiser?

To host a successful virtual fundraiser, plan your event carefully by choosing the right platform, setting clear goals, and creating engaging content. Promote your event through social media and email marketing, and ensure you have the necessary technology in place for a seamless experience. Engaging with your audience before, during, and after the event is crucial for success.

What are some creative ideas for virtual fundraising events?

Some creative ideas for virtual fundraising events include hosting a virtual gala, organizing fun and interactive online activities such as trivia nights or talent shows, planning a virtual happy hour or cooking class with a celebrity chef, and conducting live-streamed performances or auctions.

What technology tools are useful for virtual fundraisers?

Useful technology tools for virtual fundraisers include live-streaming platforms (e.g., Zoom, YouTube Live), event management software (e.g., Eventbrite), donation processing tools (e.g., PayPal, Stripe), social media platforms for promotion (e.g., Facebook, Instagram), and analytics tools to track engagement and measure success (e.g., Google Analytics).

How can I engage donors in a virtual fundraiser?

Engage donors in a virtual fundraiser by creating interactive elements such as live chats, Q&A sessions, polls, and social media interactions. Personalize communication through targeted emails and thank-you messages. Offer incentives like exclusive content or merchandise to encourage participation and donations.

For more information about fundraising, nonprofits, donations, and scholarships, check out our Scholarship Blog!

New York University
Content Writer

About Elise

Elise is a skilled and knowledgeable writer. Her understanding of scholarships and internships enables her to craft insightful and informative content that resonates with students, helping them navigate the often complex processes of applying for financial aid and career opportunities.

Elise graduated from New York University with a double major in English and Psychology, as well as a minor in Creative Writing.


Through challenging university coursework and corporate experience, Elise has become an expert in several different types of writing, including literary analysis, content pieces, formal scientific writing, SEO editing, and more. Elise expanded on her knowledge while interning in marketing, using her understanding of SEO to boost website traffic and customer engagement.

She’s published a short story in The Foundationalist literary magazine and has also won several short story writing awards at the regional and international levels. Elise loves to craft content that helps students navigate college life and scholarship applications. She makes use of syntax and tone to write readable, engaging pieces. Elise has a solid understanding of linguistics and grammatical structures across multiple languages thanks to her fluency in English and proficiency in Mandarin and Cantonese. 

Elise first joined in 2022 during her undergraduate studies, explored other pursuits in 2023, and happily returned in 2024 as a Content Writer. Motivated by her writing skills, she aims to make educational resources more accessible for students of all backgrounds. Additionally, she believes it's important to add to the available information on student loans and student finances in a way that's user-friendly and easy to understand.

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