60+ Creative Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofit Events to Bring Your Community Together Online While Raising Vital Funds
63 Creative Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofit Events to Bring Your Community Together Online While Raising Vital Funds
Organizing a virtual fundraising event online doesn't have to be more limiting than holding one in person — if the pandemic taught us anything it is that (practically) anything that we once thought impossible to hold online can actually be a great success with just a few small changes and adaptations - and the world of nonprofits is no exception to making the most of hosting events online.
Holding your fundraising event online doesn't have to be boring or smaller-scale, if you turn a sponsored race into a streamed event where participants can film themselves and be cheered on by people from across the world, it's easy to see how the result is actually more far-reaching and exciting. This is just one fundraising idea of the 61 virtual fundraising ideas we’ve compiled below — and our list is far from exhaustive. Take what you want from this list or use it to create inspiration for your own great fundraiser ideas.
Start by picking an idea that really sets your heart on fire and works for your organization and supporters, or you could combine a few concepts together to create something that perfectly encapsulates your charity. But whatever you do, don’t believe your usual fundraising event can’t take place online — because it most certainly can!
Let’s get started with probably the easiest online fundraising event; Raffles.
Everyone loves a good raffle, they’re fun, nostalgic, and a great way to bring supporters together online — you don't need any special talents or even much money to take part, they involve plenty of excitement, and the possibility of winning big is enough to capture everyone's attention. Fortunately, they’re also one of the easiest fundraising events to make virtual. In a virtual fundraising raffle, tickets can be sold online, prizes are marketed through social media or other internet-based marketing efforts, and the final draw takes place over a live stream. It's almost exactly the same as an in-person raffle but cuts out the majority of the work by getting technology to handle the difficult stuff for you. No more scouting the streets to find people who want to buy tickets or having to organize a venue for the final draw.
Here are a few examples and variants of this all-time classic, which involve an array of different prize types and raffle styles.
- Cash prize
The most straightforward way to hold a virtual event raffle is to simply offer a cash prize (or a series of cash prizes). This has both pros and cons.
On the plus side, you don’t have to think too much about sourcing prizes, and you can rest easy knowing that there's not a single person whom the prospect of winning cash won’t appeal to.
When it comes to cash, there's no way of dressing up your prizes to look bigger or more expensive than they actually are. Everybody knows the value of money. Where you may be able to get companies to donate their products or services to you as prizes, you’re less likely to find people or organizations willing to donate a cash prize. You’ll probably be relying on the donations you can pull from participants, but since it’s hard to predict the number of entries, you might want to start off small or offer cash as one prize or even the main prize of many.
In other words, nobody would doubt the appeal and success of a cash prize raffle if you have the resources to pull it off. But if not, there are plenty of other options. Keep reading to learn about even more great nonprofit fundraiser ideas.
- Car grand prize
Another prize that’s sure to have mass appeal is a car raffle. The prospect of winning a shiny new SUV, Tesla, or sports car, (or whatever other luxury car you can source) will spark the imagination of many people to the point that they just can't resist entering your fundraising draw.
A less obvious advantage of choosing a car grand prize over a cash prize is the marketing opportunities it will give you. After the winner receives their car, make sure you take lots of photos and videos and post your virtual fundraiser prize and winner all over your social media. After all, who wouldn't be more than willing to help the nonprofit that just gave them a free car?
- Reverse raffle
Reverse raffles might not be quite as popular as the original version, but that doesn't mean they can't be just as fun. In fact, the novelty of the idea and the fact that most people probably haven't participated in one before can be an added enticement.
So what is a reverse raffle? Well, instead of the tickets drawn winning the raffle and therefore the prize, they’re eliminated. Instead, the last ticket left is the winner. This is very similar to a standard raffle in most key aspects — the main difference is the fact that it takes a lot longer, so the raffle itself can provide entertainment over a live stream of your virtual fundraiser.
There are also ways to make the event more interactive, such as implementing different stages or letting people buy more tickets at a higher price after they've been eliminated.
- Instant gift card raffle
An instant raffle is kind of like a raffle within a raffle. You'll be giving your entrants the chance to win a prize by buying a ticket, and the ticket will give them entry to the real event. This is why gift cards are a great choice for a prize — they’re quick and easy to sort out yet desirable enough to incentivize people to enter.
For the best results, consider limiting the time people have to enter the raffle or to be eligible for the gift card prize. This can help you to go viral on social media and attract more ticket purchases, potentially making this one of the most lucrative fundraising events you can go for.
- Restaurant raffle
Local partners are the key to obtaining good prizes for your virtual fundraising events, and restaurants are often a great choice. Giving away a free meal or two isn't prohibitively difficult or expensive for them, but it makes an excellent prize for whoever wins the raffle.
Even if a restaurant can't afford to give you a free meal (the recent state of the economy has been hard on businesses), you could always ask them if they're willing to give a discount or some other kind of special offer instead. While this won’t make a very appealing main prize, it can be a good filler. And as an added marketing bonus, the restaurant can even share your event on their social media giving even more, free exposure to your fundraising campaign.
- Fun experience raffle
Alternatively, why not open things up a little more by offering a variety of fun experiences as prizes? These could be anything from a massage to a skydive to an entire weekend away.
Experiences are particularly popular among Millennials and Generation Z, so keep this in mind for your marketing efforts. Again, every company you offer an experience with can also boost your reach by sharing your online fundraising event on their social media accounts.
- Celebrity dinner guest
Who wouldn't want to dine out with their favorite celebrity? Even if the famous figure in question isn't somebody that you particularly followed beforehand, the novelty and boasting rights of spending time with a celeb is enough to tempt most people.
Of course, the part where you actually have to find a celebrity might not be so easy — unless you're an extremely high-profile nonprofit, you're probably not going to get Tom Cruise or Taylor Swift to agree to participate. But it's always worth asking around to see if anybody has availability for a good cause fundraiser, and local celebrities or individuals with a social media presence can be a good place to start.
You can even make the event entirely online by offering the chance to have a Zoom call with a celebrity rather than an in-person meeting (with a few friends or family members participating if they wish). This will seem a lot more appealing to the star since they'll only need to give an hour or so of their time, with no traveling involved.
- Mystery box raffle
Opt for a mystery box raffle and you won’t have to worry about picking a prize that appeals to everyone, because nobody will know what it is! Throw together a variety of prizes — you can mix a few of the ideas outlined above, such as experiences, gift cards, restaurant trips, and maybe even a bit of money.
Mystery box raffles also lend themselves to marketing campaigns nicely since you can post all kinds of content with clues and hints about what the prizes may be and encourage your followers to post their guesses.
Of course, make sure you don’t accidentally con your entrants by giving out prizes that don’t live up to their expectations.
- Virtual 50/50
Everyone knows that nonprofit fundraising events are really all about charity and not whatever prizes the winner receives. So, why not split the “prize” equally between the winner and your organization?
When the participant knows that half of the raffle’s proceeds will go to a good cause, it means that even if they don't end up winning, their money has still been well-spent. And that for many people is enough to prompt an entry.
Market the event by stating that 50% of the sale proceeds will go to charity and the other half to the winner. You could also split the 50% winnings between multiple people to ensure the money benefits as many people as possible.
- Artwork raffle
Are there any local artists in your area? Do you think they’d consider donating one of their pieces to your raffle? If the answer to these two questions is a well-rounded yes, an artwork raffle could be a great choice, for you and the artist.
Collaborating with an artist is another great way to boost your virtual fundraising marketing efforts by sharing each other across social media. The artist gets to share your online fundraising event and they also get some exposure when you mention them in your posts too!
You don’t have to pressure the artist to create the masterpiece of their life just for you — just ask them if they can create something cool and relatively quick that will capture the attention of entrants. Maybe a design specific to your area, popular culture, or the nonprofit organization you represent.
Also, remember to factor in shipping costs — transporting a massive canvas (not to mention a statue) across the country can be expensive. And maybe don’t allow international entrants unless you’re willing to ship anywhere in the world.
- Chinese raffle
Silent auctions also work great in a virtual format — it’s easy for people to place their bids anonymously online, and it makes it easier for large numbers of people to be involved in one event. A Chinese raffle takes this concept: participants buy “bid tickets” for set prizes and use them to bid for prizes. Then, a winner is selected from these tickets.
This might take some of the luck out of a raffle, but it adds plenty of excitement — even for people who just came along to watch!
Next up, we have “A-thon” virtual fundraising events.
We’ve all heard of marathons — and maybe even triathlons or decathlons — but the world of a-thons doesn’t have to start and end with physical activities. You can turn just about anything into a fun interactive online fundraising campaign and let donors pledge an amount to sponsor someone to do the activity.
Best of all, they're easy enough to turn into virtual events when you know how. Here are a few ideas you can start with.
Marathons, mini-marathons, and other running events are among the most popular sponsored activities that you’ll find in the world of fundraising. At first glance, it might seem like it isn’t possible to hold a race virtually, but it's actually pretty easy.
Simply get the participants to record themselves as they run, either through live streams if they're adventurous enough to record themselves on the phones or through an activity tracker that lets everybody know how far they've run.
After all, it's not like everybody has to run the exact same circuits — just a set distance (or whatever distance they feel comfortable with). Virtual events can actually be more inclusive because anybody from anywhere in the world can join in, and it doesn't have the same competitive aspect when you're running alone. This is also a great way to get even more people involved and really boost your event fundraising goals.
Who doesn't love a good dance? Dancing for hours on end might be more challenging than a quick boogie in a nightclub, but it’s certainly a novelty.
Organize a timed event with a group and get everybody to dance over video for the entire duration. Depending on the vibe you're going for, you could host a dance workshop with a teacher and allow everyone to copy the moves, or you could simply let everybody freestyle for the entire live stream. If you’re feeling crazy, you could even make it a 24-hour affair. Think about creative ways you can market this event and also how you can encourage more people to make donations during the event. This could be by hanging banners in the background or wearing a cool outfit featuring a call to action during the dancing.
If you can have a runathon, why not a bikeathon? It's basically the same thing but on a bike.
To add a bit of spice to the virtual fundraiser, you could try creating a competition where participants have to bike for as long as they can, or allow people to bike in groups. It’s also far more manageable for participants to record themselves when biking — they can just attach a GoPro to their head or their bike and give everyone at home something to watch.
A personal favorite, not everyone is athletic enough for running, biking, and dancing, but a read-athon? It’s far more accessible to a wider group of people, and it’s a given that everybody who participates will finish being far more erudite than when they started.
Rather than asking everyone to read for eight hours straight, this is generally done by encouraging participants to read for a set amount of time (or a fixed number of pages) each day for a week or so. It’s often done as part of school or classes.
There’s one disadvantage here: it’s not particularly interesting to watch a bunch of people reading through a live stream. Instead, you can go in heavy on the marketing to encourage donations and finish off with a final virtual fundraising event that lets everyone know the final amount raised by those who took part.
Depending on the type of person you are, the prospect of taking part in a spell-a-thon as an adult might fill you with glee or horror. But spelling bees can actually be extremely fun to participate in, not to mention hilarious to watch and lucrative for fundraising!
If you’re still not ready to put your own spelling skills to the test, you could just subject students to it instead. They can often be surprisingly popular, especially if there are prizes for raising certain amounts or getting to a particular stage in the competition.
Sleeping to raise money might sound like a copout at first, but that’s probably because you haven’t thought enough about it. In a sleepout-athon, participants try to sleep outdoors for as long as possible to make as much money as they can for charity. This is often done as a group for safety and to stop anyone from going too crazy.
To take things to the next level, turn this into a larger online event where people participate in other activities while also sleeping out. This way, keeping up with the videos can become pretty riveting for anyone watching the live stream — it's almost like watching a reality TV show giving the watchers more enticement to keep watching their screen and making live donations.
Choose the warm summer months if you want to be merciful or the colder periods for more of a challenge.
Your average sixty-year-old might not know what a hackathon is, but they’re becoming increasingly popular among younger generations and anyone working or interested in tech. In a hackathon, groups try to solve a problem that involves coding, and the first group to do so wins.
Since the whole event is built around technology, it is easy enough to create a virtual fundraising hackathon where participants work with the group online.
- Dog Walk-a thon
Everyone loves dogs, right? So why not incorporate them into your virtual fundraising event? In a dog walkathon, the benefits are twofold: you get to walk dogs at an animal shelter and raise money for charity while you do it.
Shelter dogs often don't get as many walks as they want or need, so this gesture is sure they go down a treat among both the animals themselves and the shelter staff. They can even boot your event by marketing it on their social media putting it in front of even more supporters.
For it to work virtually, participants can walk dogs from different regions and track themselves doing it, so that the person who walks the farthest or takes the most dogs out wins a prize. But in the case of a dog walk-a thon, it's likely that participants will be enjoying themselves so much that they'll forget they’re even in a competition.
20 Push Up-athon
This one isn’t for the faint of heart, but pushup-athons can be good fun (especially for anyone who feels like they have something to prove in the muscles department). Participants can simply set a timer and see how many push-ups they can do within the limit.
Alternatively, you could see who the Last Man Standing is by letting a group of people do push-ups for as long as they can over video and seeing who collapses first.
Because it seems like such an impressive physical feat, this challenge can be a good event for getting some press or media involvement especially if you have ex-military, personal trainers, and veterans involved.
Now, let’s move on to a more popular type of fundraiser: Auctions
One of our all-time favorite options for an online fundraising event is the auction. They might be simple, but they’re exciting, very easy to hold online, and can take many different formats. Just get together a few items or experiences from local donors and companies, then live stream an auction and sell them off to the highest bidder.
A virtual fundraiser version has all the perks and none of the organization or venue costs, whether you go for a classic live auction, a silent auction (where people bid anonymously over longer periods), or even a hybrid auction (an in-person auction with online participants bidding too).
Here are some variations you can experiment with.
- Themed auction
A themed auction can add a touch of fun to your day — whether you choose something sensible like retro, art, or comic memorabilia, or something more playful like pirates or princesses.
Whatever you opt for, a theme is also a great way to attract supporters, who you can target through your marketing campaigns and make the event feel more personal.
- Open-mic auction
Typical auctions are all about what’s being sold, but an open-mic auction turns this idea on its head — everything is about the auctioneer. In some open-mic auctions, a celebrity or comedian will take the helm, attracting a larger crowd of people and making the night more entertaining.
If you don't quite have the budget for that, you could simply make one of your team wear fancy dress and act ridiculous all day. Making people laugh is a great way to encourage genuine, thoughtful donations to your nonprofit virtual fundraiser.
- Holiday auction
The only difference between a holiday auction and a regular auction is that you're selling items that fit around the theme of holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Everyone loves a good celebration, and the chance to nag a bargain while supporting a good cause is sure to be appealing.
You could also include experiences, such as the chance to eat out at a local restaurant for a Christmas meal with Santa! A great tip is to make your prizes as festive and feel-good as possible to target a wider audience of happy holiday shoppers!
- Virtual live stream
Most of the virtual fundraising ideas mentioned so far have included a live-streaming component since it's the cornerstone of all good virtual events, but have you thought about using a live stream with a well-known individual as the prize in an auction? This is something that will really attract people to take part, and even more, minor celebrities have die-hard fans so it shouldn’t be too difficult to start receiving donations in order to win such a sought-after prize.
- Business mentorship
This is similar to the virtual live stream idea, but instead of offering a simple chat with a celebrity over a video call, business mentorship is all about learning and developing yourself and your business. The advantage here is that you don't need to source some kind of celebrity or public figure; just someone who has been successful in business, such as a CEO of a local company.
It’s still not easy, but at least you have a larger pool to choose from.
Sell the opportunity as a unique experience that can't be bought anywhere else on the market.
- Virtual experience
Virtual experiences can be much more far-reaching than most people realize ( the pandemic probably educated us a lot more about the possibilities). For instance, you could auction virtual experiences like the chance to have a one-on-one yoga class with an instructor or to receive a guided tour of Rome from your own bedroom.
To maximize your chances of success, choose a niche or theme to tie to your search experiences, such as wellness or travel. This will attract a great core group of bidders.
Next Up, Fundraising Ideas Virtual events
Major events are many people's favorite thing about charity fundraising. They offer a chance to dress up, get together with others, and have a good time — while also raising money for a good cause as part of a fundraising campaign. At first, it might seem impossible that you could recreate these types of social fundraiser events in a virtual environment, but with a little creativity, it's perfectly possible.
Using the right software, you can recreate everything over a live stream to give an experience that's as close to the real deal as possible. Here are a few virtual event ideas about how to make virtual versions of your favorite in-person nonprofit fundraising events.
The Gala is a staple of charity fundraising — with performances, live entertainment, and sit-down meals, they often attract a huge crowd and make a bucket load of donations for charity. Although this seems out of reach for a virtual environment, try breaking each component down to think of online alternatives.
For instance, you could hold giveaways and raffles to keep your guests engaged. You could also hire a band, DJ, or some other kind of performer to hold a live-stream performance. Maybe you could even mail out refreshments to all of your attendees so they get the full experience. The sky's the limit!
Usually, a food-related event will involve a few people sitting around and eating a meal that was prepared at the venue. As an alternative, you could give everybody who purchases a ticket a catered meal at a local restaurant, where they can connect with the other attendees over a live stream if they wish.
This has the added advantage of boosting the local economy at a time when many businesses may also be struggling.
It’s an easy format to turn into a hybrid fundraising event if you wish; have a group of people attend an in-person dinner while a few others attend the virtual version over live-stream.
- Cooking classes
This was a very popular concept in the early days of lockdown and became easier with every new person who jumped on the trend. Everyone loves eating, but many of us aren’t as knowledgeable in the kitchen as we would like to be. Cooking classes, therefore, have great mass appeal — they don't just attract gourmands but also normal people that want to improve their skills. They’re also very easy to host over a live stream as we all saw at the height of the pandemic.
However, to ensure that you don't run into trouble, alert all your participants about the ingredients and equipment they’ll need beforehand. This is a fantastic way to generate donations and exposure to your non-profit and have a successful virtual fundraising event that many people across the world can join in with.
- Happy hours/wine tasting
Events that revolve around alcohol tasting tend to go down a treat and are surprisingly easy to make virtual. Simply charge people for the tickets online, then get them to choose a bundle of alcohol, which you can send out in the post for them to taste at the event. Or, you could even send out a mystery package for added excitement.
To avoid this becoming an awkward event, be sure to prepare your talking points beforehand. Hopefully, once the alcohol has taken effect, things will flow by themselves, and maybe even some extra live donations!
- Online classes
Cooking isn't the only skill that can be taught through virtual classes. Virtually anything that people might want to learn is an option, from something as hands-on as soapmaking to something more classroom-style like French classes. Just make sure you have an expert willing to take part before you start advertising.
These classes can also be a great prize in event auctions, so they’re a useful tool to have up your sleeve when planning prizes for your virtual fundraisers.
- Craft nights
For chilled-out events, it doesn't get more relaxed than a craft night. Participants can hone their painting skills, try their hands at some knitting, or do whatever other type of art they fancy — all without having to leave the comfort of their own living room. It's a perfect choice for creative introverts!
You can market a crafts night as either a kind of workshop or more of a social event — or why not try them both? If you’re lucky, participants might even be willing to let you use the art they create in an auction or to hold their own classes for future fundraising events. Double win!
Although auctions and raffles can be a fun way to sell off items that get plenty of participation and raise a lot of money for nonprofits, there's no reason why you can't just host a regular online shop instead. It might not raise as much money upfront, but the advantage is that you can continue to attract customers to your shop and build a steady income stream — especially if you work on your SEO or hold marketing campaigns.
You could either contact businesses, artists, or similar individuals in your local community to see if they’re willing to list items on your shop (either as a donation or for a percentage of the sales) or make branded merchandise out of popular items, such as mugs, hats or t-shirts.
Alternatively, you could fuse a silent auction with a shop by giving participants the option to buy something upfront for a fixed fee that's higher than the starting price. PayBee has a “Buy it Now” feature for auctions that allows you to do exactly this.
- Digital download donation rewards
One of the advantages of virtual or online events is that you can give out instant access to digital rewards, like downloads, special offers, or links to webinars. You can use this as a handy incentive for people to donate to your cause — and digital downloads can often be just as appealing as any physical reward. Think of things like ebooks, video or audio files, or even an intimate live stream with a celebrity.
Make sure you advertise them effectively with good descriptions and images and get the word out through email or social media campaigns. Everyone loves a bit of instant gratification, after all.
- Movie screenings
Watching movies in person is so last year. Services like Netflix and Amazon Prime had already popularized the idea of watching movies from home, and the pandemic normalized this concept further. Why not get in on the trend by hosting your own virtual movie screening over a live stream?
As a non-profit organization, you could even choose a movie or documentary that's related to the core mission of your organization. For example, a wildlife charity could show National Geographic documentaries about climate change, or an anti-racism charity could host a screening of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Plus, you can go beyond the most basic version of a film screening by making a live chat to discuss the movie afterward, or even during a built-in interval halfway through the screening. Be creative with your ideas and think about what might relate to both your movie choice and how that would tie in with your organization and your core values and goals.
- Hybrid concerts
Since the pandemic, we've seen many music award shows and individual artists hold hybrid concerts: the musician performs on a stage but in an empty venue, (or even in their own home), and the whole thing is streamed to an audience watching from home. Why not take inspiration and hold your own hybrid concert?
This might sound a little ambitious or out of your reach, but you don't need to bring Drake or Justin Bieber on board for your concert to be a hit. Try contacting local artists or up-and-coming talent, and you might just be surprised by the reaction — many people relish the opportunity to find new artists, especially if they can do it while supporting a good cause.
To pull this off, you'll need two teams: one to manage the concert side and another to manage the virtual experience to ensure that everything goes smoothly. You could either sell tickets to the event beforehand or accept donations during your virtual fundraiser concert (or why not even do both!)
- Live entertainment
Music isn't the only type of live entertainment option you can incorporate into your fundraising events. Why not also consider comedy, dancing, theatre, or even an interview with a famous figure? All these entertainment options go down a treat over live streaming.
Just use a platform like Paybee alongside a live streaming service like YouTube (not forgetting a content distribution network).
The best part is that you’ll find high-profile individuals or celebrities are more willing to agree to these types of charity events if they don’t need to travel, and you’ll also benefit from saving on their hotel and transport costs. And despite what you might think, guests can get a more intimate experience since the view to the stage isn't blocked by others, and, depending on the event, they may get to chat directly with the celebrity in question (over video, of course).
While they might not offer a perfect substitute, virtual tours can be surprisingly enjoyable and refreshing — just let a tour guide take you through a museum, historical site, city, or gallery while live streaming to a group of people back home.
It's one of these things that you have to experience first-hand to believe it works.
This can be an excellent option for a nonprofit charity fundraiser if you can find a location that links to your cause — for example, a nonprofit fighting poverty could offer a tour of a museum about poor conditions from the past.
If nothing else, a final option could be to host a tour of your premises and your team. While this is unlikely to attract a large crowd, it can be a great way to be transparent and boost trust among your existing supporters and donors.
- Scavenger hunts
No matter what age you are, you're never too old for a scavenger hunt. The most obvious way to go about this is to take supporters around your local area through a list of clues they can download online and guide them to a final prize hidden somewhere in a public place.
But if you want to create a scavenger hunt that's accessible to people from anywhere in the world, you could host the whole thing online.
Just get a developer to switch up your website, hiding messages across the pages to give participants clues. You might hide a riddle in the biography of the nonprofit founder, which leads users to the next clue on the product page of your online store, and so on. You can offer a prize to everybody who completes the hunt successfully — even if it's something as simple as a digital download.
This can also be a great way to educate people about your nonprofit and your fundraising goals.
- Gaming tournaments
It's no secret that online gaming is a pretty big deal, so why not get on the trend by hosting your own online gaming tournament? The game you go for could be anything, from Minecraft to Monopoly, but try to choose a game that's currently popular or trending to maximize the interest you get. What are all the biggest gaming YouTubers currently playing?
Ask all participants for a small entry fee or even a donation of their choosing, which will go directly to your charity, then give a prize to the winner. Depending on the type of game, you could get everyone to compete against each other directly or simply see who is the fastest or most effective.
Another option would be for every participant to “represent” a nonprofit or cause of their choice. Don’t forget to ask your participants to share your event on their social media to bring more exposure and free marketing to your fundraiser and your organization.
- Brand design contests
For a more creative competition, consider a brand design contest. Every organization needs to undergo a rebranding from time to time, so if yours is coming around, why not take advantage of that as an opportunity to get your supporters to redesign your next logo or style guide?
Outline the brief and get participants to submit their designs with an entry fee as a donation. Then, you can either pick the winners yourself or get participants to vote on social media. Offer a prize if you can, but if not, you're still giving a good opportunity for somebody's CV when they get their designs plastered all over your next merchandise line or new website.
- Hybrid costume party
Costume parties are always a great laugh and give people the opportunity to get creative with their designs — or even a little competitive. Just pick a theme and go crazy, whether it's the 1920s or 70s hippies.
This is a great option for a hybrid event: host the venue for those who can attend in person, but let online guests attend over a live stream too. Offer a prize for the best dressed of the night, and be sure to set up a social media page where everyone can post their costumes. Take donations by way of tickets and donations during the live-streaming event.
- Talent show
Find out if any of your supporters are harboring hidden skills by hosting a talent show. Where most people don't have the confidence to get up on stage and perform in front of thousands of people, participating via a live stream isn't quite so daunting. This can encourage more entries.
Just charge a two-tier ticket system — a lower price for participating and a higher price for watching — and be sure to promote the event all over the internet, including by asking the participants to share across their own social media channels.
- Karaoke night
Another personal favorite and one that ties in well with the live entertainment and music concert ideas. You could even combine these for a real show-stopping, worldwide event. Although karaoke can be divisive, those who like it tend to really like it. An online session can be a perfect chance to get together with friends and enjoy some old bangers while putting up with the singing skills of other participants. Just find out what everybody wants to sing in advance so you can prepare the tracks, and ask someone in your team to be in charge of the technical side of things (i.e., letting people know who is singing next).
Just make sure that everybody participating has a decent microphone and that they mute themselves while it’s the singer’s turn, or the poor singing will go from bad to worse. You could presell tickets to the event or accept donations during predetermined intervals.
- Trivia night
Nothing puts people into competitive mode quite like a trivia night — especially if the theme matches their interests and knowledge. Quizzes based on music, TV shows, or sports often go down well. Charge each team a small entry fee or donation of their choosing (you could set a minimum amount), offer a prize, and market it online.
It can be hard to know if people are cheating when taking a quiz online, so some level of good faith will be needed here — maybe don't give away a sports car as the prize to encourage participants who are mostly interested in the charitable side of things.
- Book club
Book clubs are popular, and it makes sense for them to be virtual since many people struggle to find a local group that discusses the kind of literature they’re interested in. Why not choose a theme related to your nonprofit's cause?
The disadvantage is that most people aren’t going to be willing to pay more than $1 or 2 to attend a book club discussion. Still, these groups can serve as a useful way to get together a group of supporters to bounce ideas around for upcoming events and spread the word about your organization via social media and even the local communities they are a part of.
Virtual conferences have boomed in popularity since the pandemic — they offer participants the chance to learn something new and meet a group of like-minded people. A virtual conference makes it much easier for people to join a talk on a specific niche without having to travel halfway across the globe and spend a fortune.
The obvious theme for your conference would be related to the mission of your nonprofit; this way, you can get your founder and other team members to speak at the event, along with others.
These events usually consist of a host, various TED Talk-style speeches from different figures, and maybe a Q&A session at the end of each talk. You could either charge an admission fee or simply request donations.
Bonus tip: Entry to the events also makes for a goods prize in a raffle auction.
- Awards ceremony
People who support and donate to charities rarely get recognized for what they do. You can change this by hosting a virtual awards ceremony that shines a spotlight on the people who have been the most consistent or generous with donations, or those who have gone out of their way to volunteer or help the charity in other ways.
Give awards or even prizes to the winners of the night, and encourage the supporters to donate so they can make the nominations for the next event. You could also add this as a section within a virtual gala, but give free entry to your nominees.
Bingo isn't just for people over 60 — it's a fun activity for people of all ages and makes for a really fun, interactive virtual fundraiser. Especially if you get creative by designing custom bingo cards to relate the game to your nonprofit, or make the activity more comedic and entertaining. You don't just have to use the classic numbers.
Charge a fee for those who want to participate and offer a prize to the winner. Simple!
- Toy drive
Toy drives are a popular fundraising option for charities, especially during the festive season. You can easily make this concept virtual by sending out links to the toys that you want so supporters can buy them online.
Just make sure that you organize everything well in advance so that the toys can arrive in time for Christmas. An alternative might be setting up a special donations page just for donations that will be spent on the purchase of the remaining toys on the list with any leftover cash going directly to the charity.
- Food drives
Yes, you guessed it — you can do the same thing with food, and maybe even have the two events running simultaneously. Set up a donation page so you can buy the food needed with the money donated, or give people the option of dropping off food donations at your site.
Whichever you choose, make sure you upload plenty of videos after the event showing the impact of the donations and thanking your supporters. You could even make a YouTube video documenting the entire buying process and making it into a real fun treat by doing your shopping in fancy dress! You could even live stream your shopping trip to your followers via social media to encourage extra monetary donations throughout the event.
- Community business fair
A community business fair can help not just your nonprofit but also businesses in your local area. Give companies or individuals the chance to advertise what they offer online while also promoting your charity and asking for donations.
It's not the biggest earner, but it's a great way to bring the community together and show that you care.
Virtual sales and other great virtual fundraising ideas for your nonprofit.
Virtual sales simply involve selling merchandise online. It’s not a new concept but it's certainly an effective one — especially if you know how to spread the word through social media or other kinds of marketing campaigns. And don’t forget, not every great virtual event fits perfectly into a nice neat category. So along with a few popular sales categories, we’ve also finished off with some unique ideas that we couldn’t miss out.
53. Discount sale
Once you have a line of merchandise ready to sell, consider running a discount sale from time to time with flash offers that only last for an hour or two. It’s a great way to attract fast interest in your good cause. A great way to market this is through email newsletters where you can even include a link to make purchases or additional donations.
- Virtual workshop
You don't just have to sell physical items — you can also sell entries to online classes, workshops, or webinars. Painting classes are a particularly popular type of online workshop. Granted, this is only going to work if you have somebody to lead the classes, so try reaching out to artists who might help — especially if they live in your local area.
55. Digital art.
You could create amazing digital art using a program such as ProCreate and sell your art as either an NFT or as digital printables. This is a great way to generate products to sell with very little to no outlay, meaning 100% of the donations on purchases are going directly to your charity and not to reimburse the cost of prizes.
- Community toy sale
Reach out to your local community for toys that they no longer need and collect them together to sell online. This won’t just raise money for your charity; it will also recycle items that might have otherwise gotten thrown out.
Not every great virtual event fundraising idea fits into a neat category. Here are a few unique ideas that we just had to include.
57. Obstacle course challenge
No matter how old you are, there's just something exciting and nostalgic about pretending “the floor is lava”. Ask your participants to build an obstacle course in their own homes and live stream them as they try to complete it.
We don't recommend charging an entry fee for this — just ask participants to show something on social media that promotes your organization.
- TikTok fundraiser
Love or hate TikTok, you can't deny that it does an unbeatable job at generating views and shares. Get in on a TikTok dance challenge or popular trends and make use of the donation option to raise money.
Of course, the key is to create content that makes people want to donate — stories about where the money goes tend to go down well.
- Viral matching
We've all heard about the ALS ice bucket challenge and its success. Maybe you can come up with a similar challenge for your charity, which asks people to tag others and donate.
Ideally, you’d find a partner that promises to match all the donations received by participants, such as a local business.
Sweepstakes are similar to raffles, but with one key difference: you don't have to pay to enter. Combined with a desirable prize like a new car or an expensive holiday day, it's not hard to see why these types of fundraising events tend to attract plenty of attention.
You might be wondering exactly how you can make money from a sweepstake everybody enters for free, but the solution is to get a partner to donate the prize and to ask entrants to follow you on social media or share a post in return for an entry.
Publicity can be more valuable than upfront donations in the long run.
Crowdfunding seems more personal and impactful than typical donations because donors can see exactly where their money is going. For example, instead of saying that donations go towards helping children in poverty, you could start a crowdfunding campaign where the money will go to a specific child. This is far more emotive and can sometimes go viral on the internet.
To add an extra element to your crowdfunding efforts, you could create a competition where participants compete to raise the most money, with the winner getting a prize and the loser getting some kind of forfeit.
62. Instagram, Facebook or TikTok Live events.
Love it or hate it, social media is a valuable tool for spreading the word about your organization and generating donations. A great way to get the most exposure is to host live events on platforms such as TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram. You could hold live weekly Q&As, a 10-minute live update about the past month, or even showcase any new purchasable products you have or your latest fundraising campaigns.
63 Organise a Hike!
Tying in nicely with the a-thons, organizing a hike is a very popular way to raise donations for your nonprofit. Hikes are an incredibly popular way to show your support for a charity as well as generate donations. The longer, harder, and tougher the hike, the bigger the donations! Could you hike the tallest mountain? What about walking 1000 km? The best thing about fundraiser hikes is that they can be completed over a number of days or even weeks and range from an easy stroll to an extreme climb. Set up a dedicated social media page to share video updates and images of your hiking participants and host an event that can be live-streamed for the finish line of the hike.
It’s time to start fundraising!
Now that you are fully equipped with 63 of the best ideas for hosting your own virtual fundraiser, it’s time to start putting them into action. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with choices, pick a couple of the ideas that connect with your organization the most, and let’s go from there.
Are you thinking about the tools and technology you’ll need? Could you use some expert help to get you started? No problem! Now is the perfect time to start using a dedicated virtual fundraising software platform like Paybee. We offer unique features specially designed for events like silent auctions and live-streamed galas, and we can even help with in-person and hybrid events by offering help with payments and ticket management. During your free demo, you’ll also get the chance to participate in a mock virtual auction and chat with PayBee experts about the online tools the PayBee system offers and our pricing options. This is an excellent chance to see how well your nonprofit meshes with PayBee’s software and support staff, and you’ll be able to see how intuitive our platform is for your staff and guests to use. So, what are you waiting for? Sign up for a free demo today or give our friendly, helpful team a call and let’s get your virtual fundraising events off to a great start, together.