Right now, almost all non-profits are looking at how they can shift their fundraising campaigns during the COVID-19 pandemic. With in-person and sporting events being cancelled for the immediate future, there has been a big shift to virtual events in all sectors, and the non-profit sector is no different.
If you’re looking for ways to shift your fundraising to virtual activities, here is a list of examples and ideas of fundraising activities that will help spark your own ideas.
Some things to consider before you settle on your virtual strategy:
1) Think about your audience. If you have a diverse audience, break them up into different segments. Are your audience already tech-savvy or are they only now getting on board with virtual events? Where are they already spending time virtually? What are their needs during this time of restricted movement that your non-profit can help fulfil virtually?
2) Consider whether your organisation should focus on virtual fundraising or community building during this time. This is a tough one. All non-profits are worried about the bottom line right now, so the automatic reaction is to kick straight into fundraising mode. However, if you don’t have a large audience or you’ve recently run a big fundraising campaign now might be the time to use virtual events and tools to build your audience rather than to ask for money from them.
3) Don’t overthink it. Try virtual events. Make mistakes. Do them badly. Learn from it. And try again. The biggest enemy right now is freezing and doing nothing. Don’t be afraid to tell your audience that you’re venturing into the new world of virtual activities, you might not get it right all the time, but you’d love them to join you. Chances are most will want to come along, and some might even be able to help you develop the tools you need to get there.
With those considerations behind us. Let us look at some virtual activities that have been working:
Virtual quiz: Leonard Cheshire homes are a great example of this. They provide a free pack of readymade quizzes and even have a Spotify playlist set up for a fuss-free music round. They ask participants to pay a donation in return for the pack and that each player donates just like they would if they are participating in a pub quiz.
Hold a webinar or a series of webinars: If your donors like to know the details of your work consider holding an online seminar where experts, field workers and beneficiaries can share their stories. A notable example of using a webinar to drive fundraising comes from World Bicycle Relief who have been making use of webinars to drive donations for bicycles for healthcare workers. Alternatively, you could create a series of webinars like GAN-Global Apprenticeship Network who have been using webinars to grow their network and credibility. They invite several speakers from different companies and organisations to share what they are doing in response to the training and employment crisis.
24/7 live hangout rooms: While not a non-profit, The Liturgists community have set up some great video call rooms that people in their community can join at any time. They have a coffee shop where people can bring a coffee and hang out. A studio that their community can book to host events like yoga classes or perform with their bands. And they also have a party room where you can go participate in a dance party, charades or a movie marathon. If you want to turn hangout rooms into fundraising opportunities, you can create virtual drinks or snacks menus and ask people to donate the amount of their beverage or food.
Physical event substitutes: Many people are missing participating in goal events. Think of ways that your charity can create a substitute event. The 2.6 challenge by CALM is an example where they’ve moved the challenge indoors, made it accessible to people of all fitness levels and added a level of fun to it by asking people to wear their brightest tee. They have challenged their audience to come up with the weirdest, the wackiest, the biggest, the smallest, the complete and utter laziest or the darn-right impossiblest 2.6 Challenges they can think of as a substitute to participating in the London Marathon.
Online courses: If you’re a charity that teaches people something, and I mean anything, consider turning these into online courses that people can access in exchange for a donation. Do you teach people in your community to sew? Then make an online course of that. If you can’t do this yourself look for an influencer in your circle who already has an online course and see if they’d be willing to partner with you. One example is Surfpop who partnered with pro surfer Matt Bromley. Through this partnership, they were able to offer Matt Bromley’s free online course to anyone who donated R500 / EUR 30.
Hold a movie marathon: If your organisation has a documentary, organise a watch party that you stream through Facebook. If you don’t, choose a movie on Netflix that has themes that relate to your work and have a virtual movie night. Use Netflix party (free) to synchronise video playback and add group chat. You could ask people to donate the monetary value of their beverages and snacks or create a bingo board with words from the film, where people track words and win a prize (think online vouchers). Take it up a level by creating a landing page like the Global Fund for Women.
Crafternoon: If your audience is more the hands-on type, get them together for an afternoon of crafting or mask making. Provide them printable instructions and patterns and an online hangout room to join. You’ll also need to give them a heads up on the materials they will need in advance. The charity, Mind, have combined their Crafternoon with a message to their donors about the importance of looking after their own well-being and making time for themselves while helping to raise funds for mental health.
Host an un-gala: If you had a gala planned during this time you can still have it. Just make it a virtual one. This is a great place to thank those donors who have made a difference over the last year and celebrate your achievements with your community all while raising funds. I like Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana’s example of what an un-gala might look like.
Here are some other tried and tested virtual fundraising ideas that you might not have tried yet:
Virtual tours: If your charity usually runs tours of its facilities and the lockdown restrictions in your country don’t prohibit you from still doing it, consider running virtual tours. You don’t have to charge a fee to join the tour but can have your guide ask for a donation at the end of the tour. This helps to build awareness about your charity as well as creating an opportunity for giving. Make sure that your most engaging person leads these tours.
Gaming for good: If your supporters are into gaming then pick a video game that they can play online and hold a virtual tournament. Have your supporters pay an upfront cost to participate and stream the tournament on Twitch. Encourage participants to set up their twitch streams to contain a donation link to your donation page on Twitch.
Crowdsource a recipe book: Ask your supporters to provide their favourite recipes that they’ve been using during the pandemic. Recipes should focus on easily available ingredients. Compile a virtual recipe book and sell it for donations.
Virtual runs/walks/cycles: Ask your supporters to fundraise for you by taking on an ambitious run/walk or stationary cycle in their backyard. They could run a marathon round their house or cycle for 1000 km on a trainer like Willie Smit. Take a look at the virtual 5 km Versus socks (also not a non-profit) are hosting for ideas on how to present your event. Or keep it simple and send out a graphic via WhatsApp for your supporters to share like Gelvan Park Frail Age Home.
Online auctions: Use mobile bidding auction software to run a digital auction that offers your supporters the chance to walk away with amazing items. If you are offering physical items and virtual items on the auction, make sure to let people know when you will be able to ship these items.
Fancy dress day: Since everyone is wearing sweatpants all day ask them to participate in a fancy dress day. Ask people to set up a home photo booth and share photos. When you’re thinking virtual, think about downloadable rewards or incentives that you can give when people donate. In this case: you could do something like provide free printables of funny bow ties, glasses, moustaches, hats and the like.
No matter which virtual activity or event you decided to use, make sure you’ve got an online donation page up and running. Make sure to test it frequently and see that people can donate within three clicks. There is nothing more heartbreaking than getting a donor to the point of giving and losing them because your online donation page is not user friendly.
The best ideas are not always the most complicated. Like the example from Gelvan Park Frail Age Home you can run a virtual event with a simple graphic created for free on Canva. Just figure out what will work best for your audience and then be brave enough to give it a try.