While virtual fundraising rocketed to the forefront of many nonprofit’s strategies in 2020 as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the practice isn’t new. In fact, many nonprofits (perhaps even yours) were using virtual fundraising long before the pandemic hit.
At GoodUnited, we work with large nonprofits to optimize their virtual fundraising using Facebook’s Challenges. We’ve found that when hosting a virtual fundraiser, your campaign needs to be engaging, interactive, and accessible.
During our research, we’ve come across a wide variety of winning ideas that your team can use to plan your next campaign. In this guide, we’re going to cover virtual fundraising ideas through the following points:
Let’s begin with an overview of the top tips you can use to optimize your virtual fundraising efforts.
Before we dive into the virtual fundraising ideas, let’s discuss a few tips and best practices that your team can use to optimize your fundraising practices for 2021.
By now, your team is surely familiar with the basics of virtual fundraising. However, we’d bet that your virtual fundraising practices have expanded during the pandemic to allow for key campaigns and events to continue in a safe manner.
Even if your nonprofit is no stranger to virtual fundraising at the expanded scale at which many organizations are using it during the pandemic, there’s always room for improvement heading into the new year.
Here are a few tips to elevate your virtual fundraisers to the next level as we head into 2021:
We’ve found that the third tip can be a game-changer for nonprofits looking to optimize their virtual fundraising, specifically when it comes to using Facebook for the practice. With Facebook’s fundraising tools, you’re able to:
And, beyond being able to manage all aspects of your virtual fundraising with one platform, you can optimize even further with our Facebook fundraising services.
At GoodUnited, we’ve researched the Facebook fundraising process in-depth while working with nonprofits just like yours. We begin by thanking 100% of the users that start fundraisers on your behalf, and then invite that user to opt-in to a custom Messenger sequence full of tips, encouragement, and gratitude.
We’ve found that after our services, 94% of users want to fundraise on behalf of the nonprofit again. If you’re looking to optimize your virtual fundraising using Facebook, contact the GoodUnited team today to learn more.
We’ve discussed a few top tips for virtual fundraising and the benefits of using Facebook to conduct your fundraisers. Now, let’s dive into our list of top virtual fundraising ideas— starting with those that you can host on the popular social network.
Facebook Challenges are time-bound virtual fundraising events during which participants are challenged to complete a task while raising funds for your nonprofit using a Facebook fundraiser. So, for example, you could challenge participants to walk 10k steps each day for 1 month, while raising $250 for your nonprofit on Facebook.
During the Challenge, participants are added to a corresponding Facebook group. In the group, they can connect with one another, share fundraising and activity tips, and encourage one another to reach their goals. It's a great way to create a digital community for your supporters while raising funds at the same time.
Put simply, a fitness challenge involves a supporter completing some physical act and raising funds for your nonprofit while doing so. For example, a distance challenge in which a participant pledges to walk 10k steps each day for a month while raising peer-to-peer gifts from their friends and family members on Facebook.
Fitness challenges are incredibly popular as they encourage self-improvement for your supporters while raising gifts for your organization. And, thanks to Facebook groups, your participants can share their physical fitness training regimes with one another and grow strong relationships with your nonprofit's community.
This fundraiser goes by many names— “rubber duckie” race, “sailboat” race, and more— and involves supporters competing to be the first team to raise the highest amount of donations as onlookers watch in anticipation. Drawing on the concept of a fundraising thermometer, this fundraiser involves organizing your supporters into teams on Facebook for a competitive peer-to-peer fundraiser.
You set an overall fundraising goal and give the teams a deadline, whether 24 hours, a week, or longer. Then, the teams race to hit the fundraising goal before their competitors! Because participants and donors can watch the amount raised in real-time, it creates a healthy sense of competition.
A task-based fundraiser is similar to the fitness challenge, except the challenge participants complete is non-physical. Some common examples include having participants:
Similarly to the fitness challenges, participants raise funds for your nonprofit over the duration of the Challenge. They may even inspire their friends and family to participate as well!
If you’ve ever seen a barrage of “happy birthday” messages stream in on your birthday, ranging from close friends to that high school acquaintance you haven’t spoken to in 10 years, you know that birthdays are a big deal on Facebook. In fact, more than $1 billion has been raised through Facebook birthday fundraisers alone since 2015.
Let’s look at a few virtual fundraising ideas that your nonprofit can use to draw on the celebratory spirit.
This is generally what people think of when discussing birthday fundraisers on Facebook. As part of the platform’s push for philanthropy, Facebook prompts users two weeks before their birthdays to create a nonprofit fundraiser celebrating the day.
For your nonprofit, the goal is for supporters to donate their special day and to choose your nonprofit as the beneficiary. Increase the likelihood of that by actively marketing this opportunity to your supporter base, sharing tips and best practices, and maybe even drawing on the power of targeted ads.
Another great way to draw on birthday fundraisers is to celebrate your nonprofit’s “birthday,” or date of founding, with a virtual party.
Send invitations to your supporters in advance and invite them to join you on Facebook during the virtual party. During the party, host a Facebook Live session where you discuss your nonprofit’s history and the work you’ve been able to complete with the help of generous donors. Then, solicit donations throughout the event with Facebook’s live fundraising tools. Bonus points for wearing birthday hats for the duration!
This is similar to asking supporters to donate their birthdays, but it focuses on some of the most influential supporters in your orbit.
For example, you could highlight a celebrity or other well-known advocate of your organization. On their birthday, they “take over” your nonprofit’s Facebook page by livestreaming, sharing posts, and generally interacting with your supporters. The focus should be on why they support your nonprofit enough to dedicate their birthday to it. During the event, they encourage supporters to give through Facebook’s fundraising tools.
Facebook’s fundraising tools have evolved and now empower nonprofits to raise donations during livestreamed videos. With this, you can emulate the engaging entertainment that you may have provided during an in-person fundraising event through fully virtual means.
Let’s look at a few fundraiser ideas that you can conduct using Facebook Live.
A virtual tour involves a representative from your nonprofit going live on Facebook Live and giving a tour of an interesting location. There are a few ways this could play out:
During the tour, the tour guide solicits gifts to be donated directly through Facebook’s Live giving tools.
If you’ve ever watched a TED Talk before, you’re familiar with this concept. Essentially, a speaker (often recognized as an expert in their field) crafts a presentation about an “idea worth spreading.”
For your nonprofit, this could mean choosing presenters from within your staff to give talks about your nonprofit’s mission. Or, it could be bringing in an outside, influential speaker to give a talk about the topic of their choosing (but ideally, still tying it back to your mission). While presenting through Facebook Live, you can solicit donations in a similar manner to the virtual tour idea. However, you can take this a step further by creating a closed Facebook Group to host the event, and accepting donations for initial entry into the group as well.
A virtual class or workshop fundraiser involves streaming a course on Facebook Live to participants, who follow along step-by-step to learn a new skill. During the course, the instructor can accept questions from the participants through Facebook comments. This type of fundraiser is great because it provides clear, immediate value to supporters. Plus, there are a variety of courses you can host, such as:
For this idea, it’s important to plan ahead for any supplies needed— whether you’re sharing a list for participants to purchase or mailing supplies to them in advance of the event. Similar to the TED Talk event, you can accept donations for initial “entry” into the virtual fundraiser as well as throughout the class itself.
We’ve walked through the top virtual fundraising ideas that can be conveniently held using Facebook’s fundraising tools. Now, let’s discuss additional ideas that your team can use to start brainstorming for your next event.
Keep in mind that many of these additional virtual fundraising ideas can be held through Facebook as well. So, if you’re interested in benefiting from the convenient, socially shareable, and no-fee fundraising tools on that platform, you can do so with these ideas too.
Let’s dive in!
A virtual bake sale is similar to an in-person bake sale. But, instead of setting up a booth and passing out confections, you sell items digitally!
This is one fundraiser that works well as a Facebook group, as you can easily list items that are ready for sale and collect donations without having to create a full website to do so.
If you have any bakers in your midst, you can sell items sourced from your supporter base. Or, you can partner with a local bakery to sell goods with a percentage of the proceeds going to your organization. Regardless of how you source the goods, however, remember that they need to be able to be transported, whether delivered or mailed.
To host a virtual movie night, you simply stream a popular film to participants. You can create a sense of community by choosing a streaming platform that allows for a two-way conversation (for example, if you’re streaming directly into Facebook Live), or you can create a group on social media for participants to share their commentary about the experience.
Build anticipation prior to the event by allowing participants to vote on their top movie pick, and raise donations by charging a small admission fee and soliciting gifts throughout.
A virtual book club can be held in a few different ways. For example, you can charge a small admission fee for participants to be admitted into the club, and then create a closed Facebook group for them to gather virtually and discuss that month’s book pick.
Or, you could create a month-long reading challenge and treat this more like a read-a-thon peer-to-peer fundraiser. With that, participants challenge themselves to read as many books as possible during the time period and raise funds for your organization while doing so.
Product fundraising is fairly straightforward, as your team simply creates some interesting merchandise and sells it to your supporters. Popular examples include branded hats, t-shirts and sweatshirts, canvas tote bags, bumper stickers, water bottles, and more.
Strategic branding is key to really make a product fundraiser take off. For example, you could make it a social media challenge for supporters to purchase merch and post pictures of themselves wearing it in a variety of public places. The most creative shots are then highlighted on your main social media pages!
To host a virtual raffle, your team first needs to source a stellar raffle prize. This could include physical goods, such as your nonprofit’s merch, ord experience packages, such as tickets to a virtual cooking class or concert.
Then, participants donate to your fundraiser in exchange for entries into the raffle. Our recommendation is to create a set price for each entry and allow participants to buy multiple to increase their chances of winning an in-demand prize. Then, you simply load all of the entries into a random number generator to choose a winner! For an exciting raffle finale, you can even livestream the drawing.
What’s better than a crowdsourced cookbook full of your supporters’ best recipes? With this fundraiser, reach out to your supporter base and ask them to send in their favorite recipes. Then, compile these recipes into a cookbook— whether a digital PDF or a fully bound publication— and sell them as a fundraiser.
You can build anticipation for the cookbook by sharing pictures of the mouthwatering dishes across your social media accounts. When you do, share a quick profile of the supporter who submitted it and why they give to your organization.
A merch design contest pairs well with a product fundraiser, in that you eventually end up selling t-shirts, sweatshirts, and more featuring the winning design.
However, the design contest goes as follows:
One way to manage this is to hold voting within a closed Facebook group. After making their donation, supporters are admitted into the group to cast their vote!
You can make a game night fundraiser as complex, or as simple, as desired. For example, you could host a simple trivia competition by creating a closed Facebook group, charging a small team entry fee, and going live with trivia questions. Then, you can award the teams with the highest number of correct answers with some sort of prize, like your nonprofit’s merch.
Or, you could livestream a virtual game show, such as a Jeopardy-style game built using nonprofit trivia, and invite supporters to watch a select few participants compete. In both situations, you can use live appeals to solicit donations throughout.
An online auction can be intensive to plan, but well worth the time considering its fundraising potential. Begin by collecting your auction items, which should ideally be donated rather than purchased by your organization. Make sure to get items that represent a wide variety of interests and budgets, whether gift cards to popular restaurants, tickets to local attractions, or even expensive collector’s items.
Then, create a closed Facebook group and list all of the items in advance. Charge a small fee for entry and allow supporters to peruse the items. These supporters bid on items by commenting on them, and the highest bidder wins! When the auction closes, winners pay for their items and arrange pick-up.
Corporate matching gift programs involve a business matching the gifts made to a nonprofit. This could mean a business matching the philanthropic gifts their employees make or a corporation partnering with a nonprofit such as yours and matching all gifts made within a certain time period.
It’s a good idea to check whether donations made to your nonprofit are match-eligible through the donor’s employer. However, your nonprofit can also hold a matching gift fundraiser by discovering a philanthropically-inclined business and creating a partnership. Then, you advertise the match-eligible period far-and-wide and work to raise as many donations as possible during that period.
To host a virtual giving day, you simply designate one specific day for supporters to raise as many funds for your nonprofit as possible.
Many nonprofits participate in Giving Tuesday, but that doesn’t mean that has to be the only giving day you host. For example, celebrate the anniversary of your nonprofit’s founding with a giving day! Advertise the day leading up to the event, share a variety of interesting content on social media throughout, and watch the donations rise with a fundraising thermometer. Each year, challenge supporters to raise more funds than the last!
While many nonprofits used virtual fundraising in their efforts prior to 2020, there’s no denying that these fundraisers rocketed to the forefront due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If your nonprofit is relying more heavily on virtual fundraising than ever before, consider these ideas to spice up your planning for next year. Specifically, we recommend looking to the Facebook fundraising ideas to capitalize on the platform’s many benefits. And, to optimize your Facebook-based virtual fundraisers, contact our team today.
To learn more about virtual fundraising and Facebook fundraising in particular, explore the following additional resources: