Your nonprofit is constantly looking for ways to raise the bar for revenue generation and grab supporters’ attention. You’ve likely hosted a line-up of engaging in-person events, but as donors spend more time online, you might be missing out on a prime opportunity to step up your fundraising strategy on the web.
Online fundraising is inherently flexible, convenient, and cost-effective. These campaigns can be tailored to your exact needs and audience, and with 23% of U.S. adults identifying as social donors in 2023, you can mobilize a sizable virtual crowd to champion your cause.
To add online fundraising to your organization’s plans, you need to know the ins and outs of running a successful virtual fundraiser. We’ll review the top online fundraising ideas and strategies to meet (and exceed!) your goals.
|Online Fundraising Ideas||Learning the Essentials|
|Our Favorite Virtual Fundraisers||Online Fundraising FAQs|
|Best Online Fundraising Ideas for Events & Challenges||Benefits of Online Fundraising|
|Best Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Year-Round Revenue||How to Build Your Online Fundraising Strategy|
|Best Online Fundraising Ideas for Saving Money||Online Fundraising Best Practices|
The heart of any successful online fundraiser is an inspirational idea. By choosing a fundraising campaign or event that will excite your audience and make them emotionally connect to your cause, you can raise significant revenue. Let’s take a closer look at the best virtual fundraising ideas any nonprofit can adopt.
When asked to picture an auction, you’re likely envisioning a fast-talking auctioneer and crowds of people lifting up paddles in a lively bidding war. Luckily, you can capture the energy of this lively event completely online! Advances in fundraising software have empowered nonprofits to seamlessly host auctions online through intuitive features like:
Running a virtual auction is oftentimes easier than putting together an in-person event and can save your nonprofit a lot of money in the long run. You’ll just need to make sure you’re working with the best tech stack possible to streamline every element of your auction. Bonus points if you infuse a variety of engagement tactics, like raffles and leaderboards, into your virtual auction to keep motivation levels high!
Looking for more helpful tips to plan a winning online auction? Explore our complete guide to charity auctions for a breakdown of how to execute this lucrative and highly engaging event.
See this online fundraiser in action: Zoo Miami Foundation hosted an action-packed online silent auction that surpassed all of their wildest expectations. After a stay-at-home order forced this organization to shut down their annual strolling gala, Zoo Miami quickly adapted and held an auction online that raised 327% more auction proceeds compared to the previous year when it was hosted in-person. How’d they do it? With the help of a powerful online fundraising solution! Check out the details of this inspiring display of resilience here.
Social donor loyalty is trending upward, so why not channel this passion into helping your mission grow with peer-to-peer fundraising (P2P)? Peer-to-peer fundraising empowers supporters to create personal fundraising pages and share them far and wide throughout their personal networks. The best part? You’ll be able to boost revenue and grow your donor base all at once!
Taking your peer-to-peer campaign online engages participants and supporters in fun, new, and creative ways that, if executed correctly, can amplify your donations. Team-based fundraising competitions are an excellent way to unite your community around your cause and put a fun twist on classic peer-to-peer fundraising.
Be sure to mix in a few virtual gatherings along the way, and cap it off with an exciting grand finale event to recognize your supporters and reward top fundraisers with special prizes.
See this online fundraiser in action: Canine Companions harnessed the passion of its supporters to lead innovative DIY (do-it-yourself) peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns. Supporters held wedding gift fundraisers, pizza parties, virtual cocktail get-togethers, neighborhood bake sales, and much more to put their own custom touch on the classic peer-to-peer fundraising model. The result? Canine Companions raised thousands of dollars year-round from supporter efforts!
Fundraising galas don’t only exist in lavish ballrooms! You can easily host a virtual gala that will be just as engaging, satisfying, and unforgettable for your supporters. Simply leverage the right online fundraising software and begin planning an epic event with the help of livestreaming technology. You can even add other online fundraising activities into your gala, like auctions and peer-to-peer fundraising leading up to the big day, to level up your revenue generation.
Plus, consider combining the best of both in-person and online fundraising with a hybrid gala. You might choose to invite your VIP supporters, such as your major donors and board members, to an intimate in-person gathering, then have the rest of your supporters join in on the action online.
Just make sure you have plenty of engagement strategies on hand to keep your virtual supporters in the loop, like prerecorded video content, breakout rooms to create community, and live chat features. You can also encourage your remote attendees to dress up in theme, such as wearing masks to your masquerade gala, to fully immerse guests into the event.
See this online fundraiser in action: The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum hosted a flexible hybrid fundraising gala in support of their educational experiences and programs. To engage their remote attendees, the museum broadcasted their gala event on their giving center with the OneCause Fundraising Platform, their website, and local television. Plus, they leveraged text-to-give to streamline the giving experience, which helped them earn $333,000 and surpass their silent auction goal by 118%.
While the primary goal of an awareness campaign is to boost visibility around your cause, supporters that are immediately intrigued by your mission might feel inclined to further their involvement and donate. To facilitate giving, you need to ensure that your online donation experience is user-friendly and can be completed in just a few moments.
In fact, 67% of donors reported that they were more likely to give to an awareness campaign if the giving process was easy, so make sure you have the following key elements ready to go before your campaign launch date:
As you lead your campaign, leverage social media and live-streamed community events to highlight your mission, boost engagement, and grow your base of support. Awareness campaigns can also be paired with peer-to-peer fundraising, giving you an easy way to ask supporters to get more involved without necessarily sending a solicitation.
See this online fundraiser in action: Kayla’s Hope hosted an epic week of awareness events and challenges to bring attention to mental health issues. The week kickstarted with a silent auction and golf raffle, then challenged supporters each day to practice acts of kindness. By channeling the power of social media with innovative hashtags, Kayla’s Hope successfully generated attention around mental health and raised nearly $20,000.
Ambassadors campaigns are a form of peer-to-peer fundraising that mobilize your most well-connected supporters and leverage their vast personal networks to expand your reach. This type of online fundraising campaign is ideal for nonprofits seeking to raise extra funds before a big event, such as an auction or gala, or even run a standalone campaign to help bring in more funding (and expand their donor base)!
To get started with ambassador fundraising, simply:
To help ambassadors feel appreciated for their efforts and retain their support, consider hosting a virtual event to celebrate their achievements. As you highlight the amount of funds raised, be sure to explain how all of their hard work will translate into tangible change in the community you serve. This way, you can emotionally connect with your ambassadors and establish strong partnerships.
See this online fundraiser in action: The Alice Austen House needed a way to reenergize their board members and take their fundraising strategy up a notch, making an online ambassador campaign the perfect choice. Board members created personal fundraising pages and authored an impact story that explained their connection with the cause. By leveraging their expansive networks, ambassadors raised over $13,000 to go back to Alice Austen House’s educational programs.
Hosting a social media contest for your supporters is a low-stress way to boost engagement any time of year.
All you’ll need is:
To raise money during a social media contest, ask participants to include a link to your donation page on their posts and to share it far and wide with friends and family.
The power of multimedia allows nonprofits to build connections with donors and humanize their mission, no matter where supporters are located. As you fundraise online, look for opportunities to launch live donation appeals. Use nonprofit-specific livestreaming tools to connect with donors and drive giving before, during, and after your events and campaigns.
A virtual fitness challenge can entice your donors to get active for a good cause.
Simply encourage your supports to get up and moving with these key steps:
In order for your fitness challenge to be a success, be sure you get creative and have the right fundraising technology to support it.
You’ve heard of Giving Tuesday. Why not create your own buzzworthy giving day all about your mission and community? Create an exciting 24-Hour Giving Challenge all about your cause, and to create extra buzz, host it during an awareness month that aligns with your mission, such as Mental Health Awareness Month or Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Use a combination of social media, email, peer-to-peer fundraising, and livestreamed announcements and appeals to launch your giving day. Give it a memorable hashtag and encourage tons of online engagement to keep the donations flowing in.
Take this classic fundraising event online with virtual games like Blackjack, Roulette, Craps, and a Texas Hold ‘Em Poker Tournament. Immerse supporters into your event by hiring professional dealers to run the games and create engaging breakout rooms with the help of livestream technology.
Virtual casino nights can be highly lucrative with a strong event plan! Simply sell entry tickets to your supporters and request additional donations for chips to play games. If some donors aren’t into playing casino games, no worries! Easily infuse silent auctions, raffles, and more donation opportunities to keep energy levels high and offer something for everyone.
Use your livestreaming capabilities (or just go live on social media!) to give supporters a backstage glimpse of your work. You could ask supporters to pay to register for the scheduled tour or make plenty of live appeals while streaming it for free to your entire audience. The main idea is simply to connect to your cause by letting them feel like part of the team.
Are there interesting public conversations related to your mission? Or would donors just be interested to learn more about your cause from experts in the field?
Recruit experts, local leaders, or even your founder to join a virtual roundtable discussion or seminar series. Have supporters pay to register in advance, then develop an engaging program with Q&A sessions. This gives your nonprofit an opportunity to humanize itself by showing the staff working behind the scenes and creating transparent conversations with supporters that highlight your important work and fundraising needs.
Walkathons can be easily adapted to the world of online fundraising. Use peer-to-peer fundraising software to let participants set up donation pages and ask for pledges online. These pledges could be based on the hours they spend walking or the miles they walk.
On the big day, everyone might walk separately on their own time and log their distances, or you could also go for a hybrid option and gather a group to walk and celebrate together in person. Either way, end your event by highlighting your supporters’ accomplishments and thanking them for their hard work!
Text-to-give allows donors to quickly give via their mobile phones, making it a perfect online fundraising addition for your toolkit. With powerful text-to-give software, you can link a keyword to your text fundraising campaign, and individuals can text that keyword to make a donation with their credit/debit card or digital wallet.
Matching gifts are a form of corporate philanthropy that’s often overlooked by nonprofits. In fact, more than $4-$7 billion in available matching gift funding goes unclaimed each year. Many employers will financially match donations made by employees to eligible nonprofits, meaning double the impact from just one gift. Some companies might even triple their donation!
Promote these programs to your donors and ask them to check their own eligibility with a quick social media and email campaign. This is an easy way to make more money year-round and help donors play a more rewarding role in your nonprofit’s journey.
Seek out supporters with a large social media following and ask if they would be willing to partner with your organization. For-profit businesses form relationships with influencers all the time to get the word out about their products and services, so who’s to say nonprofits can’t do the same?
Ask influencers to share their personal experience with your organization’s mission and promote your online fundraising campaign. For example, they could repost your latest content about your fundraiser onto their story or feed. Be sure to thank them for their help with a handwritten note or personal meeting.
This online fundraising method involves creating a central campaign page and attracting a large pool of donors to push your cause forward. To make your page as appealing as possible, create an impact story that highlights the important work your organization does and how donations will be used to accelerate your mission.
Make sure you have a strong marketing plan in place to bring as many donors as possible to your campaign page. Unlike peer-to-peer fundraising where supporters will market their personal campaign pages, your organization’s team will be primarily responsible for promoting your crowdfunding campaign. Try using multichannel marketing strategies that will appeal to your target donor base.
Partnering with local businesses can help grow your audience and save you funds through sponsorships. To combine the power of corporate support with peer-to-peer fundraising, try a corporate fundraising challenge! We call it competitive social fundraising. Use peer-to-peer software to launch an online fundraiser that allows individuals, teams within a company, or multiple companies to compete to see who can raise the most for your cause.
This online fundraising idea is an effortless way to generate year-round revenue. Create custom merch featuring your logo or other relevant designs and offer them for sale online, either on your own website or using a third-party service. Get creative to come up with the right offerings for your audience. T-shirts, hats, mugs, tote bags, and more are all classic choices.
Membership programs are a great way for nonprofits to generate steady support and form stronger relationships with donors. In a typical membership model, nonprofit members enjoy specialized perks and engagement opportunities in exchange for donations in the form of member fees.
So, what kind of perks will help you turn supporters into members? Free merchandise, ticket discounts, VIP access, early event registration, and special volunteering opportunities are all great options that can help grow your program and incentivize involvement.
Similar to your membership program, offering recurring donation options makes it easy to generate more support for your nonprofit with less work. Use online donation software that makes it easy for donors to opt into monthly giving. Then, leverage social media and email to highlight your monthly giving program and show donors the increased impact that their continued donations will have.
Sometimes the simplest fundraising strategies drive the most effective results! Leverage your weekly or monthly email newsletter to update your supporters on your fundraising needs and include a strong call-to-action that invites donors to give. You can even use segmentation to tailor your donation requests to different audiences to increase the likelihood of giving.
However, don’t just ask donors to give with a bare-bones solicitation and expect that they will. You’ll need to do some prompting with the help of storytelling. Consider highlighting the story of a beneficiary you helped in your email and how continued donations can help you make an even greater impact in your community.
Receive critical volunteer support and donations all at once with volunteer grants! Volunteer grants are a form of corporate support where a company’s employees volunteer their time at your organization, and in exchange, the company donates a certain amount of money per hour spent volunteering. Partner with local businesses in your area that would be eager to elevate their philanthropic reputation and lend a helping hand.
Did you know that nonprofits are eligible to receive up to $10,000 per month for search ads that appear on Google results pages? These free ad credits, known as Google Ads, can be used to spread the word about your mission, recruit new volunteers, and attract online donors to fuel your cause.
To get started with Google Ad Grants and take your online fundraising to the next level, you’ll need to meet and maintain compliance with Google Ad Grants eligibility requirements. These include holding a current and valid nonprofit status, having an operational website with few existing ads, and more basic guidelines that most nonprofits can pass with flying colors. Explore how Google Ad Grants can transform your marketing and fundraising plan by checking out their landing page for nonprofits.
You’ve likely heard of digital greeting cards, but did you know that these can be turned into a lucrative fundraising opportunity with little cost to your organization? Simply partner with an eCard creation platform to generate branded eCards that supporters can send to friends and family members after donating. eCards can be sent for all kinds of occasions, from birthdays to graduations, making this a great opportunity for year-round revenue, too.
If you’re new to online fundraising or simply want to take your digital fundraising strategies to the next level, you’ll need to have the basics down. Let’s go over some FAQs to ensure you’re up to speed.
Online fundraising is a way for nonprofits to raise money for their mission using the Internet. Many organizations use a combination of online platforms, social giving tools, and mobile bidding software to connect with donors and streamline the donation process. To online fundraise with ease, you’ll need the following key elements:
Online fundraising can involve a variety of tactics and events, from peer-to-peer fundraising on social media to hosting a virtual auction. With its inherent flexibility, you can take practically any traditional in-person event online and reach more people than ever before.
Your nonprofit needs to meet supporters where they are, and these days, people are spending more time online than ever before. Capture your supporters’ attention with engaging, creative virtual campaigns that allow them to engage with your cause anytime.
It’s also worth noting that today’s event donors want optionality when it comes to choosing how they participate. In fact, 30% of event donors surveyed in our OneCause 2023 Giving Experience Research Study said they prefer a mix of in-person and virtual engagement, and 24% of event donors reported that they prefer all virtual or mostly virtual events.
This demonstrates that providing a combination of in-person, virtual, and hybrid opportunities can help you cater to all types of donors and allow you to maximize your fundraising efforts. Don’t count out the power and flexibility of online fundraising when you’re putting together your next event!
Online fundraising can be used by your nonprofit year-round to diversify your revenue streams and establish a reliable donation pipeline. How many times (and when) you choose to host an online fundraising event or campaign is up to you, but make sure to offer a balanced selection of in-person and virtual engagement opportunities to meet donors’ needs and interests.
Keep in mind that there are certain time periods, like the year-end giving season and relevant awareness months, that lend themselves particularly well to online fundraising. Work with your nonprofit’s team to plan in advance when you’ll factor online fundraising into your revenue-generation plan.
Online fundraising is used by nonprofits all over the world because it’s flexible, easy, and secure. Let’s explore the top benefits of this key fundraising strategy and how it can give your nonprofit the momentum it needs to meet its mission.
With its long list of benefits, online fundraising is the perfect way to prompt donors to give more and simplify the entire giving process for both your team and your supporters.
Now that we’ve covered the essentials of online fundraising, let’s dive into some keys to success. Follow these steps to plan the perfect online fundraising campaign that will inspire all of your supporters.
After running through our list of the top online fundraising ideas, you might be left thinking “which idea is best for my nonprofit?” Between peer-to-peer fundraising, hosting a virtual gala, or developing an online membership program, your nonprofit has plenty of options to choose from; it’s just a matter of choosing the right ideas for your organization’s mission and unique audience base.
Carefully think through what you want to accomplish with your online fundraising efforts and what idea(s) will be most suited to make that happen. However, you’ll also need to consider your budget along with the tools and resources already at your disposal.
For example, if you’re a smaller nonprofit with less time to plan, you might turn to social media contests as an easy and cost-free way to amplify your reach. On the other hand, a larger nonprofit with planning and budget room might prioritize planning an online gala with a silent auction component.
If you’re not sure which online fundraiser to start with, pick an idea that will be relatively easy to implement and likely to excite your audience; you can always test out new fundraising campaigns and events throughout the year.
In order to host a successful campaign, you’ll first need to determine what success means to your organization. It’s important to qualify and quantify exactly what you want to gain from your online fundraising campaign, as that goal informs your planning strategy.
In addition to raising money, you might also use an online fundraising campaign or event to reach other goals, such as:
No matter what your goals are, make sure that you have a way to quantify them. If you don’t have a metric for success going in, you can’t measure how well you did or improve your strategies going forward. Some common KPIs for online fundraising campaigns include:
You can track these metrics and more with the help of your fundraising solution. Read on to find out what software you should look for to support your campaigns.
Your online fundraising platform should provide easy-to-use tools to program a high-quality virtual campaign or event experience—ultimately driving more fundraising activity and proceeds to fuel your mission. Specifically, look for software that will empower your nonprofit to:
These are must-have features for your online fundraising success, so rounding them up into a powerful and flexible software solution is critical to meeting your goals. Plus, the right fundraising solution will also help you facilitate in-person and hybrid events of all types, so make sure to look for an all-in-one solution that will meet your complete fundraising needs.
It should come as no surprise that as you move your fundraising online, you’ll need to bring your marketing efforts online as well. Social media, video, and email marketing are just a few inexpensive ways to resonate with potential donors. Let’s take a closer look at how you can leverage these channels to drive fundraising success:
Make sure to give your nonprofit plenty of time to get the word out about your online fundraiser. For example, if you’re planning to run a 24-hour online giving challenge on Giving Tuesday, let supporters know at least a month in advance so it’s on their minds and they can spread the word throughout their networks.
Using data insights can help you make smart and informed decisions for your online fundraiser. Leverage your database or CRM to help you research your audience during the planning process, and then ensure all new engagement data is automatically reported once your campaign begins. Online fundraising software that integrates with your database will be invaluable. An organized, integrated data system will allow you to:
Look for nonprofit-specific CRMs that include the intuitive features you need. Ease of use, integrations with your other tools, and simple segmentation features are all must-haves.
Once your online fundraiser is underway, you need to keep donors actively engaged and invested in the outcome of your campaign. Gamification can help spark some healthy competition and motivate supporters to give. Consider these top gamification strategies:
You could even invite your supporters to team up and work together to come out on top! Not only will this help to encourage supporters to work hard to raise a certain amount, but it can also facilitate strong peer-to-peer relationships in your community.
Just because your online fundraiser has come to an end doesn’t mean your work is over! Once your fundraiser concludes, determine whether you met your core goals set at the beginning of your campaign.
If you did, great work! Figure out how you can optimize your strategies for next time to drive even better results. If you didn’t, reflect on what tactics worked and what didn’t. You might even consider sending a feedback survey to your online donors to see what they felt could have been done better.
Regardless of whether you met your overarching fundraising goal or not, it’s important to report your results to all of your supporters and thank them for their efforts. Let them know how the donations will be used to power change in the community, and why their ongoing support is so important. To show your gratitude, send thank-you messages to all of your supporters over email that reference their specific donation amount and impact. Then, you might also send special handwritten notes to the VIP supporters who went above and beyond.
Looking for more advice to guide your next online fundraising campaign? We’ve compiled the top recommendations—tried and tested by the pros—to ensure your online fundraiser stays on track. Use these best practices:
Backed by a strong online fundraising strategy, you’ll be in great shape to engage supporters, encourage donations, and boost visibility for your cause.
Successful online fundraisers need powerful fundraising software! The OneCause Fundraising Platform makes giving modern, flexible, and seamless to drive deeper engagement and grow your fundraising. Take a look at this versatile all-in-one fundraising software that meets the expectations of today’s donors, supporting any event—in-person, virtual, or hybrid.
If you’re ready to take your mission to the next level, look no further than online fundraising! An online fundraising event or campaign has the potential to skyrocket your organization to fundraising success and grow your reach all at once. Armed with an intuitive online fundraising software, you’ll be well-equipped to curate the perfect virtual engagement experience for your supporters.
Eager to learn more about the world of online fundraising? Explore these additional resources: