13 Online Fundraising Ideas & Virtual-Friendly Tactics

Rock and roll into the world of OneCause online giving

The pandemic has changed so many aspects of our lives – including how we fundraise. Tried and true methods of raising money and reaching donors have been reimagined for this new, virtual world. According to a recent OneCause survey of 1,977 nonprofit professionals, the impact COVID-19 has had on fundraising is the number one challenge nonprofits are facing.

Nonetheless – your mission remains the same (and important as ever). The good news? You can reach your donors and your fundraising goals all online.

Maybe your nonprofit hasn’t tapped into the power of online fundraising. Or, maybe you have but you’re looking for some fresh, innovative ideas. Either way, we’re here to help guide you through the world of online fundraising.

We’ll cover…

Ready to get started? With these tips, tricks, and ideas, you’ll be ready to dive into world online fundraising and start generating even more support for your mission in no time.

Explore these top online fundraising ideas to begin brainstorming your next campaign.

13 Top Online Fundraising Ideas

With the advancement and growing popularity of fundraising technology and virtual tools, the stage is set for a boom in online fundraising for nonprofits of all sizes. The key is to make your online fundraisers stand out to your unique audience! To help, we’ve gathered our favorite online fundraising ideas.

1. Virtual Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-Peer Fundraising events are a powerful way to bring people together and educate them about your mission. And, it’s an effective way to raise dollars for your cause. But have you thought about the benefits of taking your Peer-to-Peer Fundraising efforts virtual?

Taking your campaign virtual allows you to engage participants and supporters online, in fun, new, and creative ways that, if executed correctly, can drive more fundraising. To make your Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser successful, you’ll need to motivate your fundraisers.

How? Instilling a healthy dose of competition by encouraging them to create teams and acknowledging the most successful fundraisers at the end of the challenge.

The U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation used online fundraising and peer-to-peer techniques to fund their Olympic efforts.

Read the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Foundation Success Story

2. Virtual Auction and Gala

Charity auctions have always been reliable fundraising events for nonprofits. Now, with the help of mobile bidding tools and virtual event software, it’s easier than ever to take your auction virtual.

In many ways, virtual auctions are even easier and more cost-effective to plan than traditional live or silent auctions. To host an online auction, procure the perfect range of items, set up your virtual event center, and start promoting your auction to donors. Bonus points if you recruit ambassadors to secure even more registrants for your virtual auction!

The Zoo Miami Foundation used online fundraising and an engaging virtual auction to make their gala a success.

Read the Zoo Miami Foundation Success Story


3. Live Streamed Events and Appeals

Virtual events and live stream programs are here to stay. The power of multi-media allows nonprofits to build connections with remote donors and humanize your mission, no matter where your supporters are. For events where the online experience is critical to fundraising success, the OneCause Virtual Event Center enables nonprofits to connect with donors in community engagement and giving activity before, during, and after the event.

It provides easy-to-use tools for you to program a high-quality virtual event experience and communicate the most important messages at the right time throughout the event – ultimately, driving more fundraising activity and proceeds to fuel your mission.

Online fundraising strategies combined with virtual programming helped Morgan Marie Michael Foundation exceed their fundraising goals.

Read the Morgan Marie Michael Foundation Success Story

4. Fitness Challenges

A virtual fitness challenge may be just what you need to entice your donors to get active for a good cause. People are using fitness trackers now more than ever. Why not use them to create a difference? In order for your fitness challenge to be a success, be sure you get creative and have the right technology to support it.

Using Strava, for instance, participants can track any type of physical activity that includes time or distance. You can have participants pledge a certain donation per mile, or have them work toward a certain goal of fitness minutes and fundraise along the way. OneCause’s integration with Strava makes it easy.

TASIS Dorado used an online fundraising fitness challenges to exceed their fundraising goals and engage their supporters.

Read the TASIS Dorado Success Story

5. Social Media & Awareness Contest

Hosting a social media contest for your supporters is a low-stress way to boost engagement any time of year. Come up with a contest that relates to your mission and is easy for followers to join. An enticing prize, a dedicated hashtag to track entries, and a deadline will be essential.

To promote your other fundraising tactics, encourage supporters to share their most creative or funny photos of themselves wearing your nonprofit’s t-shirt. Or, ask followers to share your post about an upcoming event and then pick a lucky winner who helped spread the word. Get creative to come up with the perfect idea for your own audience!

Play it Forward used online fundraising strategies on social media to host an awareness campaign.

Read the Right to Play Success Story

6. Matching Gifts

Individual donors want to know their donation will be leveraged to help boost your mission, and they’re more likely to donate when they know that donation will be doubled.

Secure a matching gift by seeking out your most loyal donors. Essentially, you’re asking them for a major gift. But the impact it has on increasing individual donations is what makes it truly special. And introducing it in the middle of an online fundraising campaign can prevent that mid-campaign slump from happening!

Loyola Blakefield used matching gift challenges as a winning online fundraising idea.

Visit the Loyola Blakefield Matching Gift Campaign site

7. Crowdfunding Campaign

For some of your nonprofit’s initiatives, crowdfunding might be the way to go. This online fundraising method involves creating a campaign page that explains what you’re raising money for. Then, encourage supporters to share your project far and wide. Effective social media marketing is essential for success with crowdfunding.

Note that crowdfunding works best for especially eye-catching or emotionally compelling, time-bound projects. Raising money for your annual fund might be best left to a traditional fundraising campaign or virtual event.

8. Community Partnerships

Your nonprofit’s partnerships can be valuable resources. Partnering with other community organizations can help grow your audience and simplify planning online fundraising campaigns. You might even partner with a local business to launch a lightning drive during which they’ll match donations. Explore your partner network and get creative to find new fundraising opportunities.

9. Ambassador Campaign

Ambassador strategies are natural additions to any larger virtual campaigns or events you host. This is because your ambassadors can solicit online donations or secure more registrations leading up your big online fundraising event. Just be sure to empower and encourage your ambassadors with plenty of resources and incentives. Then, recognize them for their efforts and express your gratitude for their help.

10. Influencer Partnership

Similar to an Ambassador Campaign, seek out supporters with a large social media following and ask if they would be willing to partner with your organization. For-profit businesses have formed relationships with influences, so who’s to say nonprofits can’t do that same? Ask them to share about their personal experience with your organization’s mission or promote your online fundraising campaign.

11. Awareness Day Campaign

Your goals might revolve more around raising awareness for your cause than securing donations. An online awareness campaign is a great way to reach wide new audiences of potential supporters. Social media and live-streamed community events are excellent choices for highlighting your mission, boosting engagement, and growing your base of support.

12. Disaster and Emergency Campaigns

Disaster and Emergency Campaigns drives are often held in direct response to a crisis, such as a hurricane or earthquake, to help aid relief. They’re easy to execute and make it easy and fast for donors to support your mission. Plus, since it’s all online, your nonprofit can secure support from a wide audience.

13. Social Media Campaign

Effectively communicating your cause via social media is simple and doesn’t require a large team or a giant budget. First, identify your target audience. Then, create posts that either educate, entertain, or empower your donors. Having a clear call-to-action (e.g. Donate Now) will be essential in gaining traffic to your online fundraising site.

Check out our full list of virtual-friendly fundraising ideas

Review these frequently asked questions about online fundraising for nonprofits.

Online Fundraising FAQs

If your nonprofit is new to online fundraising, your team probably has a few questions. For online fundraising newbies or veterans, here are a few FAQs to keep in mind as you get started:

Online Fundraising FAQs

What is online fundraising?Online fundraising is a way for nonprofits to use online and mobile bidding software to raise money for their mission. It typically involves an online donation page and can include text-to-give, peer-to-peer fundraising and more. Online fundraising encompasses the technology and innovation required to drive donations and awareness to the cause in a virtual world.
Why is online fundraising critical today?Online fundraising is essential in this new fundraising world. Nonprofits have to meet donors where they are – and in this new era of social distancing, donors are online! Whatever the nature of your organization, you are a prime candidate for online fundraising. Online giving activates your community and keeps them regularly engaged with your cause and mission.
What are the benefits of online fundraising?With online fundraising, giving is quick, easy, and secure. And because of the expanded reach that being online provides, nonprofits are able to collect donations from all across the country. Since there is no physical event involved, there is less planning and less upfront cost associated. This helps you focus your time and resources on what matters most – pushing your mission forward.
How has online fundraising changed over the years? Online fundraising isn’t just about building a donation page and hoping potential donors find you. A successful online fundraising campaign goes beyond the transaction and focuses on the giving experience. Nonprofits need a fundraising software that will allow donors to give quickly and easily while also providing nonprofits with a secure, easy-to-use platform.
What do you need to conduct online fundraising?To begin a successful online campaign, you’ll need clear campaign goals and guidelines, powerful online fundraising tools, digital marketing tactics, and a donor database or CRM. Sound like a lot? No worries – we have you covered! Check out our next section for essentials for online fundraising.

For effective online fundraising, you'll need a few essentials in your toolkit.

Strategy Essentials for Online Fundraising

Now that we’ve covered some frequently asked questions about online fundraising, let’s dive into some keys to success. Here are the essentials to keep in mind:

Campaign Goals and Guidelines

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.

To find the right monetary goal, you’ll need to look to your larger fundraising strategy and figure out where an online fundraising campaign could tie in. For example, if you’re planning a year-end campaign, see where you are to your annual goals and what progress still remains. That will guide your fundraising goals for your online fundraising campaign.

In addition to raising money, you might also use a fundraising event to facilitate other goals, such as:

  • Acquiring new donors.
  • Promoting your cause or gaining publicity.
  • Stewarding existing donors.
  • Engaging prospective major donors.
  • Increasing average donations per supporter.

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.

Online Fundraising Technology

Now that you know what you’d like your event to accomplish, you’ll need to figure out what type of online fundraising software will get the job done.

For events where the online experience is critical to fundraising success, the OneCause Virtual Event Center enables nonprofits to connect with donors in community engagement and giving activity before, during, and after the event.

Organizing and displaying content can be a challenge for virtual events, especially when there are multiple video and livestream assets. With the Virtual Event Center, you can easily manage and activate your event program, including live stream and pre-recorded video content for the event.

The OneCause Virtual Event Center contains all the online fundraising essentials you'll need for a modern campaign or event.

The OneCause Virtual Event Center provides easy-to-use tools for you to program a high-quality virtual event experience and communicate the most important messages at the right time throughout the event – ultimately, driving more fundraising activity and proceeds to fuel your mission.

For the donor, this creates an online experiences that enable supporters to:

  • Engage with the event using a single device (mobile, tablet or desktop)
  • Register to effortlessly gain access to the virtual event
  • Consume content before, during, and after the virtual event
  • Explore why supporting the mission of the Nonprofit matters
  • Donate through traditional means (e.g. fund-a-need, live appeal)
  • Bid effortlessly in silent and live auctions without leaving the broadcast (i.e. live stream)
  • Purchase raffle tickets and other fixed price options

OneCause is the top fundraising software that allows you to amplify your mission with online fundraising. We are driven to improve the giving experience. Donors are looking for a connection; and OneCause’s technology empowers organizations to put their mission at the forefront and make giving mobile, social, and fun.

Explore these success stories to learn how organizations of all shapes and sizes have revolutionized online fundraising with OneCause.

Digital Marketing Tactics

It should come as no surprise that as you move your fundraising online, you’ll need to bring your marketing efforts online as well.

Digital marketing has become a reliable marketing technique for business of varying size and industry. It encourages brand awareness, expands your organization’s reach, and allows you to more effectively track your results. Social media, video, and email marketing are just a few inexpensive ways to resonate with potential donors.

  • Social media: When used correctly, social media is an inexpensive marketing powerhouse. Every follower on your nonprofit’s Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram page represents an opportunity to grow your network of potential donors. Encourage those who donate to your online fundraising campaign to share with their followers on social media. And be sure to plan out social posts on a daily basis to grow your community and build excitement around your campaign.
  • Video: While video may seem daunting to some nonprofits, never fear. Sure – quality matters. It reflects your brand! But you can create high quality video by simply using your smartphone. What matters the most is your story. Stories that will be the most successful are one’s that authentically address your audience’s problem, emotionally ignite them to act, and in the process, transform your story into their story.
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing is a cost and time-effective tool. They’re an excellent way to deliver a lot of information, reach a lot of interested people at once, and connect with your supporters in an engaging way. You can segment your audience into different lists and grow donor retention by creating campaigns and call-to-actions specific to those audiences.

A Database or CRM

Your nonprofit’s database will be essential for online fundraising campaigns. Use your database or CRM to help you research your audience during the planning process, and then ensure all new engagement data is synched up with your CRM. Online fundraising software that integrates with your database will be invaluable.

One of the biggest reasons many nonprofit organizations invest in a cloud-based fundraising platform is to track the backend data and fundraising analytics surrounding events.

With a database or CRM in hand, nonprofit teams can…

  • Track donor information
  • Gauge the success of their campaign
  • Make better strategic decisions
  • Plan more engaging, successful campaigns in the future

Make sure you’re looking for a nonprofit CRM that both looks good on the front end and collects the important details on the back end. Finding one with a real-time data integration as well can also save your team countless hours of data entry and number crunching. At the end of the day, the more robust a solution is on the back end, the more effective it can be on the front end.

Additional Ways to Drive Engagement

Harnessing the power of peer influence keeps an online fundraising campaign rolling. Social engagement tools, such as gamification, are critical to taking your campaign to the next level.

With automatically updated leaderboards, team pages, personal fundraising thermometers, and comment walls, donors and participants can see who is in the lead, what others are saying, and have fun with the competitive aspect of charitable giving with OneCause’s Online Fundraising Software.

Consider these top gamification strategies:

  • Use leaderboards. Display the top fundraisers and how much they’ve raised using a leaderboard. Donors will be more motivated to fundraise when they see their name on the top of your list.
  • Give badges for significant milestones. Badges are images that participants can place on their peer-to-peer pages to mark fundraising milestones. The more badges a fundraiser receives, the more money they’ve raised for your cause.
  • Display a fundraising thermometer. It’s important to update donors on your progress. Having a fundraising thermometer for your overall campaign, as well as for each individual, shows participants how far they’ve come.
  • Offer prizes to top ranking fundraisers. Who doesn’t love winning an awesome prize for their hard work? Motivate your fundraisers to finish the campaign strong by rewarding your top performers. You can even utilize the built-in point system for a variety of activities.

Use these pro tactics to take your online fundraising ideas to the next level.

Pro Online Fundraising Tactics

Now that we’ve covered the essentials to online fundraising as well as some new, innovative ideas, let’s dive into pro-tips to be sure your next campaign goes off without a hitch!

Keep the Giving Process Simple

In order to have a successful online fundraising campaign, you need an easy-to-use online tool. Your fundraising page should be customized and personalized with campaign-specific images, messaging, and goals.

Be sure to make the giving experience simple by following these key steps:

  1. Limit the items required for submission. The more steps you require and the more information you ask for, the more likely a potential donor is going to lose patience and not follow through with their donation. (Think of any information you need for upcoming donation opportunities – such as name, email, phone number, or address.)
  2. Make the giving experience mobile friendly. These days, it’s all about meeting donors where they are – their smartphones! Whatever form your online fundraising campaign takes on, be sure it is mobile friendly. This will allow your donors to support you anytime, anywhere.
  3. Have a clear call-to-action. While it’s nice to engage donors with volunteer opportunities, your mission statement, and links to learn more – your donation form is not the place to do it. Keep it simple with a ‘Donate Now’ call-to-action.
  4. Incorporate Social Media Integrations. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram are powerful tools. Be sure to incorporate social media integrations so that you and your donors can spread the word about your online fundraising campaign far and wide.
  5. Take advantage of engagement Tools. We’re talking fundraising pages, team fundraising, fundraising challenges, matches, and competitive fundraising elements.

This example online fundraising form includes a number of best practices to emulate, like suggested giving amounts.

ONLINE FUNDRAISING TIP: A positive donor experience begins with the right technology. OneCause online giving features a simple, two step donation process.

Promote Additional Ways to Stay Engaged

In order to cultivate better relationships with your supporters online, your organization has to be consistent in its outreach, communications, and engagement. One of the easiest ways to do so in your next online fundraising campaign is to promote additional ways to stay engaged.

Keep in mind though that every supporter is different. With a wide variety of different reasons that they give to your cause, so no single engagement opportunity will satisfy your whole community.

That is why your organization should offer a variety of differing opportunities in order to maintain relationships with as many of your supporters as you can. Some ideas include:

  • Recurring donations
  • Upcoming events
  • Volunteering
  • Auction item donation
  • Tours of your facilities

ONLINE FUNDRAISING TIP: Offering many different options to your many different supporters is a great way to ensure that more of your community remains involved with your organization, while also demonstrating that you care about your supporters as individuals.

Suggest Different Giving Levels on Your Form

Giving levels offer your supporters donation choices in the form of pre-set amounts. Rather than leaving the donation amount up to your supporter, think about providing giving levels that can serve as real-time impact statements for your organization.

By offering various giving levels, you shine a light on your nonprofit’s greatest needs and then ask your donors to support that. How might this look?

  • $15 can provide a meal for a family of four
  • $25 can allow 5 children to receive Christmas presents
  • $50 can provide medical supplies for a family in need
  • $100 can send two kids to camp
  • $150 can provide a seat of textbooks for a student

This example online fundraising page shows donors the impact that different giving levels will have.

ONLINE FUNDRAISING TIP: The more details you can provide, the better! Making the need real can make the request actionable. People want to know how their donation will make a difference and adding giving levels to your form can show clear impact.

Focus on Storytelling Strategies

Stories are powerful tools. They help us make sense of the noise that surrounds us by putting it into a form that makes sense and moves us. For nonprofits, there’s no better tool to connect with volunteers, clients, and donors.

Why is storytelling so important in online fundraising?

  • Nonprofits have to cut through the noise and stand out online.
  • Everyone’s attention is becoming increasingly fragmented.
  • We need a way to connect people and humanize our missions in a virtual world.

Humans weave everything we do, see, and believe into a story. Stories are how we learn. They’re how we make sense of chaos. If your organization identifies and tells good stories, you’ll more quickly hit your goals (and you’ll set yourself apart from your competition, who probably aren’t telling enough good stories.)

Our favorite way to practice storytelling is through video. Get out your smartphone camera (we aren’t looking to make a Hollywood movie here!) and capture the story of your mission. Your donors will be able to connect with your mission in a whole new way and you’ll be able to take your online fundraising campaign to the next level.

ONLINE FUNDRAISING TIP: Storyboard your video so you have an arc, tight message, and compelling content outline to get started.

Use Data to Target Your Campaigns

Data is the key to unlocking your online fundraising potential. It allows you to engage better with donors and grow at scale (while still being personalized). Take your online fundraising to the next level by using data to segment your donors and target your campaigns.

Segmentation allows for fundraisers to know who their audience is and cater to their needs, and it comes in handy for email marketing.

How you decide to segment your donors depends on the needs of your organization. Let’s take a look a few ways that that you can segment your donors to help make sure you are connecting with donors where they are.

  • How your donors were acquired
  • Size of gift
  • First time v returning donor
  • One-time gift vs recurring donations
  • Age/demographics
  • Donor interest

ONLINE FUNDRAISING TIP: Figure out what will help you scale your online fundraising while also keeping a personal touch to your efforts and roll with it.

Integrate Your Software

In order to accurately record and analyze all of your engagement data, you’ll need to integrate your online fundraising software. We know your time is valuable and pushing your mission forward can become extremely difficult (and time consuming) when your information lives in multiple platforms.

Not to mention, it’s difficult to get a wholistic view of your donors when their history with your organization isn’t all in one place. Make it easy on yourself! Be sure you choose a software that integrates with any other technology you have in place. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

Check out these benefits:

  • Less work importing and exporting data
  • Cut down your risk of human error
  • Personalize your donor communication
  • Build a stronger relationship with your donors
  • Improve customer service

Take a Multi-channel Marketing Approach

Multi-channel marketing refers to using a variety of mediums to spread the word about your event in advance. Many event planners know that reaching a wide audience, from Baby Boomers to Gen Z, can be a difficult task. The best way to do so is to diversify your communications.

Use methods such as:

  • Email newsletters
  • Social media networks
  • Text messages
  • Video marketing
  • Direct mail
  • Print handouts
  • Bulletin boards

ONLINE FUNDRAISING TIP: A tactful multi-channel strategy is key to attaining maximum engagement with your event. But don’t try to do it all at once! Choose 2-3 tactics that work best for your team and your mission and roll with it.


To get started with online fundraising, begin exploring your software options and what your audience will be most receptive to.Getting Started with Online Fundraising

Don’t underestimate the support of your donors! Even with the impact of COVID-19, they are still looking for ways to engage with your mission – online fundraising is the perfect tool to help.

If you’re ready to take the next steps in online fundraising, you’ll need to build an online fundraising toolkit to set you up for success. Look for comprehensive platforms that make it easy to adapt your plans for the virtual fundraising era with built-in donation tools, Peer-to-Peer, marketing features, mobile bidding, and live-streaming capabilities. OneCause can help.

Designed with flexibility in mind, OneCause makes online giving easy for any type of campaign. With the ability to create an unlimited number of online sites, OneCause fundraising software scales based on your goals and mission.

OneCause: Your Online Giving Solution