20 Virtual Fundraisers that Are Fun and Really Work

piggy bank to illustrate virtual fundraising

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Virtual fundraisers can be an excellent way for organizations to raise money whether or not we are in the middle of a global pandemic. All it takes is out-of-the-box thinking, a little creativity, and some pre-event preparation to get people engaged and giving again – especially if they already believe in your cause. 

We’ve made a list of 20 of our favorite virtual fundraisers:

  1. Scavenger Hunt – Scavenger hunts can be a fun way to engage people online. You can either charge a fee to play or simply request donations. You can do it in a Zoom format, where people have a time limit and race to find a list of items from around the house. Or you can send families out on a photo scavenger hunt with instructions like “take a photo of your family doing your favorite quarantine activity” or “make a short video telling what makes your family great!” The favorites are then chosen and posted on your website, and people vote on a winner. St. Jude1 even used a creative spin on the scavenger hunt idea for a fundraiser this year. And if those ideas are not enough – here are 20 more scavenger hunt themes2 you can use!
  2. Auctions on Social Media – These are easy and fun to do. Reach out to local companies and ask for donated items or services to auction off for your cause. Then sign up for free through Facebook’s social good program.3 Be sure and plan ahead, though. Sometimes approval can take up to three weeks. 
  1. Host a Crowdfunding Video Campaign – Crowdfunding campaigns that contain videos raise 4X more funds than those without.4 Share your message with a compelling story about the impact you are making, and then follow up with a clear call to action. This concept can be paired easily with other virtual fundraisers to maximize your impact.
  2. Gaming Tournament – With the popularity of video games, a gaming tournament5 can be a great way to engage younger donors. You can either have a live stream of famous gamers in action (which is how St. Jude raised over $3.3 million6 this year) or host a virtual tournament7 where participants compete against one another.
Person playing video games for a gaming tournament fundraiser
  1. Host a Virtual Race – This is easy because people can run wherever they are, and they simply ask people to sponsor them. While most organizations choose to do a standard 5K or 10K race, you can also choose a variation like World Vision’s Global 6K8 or the Great American 5000 relay9 that raises money for Feeding America.
  2. Social Media Campaign – Social media fundraising is when you get other people to post about your organization on their social media channels and ask people to donate to your organization. One example of this is the classic birthday fundraiser when supporters ask people to donate to an organization in lieu of giving them birthday presents.
  3. Online Gala – When you can’t hold your annual gala in person, take it online! With a creative combination of live streaming, recorded videos, and online audience participation, you can still make it a fun and profitable time for everyone. The Selfless Love Foundation is a great example of an organization that took their gala online10 – and raised over $1.2 million!
  4. Art Show Fundraiser – This can be done in a variety of ways. Either you can ask local artists to contribute art pieces that you then feature electronically and sell in an auction format (usually via live stream) or you can post photos of art pieces on a web page and allow people to bid on them. This is a fun way to raise money for a school or children’s organization, using art that is created by the kids. It’s also a great strategy for introducing people to the idea of virtual fundraisers!
Girl painting for an art show fundraiser
  1. Catalog or Cause Wear Party – Many organizations, such as Heifer International, have catalogs11 that can be used to purchase needed items – like an alpaca for a needy family, or water for a village. Other organizations – like EarthX12 – have cause-based merchandise that can be purchased. Itemize needs in your organization and create a catalog that will allow donors to give to specific causes or items.
  2. “Pay it Forward” Tag Relay – Have a social media tag relay. Create an infographic or meme to share on social media. Then ask supporters to donate $5 in the name of a friend, post the infographic on their social media, and tag the friend they nominated. Then ask their friends to “pay it forward” by nominating someone else for $5 and sharing the post. Make it a race to see how long it takes to get to a predetermined goal. You can always have a challenge at the end – get an artist to agree to do a virtual concert if they reach the fundraising goal, shave their head, etc.
  3. Dance-a-Thon – A virtual dance-a-thon is like an in-person dance-a-thon, except the dancing all takes place at home via live stream or video. Dancers obtain sponsorships from friends and family, and the goal is to dance for a set amount of time. One of the most famous dance-a-thon fundraisers is Penn State’s Thon event13, which raises money for childhood cancer, and which also went virtual this year.
  4. Pet Costume Competition – Have people dress up their pets, take photos, and enter them in the competition. You can either charge an entry fee, have suggested donations, or have people pay $1 per vote.
Dog dressed in costume for a virtual pet show
  1. Online class – Have a local artist host a painting class, or ask a celebrity chef to host a cooking show. Send out materials in advance, or post a list of items they will need for the event. This virtual fundraiser requires a little more work up front, but can be a great way to build relationships with future partners and enlarge your network.
  2. Virtual Variety Show – Recruit musicians, comedians, dancers, and other talented performers and put together a live-streamed variety show. Either charge a fee for tickets or ask for donations.
  3. Trivia Competition – This can be a fun event for corporate teams, church home groups, teaching teams, or student organizations. You can use Zoom’s breakout rooms to group teams together, and create a bracket with multiple rounds of the competition. Then when you are down to the final two teams, live stream the championship so friends and family can watch.
  4. Raffle – A fun and easy virtual fundraiser is a raffle. Simply select an item or experience to auction, and sell tickets for a chance to win.
  5. Read-a thon – Kids raise sponsorships for reading books. Prizes or coupons can be offered for the participants. This is a great way to raise money for school or literacy organizations.
Boy reading books for a read-a-thon
  1. Cause Marketing Merchandise – Create branded merchandise to promote your organization and bring awareness to your cause. Invite volunteers, donors, friends, and partners to purchase items, and eliminate the stress of having to take orders and mail items by using a print on demand service.14
  2. Sell T-shirts – Either sell branded t-shirts for your organization or have a t-shirt design contest and use a t-shirt fundraising platform15 to create shirts from the winning design to sell through social media.
  3. Photo contest – This is similar to the art show, but participants submit photos instead of art pieces. Offer prizes for the winners of the contest (you can probably get these donated) and have the public pay to vote for their favorite photo.

We hope this list of virtual fundraisers will be helpful to you as you map out creative ways to engage potential donors online. If you’d like to learn more about how VOMO can help you engage donors with your organization, check out our upcoming webinars or schedule a demo today.

1 David Williams, Rising Country Star Gabby Barrett Takes St. Jude Along for the Ride, June 22, 2020, Accessed August 22, 2020.

2 Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Adults, goosechase.com, August 3, 2018, Accessed August 22, 2020

3 Raise Money and Awareness for Your Cause on Facebook, Accessed August 22, 2020.

4 New Research Study: 7 Stats from 100,000 Crowdfunding Campaigns, Indiegogo, October 6, 2015, Accessed August 22, 2020

5 Kayla Matthews, What Are Gaming Fundraisers and How Can They Raise Donations for Your Nonprofit?, March 26, 2020, Accessed August 22, 2020

6 David Williams, Gaming community raises $3.385 million in record-smashing St. Jude PLAY LIVE Prize Season, stjude.org, June 22, 2020, Accessed August 22, 2020

7 Ben Budhu, How to Run a Virtual Tournament with Streamholio, March 21, 2020. Accessed August 22, 2020

8 Global 6K Participants Run and Walk for Water, March 12, 2020, Accessed August 22, 2020.

9 Great American 5000, Accessed August 23, 2020

10 The Selfless Love Online Experience, Accessed August 23, 2020

11 Heifer International Gift Catalog, heifer.org, Accessed August 23, 2020

12 EarthX Gift Guide, earthx.org, Accessed August 23, 2020

13 THON 2021, thon.org, Accessed August 23, 2020

14 11 Best Print on Demand Sites, mofluid.com, Accessed August 23, 2020

15 Henna Ray, Top 12 T-Shirt Fundraising Platforms For Unbelievable Results, February 12, 2019, Accessed August 23, 2020

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