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19 Ideas for Engaging Virtual Fundraising Events & How to Plan One

Published on March 17, 2022 • Updated on January 23, 2023 • About 20 min. read

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16 Engaging Virtual Fundraising Events: Ideas and Planning

Virtual fundraising events are the next biggest trend in fundraising. Don't believe us? The global virtual events industry is on track to grow by 23.7% by 2028, according to a report by Grand View Research. And because finding a venue is no longer an issue, the sky’s the limit on what kind of event you can create.

But with so many livestreams to compete with, how do you make your virtual fundraising events stand out?

Check out our 19 recommendations for memorable, interactive virtual fundraising events that’ll engage a wider audience, raise awareness about your organization, and set your campaign apart from the crowd.

Download the email templates to learn how to drive event signups
6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events
6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events
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6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events

Access these 6 email templates to drive attendance to your virtual events.

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19 Fun virtual fundraising ideas

Without the costs of renting a physical space, catering, and equipment hire, virtual fundraising events are easier and cheaper to run than traditional in-person fundraising. They’re also far more accessible because people can join no matter where in the world they are (or how many kids/pets/other commitments they’re juggling that day).

Here’s our pick of the 19 best virtual fundraising event ideas for your school, non-profit, animal shelter, or church, that are guaranteed to keep audiences engaged. But don’t let these categories limit you — you can implement these ideas to raise money for almost any cause.

We’ll give you examples, inspiration, and virtual events best practices to run the following fundraising events:

  1. Virtual game night
  2. Virtual design contest
  3. Virtual tour
  4. Virtual trade or business fair
  5. Virtual peer-to-peer campaigns
  6. Giving days
  7. Virtual awards for your volunteers
  8. Virtual gala
  9. Virtual happy hour
  10. Virtual trivia night
  11. Virtual classes
  12. Virtual comedy night
  13. Virtual auction
  14. Virtual marathon or walk-a-thon
  15. Virtual telethon
  16. Virtual book club
  17. Virtual raffle
  18. Virtual yoga class
  19. Webinar

Virtual fundraising ideas for schools

Often, the people organizing school fundraisers end up being parents, teachers, or school council members. You don’t necessarily know how to host virtual events, let alone a virtual fundraiser.

If you have little experience with virtual events and fundraising, we recommend choosing an online event platform like Livestorm, that can host a range of events and makes the pre-, during, and post-event tasks simple.

With Livestorm, you can design your donation page with Eventbrite and customize your registration page and email invitations with custom fields to collect attendee details. You can also schedule unlimited follow up emails and reminders at the cadence of your choosing.

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1. Virtual game night

A virtual game night is a great idea for school fundraising teams looking for family-friendly ways to connect with the community and, of course, raise money for upcoming school projects and current needs.

An event like this does take plenty of coordination, though, from parents, school board members, and volunteers to decide on a theme, plan games, and handle event marketing. For example, if you plan virtual Jeopardy, a scavenger hunt, or an escape room, you’ll need volunteers to write questions or set up online spaces. You’ll also need a host for your game night who’s fun, outgoing, and can keep everyone engaged.

Segment your supporters to pick the right game, decide on the format, and start spreading the word. With Liverstorm, you can easily promote your virtual event with customizable event landing pages.

2. Virtual design contest

From flower arranging to fashion, logos, t-shirts, mascots, and even interior decor, you can choose specific areas of design so the event’s closely related to your cause. This works particularly well for schools that offer art or design classes or clubs for their students.

For example, your school’s booster club could ask its supporters to design a new logo or mascot for their local team. The team could then match donations or provide tickets and merchandising for higher-tier donors.

Depending on the time required, you can have people complete the challenge live or set a start date in advance of the contest. Then, get participants to connect to the livestreamed event for judging. Ask a celebrity or expert to be the judge or engage the audience by letting them vote for the winner using the live poll feature in your event platform.

3. Virtual tour

Virtual tours are fantastic for nonprofits like animal shelters, museums, and schools that want to give benefactors the chance to see inside the facilities, spaces, and operations. You can take a page out of the Guggenheim’s book - this museum regularly hosts virtual tours of its gallery.

virtual fundraising ideas

Be aware, though, that a tour can be a passive experience – so keep the audience engaged by using features like emojis reactions, live polls, and question upvotes. With Livestorm, you can do all this, plus you can use the call to action (CTA) button feature to direct visitors to the donation forms during the event.

And if you don’t have time to host multiple tours throughout the year, be sure to record your event and make it available “on-demand”, so that people can pay an optional donation for access to the original livestream any time.

4. Virtual trade or business fair

Virtual trade or business fairs can be a beast to organize! Luckily, the benefits far outweigh the effort involved, especially if you go virtual. The fundraising potential comes from registration fees and corporate sponsorship packages, tiered event ticketing, talks, workshops, and virtual exhibition booths.

These kinds of events could work particularly well for trade schools and programs in the beauty, restaurant, automotive, or construction industries, to name a few.

Speaker raising funds at a hybrid trade fair

Partner up with sponsors who can donate to have their logo and relevant hashtags featured in your visual assets and promotional materials. You can create sponsorship tiers that give these corporate partners special benefits, like being able to present their offering during a key slot during the event.

If you ask local business owners to participate, let them know that you’ll use Livestorm to customize their virtual backgrounds to match their brand or feature their logo. See here for more ideas on how to organize an online conference.

Virtual fundraising ideas for nonprofits

For those who work for nonprofit organizations, fundraising is your bread and butter. And you likely have no shortage of digital fundraising ideas, initiatives, and know-how. But you also need data to measure the success of your virtual events so you know what works for the future.

With Livestorm, you’ll have immediate access to your event’s participation reports, and you can instantly export data from registrations, your live chats, and poll and Q&A answers. You can even sync your event data with your customer relationship management (CRM) apps, like Salesforce or HubSpot, to keep them engaged throughout your marketing funnel.

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5. Virtual peer-to-peer campaigns

In peer-to-peer fundraising, an individual or group of people — not an organization — sets up and runs their own fundraising efforts. Think of crowdfunding campaigns posted on social media to raise money for a personal project or a family member in need of a medical procedure.

While they aren’t typically organization-led, peer-to-peer campaigns can be used by charity supporters to raise money for their favorite cause or non-profit. For example, The Innocence Project, which is dedicated to exonerating individuals wrongly accused of crimes, allows supporters to create a personal fundraiser and share donation links with family, friends, and colleagues.

example of virtual fundraising like the innocent project

6. Giving days

A giving day is a 24-hour fundraising event that usually happens virtually and aims to raise a certain amount of money for a cause. They tend to happen annually or biannually. You’re probably most familiar with Giving Tuesday, which non-profits usually host the Tuesday after Thanksgiving.

This is where building your engagement funnel is especially important. Why? Because you’ll need to create around-the-year awareness of your nonprofit's presence to see the best results on a giving day.

Think about how customers interact with their favorite brands. They tend to follow this path from awareness to support:

  1. Awareness of your non-profit
  2. Discovery of what you really offer the community and beneficiaries
  3. Consideration of your non-profit as one among many possible causes to support
  4. Donation to your organization
  5. Retention as a regular benefactor of your cause

7. Virtual awards for your volunteers

Nonprofits rely on volunteers who will come back year after year, event after event. An awards event is a great way to honor volunteers and make them feel appreciated for the support they provide throughout the year.

The great thing about it? As long as your fundraising software gives you easy access to past data, it’s relatively easy to plan a virtual awards ceremony for high-performing volunteers. Plus it provides yet another opportunity to educate people about your cause and ask for donations.

That’s why the local branches of the United Way chapters around the US host annual awards ceremonies of their own on Facebook Live. Of course, we’d recommend you use a virtual event platform like Livestorm or Zoom to host yours, since you’ll benefit from better engagement features and data analytics.

Social media post for virtual awards ceremony for United Way volunteers

Virtual fundraising ideas for clubs

Like nonprofits, clubs often rely on donations and membership dues to stay afloat. But unlike nonprofits, clubs may have a little more flexibility with the kinds of fundraising events they can run. Here are some fun and creative ideas to make your next club fundraising event engaging and successful.

Virtual concert

Virtual concerts with a big name or even a local headliner are a fantastic way to generate excitement for your fundraiser. That’s exactly what Global Citizen did with its star-studded concert, One World: Together At Home. The event raised $128 million for the World Health Organization and other coronavirus relief agencies.

Online promotion graphic for One World: Together At Home online concer

The more well-known the artist, the more appealing the event – and the more you can charge for tickets. If possible, get performers who support your cause so their passion for it shines through. They’re more likely to become advocates and support the event on social media.

As well as selling tickets through your fundraising page, upsell extras like “backstage passes” to meet the artists. Also, Livestorm lets you share unlimited replays of your events so no one ever has to miss out!

8. Virtual gala

Despite statewide COVID-19 restrictions, Chicago-based nonprofit The Neighborhood Project made a remarkable $130,000 in 2020 when their annual gala moved online, showing just how successful virtual galas can be for any nonprofit or club.

Executive director Rick Guzman

Virtual galas are far more flexible than their in-person counterparts. You can blend livestreaming with pre-recorded videos, incorporate live polls, and share multimedia to get attendees involved. Here's our ultimate guide to livestreaming for more tips.

You can also include interactive activities, like a silent auction, and encourage user-generated content by asking viewers to dress up, use virtual backgrounds, and share social media posts.

Offer “VIP” extras for higher tier donors, like celebrity shout-outs or a home-delivered party pack. You could also partner with a local restaurant to offer food delivery or send VIPs gift cards for food delivery companies. Another possibility is to invite them to a virtual afterparty within a breakout room.

9. Virtual happy hour

You can organize a regular virtual happy hour, deliver drinks to high-tier participants, and create quizzes, private chats in breakout rooms - or even a mixology class.

Making cocktails and mocktails requires some preparation (mostly getting your hands on fruits, herbs, ice, and spirits, not to mention shakers, stirrers, mixers, and strainers). But you can use this to your advantage – joining in requires planning and genuine buy-in on the part of attendees. With that degree of commitment, you can be sure of a successful fundraising event.

10. Virtual trivia night

A trivia night is a great idea for a popular, easy-to-set-up fundraiser that you can host regularly for donations. And you can even adjust your trivia night to your club’s theme. That’s why the educational nonprofit NextGen holds a quarterly “nerd culture”-themed trivia night for students and other “nerdy” potential donors.

NextGen’s trivia night event sign up

11. Virtual classes

From writing workshops to photography to crafts like ceramics, stained glass, knitting, and more, there’s no limit on what virtual classes you can host to get people’s creative juices flowing.

For example, you could offer a “paint and sip” evening for donors to enjoy a glass of wine while they upgrade their painting skills. Why not partner with a local art supplier to deliver painting kits to high-tier donors?

If you’re looking for a more sober event, a cooking class also appeals to a wide audience and is suitable for small, more accessible donations. If possible, invite a professional chef or celebrity influencer to give the lesson. Offer tiered registration fees with extras like a signed recipe book, or dinner at a local restaurant.

Pro tip: Pick an event platform like Livestorm, that allows you to share presentations or videos, as this will make it easier to teach participants more technical parts of the process.

A pastry chef giving an online cake decorating tutorial

Virtual fundraising ideas for animal shelters

Animal shelters tend to have small staff teams and rely heavily on donations and grants, which means you likely have to need volunteers to boost your fundraising efforts. If that sounds like you, don’t worry! These ideas are fun for attendees and a great way to boost donations.

Cats in an animal shelter drinking from a bowl

12. Virtual comedy night

Livestreamed comedy can also be a big draw for virtual events. Again, the bigger the names, the more you can charge, but you can also ask local improv performers to donate their time if you don’t have the cast of Saturday Night Live in your WhatsApp group.

Sell tickets and corporate sponsorship packages and recruit supporters to act as “table hosts” who encourage others to register. And if your budget allows, or you can persuade them to donate some time, a celebrity guest or MC will drum up even more interest.

And if your comic act bombs? Don’t worry. You can always distract participants with footage of your lovely shelter animals!

13. Virtual auction

Donors find online auctions exciting, especially once they see what’s on offer and who they’re competing with. And if you make a few of your auction items pet-oriented, like a year's supply of dog food or an expensive automatic litter box for your cats, your animal lovers will be thrilled.

Set up an event page to showcase items pre-sale and set minimum opening bids or increments. Remember, people won’t bid continuously, so make regular donation calls and have some creative engagement strategies up your sleeve. If someone outbids another person on an item, ask them if they’re willing to donate what they would’ve paid originally.

14. Virtual marathon or walk-a-thon

According to OneCause, 64% of nonprofits that ran virtual endurance events in 2020 found them to be more successful than other online donation models, perhaps because supporters particularly welcomed the opportunity to get in shape.

Pick an activity suited to your supporter base, like a virtual walk, danceathon, or sponsored swim – anything that allows them to commit to completing a certain amount of miles, laps, or rounds in a given time. Charge a small fee to register or allow participants to raise sponsorship from friends and family. Again, be sure to bring those dogs, cats, and other four-legged creatures on screen to show off which animals are up for adoption.

Pro tip: Even if you host the walkathon in person, you can livestream it and encourage people to participate virtually. You'll reach an entirely new audience that couldn't have attended otherwise.

Dog owners walking their dogs at an informal dog show

15. Virtual telethon

Remember telethons, those long and yet somehow entertaining television programs designed to raise money for a cause? They started as televised programs intended for a national audience, so it makes complete sense to adapt them to the virtual fundraising format.

The wonderful thing about a virtual telethon is that you can do whatever you’d like to make the event exciting. You can showcase local talent, ask staff to share their stories about working at the animal shelters — you can even set up your own version of the annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

The trick here is to find a fun and engaging host who will keep track of the donations and announce your milestones as they happen. And it’s also important to keep the audience engaged with fun surveys, polls, and Q&As so they don’t feel they’re just passive spectators.

Virtual fundraising ideas for your church

Every church is unique, but you can adapt any one of these virtual event ideas to suit your congregation.

16. Virtual book club

A book club is an excellent way to get small, regular donations rather than hosting a large, costly event. You can host a more traditional book club, focused on fiction or memoirs, or use the meetups to enrich your community's spiritual practice by focusing on excerpts from sacred texts.

For this type of event, you can use Livestorm to customize a registration page with recurring dates so that members only have to sign up once to receive regular emails and reminders. Then, the donation system is up to you! You can ask members to donate what they’d like or ask for an upfront fee to attend the book club.

Family members attending a virtual gathering via a fundraising platform

17. Virtual raffle

A virtual raffle is a simple yet effective fundraiser for organizers who need ideas fast. To make it contactless, you can export all your raffle registration data to a spreadsheet and use a random name generator tool to pick names. Or you can keep it old school and put all the names on a piece of paper and spin them around in a raffle drum.

Another great thing about a virtual raffle? Since it's so easy to put together, you can add it to any event on this list.

18. Virtual yoga class

Hosting a virtual yoga class gives members of your community the opportunity to try a new activity, centered around fitness and mindfulness. When you provide something this valuable, you're more likely to get signups and donations in return.

Ask a local yoga studio to give a virtual class, and make the replay available afterward. To boost donations, why not ask a well-known brand to donate yoga gear and include it in higher-tier donation packages?

19. Webinar

Online talks, like webinars, are a familiar format these days for those looking to learn a skill or hear an expert viewpoint. If yours is a hit, you could consider making it a regular event, like TED talks.

Webinars are particularly useful for churches or spiritual communities that want to host a lecture series or religious studies outside of regular sermons or services. But if you’re not yet familiar with webinar best practices, here’s what we recommend:

  • Choose a topic related to your cause and ask an expert, local community leader, or one of your board members to speak.
  • Assign a moderator and encourage a lively Q&A or debate after the talk.
  • Don’t forget to have a volunteer run your webinar marketing ahead of the event.
  • Make sure you record a replay for anyone who signed up but couldn’t make it.
  • And if you use Livestorm, you don’t have to worry about emailing the recording — our platform sends replays to every guest, regardless of whether they attended.

How to plan a virtual fundraising event

With a little creativity and help from modern technology, there’s no reason your virtual fundraiser can’t be as successful as an in-person event. Here’s how to plan yours.

Step 1: Define a fundraising goal

Most virtual fundraising events do just that: raise funds. Secondary goals, however, could include raising awareness, growing your supporter base, and identifying potential repeat givers.

Whatever they are, use the SMART principle to help you define your goals:

  1. Specific: “Raise more money” is too open-ended. Set an exact amount based on how you will use the funds.
  2. Measurable: How will you measure success? Money raised, number of new supporters, corporate pledges?
  3. Attainable: Be ambitious but realistic.
  4. Relevant: Goals should be connected to your cause somehow, and supporters want to know where their money is going.
  5. Time-based: When is the final cut-off for accepting donations? Will you still be able to collect them in the days following your event?

Step 2: Choose an event format

You have a variety of event formats to choose from, but to help you decide what’s best, you can segment your supporters into categories. Then, choose the event format based on your audience. For example, if your audience is sporty young professionals, you could host a virtual gym class.

By paying attention to how you’ve categorized groups, you can better resonate with your audience, and create events that really connect with their interests and passions – which can be crucial to their success.

Step 3: Devise a marketing strategy

A marketing strategy isn’t as intimidating as it sounds. It’s anything you do to get sign-ups before the event.

First, take a look at your time and budget. How much time do you have to drum up interest and awareness around the event? And will you rely on social media, email, and free advertisement alone, or will you reach out to influencers for partnerships or create paid ads? Are there any event marketing tools that you’ll need to account for in your event cost?

Then, consider your fundraising team members’ talents and capabilities. There may be a marketing professional or two among you who’s willing to donate their time and skills for free. Otherwise, look for an intern who needs more marketing experience and can do it for a reduced rate.

Wherever you direct your marketing efforts, target the places your intended audience hangs out. For instance, you may find that your time is better spent drumming up awareness on Facebook and LinkedIn than it is on Instagram - it all depends on the demographic.

Step 4: Pick the right event software

A virtual event hosted on Livestorm

Pick tools that suit the format of your fundraiser and the technical skills of your teams and supporters. We also recommend that they integrate with each other (the fewer platforms people have to log into, the easier it is to participate).

For example, when you use Livestorm and Typeform together, you can easily register website visitors to Livestorm events, and they won’t have to give you their information repeatedly.

The cornerstone of your fundraising toolkit is the video platform. Here are some of the key features the best virtual event platforms have:

  • Versatility to handle any kind of event and audience size
  • User-friendliness so it’s simple to create and promote events, and easy to join in
  • Engagement features so attendees can have fun as active participants in the event
  • Analytics so you can track and analyze engagement with your content and website
  • Integrations, particularly with ticketing software like Eventbrite to help you promote your event and sell tickets
  • Mobile-responsiveness so you can engage viewers who are on-the-go

Step 5: Tell a compelling story

A virtual fundraising event is an opportunity to boost donations, yes, but it’s also an important moment for you to educate event attendees and potential donors about your cause.

Before your event starts, share the history of your organization in a short presentation. Then, be transparent about your fundraising goals. Explain how much money you’re hoping to raise, and describe how you’ll use it, as transparently as possible.

For example, if you’re raising money for an animal shelter, you can share slides telling the story of a rescue animal whose life was changed by past donations.

Step 6: Incorporate interactive elements

It’s also essential that your virtual event platform lets you engage audiences with discussions, Q&As, polls, and interactive activities that encourage user-generated content—since these are among the top strategies for successful engagement.

Step 7: Appreciate your donors

Let your donors know that their support hasn’t gone unnoticed, both during and after the event. This means that even if some of your donors give money but don’t attend, you should still thank them during your event, and record it so they can view it later.

And during your event, be sure to mention your donors by name and shout them out. After the event, you can segment your audience members and email donors to thank them personally and mention what you’ll do with their donation. And if it’s possible, plan to give some of your top donors prizes or swag with your club or organization logo.

Step 8: Analyze your event metrics

After the event, take stock of your registration and attendance report. With Livestorm, you can use source tracking to find out about the success of your marketing campaign. Then, look at your participation report to see how many people attended out of your original registrants.

Finally, review your engagement metrics. How did people respond to your polls, surveys, and Q&As, and which parts of the event did they enjoy the most based on their chat participation? If applicable, you can sync this data to a CRM like Marketo, HubSpot, or Salesforce and use it to segment your donors and create email nurture campaigns for the future.

6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events
6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events
Templates Templates

6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events

Access these 6 email templates to drive attendance to your virtual events.

Learn more

Take your virtual fundraising event to the next level

In the right hands, virtual fundraising events are every bit as successful as traditional in-person events, and possibly even more so. They give you exciting opportunities for engagement and access to a broader audience – all while being more cost-effective and easier to run.

And they still allow you to do the work you need to do — educate potential donors and community members about your organization, club, or project.

In order to maximize results, choose activities to match your cause. And make organizing your event as hassle-free and user-friendly as possible with a virtual event platform. Livestorm makes it easy to engage your audience, automate your marketing efforts, customize your registration page, and review your engagement and attendance data.

Frequently asked questions about virtual fundraising events

How do I collect donations virtually?

You can collect donations virtually by making sure that your event software has integration with a payment platform or crowdfunding software like Eventbrite. We recommend creating a field on your event registration page for donations. It’s up to you whether you’ll make donations voluntary or if you’ll “sell” tickets for attendance.

What are good online fundraisers?

Good online fundraisers are engaging, attendee-focused events that balance fun with education about your cause or organization. Some good online fundraising ideas include:

  • Virtual galas
  • Virtual concerts
  • Virtual comedy invents
  • Virtual happy hours
  • Virtual tours of your facilities or new location
  • Virtual marathons or walk-a-thons
  • Virtual auctions
  • Virtual book clubs
  • Virtual cooking classes
  • Virtual paint nights or crafting events
  • Virtual game nights
  • Virtual trade or business fairs
  • Webinars

How do you set up a virtual event for charity?

To set up a virtual event for charity, you should start by setting a fundraising goal. This will help you figure out what kind of event you want to organize and determine how large your marketing campaign should be for the event. Then you’ll:

  • Choose your event format. This is where creativity meets data. What kinds of events have worked for other similar organizations or causes in the past?
  • Devise your marketing strategy. Months ahead of the event, start creating a buzz around it on your website and with social media posts and emails.
  • Choose the right event software. Ideally, you want an event platform that lets you set up your pre-event registration landing page and send automated email and invite reminders. If it helps you engage your audience and analyze your post-event metrics, even better.
  • Make it engaging. Make sure your audience can participate with live chat, Q&As, polls, surveys, and even huddle rooms.
  • Show your donors some love. Handwritten thank-you notes and emails go a long way. But you can also create donation tiers with prizes for every level, giving your audience an extra incentive.
  • Review your metrics. Take a look at your event sign-ups versus actual attendees to see how your marketing campaign worked. But don’t forget to analyze the data from your chat, Q&As, and polls, and check engagement during the event to see what people appreciated the most.

What are the benefits of virtual fundraising events?

The benefits of virtual fundraising events include:

  • Location independence. You don’t need to book a venue for your event.
  • Wider reach. Depending on how many attendees you want, you could potentially open up your event to a global audience.
  • Cost-effectiveness. Without venue costs, virtual events tend to be more inexpensive.
  • Easier setup and marketing. There are much fewer moving parts involved in creating a virtual event.
  • Easier to analyze attendance metrics. Event platforms like Livestorm make it easy to gather pre and post-event metrics automatically.
6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events
6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events
Templates Templates

6 Email Templates for Successful Virtual Events

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