Online Fundraising Events: Complete Guide + Profitable Ideas

Online Fundraising Events: Complete Guide + Fundraising Events

Fundraising events bring in a ton of much-needed revenue for nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. Now in the digital age, more and more organizations turn to online fundraising events to increase their reach and accessibility. In 2021, with millions of people still following social distancing guidelines, online fundraising events are more important than ever.

At Snowball Fundraising, we’ve equipped tons of fundraising organizations with the tools they need to host profitable events—both on and offline. In doing so, we’ve come to learn what makes a successful event. Specifically, we’ll cover the following topics to help you run an excellent event:

Are you ready to learn more about planning and hosting the best virtual fundraising events possible? Let’s dive in with some of our favorite ideas.[boc_spacing height=”20px”]

Online Fundraising Events That Work

Online Fundraising Event Ideas That Work

Whether this is your first online fundraising event or you’re simply looking to diversify your existing strategies, these virtual ideas have the potential to raise a ton of money for your mission.

1. Online Auction

An online auction is one of our favorite types of online fundraising events because it is highly engaging for attendees, provides concrete incentives for support, and can bring in a ton of revenue for organizations.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Procure high-demand auction items from donors and community sponsors.
  2. Create a virtual auction catalog for attendees to browse through leading up to the event.
  3. Open up bidding for guests to compete for the highest bid on items they’d like.
  4. Close bidding after a set period and have winners pay the agreed-upon amount.
  5. Ship items to winners or arrange a local pickup or delivery.

The most significant consideration for this online event is making sure you have the right platform to support your efforts. Participants should be able to bid easily and pay from their mobile devices or computers within the comfort of their own homes.

2. Virtual Gala

If you’re looking for a unique and exciting way to engage with constituents, a virtual gala is a great way to go.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Invite donors, volunteers, and other supporters to attend your virtual event.
  2. Recruit entertainment such as musicians or speakers.
  3. Provide an online space via video conferencing software for guests to engage with one another and with your team.

While a typical gala is an upscale event, a virtual alternative can be as classy (or laid-back) as you and your supporters would like. For example, you can invite attendees to dress up in their formalwear from their living rooms or encourage guests to tune in while in their favorite pajamas!

3. Virtual Walk-a-Thon

A charity walk-a-thon is one of the most-used fundraising events for all sorts of causes. Now, they’re becoming increasingly popular virtual events as well!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Recruit supporters who would like to participate in your virtual walk.
  2. Equip participants with customizable fundraising pages to collect pledged donations to be made upon completion of the event.
  3. Encourage participants to complete their walk on a path of their choosing, tracking their time and distance with a fitness app or watch.
  4. Report progress to sponsors and collect donations based on the participants’ agreed-upon pledge amounts and distance walked.

While a typical walk-a-thon involves a group of people walking the same path on the same day, you have more flexibility with a virtual event. For example, participants can take part in their neighborhoods, and you can open up the timetable so that more supporters can get involved.

4. Webinar

A nonprofit webinar is a fantastic online fundraising event for engaging with supporters and providing an educational experience at the same time.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Select a topic that your audience will be interested in.
  2. Recruit experts to speak on the topic.
  3. Encourage supporters to tune in for your live webinar.
  4. Record the video and make it available for those who missed the live session.

To raise money, you can either charge a flat fee to access the event or allow supporters to contribute gifts as they see fit. Be sure to promote your webinar beforehand so you can drum up excitement and maximize attendance!

5. Online Q&A

Online question and answer sessions are a popular virtual fundraising event because it allows you to get to know your supporters on a more personal level—while they get to know you as well! This event can also help your donors better understand your cause, thus building your donor relationships.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Gather a group of leaders within your organization, such as the executive director, board members, and other key staff.
  2. Set a date and time for supporters to tune in via a video conferencing platform.
  3. Open up the floor for questions from attendees and prepare some ahead of time as well.

Again, you can charge a flat ticket cost for admission or accept donations on a rolling scale. Nonprofit supporters love these types of events because it gives them greater visibility into where their financial contributions are spent.

6. Virtual Behind the Scenes Tour

Your dedicated supporters have likely wondered what goes on behind the scenes at your organization. That leads to a unique online fundraising event idea: a virtual tour of your facility!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Set your date and time beforehand and spread the word about the upcoming opportunity.
  2. Charge a small admission fee (and accept additional donations) from your event attendees.
  3. Show virtual guests around your offices with recording equipment and live-streaming software.
  4. Offer participants a chance to ask questions and converse with members of your nonprofit team.

For major donors and other key contributors, you might even consider hosting one-on-one tours for a more personalized experience. However, a virtual group tour incorporates the bonus of getting to engage with other like-minded supporters.

7. Online Movie Night

This unique online event combines entertainment value and fundraising efforts to provide an exclusive movie night experience for supporters. You can survey your donor base to pick a film, or choose a movie that relates to your cause.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a film on Netflix, Disney, Hulu, or HBO that appeals to your target audience.
  2. Set a date and time beforehand and encourage supporters to attend your virtual movie night.
  3. Install the Teleparty (formerly Netflix Party) extension on your computer.
  4. Share the Teleparty link with attendees and enjoy the movie!

You can raise money by selling virtual movie tickets with the link to your group. You can also make some extra cash by shipping or delivering goodies (like candy or popcorn) to attendees ahead of time.

8. Online Art Class

If your supporters are looking for a new hobby to take up, hosting an online art class fundraiser can be a great way to go.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a specific skill or medium (i.e., painting, drawing, sculpting, etc.) that you’ll offer for your art class.
  2. Locate an experienced artist willing to host your class.
  3. Set a date and time and begin promoting your virtual event to supporters.
  4. Charge a fee to attend the class and ship or deliver necessary supplies ahead of time.

You can even make this type of fundraising event an ongoing effort by incorporating a new skill every few months! Then, participants can continue to expand on their crafting skills while supporting your organization and its mission.

9. Online Fitness Class

Like your online art class, a virtual fitness class can be a fantastic way to engage with supporters and promote healthy habits.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose an area of fitness (i.e., yoga, Zumba, weights, etc.) that you’ll focus on for your online fitness class.
  2. Locate an experienced fitness trainer in that area who is willing to host your class.
  3. Set a date and time and begin promoting your virtual event to supporters.
  4. Charge a fee to attend the class and ship or deliver necessary equipment ahead of time.

You can even pair your online fitness class with other healthy living challenges (such as X steps a day or Y cardio minutes a week) to make the most out of your motivation!

10. Online Cooking Class

Another popular skill that can be fun to learn in a virtual fundraising setting is cooking. By hosting an online cooking class, you can encourage supporters to expand their kitchen abilities and explore new cuisines.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose a meal that you’ll teach for your online cooking class.
  2. Locate an experienced chef willing to host your class.
  3. Set a date and time and begin promoting your virtual event to supporters.
  4. Charge a fee to attend the class and ship or deliver necessary supplies ahead of time.

Then, encourage supporters to snap and post photos of their meals on their social media pages with a specific hashtag to show off their cooking skills while also promoting your organization. You can even run a giveaway contest where you select one participant who posts on social media to win a prize!

11. Virtual Talent Show

A virtual talent show is another digital spin on a popular fundraising event, and it’s an excellent opportunity for eager supporters to show off their skills.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Recruit individuals who would like to participate (such as by singing, dancing, or playing an instrument).
  2. Have each participant record a short (60 seconds or so) video of themselves performing.
  3. Compile submissions on a comprehensive event site for other supporters to view.
  4. Encourage donors to vote on their favorite performers by donating ($1=1 vote).
  5. Determine the winner and provide them with a small prize.

You can charge a small entry fee for an added revenue source for individuals who would like to compete. Otherwise, you can offer open entry and raise money solely through votes by donations!

12. Online Benefit Concert

Virtual concerts have risen in popularity due to the pandemic. By turning this idea into a fundraiser, you can offer a low-cost and engaging experience for guests while simultaneously raising money for your organization.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Locate a band, singer, or another musician willing to put on a benefit concert on behalf of your organization.
  2. Set a time and date beforehand and spread the word about your upcoming concert.
  3. Charge a small ticket fee or accept online donations from attendees.
  4. Stream a live showing of the musician to guests’ devices using video conferencing tools.

The more popular the artist who is playing your benefit concert, the more demand you’ll have for your event and the more money you’ll raise. So start reaching out to musicians well in advance to find the best fit for your fundraiser!

13. Virtual Dance-a-Thon

This online fundraising event is similar to your virtual walk-a-thon—the most significant difference being the way participants move around!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Recruit supporters who would like to participate in your virtual dance.
  2. Equip participants with customizable fundraising pages to collect pledged donations to be made upon completion of the event.
  3. Set a date and time for participants to tune in via live stream and do their dances.
  4. Report progress to sponsors and collect donations based on the agreed-upon pledge amounts and dances completed by the participant.

This online fundraising event is a well-loved virtual fundraising event because it offers an excellent opportunity for participants to have some fun and get active from the comfort of their own homes.

14. Online Trivia

Who doesn’t love a good game of trivia? It’s an excellent chance to show off your random bouts of knowledge and impress your peers, and it’s even better when you’re playing to support a good cause!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Encourage individuals or teams to sign up for a night of fun trivia.
  2. Choose your trivia themes and questions ahead of time.
  3. Run your trivia game through live-streaming software, allowing participants to play from home.
  4. Provide a small prize to the winning team or player.

To raise money, you can either have participants pay a small entry fee or encourage teams to fundraise beforehand by taking a peer-to-peer approach. Either way, it’s sure to be an engaging and memorable night for everyone involved!

Best Practices for Online Fundraising Events

Best Practices for Powerful Online Fundraising Events

Now that you have an idea or two in mind, explore these best practices to find out how to make any online fundraising event more fruitful.

Choose event ideas that your audience is interested in.

Because you have so many online fundraising event ideas to choose from, it’s important to decide with your target audience in mind. Online events can range from informal gatherings over video conferencing software to extensive and intricately planned virtual experiences.

To determine what your donors will be most interested in, be sure to look at your previous fundraising data. If you’ve held a fundraising walk-a-thon that raised a ton of money for your organization in recent years, that’s a good idea to transition to the virtual space as an online event. Additionally, you might even send out surveys via email or social media asking supporters which types of online fundraising events they’d be most likely to attend.

Adjust your fundraising event plans for the virtual space.

Whether you’re transitioning an existing event plan to a virtual one or organizing an online fundraising event from scratch, it’s essential to recognize the unique benefits and challenges of the online space. This means that not every traditional fundraising event can be translated directly into a virtual counterpart, but your team must make certain adjustments to ensure success.

For example, a traditional, in-person fundraising auction might span three hours where all bidding must be completed on-site within that time. You can’t do the same thing over Zoom. Why? Because your traditional fundraising event might have held guests’ attention for those three hours, but you’re not likely to do the same thing virtually.

Attendees might participate while working, caring for their children, or completing other daily tasks. Not only does this require you to continuously recapture your audience’s attention (such as with push notifications or real-time text messages), but you should also consider extending the period during which guests can participate. For example, by opening up bidding for an entire week rather than a single night, you can accommodate other timezones and audience schedules, thus increasing both the reach and accessibility of your event.

Accept additional donations on top of ticket sales.

One surefire way to increase revenue collected from your online fundraising events is to provide an easy way to collect donations along with ticket sales. After all, if you choose to go a paid ticketed route, it’s a good idea to keep your prices low to maximize the number of supporters who can attend.

However, many of your donors will feel significantly more generous than the noted ticket price. Ensure that their generosity doesn’t go to waste by providing an easy avenue for giving more right within the event registration page!

Invest in the right online fundraising event tools.

Having the right fundraising tools for your online events is a critical component for ensuring maximized success. We already covered the importance of accepting additional donations to your fundraising events, so be sure to find a solution that offers that functionality. Plus, you’ll want to look for a comprehensive event planning and management solution that prioritizes user experience both for your team and your end-user—the attendee! Let’s explore your options further.

Online Fundraising Events Software

Online Fundraising Event Software: What You’ll Need

Since online fundraising events are so dependent on technology, it makes sense that you should first invest in the right types of software. Let’s explore what to look for and our top suggestions for software choices.

Online Fundraising Events Software Features

Online Fundraising Event Software Features to Look For

There are many different types of fundraising event software providers available, and the best solution for you will surely depend on what you’re looking to accomplish. However, we suggest prioritizing the following key features:

  • Ticketing and Registration: Online ticketing and registration tools allow you to provide a seamless experience for guests interested in your event and are looking to get signed up. Even for free fundraisers, you’ll want attendees to request tickets so you can get more detailed information and be better prepared for the event.
  • Auction Tools: If you’re hosting an online fundraising auction (whether live or silent), you’ll need to have a suite of powerful auction tools to pull it off. For example, catalog-building tools help you engage your audience and create a powerful event experience. Online and mobile bidding functionalities allow guests to participate from their devices in the comfort of their own homes.
  • Donations: Make sure your event software can also accept donations above and beyond any ticket sales—within the registration page, during the event itself, as well as on a separate online donation page. This way, guests can give to your organization as they see fit, and there will always be an easy way to do it.
  • Data Management: Fundraising events can provide a ton of valuable data points that you can use to improve your overall strategies, but you have to know how to leverage your information. Be sure to look for an online event software with integrated data management capabilities, including ready-made and custom reporting features.

It’s also important to consider the price points for various software packages and providers. Free solutions are great for smaller organizations, but they’re often limited in scope and functionality. That’s why it’s good to look for scalable software that can grow alongside you so you can unlock additional tools and functions as you need them! And while it’s certainly possible to work with piecemeal solutions, we suggest seeking an all-in-one platform that can provide most, if not all of the features above.

Online Fundraising Events Software Providers

Our Favorite Fundraising Event Software Providers

There are so many online fundraising event software solutions available—how can you possibly know which one to choose? That’s why we’ve compiled a list of our favorite providers, each of which fills a different online event-hosting niche.

Snowball – Best All-in-One Online Event Software

Snowball Fundraising is an all-in-one online fundraising platform that can help manage every aspect of online event planning and management—from online donations and ticket sales to comprehensive data analysis.

Here are some other key event features from this solution:

Snowball is our favorite software for online fundraising events.

  • Live fundraising event thermometers and donation trackers
  • Easy-to-use mobile giving tools, including text-to-give and mobile bidding
  • Online event registration complete with ticketing and automated receipts
  • Powerful data collection, management, and analysis for improved insights
  • Virtual auction catalog with an online bidding platform

Even better, many of these features are available with our free Essentials plan, while others can be unlocked for full functionality at an affordable price. 

Lumaverse – Best for Online Fundraising Event Management

Lumaverse is an innovative technology company serving nonprofit organizations of all shapes and sizes. Specifically, they offer a robust CRM solution with comprehensive event planning and management features to help you reach your audience and better engage with attendees.

Here are some of Lumaverse’s key features for online fundraising events:Lumaverse is a great software for managing your online fundraising events.

  • Ticketing and waitlisting
  • Payment processing, including discounts and promos
  • RSVPs and private invitations
  • Automated event reminders

You can get started with Lumaverse’s event software beginning at only $100/month, depending on the number of records you have.

Pathable – Best for Online Fundraising Event Apps

Pathable is a virtual event platform and mobile app provider that provides online event experiences for webinars and conferences.

Here are some of our favorite Pathable features for online fundraising events:Pathable is a great software for online fundraising events.

  • Easily navigable event web portal
  • Real-time behavioral analytics
  • Integrations with popular registration platforms
  • Small group and private video chat rooms
  • White-labeled iOS and Android apps

There are several pricing packages available from Pathable, depending on the number of event attendees you’re expecting and the functionality you’ll require. Small events begin at $15,000, while larger events can cost upwards of $25,000.

Fonteva – Best for Online Salesforce Events

Fonteva Events is a popular management software for events and conferences and is the leading Salesforce events app. That means if your organization already uses Salesforce for donor management, it might be the perfect fundraising event solution for your team.

Here are some standout features from Fonteva Events:Fonteva is a great software for online fundraising events.

  • Event lifecycle management
  • Responsive event microsite builder
  • Advanced registration and attendee management
  • Comprehensive reporting and dashboards

Fonteva’s event management tools begin at $8,400, per year with discounts available for verified nonprofits.

InitLive – Best for Event Volunteer Management

InitLive is a comprehensive staff and volunteer management solution that provides nonprofits and other organizations with innovative management tools to spend more time pursuing their mission and less time managing their team. When it comes to pulling off successful online fundraising events, this is more important than ever.

Here are some of our favorite event team management tools from InitLive:InitLive is a great software for online fundraising events.

  • Staff and volunteer recruitment
  • Efficient data management
  • Simplified scheduling and communication
  • Event day mobile app

You can get started with InitLive’s volunteer and staff management solution beginning at only $48 per event!

If your organization has never hosted an online fundraising event, now is the time to do so. By leveraging this list of ideas, tips, and software solutions, you’re already off to a great start. Now grab your team, start brainstorming, and you’ll be raising money for your mission in no time. Best of luck!

For more information on strategic nonprofit fundraising, be sure to check out our other informational resources:

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