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Virtual Fundraiser for Your Nonprofit: 4 Digital Ways To Raise Money This Month

By Husain Sumra|Wednesday October 7, 2020

Virtual fundraisers for nonprofits are an established way to stay connected with your donors and stakeholders. Online fundraisers align with donor preferences — 54% of donors prefer to give online by debit or credit card, according to Non-Profit Source. To stay connected with changing donor behavior, consider using virtual fundraisers. You will find out how to use Facebook Live, online auctions and other techniques to keep your nonprofit growing, so read on!

Tactics to stay connected with donors: The key platforms and tools to raise money today.

Given the donor preference to donate online, you need to find ways to stand out. In the online world, your nonprofit website is competing for attention against Netflix, news websites, games and many other activities. For those individuals interested in making a purchase or donation online, 81% do their own research before making a decision, according to the Pew Center. To stay connected with people doing their own research, your nonprofit needs to be visible by creating content and organizing online events. To help you do that, consider the following tools and platforms.

  • Stay Connected With Virtual Events. Bring together people from your community using an online tool. For example, there are video conferencing tools like Zoom and Skype. For additional tools to manage a large number of attendees, consider using a webinar service like GoToWebinar or Cisco WebEx. A virtual event could be a live streamed music or cultural performance such as the All In WA event for Washington State organizations or the Chef’s Night 2020 virtual event in Chicago to raise funds for the Center for Enriched Living organized by local chefs. These examples show the merits of organizing an event based on a theme (e.g., cooking) and geographic focus (e.g., Washington State and Chicago). 
  • Online Auction. The Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation launched an online auction in 2020 to raise money for homeless shelters, food banks and other organizations. You can follow this strategy by offering goods and services for auction such as gift certificates to a local restaurant.
  • Facebook Live. Organizing an auction event takes time. If you need to start a virtual event this week, take a look at Facebook Live. You can charge money to access your organization’s Facebook Live feed. For more details on this program, check out Facebook’s guidance: Fundraising with Facebook Live. In 2017, the Sacramento Kings used Facebook Live to raise money for the American Red Cross, so the technology has already been proven. 
  • Fundraising Platforms. Several fundraising platforms make it easy to raise money from your community. At the simplest level, you can add donation buttons with Stripe and PayPal to your website. There are also more sophisticated platforms like A Good Cause and Raisely, which have received multiple positive reviews on Capterra. Capterra is one of the most popular business software websites with more than 1.2 million user reviews. These tools offer integration with social media so you can market your fundraising effort more widely. 
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising. In the past, nonprofit organizations have raised money using sponsored runs and other events. Those strategies are not well suited to following social distancing requirements. Instead, take inspiration from March of Dimes. The organization launched a virtual fundraising event in 2020: the March for Babies Step Up! With this program, participants use the Charity Miles app to participate and raise funds.

Three virtual fundraising ideas: Specific ideas to implement.

Now that you know about the social media tools and ways to hold online fundraising events, let’s get down to practical tips.

1) Hold your auction event online with auction software.

Take inspiration from the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation online auction mentioned above. Give away both traditional goods like original artwork and digital goods like gift cards for iTunes. For donated items over $100, make time to get on the phone with your donors. 

If you anticipate a large number of participants in your virtual auction, keeping up with the activity may become difficult. In that case, consider using online silent auction software like Auction Software (4.8 stars out of 5 on Capterra) and Accelevents (4.8 stars out of 5 on Capterra). These types of tools make it easier to sell tickets and manage the virtual fundraiser process.

If a donor can make a $100 donation, you may be able to enroll them into a monthly donation plan. What if your donor doesn’t answer the phone? Leave an effective voice mail to connect with them.

2) Engage $1,000+ current and past donors with a live streaming event. 

Keeping your donors engaged so they donate repeatedly is becoming more difficult. According to Philanthropy News Digest, “the number of repeat retained donors (existing donors who gave in both 2018 and 2019) fell 2.1 percent,” according to recent research. Every time you lose a donor, it creates more work for your nonprofit. 

However, you might not have the resources to engage all of your donors with virtual events. Therefore, consider focusing your efforts on the donors who account for the majority of your revenue. Philanthropy News Digest reports, “Revenue from donors who gave at least $1,000 … accounted for 84.5 percent of the total [donations].” Therefore, organizing an event aimed at this group makes sense. For example, the New York Philharmonic offers the Leonard Bernstein Circle for donors who donate $25,000 and more each year. This program includes access to open rehearsals, private concerts and VIP services for last-minute requests. If your organization is in the music field, you could offer an exclusive live streamed open rehearsal to engage your donors.  

3) Digital fundraising: Offer networking opportunities to business donors.

What do charity gala events offer to donors? There are several benefits: an enjoyable evening activity, the emotional satisfaction of supporting a cause, and the opportunity to meet new people. You can use the power of virtual events to make those connections possible.

Take inspiration from charities like GLIDE that have used auctions to raise money for charities by offering a lunch with Warren Buffet. The chance to have a lunch conversation with Mr. Buffet has generated millions of dollars in funds for GLIDE. 

You might not have any billionaires on your network. However, you are probably connected with some interesting people your donors would like to meet. Put together a virtual event featuring three to five VIPs and give people the chance to have one-on-one conversations. Use a platform like Zoom, Skype or Google Meet to set up the virtual lunch meeting between your donor and the VIP. 

Plan your first virtual fundraising event in 60 minutes.

You’ve learned a lot about ways to use social media and digital fundraising to raise money. Your next step is to launch an event for your community. You can get your first event planned in an hour. First, take a few minutes to review the online fundraising ideas in this article and pick one you like. Next, brainstorm for 30 minutes about ways to bring this event to life. Once you have those notes organized, email a colleague to discuss when you can schedule the event.

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