Virtual Fundraising in the Time of Social Distancing

Virtual fundraising is the new norm for nonprofit organizations. Beyond merely converting in-person events to virtual ones, nonprofits must consider how to create engaging, transformative experiences. 

Here are a few ideas to consider as you explore virtual and hybrid fundraising: 

1. Telethon


  • Convert your in-person live auction and/or raffle into a fun virtual telethon event.
  • Encourage healthy members of your leadership and board to host the event.
  • Select an engaging theme that will translate into your set, host’s apparel, graphics, and marketing and communications.
  • Release live auction items within separate time slots or days, so donors can take part throughout the event regardless of their schedules.
  • Conduct mini-events throughout the telethon to encourage audience participation.
    • Donate $X amount of money to watch the CEO sing karaoke.
    • Live cooking events that coordinate with your theme - use hand sanitizer, wash your hands, and wipe off microphones to set a good example.


  • Utilize YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or another live platform to stream the event.
  • Encourage donors to live chat throughout the event to encourage participation and interaction.


  • Email your constituents and donors using language such as “Make history with our organization!” and “This is a first for us!” This instills a sense of urgency, and the donors will feel as if they are a part of something larger than themselves.
  • Remind donors the impact that canceling the in-person event would have on your organization’s programs and mission.
  • Include teasers on social media and within emails about live auction items to generate excitement and interest.

*check out this blog post for more details

2. Create special fund event pages

  • Create a special fund in light of COVID-19 for individuals to contribute.
  • Email constituents with information regarding your efforts to contribute to the cause and work within your communities.
  • Consider supporting your constituents especially affected by COVID-19 and their families.

3. Paint-for-a-Cause

If your organization had to cancel any ‘thon’ events consider this at-home version.

  • Each donor selects a piece of furniture in his or her home to paint.
  • Encourage these donors to invite friends, family, peers, and neighbors to contribute to your cause.
  • For each piece of furniture painted, donors will contribute $25.
  • Encourage donors to take before and after videos or pictures. Post them on your website and use a coordinated hashtag.

4. Karaoke-a-Cure

  • Encourage donors to post on social media asking their followers to choose their karaoke song. 🎤
  • Donors film themselves singing the selected song and post it on social media.
  • Followers then contribute $10, $20, $50… via a donation page such as Give Now.
  • If singing isn't their forte, donors can attempt a popular dance such as the Moonwalk or the Carlton. Here is a list of eight iconic dance moves. 💃

5. Peloton Ride-a-Thon

  • Donors ask family and friends to contribute X number of dollars per mile or X number of dollars per minute ridden.
  • Riders then dare friends, family, and other riders to ride for longer time intervals.
  • Encourage riders to FaceTime their family and friends during a portion of the ride to cheer them on!
  • If a donor does not have a Peloton, consider encouraging him or her to walk (no need for a large group) and track their miles or steps walked on a FitBit or Apple Watch with a call to action to give $10, $20, $50, $100, per 1,000 steps walked. Create a Spotify playlist that walkers can listen to during their walk or run.

Both the Epilepsy Foundation of America and Water Mission quickly converted their in-person walks into virtual ones . 

6. Host a virtual garage sale

Many individuals may take this opportunity at home to conduct some spring cleaning. This is the perfect opportunity for donors to sell their unwanted goods to support their favorite charities.

  • Encourage donors to connect with neighbors via Nextdoor or their Facebook neighborhood group
  • Donors post unwanted goods with their recommended amount to contribute to their charity of choice.
  • Artists can also create special pieces of art to auction off for your cause and post it to Nextdoor or Facebook Marketplace.

7. Pair donor’s quarantine activities with a donation

Many of your donors are currently spending more time at home, passing the time reading books, playing video games, exercising, among other indoor activities. Encourage your donors to add a donation component to their activities. Donors can set a goal to read a set number of books during quarantine, and request donations from their friends and family to support their favorite cause.

If donors prefer to play video games, they can set a goal to play a video game marathon in support of their favorite cause. Check out Extra Life for ideas.

8. Donate your Day

Ask donors to donate their birthday, anniversary, bridal shower, or other special event to charity. Many celebrations may be canceled or postponed due to COVID-19 but that doesn’t mean that donors’ celebration days can’t be made special by contributing to your cause. 

In our upcoming product roadmap, we offer organizations the opportunity to offer DIY campaigns to donors with Give with Friends.

9. Don’t forget about AmazonSmile!

As donors stick close to home, they will purchase from online vendors. Remind your donors to contribute to your cause through AmazonSmile.  Amazon will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to your organization. 

Instructions to provide donors:

1. Navigate to 

2. Log in using your Amazon ID and password. 

3. Select your charity from the list. 

4. Shop! 

10. Host Virtual Workshops

Many donors and patrons are eager to learn new skills and connect with others as a distraction from fear or anxiety related to the pandemic. Consider hosting a virtual workshop for your donors or members. Some examples include:

  • Informational talks with experts
  • Painting, knitting, or craft-making classes. (Ship materials to students at an additional price).
  • Meditations - Invite local quartets or other musical acts to perform in the background.
  • Concerts
  • Exercise classes 
  • Film screenings

Your teams have spent months or even years planning your in-person gatherings; canceling or postponing these events may seem devastating. However there are some upsides:

  1. Although you may generate less revenue, you also spend less which leads to greater profits. 
  2. Attendees from across the country or even globe can attend, broadening your exposure and donor base. 
  3. Individuals with physical disabilities can easily attend; this expands your impact and improves livelihoods. 

Check out these additional links for more ideas:

In these trying times, we’re reminded of how important the nonprofit community is as they support those most vulnerable. Please reach out to us if we can assist you or your team in any way.

Posted by Kelly Perry

Kelly Perry is a Senior Digital Marketing Manager, Nonprofit Solutions at StratusLIVE. She has over ten years marketing and communications experience within nonprofit technology and the publishing industries.