Nonprofits have a stable of standard fundraising gambits that have served them for decades. Gala dinners, live charity auctions, entertainment events, and other in-person celebrations have always performed well, offering donors an evening of value in exchange for their new or renewing support. Unfortunately, these mainstays were out of the question last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, this continues to be true.
To hit their nonprofit fundraising goals, charities have switched to online events to bring donors together — but success requires a fair bit of creativity. Here are a few ideas that charitable organizations and other nonprofits can use to liven up their online efforts.
HOST A LECTURE, CLASS, OR EXPERT PANEL DISCUSSION
Nonprofit fundraising doesn’t have to focus on entertainment. Events intended to expand your donor’s horizons are also a great option. Using Zoom, GoToMeeting, or some other webinar software, you could host an informative lecture focused on a topic important to your cause. Sell tickets to attend the event and use the platform to inform donors about the importance of further donations.
Find an expert that’s willing to contribute their time and help them structure a talk that makes a difference in your donors’ lives. A panel discussion is also a great way to generate interest, particularly if the participants are notable. Alternatively, you could have someone teach a class or otherwise share useful information. Consider asking existing donors what might interest them beforehand.
SET UP AN ONLINE CHARITY AUCTION
There are several services available that simplify hosting an online charity auction. Nonprofits no longer need to do the heavy lifting themselves. Providers like OneCause, Handbid, and Snowball Fundraising offer nonprofit fundraising organizations reliable platforms for creating fun, profitable online auctions.
Most services let you host auctions on your site and give donors both desktop and mobile access to live and silent style events. These services help you customize your auctions to fit your needs, take care of the payment processing, and offer robust analytics to inform future fundraising efforts.
CREATE AN ONLINE BRACKET COMPETITION
Brackets are frequently used in the sports world, but you can adapt the concept to any competition. Choose thematic matchups for your nonprofit, and promote the challenge as a way to drive interest and donations.
A charity that feeds the needy might pit popular food items against each other to see which is everyone’s favorite. A political action committee could create a virtual competition between local politicians to see which comes out victorious. Provide a method for supporters to vote in each bracket, and use those moments as opportunities to explain your work and ask for donations.
HOST A VIRTUAL KARAOKE COMPETITION
Who doesn’t love singing karaoke or watching others sing? It doesn’t matter how good you are. It just matters that you put your heart and soul into your performance and have fun with it.
Enterprising nonprofit fundraising ventures could include an online karaoke competition. Participants get to pick their songs and record themselves singing along at home. Once they’ve posted with performances to YouTube or Vimeo, donors can gather on a Zoom call to watch and rate each singer. The winner takes home a small prize, and the nonprofit keeps the difference.
KICKSTART A FUN PROJECT TO CHAMPION YOUR CAUSE
Kickstarter and Indiegogo are both excellent platforms for raising money for creative ventures. Why not put that muscle to work for your nonprofit? Sure, you could create a GoFundMe campaign, but Kickstarter accomplishes the same thing and gives donors an interesting project to follow to completion.
You might kickstart some sort of creative art installation, a thematic children’s book, fun calendar, or documentary film — the sky’s the limit. Your goal is to create something meaningful for your cause and allow people to support it, and by extension, you.
You can use stretch goals to add value to your campaign and prompt more generous support. In the end, your supporters will have something tangible, beautiful, and functional to show for their support, and your nonprofit fundraising efforts will show a profit.
CREATE A VIRTUAL RACE
Events like “Race for the Cure” turn exercise into an exciting fundraising experience, but the pandemic makes large-scale, in-person races impossible. So sponsor a virtual race instead. GPS technology allows people all over the world to race against each other in real-time. With RaceRunner, you can create a virtual race, set a distance, start time, and let people join in. Participants can raise money for their effort just as they would for an in-person race.
Come race day, the app makes certain everyone starts running simultaneously and tracks each participant’s progress, giving live updates for every racer’s position. Whether you’re looking to sponsor a 5K or a marathon, people can participate from the safety of their own roads and compete with people all over the world.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE
For a while, it seemed there was a new viral social media challenge every week. Most everyone is probably familiar with the ALS ice bucket challenge. The phenomenon tasked participants with dumping a bucket of ice water on themselves and posting the result on social media. This arguably silly challenge took fire and generated a significant windfall for ALS research.
Other nonprofit fundraising efforts can take a page from the ALS playbook. The trick is to find well-connected online influencers to take up your challenge and promote it to their followers. Those they challenge will perform the task, contribute, and then challenge others. People around the world will soon be breaking a dozen eggs on their head, eating a whole lemon, or dying their hair purple in a good-natured effort to support your organization.
TALK TO YOUR DONORS PERSONALLY WITH A HANDWRITTEN LETTER CAMPAIGN
On their own, or as an adjunct to an existing campaign, handwritten notes let you reach out with a personal message for supporters or prospects. Handwritten letters humanize your nonprofit fundraising efforts and provide a tangible reminder to donate.
Simply Noted’s handwriting machines can create any number of handwritten communications using real ballpoint pens. Your recipients might assume you had volunteers write out thousands of cards by hand, but all it takes is a list of addresses and a fundraising message. We take care of the rest.
There are mailers, and then there are handwritten mailers. The first will likely wind up in the trash. Handwritten mailers get open, read, and can significantly increase the likelihood of a contribution. Try harnessing the power of Simply Noted for your next fundraising effort.