Making virtual fundraising a reality

20 August 2020

Not being able to meet in real life has put paid too many planned fundraising activities. So could now be the time to go digital and get to grips with virtual fundraising? Perhaps more than ever fundraising is not just about generating funds, it is also about raising awareness for a cause #nevermoreneeded.

Virtual fundraising is an opportunity for organisations to think about how they can diversify and strengthen their fundraising approach. Already growing in popularity, it is no exaggeration to say that there are hundreds of virtual fundraising ideas out there. This blog will highlight some of the different ways you can fundraise virtually, with real life examples for inspiration.

As virtual fundraising has become more popular it means there are already lots of tools, sites and resources to support you. Links are provided at the end of this blog to help you with the technicalities of delivering virtual events, as considerations will be different depending on the type of event or challenge you choose.

Virtual fundraising has many positives

Flexibility – fundraising virtually allows people to participate how, when and where they want – it gives them the flexibility to decide what to do, when and how to raise money.
Engagement – it can also increase the number of people who – through viewing shared and streamed fundraising events, activities and updates online – become aware, involved or engaged with a charity. It is also easier to see, link to and promote online donations.
Delivery – virtual fundraising can save time and be easier, while there are still considerations around aspects such as online safety and public perception, it does remove all the logistics of organising a big in-person event, which can take months to organise, plan and deliver.

Types of virtual fundraising

There are three ways to approach virtual fundraising.

Host a set, timed event that people access through their phones, laptops, tablets etc. Everyone does the same thing at the same time but with the freedom to do so from wherever they choose. Depending on the nature of the event people can either; purchase a ticket, make a donation or be sponsored to take part. Hosted event formats can work well for coffee mornings, auctions, talks, storytelling, tutorials or classes, bake-offs, fancy dress, performances or gigs, movie nights, quizzes or bingo, virtual club nights with shared streamed playlists or videos and prizes for best outfit or funkiest moves! Hosted or set timed events can also work for fitness events, like running or cycling. You could even consider setting up an event so that people can log their progress through a fitness tracking app or website. It doesn’t have to be just running either – you could consider some old school sports day type challenges such as laps of the garden with an egg and spoon or sack racing in pillow cases. Again people can either donate to take part, raise sponsorship or ask people to track them online and donate whilst they are completing an event or challenge.

Open fundraising events or challenges, fitness challenges or events do not however have to be done in one go. You may all decide to start or even finish at the same time, similar to a hosted event, but individuals could complete the challenge over hours, days or even weeks. Which leads into the second way to virtually fundraise, with people doing similar things over a period of time; a day, week or month but choosing when exactly within that time frame to complete their challenge.

The British Heart foundation my marathon has, for a number of years, hosted a ‘run a marathon your way’ event every February to raise funds. The idea being that you run the equivalent of a marathon but over a month. During lockdown on the weekend that the London Marathon was due to be held the idea was that people should do something that involved 2.6. It could be running but it could also be knitting 2.6 meters of bunting or baking and selling 2.6 or 26.2 cakes to raise funds – not sure what happens with the 0.2 of a cake?! The Red Cross have recently launched an online campaign asking people to choose one of a host of different challenges to raise funds for refugees, giving people even more flexibility in what they do.

It does not have to be only fitness activities. The popular monthly ‘stop or start’ events also involve people doing the same thing but in their own way. Perhaps the most well-known is Movember which promotes and raises funds for mens health charities. Cancer research’s Month off March is another event that offers lots of flexibility where people can choose to do one thing together, but again in their own time.

Go your own way, the third way to think about virtual fundraising is to give people complete flexibility; allow them to design their own events or challenges. You’ll also find out what the people who support you like and what they are interested in. A football mad 10 year old girl is raising money to support the NHS and key workers by doing keepy uppies. One that is completely new to me is ‘twitching’ – people donate or pay to watch a streamed video of someone playing an online video game, it can apparently be a real money spinner. The benefit of this type of fundraising is that it allows your supporters to do more of the things that already interest them adapting how and when they do them to raise money.

Planning your event

Decide what to do by getting online and researching to see what others are doing. All of the event ideas listed in this piece are web linked to real life examples for inspiration. Some may be a little aspirational at a smaller local level, but many of the ideas could be scaled down and given a local twist.

You may also want to consider following some dedicated fundraising blogs, not only will you get ideas for what to do but they will also share tips on best practice and safety.

Here are some suggestions to get you started; – they do the hard work for you and have put together a blog which pulls together all the best fundraising news, ideas and inspiration from professional fundraisers across the UK.
Institute of fundraising blog – the go to place for everything fundraising related. They cover important legal, finance or health and safety considerations.
Charity digital – top ten virtual fundraising ideas.
101 fundraising – a crowdsourced blog on fundraising from across the world.
Fundly – a blog focusing on fundraising ideas with a sporty theme.
Mind UK – an overview of different virtual fundraising ideas from a charity’s perspective.
JustGiving – lots of great fundraising blog ideas.

Once you have decided what you want to do, continue planning your virtual event in the same way you would a normal fundraising event. However, virtual fundraising will require careful consideration particularly in relation to your social media and how your event or challenge will be marketed before, during and after your event.

‘Setting up for success’ virtual fundraising 101 this guide from BlackBaud takes you step by step through all the stages of planning and running a virtual event.

Community First Yorkshire have a dedicated marketing resource section on our website that covers using different social media platforms. There is also a dedicated section for fundraising resources.

Further support and information

Please contact, call on 01904 704177 or visit Community First Yorkshire