How to Run a Virtual Fundraiser

Tips and tricks on how to run a successful virtual fundraiser. Virtual events have significantly lower overhead than in-person events, so you’ll get to keep more of the money you raise. Make sure you account for this when you’re setting a fundraising goal.

Types of virtual events for non-profits

The 2020 coronavirus pandemic has many organizations looking for alternatives for an in-person fundraisers to keep funds flowing for their campaigns. There are two types of campaigns.

  • Open Fundraiser (public): Use Zoom, Skype or other conferencing software for public meetings to discuss updates and asks with volunteers and others that support your organization. This can be broadcasted to YouTube, Facebook, and Vimeo.
  • Closed Fundraiser (private): Use Zoom or Skype in combination of a broadcasting platform for invite only fundraisers to give your donor’s a private space to discuss updates about the state of the campaign. This can broadcasted to private YouTube or Vimeo platforms or embedded in an invite only password protected website managed by your organization.

Do you want to transfer as much of your traditional event to an online format, or try something completely new?

There are many possibilities for your virtual fundraising event, including:

  • A live-streamed speech and program
  • A video conference presentation with questions and answers
  • A video conference trivia game or challenge
  • A virtual run or walk, where participants track their solo miles and minutes while raising funds like a traditional walk-a-thon (they can even stream their walk to inspire others)

This guide is primarily written for using video conferencing software with a broadcasting platform like OBS or Ecamm Live.

Virtual fundraising benefits

Why is virtual fundraising so important?

  • Offers a simplified donation process for donors. By offering a quick and easy donation process, funds can take the simplest route from a donor’s wallet to your bank account. Additionally, the easier the donation process, more money for your organization.
  • Safe and sound from home. With the rise of social distancing, but even just considering the sheer convenience, this is a huge benefit for donors— and, as a result, nonprofits. And when you make your virtual fundraising campaigns mobile-friendly, you can further increase the accessibility and spread of your fundraisers.
  • Makes use of common tools in the digital age. It’s 2020 and nearly 95% of Americans are described as internet users. That means, to fundraise most effectively you have to meet your audience where they are— online. Organizations without a strong online presence can even be seen as out-dated or out-of-touch, and potential supporters will likely be drawn to more modern organizations instead. Make your fundraising easily available to all by making use of common digital tools.
  • Allows for more flexible payment options. Instead of being limited to written checks or cash payments, virtual fundraisers expand payment opportunities to include debit/credit cards, electronic checks, and even newer tools like Apple or Google Pay. Again, the easier it is to give, the more people will do it!

Click here to see the benefits

Choose a platform

If you want to keep your fundraiser private, you can just use Zoom and be sure to use a meeting password. Some conferencing platforms allow you to broadcast to Facebook, or YouTube which you can then embed onto your website.

However, if you want to add more dynamic elements such as video slideshows, animated titles, and music, you’ll need to use a streaming platform that can integrate with your conferencing software.

If you don’t have a background in video production or live streaming, this can be a daunting task since it takes knowledge about video, lighting, audio, composition and technical expertise in several software packages! This is where you might want to consider a technical director.

Ecamm Live Streaming Platform
FeaturesZoom FreeZoom ProZoom Pro + WebinarSkype
Fee$0$5 per month$55 per month$0
Time Limit40 Minutes24 hours24 hours24 hours
AttendeesMore than 3 imposes a time limitUp to 100Up to 100Up to 50
QuestionsChatChatChat, Q&A, PollsChat
RecordingYes - LocalYesYesYes
Broadcast to FacebookNoYesYesNo
Broadcast to YouTubeNoYesYesNo
  • Promote in advance
  • Optimize for mobile
  • Invest in software
  • Hire a professional
  • Setup recurring donations
  • Have a well designed donation page
  • Encourage social sharing

Best Practices for Virtual Fundraising

    • Start promoting events long beforehand. Depending on the size and scope of your event, it’s a good idea to start promoting several weeks— or even months— ahead of time. This way you can pique community interest and maintain continuous updates as the date approaches.
    • Make sure all virtual campaigns are optimized for mobile. Did you know that over 50% of total internet traffic comes from mobile devices? That means it’s crucial that you ensure the mobile-friendliness of any virtual fundraising campaign you run, lest you miss out on a significant chunk of potential revenue.
    • Invest in the right virtual fundraising software. Though you might be wary of the upfront costs associated with fundraising software, it’s important to have a solid foundation to build your campaign from.
    • Hire a professional. A live stream represents your company’s brand to the world. Because of that, it’s usually in your best interest to hire a professional production company. Though live streams may seem very simple, they’re actually one of the most complex types of production to complete. Not only can many things go wrong, but the format isn’t very forgiving; when things do go wrong, you have a limited amount of time to fix them.
    • Allow for streamlined recurring donation setup. Encouraging recurring donations is the easiest way to boost your donor retention rates and maintain a stable stream of revenue throughout the year. This way, you can save the time and resources you may have spent on constantly soliciting new donors. You might be surprised at how many donors will opt for a recurring gift when it’s as easy as clicking a button.
    • Have a well-designed donation page as your foundation. There’s a lot of thought that goes into crafting the perfect donation page and maximize donations. While a positive user experience, design, and content are essential, the main purpose behind a donation page is to boost conversions —which, in this case, is donations.
    • Encourage supporters to share your campaign. This is how you can reach new supporters and get the word out. When your current network interacts with and spreads your campaign materials, they help you reach new donors with similar interests and values. It can be as simple as hitting the “share” button on Facebook!

Live Streaming is Our Focus

Planning and Execution of a Virtual Fundraiser

4-6 Weeks Before the Event:

  • Choose a date and time for the event

3-4 Weeks Before:

  • Find hosts who are willing to send around the link to friends and neighbors who might be interested in attending a remote fundraiser. Give them a goal: for example, ask each person to invite 20 people. Make sure you find a time that works for all your co-hosts and the campaign to hold the event.

Once any special guests are confirmed and the date and time are finalized, prepare the marketing materials for your fundraiser.

  • Name of your event
  • Description of the fundraiser
  • Date and Time
  • Create a website landing page
  • Images of special guests
  • Share this information on all your Social Media Channels

3 Weeks Out

  • Create a working document with a run of show agenda for your event
  • Have a planning meeting with everyone involved with the fundraiser
  • Prepare the visuals and or presentations
  • Do at least 2 dry runs that should mimic exactly what the live event should play out

1 Week Out

  • Send reminder emails and continue with social media and personal recruitment
  • For people who already donated to the fundraiser, thank them in the email. For supporters who RSVP’d to the campaign but haven’t donated yet, this is a great time to send them the link again to the event page

30 Minutes before the event

  • Ensure all the people involved with hosting the event are logged in early to test the camera and microphone
  • Any moderators should be logged into YouTube and Facebook if you have comments enabled

Prepare content for a Live Stream

Tips and Tricks

Get together with your Organizing Manager to plan your language and approach — we recommend:

  • Working from a script to perfect a direct, concise ask
  • Setting advantageous goals
  • Making the ask after candidate remarks but before Q&A
  • Activate chat during donation time
  • Show a donation bar

How to open the event

  • Give attendees a few minutes to get everything loaded — for example, start at 3 minutes past the hour.
  • Set an agenda at the top of the call to give everyone an idea of what to expect timewise and when they can ask the candidate questions

The ask

  • Take advantage of that you know all the attendees are at their computer and able to fill out the checkout form.
  • Attendees who donated prior to the event: recognize those people, and get reliable supporters to say in the chat or verbally that they donated
  • Attendees who did not donate prior to the event: The staffer should paste the ActBlue link in the chat and use the audio track to call the audience to action — “Go there right now, I know you have your credit card ready”, and encourage attendees to say when they donated.
  • Give donors the option to donate in other ways: sending a check or calling a staffer to give their information over the phone.

After the Event

  • Have language prepared so it’s easy to individually send emails to supporters after the fundraiser. Thank all the participants for joining and be sure to include any upcoming events or information provided during the presentation part of the event.
  • If there was a link/article your candidate mentioned that people responded positively to, considering including it in the email. If there were folks on the call who said they might want to support the campaign further or may have friends who can support, make sure to send them the link to donate again so they have it readily available.
  • Keep notes on donors’ expressed interests and preferences

Virtual fundraising is a strategy that will significantly improve your nonprofit’s operations not only during this time of disruption but going far into the future as well. If your organization has yet to adopt virtual fundraising as a practice, now is the perfect time to do so.

With the right tools, you’ll be able to ensure sustainability, and maybe even growth, in the midst of a pandemic. After all, the world is struggling and your constituents may need you now more than ever!

Here are some additional tips to check out

With some thought and preparation, your livestream can look very professional!

Tips for better streaming videoLook your Best