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  • Writer's pictureEmily Latimer

What I See Working: Virtual Fundraising

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

It's beginning to sink in that we're going to be here for a while.

At first, there was the panic - scrambles, hoarding, never ending scrolling. Then there was survival - layoffs, cancellations, trying to band aid together temporary solutions. Now, it seems like we are slowly creeping into adapting, recognizing that as much as we hate it, we can't just survive - we have to adjust.

I listened to a great Qgiv webinar on virtual fundraising to help a client create a new giving experience, and since then, have been on the lookout for what I see working (as a note, while most webinars are not as helpful as their titles suggest they will be- this one is). I am not a fundraiser or by any means a voice of expertise on fundraising, and the list below is not exhaustive. I just enjoy good ideas and noticing things that seem to work.

Here's what I see working with virtual fundraising:

1) Start with something that solves a current problem

People are at home and both bored and overloaded. Kids are not in school. Everything feels exhausting. We're all dealing with ups and downs in motivation. We're all eating more than we probably should. We're all separated from "normal" - hangouts with friends and family, activities, connection, fun.

The solution? Give people something to do that solves their problem. Challenge people to do a workout. Provide an outlet for virtual entertainment - think silent disco, virtual recital, trivia night, cooking show. How can you give people something to do that they actually want to do, and are having a hard time doing on their own?

2) Charge a small fee to participate

This isn't the time for $250 gala tickets. Or maybe it is, but not for the people I know. At the same time, many people still have that $5 latte money they're not spending every day, they're eating every meal at home, and they may still have a paycheck (though for 40% of people in Hawaii, this is not the case. Keep that in mind to consider offering other participation options for people who can't pay right now). Especially for the people who already know and love you, they want a way to support you. Give them a chance to pay a $5 (or $10) entry fee to connect with your experience (like AccesSurf's May Move Challenge), rather than automatically assuming that people can't or won't give.

3) Create ways for people to support you from the couch

Find ways for people outside your bubble to support you, and keep it simple. If you create an at home challenge, offer an easy way for people to "cheer" your participants on or give them a "virtual medal." This probably won't work forever, but right now, it's still novel. Offer a $5 donation to vote in the people's choice contest or give a virtual high five, a $1 per minute peer to peer ask (for example, Special Olympics Hawaii's $ per sit up challenge), or another way your extended network can easily give to participate.

4) Offer the absolute easiest ways to contribute

If you're like me, your screen time is out of control. Meet people where they are - social media, email, on their phones. Wallets aren't automatically in our back pockets like they used to be - if you can find ways for people to e-pay, even better. Instagram's new "Donate" stories sticker is a great example. Make it extremely easy to give.

5) Expand your impact with sponsorship

If possible, find a sponsor to match donations to amplify your impact. A great example is Make a Wish Hawaii partnering with Domino's Hawaii to match individual donations to its Virtual Talent Show fundraiser. If not, use your fundraiser as a way to recognize sponsors who may have already committed funds to your cause but lost the opportunity to market at your event because of shutdowns. It's a great way to let them know you value their support!

Shameless client pitch:

Check out AccesSurf's May Move Challenge at

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