Recording a virtual event video on a smartphone

How to Fundraise Virtually, Get More Attendees, and More Money

Virtual fundraisers aren’t just an alternative to live events, but they can be even more effective than in-person fundraisers, not to mention easier to organize and much more lucrative. Check out our fool-proof guide on how to transition your fundraising event online to provide the biggest impact for your organization and donors, and most importantly, your beneficiaries. 

Related: 7 Mind-Blowing Virtual Events and Why They’re Successful

What Is a Virtual Fundraiser?

A virtual fundraiser is a live-streaming event hosted by charitable individuals or organizations to raise money for a specific cause. Online fundraising events offer a shared space for donors to come together and show their support but in a digital vs. live setting. Imagine the possibilities with endless seats at your charitable auction; no longer are you bound by venue seating or manageable crowd size.

Utilizing technologies like streaming video, live chat and polling, and everything in-between, you can reinvent any engagement imaginable. From online auctions and raffles to virtual walk-a-thons and annual galas, online events are unlocking the untapped potential of digital fundraising to boost attendance, engagement, and donations dollars.

5 Steps to Your Virtual Fundraiser

 If you’ve planned live events in the past, you’ll be pleased to know that virtual fundraisers are less labor-intensive— mainly because you can avoid dealing with the logistics that come with planning in-person events.

In many ways, you will approach your virtual fundraiser like you would any other event- by establishing your goals, assigning your team, mapping out your strategy, and setting your plan in motion. 

Step 1: What Kind of Fundraiser Do You Want to Have?

First, you need to decide what type of fundraiser will work best for your virtual event. Do you want a format that mirrors the energy and scale of your previous events? Or do you want to simplify or try something completely different?  Instead of hosting a one-night virtual fundraiser, you could stretch your online campaign over a week, featuring guest speakers, testimonials videos, online raffles, and a special virtual gala to conclude. Consider your audience, fundraising goals, and operational bandwidth, and you’ll discover there’s a fundraiser option and virtual event platform that will bring your vision to life.

Step 2: Set a Fundraising Goal

Like any event, you want to establish how much money you hope to raise. Remember that raising money for your virtual event will have a greater reach being online and not as daunting as you may think. That said, you will most likely need to adjust your ticket price in accordance with its perceived value. In other words, people might not be willing to pay the same $150 they previously spent on a night of dinner, drinks, and live entertainment. However, you can find other creative avenues for soliciting donations that can make up the difference and even exceed your initial goals. 

Step 3: Create Event Framework

Once you’ve decided what kind of virtual event you’re having, it’s time to lay out your timeline. To establish a realistic timeline, a good rule of thumb is to count backward from your event date to determine the number of months you have to plan. Give yourself a minimum of 3 months to plan for larger events.

A skeleton timeline might look like this: 

16 weeks:

  • Choose event theme, format & platform 
  • Identify team & contractor roles
  • Create speaker/entertainer lists
  • Create moderator roles in relation to the size of the audience you want
  • Create sponsor levels with media support packages
  • Initiate marketing outreach with save-the-date info.
  • Identify your virtual event production partner.

12 weeks:

  • Sell sponsorship packages
  • Collect logos, photos, and other resources for event & promotion 
  • Incorporate event teasers into marketing (prizes, speaker reveals, etc.)
  • Start your promotional plan and invite guests as well as publicize the event.

8 weeks:

  • Solidify presenters & moderators 
  • Solidify agenda, breakout rooms, and moderation
  • Create attendee engagement strategy

Final 4 weeks:

  • Solidify content and engagement plan for virtual attendees
  • Mail engagement kits to attendees with items from your sponsors
  • Assign internal communication roles & flow for event day
  • Continue marketing across communication channels

Step 4: Publicize Your Event

With virtual fundraisers, you can promote your event to a vastly wider audience, but you still need to implement your strategy as early as possible. Start with notifying your guest lists from previous events and then broaden your campaign to reach all of your social media channels. Include your event hashtag and relevant links to register and donate directly. 

Step 5: Do a Practice Run

NOTE, the importance of doing a complete rehearsal from beginning to end is often overlooked…don’t fall victim to this. Test-run your event all the way through with all your virtual event production partners. We also highly recommend creating a tech issue chat room- with a dedicated team member at the ready- where people can go to get help with any issues that might come up.

Related: How to Keep Virtual Event Engagement

Best Practices for Your Virtual Fundraiser

People connecting virtually

Follow these insider tips to make your next virtual event as innovative and memorable as it is successful.

Consider the Atmosphere

Although you don’t need to stress overelaborate centerpieces, you still need to set up your lighting, background design, and setting to create a festive, tasteful visual experience for your guests.  This is where a professional event production can also do the heavy lifting and enable you to focus on your priority of increasing awareness and attendance for your fundraising event.

Stay Focused

Don’t let the new platform detract from your mission. If you focus on communicating your story and sharing your passion, your donors will be inspired to support you regardless of being in the same physical space. 

Create Interactive Opportunities

Virtual events don’t present the same opportunities for casual mingling as live fundraisers, so you’ll need to find creative ways to inspire engagement. Incorporate live polls, trivia, and gaming to inspire interactions and some friendly competition. 


Keep the momentum going post-event with the usual follow-up steps, adding a few virtual adjustments:

  • Send your event recording to all invitees 
  • Send thank you message and event survey to all participants
  • Share fundraising results and event highlights on social media

Cool Ideas for Virtual Fundraising

Nonprofits have indeed risen to the occasion, finding innovative ways to make virtual fundraising more engaging and easier to manage than pre-pandemic events. Here are a few of our favorites!

Check out Van Wagner’s featured event productions!

Online Auction

Auctioning off your gently used possessions online is an easy way to raise money for a cause you love. There are several sites that host virtual auction events, allowing you to list your items, manage attendees, and monitor mobile bids. Don’t forget to promote your cause ahead of time so bidders are inspired to go all in!

Virtual Game Night

Casino-themed charity events are always a fun way to raise funds and have generated huge revenue power over recent years. One option is to live stream yourself playing a trending game on your own Twitch channel. Or, you can set up an online tournament between your members, charge a donation entry fee and offer a prize for the winner. 

Virtual Class/Workshop

Share your hobbies or unique talents to benefit others as well as your favorite non-profit. Stage a virtual classroom on a streaming platform to teach anything from card tricks to dog grooming techniques. People will be excited to learn something new, knowing they are donating to a good cause at the same time. 

Donation Matching

Gift Matching is a great way to build excitement by giving donors a limited time to step up and make their dollars double. This is especially effective at the end of the evening or when donations or bid entries start to slow down. Remember, donation matching is a great branding opportunity for business, so don’t be afraid to go big!

Social Media Campaign

: Signing in to Instagram  to promote virtual fundraiser

Including social media in your marketing strategy is non-negotiable if you want to maximize attendance for your event. Eye-catching images and compelling stories are the most effective way to communicate your mission. Add direct links and “donate” stickers to your Instagram stories to make it easy for followers to register or make direct donations. 

Now You’re Ready for Your Virtual Fundraising Event

Virtual fundraising has become a surprising and welcomed new strategy for organizational and individual change-makers to rally support for their cause. Use these strategies to plan your next online event and join the countless others who are changing the world for the better with less stress and more success. 

Do you want to wow your attendees at your virtual fundraiser? We can help—Get in touch with the Van Wagner team to develop the best presentation and strategies to achieve your fundraising goals!Related: 2021 Event Planning and Virtual Event Innovation

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