Apr 24, 2021

15 Virtual Fundraising Campaign Ideas for the Coronavirus Lockdown

University of Connecticut's mobile messaging campaign for COVID-10 relief

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a massive shift in the day-to-day operations of nonprofits across the country. You’re likely wondering how your nonprofit is going to continue fundraising for your mission during this uncertain time. If your mission isn’t directly related to coronavirus, it may be tricky convincing donors your cause still needs funds right now. Supporters are likely stressed enough as it is, but don’t be discouraged. Many GiveSmart customers have either launched a campaign in response to the pandemic or adapted their existing campaign strategy. Here are ten campaigns nonprofits are currently running that you can incorporate into your fundraising strategy.

15 Virtual Fundraising Campaign Ideas

Education Foundation of Palm Beach County's device drive for students during COVID-19 pandemic

1. Device Drive

If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic as a society, it’s that technology and internet access is essential to our everyday life. If you work for a University or K-12, some of your students won’t have access to remote learning. Allow supporters to donate their used equipment or submit donations online.

United Way of Anchorage's tweet for their COVID-19 response fund

2. Donations (Specific to COVID-19 Victims)

If you’re in the human services sector, chances are your beneficiaries need your help now more than ever. Your regular services, such as food drives or housing, are essential right now, as many Americans are being furloughed or laid off. Starting a fundraising campaign specific to COVID-19 relief will allow you to appeal to supporters who are likely grieving their own loss as well.

United Way of Greater Rochester virtual happy hour registration page

3. Digital Happy Hour

Many nonprofits offer a free digital happy hour to support local food and beverage workers displaced by COVID-19. Attendees learn how to make cocktails from home while texting in donations and questions about workers in need.

Christ Community Health Services used mobile messaging to sign up individuals for COVID-19 testing

4. Drive-Through Testing

Nonprofits that provide free or low-cost healthcare to low-income individuals are offering drive-through coronavirus testing. Those who believe they may have contracted COVID-19 can register for testing without having to visit a hospital.

Trulight Ministries held a virtual pajama ball to raise funds to create awareness to end child abuse

5. Pajama Ball / Virtual Gala / Etc.

There’s no reason to cancel your upcoming gala, luncheon, or other formal events simply because you can’t meet with supporters in person. With Facebook and YouTube Live, you have the ability to broadcast your event to “attendees.” Incorporate a live Q&A session so attendees can participate by texting in their questions to guest speakers. Participants can watch your presentation from the comfort of their homes, without needing to get dressed up and drive across town. One upside to a virtual gala, your organization saves money on overhead costs.

North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University's emergency gund to help students travel back home during COVID-19 outbreak

6. Travel Funds

As universities begin holding classes online, students were forced out of on-campus housing. Some universities are even raising donations to provide funds for students to travel back home.

Christian Broadcasting Network issued a free fact sheet: Coronavirus: What you need to know

7. COVID-19 Information

If your nonprofit is in the religious or education sector, your supporters may be looking to you as a reliable source of information. Provide supporters with a free fact sheet or a blog post.

Guadalupe Hope Society's registration page for their virtual run/walk for babies

8. Virtual Run/Walk

If you had an athletic event scheduled you can always convert that event into a virtual one. Have participants pledge a specific amount of miles they plan to run or walk on their own.

An automated mobile message from the Salvation Army offering support

9. Emotional Support

One of the easiest ways to help your supporters is by being there for them. Elderly individuals especially may be isolated from friends and family. Nonprofits are dedicating an hour of the day to prayer or offering free phone-in services for those alone in quarantine.

Youth in Arts offered a free live-stream virtual art class

10. Guided Learning

With schools out of session, many parents are struggling to balance their children’s education and their own jobs. Some organizations are offering virtual guided learning sessions for free.

Mill Village Farm's Culinary Concert was fully virtual and consisted of musical performances

11. Live Streamed Concert

Unfortunately for music lovers, we will not see a return of traditional concerts or music festivals for quite some time. Luckily musicians around the world are taking matters into their own hands and offering performances to benefit virtual fundraisers. Even if you can’t book a household name, people still yearn for any live music from local bands, vocalists, DJs, violinists, rappers, and everything in between.

American Conservatory Theatre Spring Forward event had life performances displayed on an event page

12. Theatrical Performances

If your nonprofit organization is a part of the performing arts, then this virtual fundraising event idea is a no-brainer. You can accompany your virtual event with any of the amenities a normal performance would otherwise have, such as hors d’oeuvres, dinner, drinks, or intermissions. Consider selling virtual tickets or asking for contributions before individuals are allowed to register.

Great River School's Blue Heron Bash consisted of an at home scavenger hunt for their students

13. Scavenger Hunt

If you work for a K-12 or pre-kindergarten, you know students are being socially strained by learning from home. A virtual scavenger hunt is a great way to stimulate students and win over parents. If you are unable to connect students via a group video meeting, you can always pre-record segments with staff members, then launch them to create a sense of anticipation as you reveal clues or answers.

Lions, Tigers, and Bears offered virtual meet and greets with their animals for supporters

14. Meet & Greets

If your nonprofit normally offers supporters an opportunity to meet beneficiaries in person, but no longer can with social distancing guidelines, offer a virtual meet and greet. Nonprofits can ask supporters to make a donation or purchase a ticket in order to receive a virtual conference meeting link. Zoos, aquariums, or wildlife preserves can have staff feed animals or offer informational sessions on camera.

The Chicago Field Museum held behind the scenes, virtual tours with Chicago Mayor Lightfoot

15. Tours

Many higher education organizations, museums, and botanical gardens are no longer able to offer walking tours. Allow supporters the opportunity to virtually see your facility behind the scenes with an expert. You can even use this as an opportunity to reach supporters outside your city or state with popular hashtags like #museumathome or #museumfromhome.

If you had a fundraising campaign scheduled during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely you’ll need to adjust your fundraising message. Consider how your beneficiaries have been impacted by the pandemic and how you can support them while still staying sensitive to current developments. These are just a few ways your nonprofit can wish supporters well during this trying time while still continuing your good work.

Stay safe, healthy and best of luck with your campaigns!

Request a Demo

Our goal at GiveSmart is to help nonprofit organizations create and manage successful digital fundraising campaigns, raise more money and retain donors longer. Request a free demo with one of our fundraising experts to learn, step by step, how GiveSmart can simply help set up your campaigns while transforming your results.


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We needed a platform to make sales online and to track and display ads for our sponsors. GiveSmart was perfect. We ended up making close to $15,000 more than we had hoped for. Definite better ROI than we anticipated. The interface is easy to use and provides plenty of options to get help if needed.

Michelle M.

The Rotary Club of South Whidbey Island

Using GS has created ease in auction bookkeeping, payments, and generating post-event thank you/tax letters. While we were online during COVID, our interactions with our GiveSmart via phone, email, and zoom were seamless. A representative always got back to us within the day. I would recommend GiveSmart to anyone doing a large online event.

Julie G.

MicroFinancing Partners in Africa

GiveSmart is highly flexible - you can use it for [a] simple registration and check-in, to full-scale galas with complex order forms, onsite upsells, live auctions, seating management, and more.

Jamie F.

Hope Chest for Breast Cancer

GiveSmart is easy to use and ideal for virtual events and can be used for in-person events to manage the silent auction, seating charts, and check-in to the event. Being able to use the platform for unlimited events within the contract year is very useful and being able to add other users and volunteers for different levels of access is helpful as well.

Dawn L.

Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County