Arts organizations are just one of the many industries that are being hit hard by the pandemic, but the hope is not lost. There is a path to fundraising and we are seeing more and more organizations find that path. Over the year there have been plenty of examples of galas pivoting to virtual and more live stream events have been run this year than probably the last five years combined. This is due to the resilience and positive attitude of fundraisers. Today we are sharing ways organizations like theatres, orchestras, museums, symphonies, ballets, and other performing arts can and have found pathways to success and have engaged donors in this new normal.

These are 7 ways arts organizations can fundraise virtually:

1 – Create an online or virtual experience that incorporates actors, performers, musicians, etc.
These are your greatest ambassadors and often are your most popular “celebrities”. If they are willing to do a virtual performance or interview session of some sort, turn it into a fundraiser. It is also essential to include them in a virtual gala however you can.

2 – Host a virtual wine tasting or happy hour.


3 – Do a virtual meet-and-greet with the performers.
By engaging patrons virtually and creating an atmosphere for something they would have an interest in, you are able to take the pulse of their willingness to give without putting pressure on them.

4 – Collect patrons fees and membership fees online and in turn offer exclusive sign up parties that can be an upcharge or add-on to their donation.
Membership is likely down, so create a virtual membership that allows donors to have access to special occurrences and unique parties. This is another way to bridge the gap on membership by incorporating unique opportunities for giving NOW versus waiting until next year.

5 – Hold a Peer-to-Peer fundraiser or Voting contest that allows your performers to compete and spread the word.
Contests and P2P fundraisers allow the networks of others to come together to support your cause. You can do this as a stand-alone campaign or as a part of your gala, but make sure you create competition. That is a key element.

6 – Have a virtual dance contest or some other fun engagement campaign.
See how St. Mary’s School pulled this off here.

7 – Set up recurring giving to allow for smaller donations right now that add up over time. This can also act as a membership collection pathway.
Recurring giving allows for smaller donors to give a little each month rather than trying to get a lot out of someone who can’t afford it. This is one way to try and bring a donor back who is struggling or doesn’t see the value.


Here are a few ways your peers are fundraising today:

> Virginia Stage Company holds the Gala Apart to Gather Again (Virtual Gala)
> Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company parties it up –> Virtually
> Virginia Stage Company sells out their virtual wine tasting event this fall
> Wyoming Symphony Orchestra has a blast with their Wine and Dine In event
> New Haven Symphony Orchestra gets creative with their membership fundraising and virtual campaigns

Brandon Stec is the Director of Marketing at GiveSmart and an Indiana University graduate who's worked across sports and tech over the last decade. Brandon has sat on several boards of Nonprofits in Chicago and Kansas City. He resides in Chicago with his wife, son, and dog, Mango, and is a published author.
Brandon Stec