Feb 5, 2021

Debunking the myths of virtual fundraising


Don’t you wish you had a crystal ball? Being able to predict the weather. Amazing! Knowing when you can jump back into inperson fundraising. The dream!  

If this year has taught us anything, it’s that we have to plan for different ways to fundraise, no matter what the uncertainty.   Your organization’s mission is critical and is never on pause. Your need to raise more revenue to fund that mission is now more important than ever.  The good news? Virtual fundraising can support you in a big way 

Have you heard some myths about virtual fundraising? Are those myths keeping you from taking the leap to virtual? Let’s do some much needed myth-busting, so that you can really understand what a strategic virtual fundraising plan can do for your organization and those who you serve.  

We won’t raise as much

We hear this all. the. time. Things changed for nonprofits in a big way in 2020. Despite everything (waves hands around wildly), people like you are accomplishing BIG things even in this extended uncertainty and instability.  

Did you know in 2020, many nonprofits still found fundraising success and met their net goals, by digging in and getting creative? If you’re looking at a value that virtual fundraising adds, it’s time. Imagine being able to fundraise over the course of a whole week, instead of one gala night? Maybe you could put some of your typical revenue enhancers on their own day. Do your guests love purchasing your signature cocktail? Try a ticketed, stand alone, mixology class. Do you have a high impact, unique experience that always sells well in your live auction? Try doing a raffle for that same experience with a limited number of tickets.  

We’ve heard time and again, and it’s revealed in the data, virtual fundraising allows for wider reach, increased donor engagement and new potential supporters. In 2020, a higher percentage of guests gave and donors at every level increased.  Don’t leave money on the table. Donors are ready and willing to give. We’re all spending more time online, so why not give donors the option of additional virtual offerings? You can achieve your fundraising goal by being more creative as well as expanding your reach. 

People have screen fatigue (so they won’t participate)

Who doesn’t? After a week of Zooming, why would someone spend more time at the screen? You might believe the last thing your donors want is to be on screen again for a fundraiser.  

We understand that concern, but who says your audience needs to be on video? You can have an engaging, live event without an “on view” audience. Try playing a game in the chat or use other ways to get audience participation. There’s a real need for human connection, and a live stream or video playback – like mission driven videos or an interactive cooking class – can fill that need. No one wants to clean their kitchen for a fundraiser, anyway. But many are looking for ways to give back to others during this time.  

There are lots of engaging, meaningful virtual fundraisers your volunteers can participate in on their own time.  

Fore example, there has been some hype over if hybrid golf outings can work. They do! You can hit a hole in one with your donors by doing them a little differently. Twosomes and foursomes can still donate for mulligans, raffles, hole-in-one buy-ins, and more. Then, they play on a designated course within a certain time frame. Hybrid golf outings tee up all of the fundraising benefits, without many of the logistics planning headaches (or expenses). 

Our resources are too limited

Most nonprofit staff are being asked to do more than ever before. Nonprofit resources – staffing, expense budgets, and tools –are scarce. Many have raised needed funds by foregoing the big lift of one or two big in person events. Rather, nonprofits have used their energy to redeploy staff over several smaller events, spend a bit more time strategizing, and work with high impact volunteers to fund their missions. 

What kind of smaller events bring in donors? A FUN fundraiser we have seen successfully running again and again is a voting competition. Do you feel like your pet has a celebrity doppleganger? Does your pug look like Liberace? Or Justin Timberlake? Ask your volunteers to donate to their pet pictures along with his or her celeb doppleganger. People can cast votes for Elvis the cat or Lucy the dog by making donations. The most donations wins! 

High impact volunteers can support you by being a Champion fundraiser. Champions add a peer-to-peer fundraising element to any type of fundraiser – be it your gala committee leveraging their network or alumni rallying around your school’s anniversary year. In just four months, Champions raised $2.21 million in GiveSmart. That is an INCREDIBLE testimony to the power of volunteers.  

Virtual fundraising won’t work for my needs

Remember how easy it was to move from from paper and pen to mobile bidding? Ok, it was hard at first!  But now? You would never go back to pen and paper, and your donors wouldn’t want to either. Did you know that on average, people who switched to mobile bidding via GiveSmart raised 30% more the year that they did the switch? Imagine what virtual fundraising can do in lieu of your other traditional in person events.  

A few of our GiveSmart partners had hybrid events last year.  There are a myriad of ways to safely ensure that your guests have a socially distant inperson experience – such as window shopping or even an old school drive-in movie! While those activities are going on, don’t forget you can run raffles or have merchandise for sale at the same time. It’s never too late to get started in virtual fundraising.

We had many “new adapters” come on board in 2020 – and the virtual options allowed them to adapt their calendar and reach more people! Time and again, nonprofits shared how the virtual space opened the door to a wider audience. Building your donor pool now will lead to growth for your future. Don’t be afraid to embrace virtual fundraising. It can be a new foundation for great things to come! 

Sponsors won’t get the bang for their buck

Sponsors got a lot of eyes and fanfare in a former in person event world. But who’s to say it can’t be even better in a virtual one? 

Be sure to ask your past sponsors what they like best about being your partner. There are certainly ways to recreate the experiences they want to see. Do they love the mission connection they make? Is it logo placement? Or it is more about the public recognition they get? Imagine the sponsor’s delight with a full screen at the drive-in featuring more about their company or services? Did someone say logos on popcorn boxes? What about getting folks who support your mission to do a sponsor thank you video you can play during your event week, like a commercial? They can be used again and again, such as before a livestream, when you promote your auction, or as a feature on your fundraiser home page even if there isn’t a live component.  

We saw success with some of our partners and food (have we mentioned the power of food before?). Some of our partners offered meal kits or mixers to go before a ticketed demonstration class. There is ample opportunity to get branded content into homes with these “pick-up” components. What about having a sponsor logo on all the takeout tops? And don’t forget too, there are always opportunities to presell paddle raises or get a sponsor match, which allows for more time to publicly recognize your highest-level donors.

Your sponsors support your mission first and want to be associated with it and all of the good you do. There are many creative ways to ensue your sponsors benefit from their relationship with you in the virtual space. 


While we are in a perpetual virtual world, NOW is absolutely the time to make an engaging plan for your donors and volunteers. You’ve never let those real-world challenges of competition, weather, inefficient tools, or staff turnover (to name a few) keep you from ensuring your mission success! Don’t let any of these myths get you down. Now is the time to raise the roof on virtual and we’ll be with you every step of the way.  People are eager to give, and now is the time to setup your organization to allow them to do so! We’ll see you at the drive-in!  

Do you wish you had examples of campaigns that did it right, and didn’t let these myths get in the way? Check out this webinar for a deeper dive into these myths.


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What our clients say

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