Dec 16, 2021

Virtual Fundraising In 2022

Lessons learned blog

Last year was a big year for virtual fundraising. Our nonprofit partners continued to expand their efforts into online fundraising, trying more new things and leaning into which strategies worked best. One of the top takeaways from last year was that virtual events are here to stay. They draw people in, engage audiences, and help organizations raise funds when they need it most. Armed with this knowledge, you can take your virtual fundraising to the next level in 2022. 

What We’ve Learned From Virtual Fundraising in 2021  

The kinds of events that make great fundraising events 

Myths of virtual fundraising in 2022

Virtual fundraising resources 

See how GiveSmart can help 

What We’ve Learned From Virtual Fundraising In 2021

Nonprofits took their digital fundraising to new heights in 2021, smashing last year’s virtual fundraising numbers. Many were planning to continue to extend their online presence, fully expanding to virtual and hybrid events. Overall, the prospects for virtual campaigns looked brighter last year, and we expect those trends to continue.  

Here at GiveSmart, our customers have raised $4.1 billion over the last nine years. 

In 2021, nonprofits like yours took online fundraising to new heights. If our 80+ virtual fundraising ideas from our nonprofit partners are any indication, virtual and hybrid fundraising are in a renaissance. In particular, the pioneers took last year to work out the issues with hybrid fundraising specifically, giving us all new insights and ideas as well as accelerating fundraising technology updates. Here are some of our takeaways from 2021: 

Most Organizations Can Host an Online Fundraiser 

In a survey released in September 2021 comparing year-over-year fundraising, organizations across the board made significant gains through online giving. This is especially encouraging because the previous year showed significant growth, too.  

Small nonprofits saw a 10.6% increase in online fundraising. Medium nonprofits saw a larger 18.3% increase in online giving. Even large organizations had an impressive 17.8% increase in online fundraising and a 9.6% increase in overall fundraising. Small and medium nonprofits also saw increases in overall fundraising, at 5.8% and 4.3% respectively.  

These numbers tell us that everyone leaned into online fundraising in 2021, and they had success all around, while not siphoning off other forms of fundraising. And, all along larger organizations have been ahead of the curve, doing more virtual fundraising before 2021, which makes their gains all the more impressive. 

Certain organizations in the nonprofit sector that had the most success with virtual fundraising in 2021 include: 

  • Human services: Human services organizations earned a 17.1% bump in online giving compared to 2020. 
  • Faith communities: Perhaps the subsector that was still reeling the most from the disruptions of 2020, faith communities earned an impressive 17.5% more in online fundraising. 
  • Animal welfare: Animal welfare nonprofits saw a 12.5% increase in online donations last year. 
  • Environment: Environmental and conservation causes raised 25.8% more through online giving. 
  • Health care: Last year, health care organizations boosted their online giving by 15.5% 
  • Arts and culture: Arts and culture nonprofits achieved a 10.2% increase in online funding in 2021. 
  • Higher education: Rounding out the top fundraisers, higher education organizations saw a comfortable 15.9% increase in online charitable giving. 

Almost any organization, big or small, in any subsector of the nonprofit world can find an online audience willing to give digitally. 

The Right Technology Makes All the Difference

To run online fundraisers, you need technology to make the event user friendly. A computer is a given, alongside a way to livestream or pre-record the event, if you are doing a one-time event, of course. A virtual fundraising platform, like GiveSmart, makes the entire virtual fundraising experience possible. We let your organization manage guests, run silent auctions, mobile bidding, peer-to-peer fundraising, text-to-give campaigns, livestream, chat with guests both inside and outside the room, and accept secure online donations. 

Almost all organizations felt the impact of last year’s instability, and having technology in place became a crucial differentiator in overcoming any hurdles.  

By the end of 2021, many organizations continued to postpone or cancel events. Continued technology limitations prevented organizations from responding effectively to an ever-changing situation. Back in 2020, of the thriving organizations that maintained healthy funding or achieved growth that year, 70% planned to invest in new technology. By comparison, only 43% of nonprofits who struggled to raise funds in 2020 planned similar investments. 

Virtual Events Introduce Your Cause to New Audiences

When you take your event online, anyone from around the globe can attend. When you advertise your event online, those who may not have been aware of your annual gala may learn of your virtual gala for the first time. Meanwhile, dynamic ticketing options for in-person and virtual attendees let those who couldn’t previously attend your in-person events join in for the first time. Even though nonprofits continued to cancel in-person events, 2021 saw an 8.1% increase in giving overall.  

People are giving. Online engagement is critical for earning new benefactors. 

Social Media Is a Powerful Tool for Charitable Giving 

Younger Americans are discovering new causes through social media. In 2021, social media fundraising climbed to new heights. Around 49% of Generation Z and 37% of Millennials donated to a cause after discovering it through social media. 

The Kinds of Events That Make Great Fundraising Events

Many types of virtual events can help you reach your fundraising goals. Since virtual events are easier on average to stage, we recommend hosting several throughout the year. A virtual event series could supplement or kick off your annual signature event and help you reach each segment of your community with tailored experiences and giving opportunities. 

By following some best practices to drive participation, donations and sponsorship, your 2022 virtual fundraisers could see great success. 

Silent Auctions, Mobile Bidding, and Raffles

Silent auctions work even better online than they do in person. Instead of the cumbersome pen and paper way, attendees can bid from their computer or mobile device. Mobile bidding is particularly powerful since people can access the auction from anywhere. Bidders receive instant outbid notifications, which can trigger higher donations. Here’s a list of virtual fundraising ideas for your silent auction or mobile bidding event: 

GiveSmart’s Silent Auction management software has all the tools you need to run a successful auction. Manage your prize procurement and auction catalog, and gain real-time data about your bidders. Plus, our mobile bidding tools let your audience bid from anywhere, checkout online, and receive text notifications about their items and your organization. 

Peer-To-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraising events leverage your supporters and their networks. Those without a direct connection to your organization could become huge donors thanks to their relationships with your current supporters. Peer-to-peer fundraisers are easy to take virtual or hybrid since most people have strong online connections. The following are some ideas for a peer-to-peer fundraiser: 

  • Fun runs, walkathons or 5Ks: In-person running events usually ask participants to raise money in exchange for participation. Runners go to friends and family as a champion of your cause, collecting donations. For a virtual event, runners time themselves wherever they are and collect donations the same way. 
  • Text-to-donate campaigns: These campaigns lend themselves naturally to online fundraising. In the peer-to-peer format, your supporters might forward your texts to their network, increasing your number of donations per campaign. 
  • Golf tournaments: Sporting events are excellent ways to engage your supporters and their peers. In a golf tournament, a supporter might invite friends to join their foursome. Or, they might solicit donations from their network to raise funds for entry. These make great hybrid events, where participants can join in from any golf course in the world. 
  • Contests: Like sporting events, solo or team-based fundraising contests are a great way to drive peer-to-peer support. The contest could be which team can raise the most money, or a talent or art competition. One of our favorite virtual fundraising ideas was the gingerbread house wars hosted by the Boys & Girls Club of Greenwich. 

GiveSmart’s peer-to-peer fundraising features empower your champion supporters to build their virtual fundraising campaigns. Each participant can create their own donation drive page to share with their networks. You can manage the whole process, and everyone can track their position on a leaderboard to make the event more exciting. 

Events And Virtual Classes

Creative virtual events will forever be a big draw. Classes and interactive events let your audience engage meaningfully with your organization while raising money through ticket sales. Some creative virtual fundraising ideas for 2022 include: 

  • Wine tastings: A virtual wine tasting is easier to pull off than you might think. All you need is livestream capabilities, an available sommelier and the means to get wine packages to your attendees. Pull in a local vineyard or liquor store as a sponsor to get in-kind wine donations. A local organization might have donors pick up their event boxes, and any organization could ship them to attendees. The Virginia Stage company hosted a fun virtual wine tasting over video chat paired with a make-at-home pizza dinner. 
  • Adoption events: A humane society or pet rescue doesn’t have to pause its adoption events. A free livestream with virtual breakout rooms for prospective adopters can let you show off your available furry friends. Since these events are not necessarily ticketed, the fundraising comes in with your adoption fees or a donation drive during the event. Kitten Rescue Los Angeles paired their Virtual Kitten Shower adoption event with a supply drive, a feeding demo, a sanctuary tour, and a silent auction 
  • Concerts or live shows: A virtual concert or stand-up comedy event can pull a huge crowd, especially among those who have exhausted their streaming libraries. The Ingalls Development Foundation’s annual benefit show featured live musical performance and an improv comedy show. 

Whatever your event entails, host it all from the GiveSmart event management platform. You’ll customize your own hub where you can stream the event or upload pre-recorded videos, sell tickets and capture registration information. All the information your guests need to know is easy to find. 

Myths of Virtual Fundraising In 2022

Before 2020, many organizations worried that virtual fundraising wasn’t for them. Some of those hesitations have still carried on to today. Our clients busted many myths last year. Here are some to stop believing in 2022: 

Myth: People Won’t Want To Come

It can seem like a big ask to convince your usual tuxedo- and gown-wearing gala attendees to show up online for a virtual event or a lower-key hybrid one. 

Reality: They Do

Your regular donors are looking for ways to support you, especially when you are specific about your immediate needs. Those who aren‘t yet ready to gather with swaths of people again are still itching for unique online experiences. Even better, virtual events have proven an excellent way to expand your reach. Guests can pop in for however long they’re available from anywhere in the world. Those who would have to travel far or couldn’t afford the usual ticket price could have the opportunity to join in for the first time. 

Myth: Maybe It’s Not Worth the Effort

Some people have heard fundraiser events cost too much to produce compared to what they’ll raise. That could certainly be true when you have to rent a venue, hire caterers, and have on site AV setup and staff. That full ballroom helps you raise money, though. Without it, some mistakenly assume the ROI isn’t there for a virtual event. 

Reality: Virtual Events Are Less Effort and Often Have a Better Return 

Virtual events are often easier to plan and less expensive than in-person events. There’s no banquet hall to rent and much less setup and cleanup. Your catering is replaced with bring-your-own-drinks and do-it-yourself meal kits. Without the expense of an in-person event, most of our customers find their net return from a virtual event is higher than an in-person event, which is a big win for your mission.  

Myth: Our Community Really Likes Our Traditions

Of course, they love your traditions. They’re creative, fun, and keep people donating year after year. While this one’s no myth, don’t let it stop you from engaging your community in new ways. 

Reality: Time to Make Some New Traditions

First, many of your traditions can translate into virtual and hybrid events. Anything you collect payments for online CAN work. While they might not be quite the same as they are in-person, there’s plenty you can do to keep the traditions alive. For the events that really can only happen in person, your virtual fundraising event is your chance to make new memories and host exciting activities your supporters will look forward to next year. Your supporters likely love helping out a great cause more than they like your in-person traditions. 

Myth: The Stuff We Do at Our In-Person Events Can’t Be Done Online

Many events seem like they could only be fun in-person. 5Ks, coin flip challenges, improv performances, and wine-and-paint nights all seem to fit the bill. You might think it’s impossible to share the same personal connection or hold people’s attention the way you could in person. 

Reality: You’d Be Surprised at How Creative People Get

The good news is, your event can go digital and even increase audience engagement with a little creativity. 

How do you run a virtual 5K? With everyone carrying a fitness tracker strapped to their wrist, or at least a pedometer app on their phone, a virtual 5K is more than possible. Participants can run from anywhere. Better yet, they can run at a time that’s convenient for them. Maybe you give your runners a week to track their times and submit their scores, letting your busy supporters choose the time that works for their schedules. 

How do you host a virtual class, wine tasting, or gala? Instead of tickets, sell your very own “event-in-a-box.” They’ll contain everything they need to enjoy your event from home, whether it’s a few bottles of wine, cooking supplies or whatever your virtual evening has in store. 

Your peers have come up with some pretty awesome new ways of doing things. Some fundraising ideas nonprofits have pulled off include virtual coin-flip events, poker and casino nights, bingo, cooking classes, adoption events, concerts, selfie scavenger hunts, kite flying events, competitions, and everything in between. 

Virtual Fundraising Resources

GiveSmart is committed to helping you throw successful virtual and hybrid events to ultimately meet your fundraising goals. We offer many resources to help you get started. To learn more, check out our complete guides available through resources like: 

Check out last year’s version of this blog to compare how far we’ve come and what we’ve learned in just a year!”

See How GiveSmart Can Help

You do so much for your organization, and a great fundraiser is one way to see your dedication and hard work pay off. People worldwide are motivated to respond generously during times of great need, and you’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish with an online benefit event. GiveSmart is ready to work alongside you for the success of your virtual fundraising events in 2022. Get in touch to request your free demo today.

See how GiveSmart can make your fundraising event management functions quicker and easier with a free software demo. 


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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