15+ Extraordinary Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofit Organisations

September 17, 2019 Brian Isaac

Supporter-driven fundraising is becoming more and more commonplace as charities and non-profit organisations discover the statistics around traditional event fundraising.

The truth is that traditional events simply aren’t raising money as well as they used to.

Traditional event fundraising participation is declining by 3% year over year globally, and has taken an even bigger hit in 2020. Because of this, organisations are experimenting with additional online fundraising avenues to raise much-needed money.

One of these avenues is a type of peer-to-peer fundraising called Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Fundraising. DIY Fundraising caters to the fact that supporters in 2020 are self-driven and want to support your cause in a way they choose. They then ask people they know to help support them in their mission to help your cause.

Is there a single best way to raise money?

There's not a single best way to raise money. With DIY Fundraising, the fundraisers get to create their own fundraising activity, DIY fundraising campaigns are always unique, empowering, and sometimes even extraordinary!

One of the best parts about this type of fundraising is that it generates an average of 2.5x the donations and donation revenue of traditional fundraising events.

If you’re looking to inspire your supporters and learn how to take advantage of new and unique fundraising ideas, continue reading.

Virtual fundraising campaigns are here to stay

There’s no denying the fact that virtual campaigns are growing in popularity – and it’s easy to see why.

Virtual Fundraising connects your supporters through a fun and unique fundraising challenge, regardless of their ability or where they're based.

Virtual fundraising is simply fundraising that happens online rather than in the real world. If you’ve ever attended one of our webinars, for example, this is a form of virtual event. It means people can participate no matter where they’re based!

Some types of virtual event can be just like your traditional running or cycling event, but anyone wishing to take part just needs to be able to access a fitness tracking app or website where they can take part and log their progress.

Another kind of virtual fundraising can be done via a livestreaming platform, such as YouTube or Zoom – it could be fitness related, for example, a live yoga tutorial – but it can also be something completely different, such as a story time for children or a song performance.

Essentially, all virtual fundraising means that participants are brought together virtually and logistics are no longer an issue when organising.

Whether we’re talking about fundraising events or other methods of peer-to-peer fundraising, virtual fundraising campaigns are low-cost and easier to put together compared to traditional fundraising methods. As we become ever more connected online and increasingly time-poor, we can expect this type of campaign to gain even greater traction and become the standard.

What virtual events mean for charities

Raising money online is here to stay, so instead of seeing it as competition, charities need to make sure to tap into the opportunities this method of fundraising offers. It's an opportunity to get out of your comfort zone.

Several charities are reporting that, by using virtual events, they've attracted many new supporters who haven't engaged before. At the 2017 Institute of Fundraising Convention in the UK, Macmillan stated that 90% of their audience was new for their ‘OutRun’ Virtual Event. One charity revealed that 83% of its audience was new to their organisation. In addition, 23-32% of virtual event participants went on to fundraise for the organisation again

There are no barriers to virtual fundraising: you can get support from your local community, just as you can get support from generous givers across the world!

Supporters are attracted to the flexibility virtual events offer. Incorporate virtual events into your event strategy moving forward and make the most of the freedom this format offers by getting creative and thinking big.

There are many reasons charities find success using virtual events. Here are the top six:

  • Activate your entire fundraiser community
  • Any competitive activity is welcome
  • Virtual fundraising is sharable and scalable
  • Integrate leading mobile fitness applications
  • Low equipment and overhead costs
  • Get more engagement, more often

Virtual Fundraising Event Ideas for 2020 and beyond

So, your usual event schedule and community fundraising ideas are now out of the window, but here are some suggestions for virtual fundraising that could boost your income during this challenging time.

Although the current COVID situation has made us need to think out of the box when it comes to fundraising – organisations can take this opportunity to consider new ways of doing things and running with them, in order to secure our plans for the future.

Here are the first steps to getting started creating a virtual fundraising campaign:

The Challenge

Designing the right virtual challenge for your organisation starts with understanding your audience. This is the most important step.

The key is to ask them to do something they’re already likely to do.

Answering the questions below will help narrow down what’s most relevant to your cause when going into Virtual Event mode. Keep in mind that your organisation will certainly have a better notion of the best priorities like where & when to invest your time & energy; these are just to get you started:

  • What are their needs as a supporter?
  • What’s their motivation?
  • Where do they hang out online?
  • What types of media do they consume?
  • What is truly interesting and relevant to them?

It’s essential to align your event to your cause AND your audience, and to ensure your message comes across clearly and to the right audience.

BONUS TIP: The formula for a perfect campaign mission statement

Once you’ve identified your challenge, you can craft a campaign mission statement for your supporters. Complete your campaign mission statement by plugging in your target audience demographics into this template: [Concept] + [Target audience] + [Supporter Benefit].

Here’s an example:

We will…

[create a fitness campaign]

for…

[women aged 34-45]

so that…

[they feel supported to improve their fitness]

And finally, 

We will know our campaign is successful when…

[4,000 people record fitness activities via their fitness app connected to their fundraising page]

Now, we have a strong campaign mission statement! 👇🏼

We will create a fitness campaign for women aged 34-45 so that they feel supported to improve their fitness. We will know our campaign has worked when 4,000 people record fitness activities via their fitness app connected to their fundraising page.

 

The Website

So you've established your challenge and crafted a strong campaign mission statement...now let's make it a reality!

Your website is the central location where your fundraising will take place, your donations will be tracked, and your supporters will shine. Reach out to a Blackbaud account manager to discover options for building a tailored website specifically for your organisation or cause.

The Acquisition

Now that we have our ideal audience, our call-to-action, and our website, we can start acquiring supporters! Here are a few ways you can acquire your audience online:

  • Send an announcement to your email list
  • Publish consistently on your social media channels
  • Launch Facebook ads and sponsored Instagram posts
  • Leverage any corporate partnerships and relationships
  • Call your supporter to tele-activate
  • Send direct mail announcements
  • Provide incentives to join the challenge

Now we'll go through a few fundraising activities below that you can use as part of a larger campaign run centrally by your charity where you ask participants to all do the same activity. Or, these ideas could serve as a menu of virtual fundraising ideas that you share to refresh and re-invigorate your DIY community fundraising.

Run solo for a cause

In place of the community running events that would usually kick off around this time of the year, many people are being proactive by completing their own challenge events...in their own neighbourhood! This can be a personal fundraising challenge or one that fundraisers take on with friends.

What’s even cooler is that fundraisers can track their progress using fitness app integrations their fundraising pages. Whether it’s around the neighbourhood, along the riverwalk, or even in their own backyard, encourage your supporters grab their gear and get after it.

Kick off a virtual dinner party

Many restaurants and outdoor activities still have restrictions in place, and that means we need to think of creative fundraising ideas while spending time together inside.

Here’s a fun and easy one: simply get your foodie fundraisers together, ask them to decide on a dish (or a menu for some variety), and cook up a storm! They can then join each other on a video call and vote on their favourite recipe or best-presented dish.

Organise a virtual ‘Girls Night In’

'Alexa...play Beyonce'. This weekend doesn't have to be just another weekend. Encourage your supporters to enjoy a cheeky 'Girls Night In' from the comfort of their home! Fundraisers could light the candles, grab the facemasks, and hook up their best gals via livestream to enjoy a virtual spa treat while raising money for a good cause.

Power a push-up competition

Ask your supporters to push themselves and their friends further with a virtual push-up challenge to raise money for charity. Which one can reach a certain push-up count by a specific date, while raising the most?

Game the night away

What’s better than spending an entire day playing your favourite games with friends? Doing it for a cause! Your supporters can choose the games, grab their favourite snacks, and set up the party chat, because a video game or board game marathon is the perfect way to raise money and get mates involved too.

Donate the weekly commute

Like most of the world, if your supporter community is working from home, it’s likely they're saving some money from the weekly work commute. A thoughtful and simple way to make a difference for your organisation is to donate their usual bus fare, train ticket, or petrol to your organisation!

Nonprofits have a lot to gain by using the unique fundraising ideas above. This not only lets your supporters have some fun, but also helps them get creative and raise money in the way they like.

Here are a few more fundraising ideas you can consider putting into action:

  • 10k walk around the garden
  • Workout in your living room to replace your usual commute
  • Yoga marathon
  • Virtual coffee morning
  • Climb the equivalent of a mountain on your stairs
  • Cycle a famous route on your indoor bike
  • Living room karaoke
  • Virtual pub quiz
  • Silent disco
  • A push-up challenge
  • Virtual bingo
  • Bake a cake-athon with your family and friends

 

The beauty of virtual events is they present a lower upfront risk for charities – making them an attractive alternative.

Virtual fundraising examples from around the world

Ronald McDonald House Charities New Zealand’s House to House

Participants of this annual virtual event can walk, run, ride, or otherwise go 210KM in a single month to support the New Zealand families travelling an average of at least 210KM for their child to receive hospital treatment away from home. This can be done on treadmills in the comfort and safety of their own home, or as part of their daily outdoor exercise, all while contributing to the overall kilometre goal.

Support Act’s AusMusic T-Shirt Day

AusMusic T-Shirt Day happens every year, seeing thousands of Australians sharing a photo of themselves in their favourite Aussie band t-shirt and raising funds to help struggling musicians and music industry workers. This is a great example of a campaign that works especially well remotely, and with all age groups!

The Heart Foundation’s MyMarathon

MyMarathon challenges supporters to run, walk or jog the distance of an entire marathon over the course of one month to support those working to improve heart disease prevention and care.

Get more virtual fundraising know-how and inspiration on our Virtual Fundraising Event Hub:

https://resourcehub.blackbaud.com.au/virtualfundraising-event-hub

As you go about starting a DIY fundraising program, you'll need to ensure you have a place to find inspiration. Our nonprofit Resource Hub is the perfect place to help you get ideas, see what other successful nonprofits are doing, and learn the latest fundraising trends across our region.

As you've seen, fundraising isn't exclusive to bake sale, outdoor fundraising events, regular giving, or the holiday season.

Let’s look at more unusual and inspiring fundraising campaigns your supporters can use to spark their own creativity.

Unconventional Fundraising Ideas

I occasionally have rather quirky ideas…this was definitely one of them!

-Ben O’Brien, Australian fundraiser

Supporter-driven fundraising campaigns can range from the simple to the extraordinary, and everywhere in between. Check out how these fundraisers have tapped into their unique skills and creativity to support the organisations they’re passionate about.

Sylvia Jeffreys’ TODAY Show Karaoke Challenge

In 2018, Sylvia Jeffreys challenged herself and her supporters to raise $10,000 for Youngcare, helping high-needs young people acquire suitable housing. If you know Sylvia, you know she's got a certain amount of courage and determination...she reached her goal soon after she began her online fundraising campaign, and went on to perform the 80’s classic “Total Eclipse of the Heart” live in front of a national TODAY Show audience, all without the need to even sell tickets!

Sylvia wowed the crowd with her charitable singing of the Bonnie Tyler classic

Mykey inspired others through his fruit-themed hairstyles

Mykey O’Halloran is a testament to how all of us can lend a helping hand (or head) in many different ways.

After losing his cousin Meaghan to addiction in 2008, Mykey continued her legacy of giving by starting an Everydayhero page in support of children’s charity Make-A-Wish. Through his fruity fundraiser, he took donor requests and changed his hairstyle according to his supporters’ votes, asking his friends and family to help support his cause.

Mykey and his multi-coloured hairstyles! Which one’s your favourite? We like the strawberry.

“Wax for a Wish” – a ripper of a campaign

Ian Azzopardi is one brave bloke. After a winning streak at his Office Olympics, he was nominated by his colleagues to wax his legs in support of Make-A-Wish!

After completing the challenge, Ian stated that his pain is “nothing” compared to the pain some kids have to go through, and is excited to see how the money raised by his sacrifice will help grant life-changing wishes to kids across Australia.

It can also be very beneficial to think about how to partner with a local fundraiser. By partnering with local fundraisers or local businesses to help you spread the word about your mission, you can greatly improve awareness of your cause and organisation in your area.

One word: ouch. Good on you, Ian!

Denise 10x’d her goal through her knitting skills

To celebrate her milestone 60th birthday, Denise Pratt wanted to make a real difference. She aimed to raise $600 to support childbirth injury treatment and midwife training in Ethiopia.

Denise lovingly made crafts including paper mache chickens, tea cosies, knitted bunnies, childrens’ socks, and other goods, attracting many more donors than she expected.

To her surprise, Denise ended up raising over $6,500 through events and charity auctions: 10 times more than she expected!

Challenging your supporters to tap into their passions is a great way to get people thinking outside of the typical "walk, run, and ride" fundraising event types.

Denise’s handcrafted creations brightened up her recipients lives and her funds raised for charity.

Amazing things can happen when you give your fundraisers unlimited creativity. You’ll raise more, boost supporter loyalty, and increase your brand awareness, attracting more attention to your cause.

From skydiving at age 70 to visiting all Australian mainland states in a single day, read on to learn about six fundraisers that took their campaign goals to the next level.

Extraordinary Fundraising: Epic Ideas for Nonprofits in 2021

These next few examples aren’t the easiest to coordinate, nor can they be completed by everyone. But what they are is much more. They’re a testament to the commitment, pride, and pure passion these individuals have for raising money for the organisation they care about.

If you want your supporters to step up, you’ll need to ask them.

And if you ask your supporters to step up, they will. Fundraisers are amazing individuals and don't back down from a challenge to help the cause close to their heart. You get them engaged, make your ask, encourage them along the way, and you've likely got a supporter for life.

It's time to get creative. Read on to learn how far some fundraisers are willing to go.

70-year-old Georgina’s epic skydive for charity

Georgina isn’t an ordinary grandmother. For her 70th birthday, she and her grandson Jake had a fundraising idea that would set a HIGH standard. Georgina took to the skies (literally) to raise money for kidney transplant research!

Supporting Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI), Georgina committed to skydiving from a plane and reached half of her fundraising goal in only a few days. Her story and skydive is nothing short of incredible!

Georgina preparing for her legendary skydive for charity.

Thousands raised at Isobar’s fun and quirky art exhibition

Melbourne’s Isobar is a creative agency that is no stranger to giving back. As part of its efforts, the brand holds an annual art exhibition to donate to a special charity.

The Smith Family was a natural choice, as the charity is committed to the future of children through first-class education.

Isobar created works with a connecting theme of “time,” gathering original artwork made by the agency’s various departments. The pieces ranged from the fantastic to the edible, also symbolising the variety of ways it’s possible to get support and give back to people in need.

Hopefully, our art exhibition shows others that there is more than one way to make a difference, and that by using our own strengths we can help disadvantaged children work towards a better future.

Isobar used their talent to fundraise for The Smith Family in a creative way.

Squash-playing duo set world record for longest game ever

Most people take 140,000 steps over an entire fortnight if they’re active.

James & Brett Meyer took 140,000 steps in a single weekend.

In 2008, the duo initially set the world record for longest squash game, raising funds for a close family friend Michael, who was only 13 years old and struggling with Osteosarcoma.

The two had raised over $25,000 in Michael’s honour, presenting the funds to him proudly, but were floored by his humility. Michael said he didn’t need the funds, but to instead donate them to Child Cancer Foundation of New Zealand.

Soon after, Michael sadly passed away. But Brett and James hadn’t lost sight of their original mission.

Since Michael’s passing, their world record had been broken six times.

So in 2018, dedicated to Michael’s memory and incredibly giving spirit, the two attempted to set the NEW world record, playing for a total of 36 hours and two minutes.

Challenge completed…they did it!

Brett and James used Everydayhero to raise funds for their cause. Just look at that celebration!

Antarctica residents take on a virtual South Pole expedition

Few things are more unconventional than living in Antarctica.

To keep moving and give themselves a goal through the dark days and cold nights of the Antarctic winter, the eight members of Team Mawson took their residency one step further when they decided to “virtually” walk the distance from the edge of the continent to the South Pole: 2,500 kilometers in only 31 days.

Along for the journey came four other teams, raising funds for a variety of charities in the process…an incredible feat all around.

The crew on their virtual trek to the South Pole.

The teams had their own trackable map to record their travelling and fundraising progress.

Ben jets off on an Australia-wide airport pub crawl

Ben O’Brien has a big heart and an even bigger vision. On the day of his 40th birthday, he became the first person ever to have a beer in each mainland Australian state in a single day.

However, he sought to complete this mission with more than just beer in mind. In honour of his close friends who had dealt with tragic losses from miscarriage and stillbirth, Ben chose to raise funds in support of Pregnancy Loss Australia.

Throughout his tour, Ben posted updates on his personal blog, while also creating a buzz on social media and in the news. All in all, Ben raised $7,620 (and eight pints of beer), smashing his original target of $4,000 while celebrating his love of Australia at the same time.

What a feat! Do you think you could ever visit all Australian mainland states in one day?!

The fundraisers we've shown above aren't only doing good for the charities they supported. They love to spread the word about their online fundraising. Don’t forget: get your fundraisers active, engaged, and connected with others, and they're guaranteed to leave an impact far into the future.

 

BONUS SECTION

Virtual Fundraising Event Checklist for Your Team

Whether you’re complementing your existing in-person event with a Virtual Event or transitioning to Virtual completely, your team should consider the following when getting started:

General

  • Are there any changes necessary for the existing Terms & Conditions to accommodate the new Virtual approach? For example, liability agreements that make sense in person may not necessarily apply to the virtual format.
  • Is the event happening on the same dates? Are there any changes to the existing campaign milestone or important dates?
  • What marketing efforts should you update now that you’re going virtual? Ensure your campaign is supported by a strong marketing plan to let your audience know about your event.
  • Which elements of your online presence need updating? Your event may have more of an online presence than you think...consider all of your media channels: Owned, Earned, and Paid, when updating the copywriting, imagery, banners, CTAs, and analytics tracking.
  • Does live streaming technology have a place in your event? For example, would a YouTube Live, Facebook Live, or Twitch stream help get your message across on your website’s splash page?

Registration Process — Updates to the registration flow

  • Is it still necessary to sell or issue tickets for your event?
  • Is it still relevant to sell merchandise at the point of registration?
  • Are you capturing the same pieces of information upon event signup? For example, new form fields may be required and existing fields may be able to be removed for the virtual event
  • Are there any expected changes in the format of the registration reports?

Communications

  • Are there updates required to the existing registrants with any changes to the plan (email, social media, SMS if applicable)?
  • Are there updates required to any existing communications: details, dates, graphics, links to the new landing page, etc.?

Website

  • Are there updates required to the existing website to accommodate changes in event details?
  • Are there updates required to the Frequently Asked Questions to eliminate confusion?

Refunds

  • If refunds are processed for paid registrants, what is this process like? For example, which areas of the business need to be involved (Sales, Marketing, Customer Support? How can you best leverage the details of your internal flows to create an easy-to-understand explanation of this process for your customers?
  • Supporter-driven fundraising is becoming more and more commonplace as charities and non-profit organisations discover the statistics around traditional event fundraising.
Learn more about how you can get started on creating your best peer-to-peer fundraising campaign ever in 2021.
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