Events are many people’s favorite thing about charity fundraising. They offer a chance to dress up, get together with others, and have a good time — while also raising money for a good cause. While many of these fundraising event staples are great, such as fancy galas and golf tournaments, circumstances aren’t always ideal for in-person gatherings. However, that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the fun. At first glance, it may seem impossible to recreate some of these types of events in a virtual format, but with a little creativity and the right fundraising event tools, you might be surprised at the high-quality experiences you can offer for your donors virtually.

Using the right virtual events software and also with a little hardware, you can recreate many of your favorite fundraising activities over a livestream to give an experience that’s as close to the real thing as possible while also providing plenty of new and unique benefits. Here are a few ideas about how to make virtual/hybrid versions of your favorite in-person events.

1) Galas

A Gala is a well-known charity fundraising event. Activities such as performances, live entertainment, and sit-down dinners regularly attract a large audience and generate significant money for charity. Although this appears at first glance to be beyond reach in a virtual setting, consider breaking down each aspect one by one to consider online alternatives.

For example, you may hold online raffles, silent auctions, and giveaways to keep your guests entertained after check-in. Then move into the entertainment portion where you might consider engaging a band, DJ, or another entertainer for a livestream performance. With a virtual format, you have the advantage of offering more variety since you can easily change the video source and even use pre-recorded video content. Maybe you could even send out dinner packages to all of your guests ahead of time so they get the full dining experience as well. When it comes to live auctions, you won’t miss a beat, virtual event software can offer live auctions in an online format as if you were all in the same room.

Best of all, hybrid live auctions are also possible where a bidding war can commence in real time between in-person and virtual guests. With a virtual gala format, there’s really no limit to what you can do!

2) Luncheons/dinners

A food-related event usually entails a few individuals sitting around and eating a meal served on-site at the location. Instead of serving everyone at a single location, consider a catered meal delivered to each of your donors from a local restaurant. Couple this with the power of live streaming and your guests may socialize with each other while they eat from the comfort of their own home.

If you want to make it a hybrid event, simply have a group of folks come to an in-person dinner on location while having meals delivered to a few others watch the virtual version over a live stream. You can even pull this off in multiple long-distance locations where several smaller groups gather in-person and combine to share their experience virtually with other group locations via livestream and watch party event software features.

3) Cooking classes

Many people love to eat, but many of us aren’t as close to being culinary experts as we would like to be. Cooking classes have a broad appeal because they attract not just gourmet food, but also individuals who want to learn new skills. As an added benefit these types of classes are often easy to broadcast live. However, be sure to make sure your guests are equipped with a list of all the ingredients they’ll need for the class ahead of time.

4) Happy hours/wine tasting

Alcoholic beverage tastings are frequently held as special events and are surprisingly simple to create online. Simply offer ticket sales online, then send your guests a care package of the beverages to be sampled on the day of the event. For added suspense, you may send out a mystery box with a variety of beverages to sample.

5) Online classes

Virtual education is a great tool and can be used to teach a wide range of skills. Anything people might want to learn, from hands-on activities such as painting to more classroom-type settings such as Spanish lessons. Just ensure that you’re able to secure an expert to teach who’s comfortable speaking on camera and familiar with the hardware and software necessary to make it happen. Also, consider offering future classes of this type as auction items in your event.

6) Craft nights

For laid-back occasions, a craft night is hard to beat. Participants may improve their painting abilities, try their hand at some knitting, or do whatever other sort of art they like without having to leave the comfort of their own home. You consider marketing a crafts night as either a workshop or more of a social gathering, or even offer them both. Best yet, you could even offer some of the art produced in the class as auction items during your next fundraiser.

7) Shopping

Auctions and raffles are a fantastic approach to sell things that get a lot of attention and generate significant donations for your cause, but using the latest in online software, there’s no reason you can’t simply set up an online shopping page to raise funds as well. Consider offering up for sale donations from your charity or merchandise promoting your good cause. Best of all, online auction software can provide an easy-to-use solution for setting up this type of online shop while simultaneously offering automated donation receipts on any purchase.

While this approach may not bring in as much cash upfront, the benefit is that you may continue to attract consumers to your business and create consistent donations over a long period of time.

You might try reaching out to businesses, artists, or other people in your neighborhood to see if they’d be willing to list things on your store (either as a donation or for a share of the profits) or produce branded items like mugs and hats based on popular products. Alternatively, you might combine a silent auction with a shop by allowing buyers to either purchase an item at a buy-it-now or have the item awarded to the highest bidder.

8) Digital download donation rewards

One of the benefits of internet events is that you may distribute immediate access to digital goodies like downloads, special offers, or links to webinars. Consider things like ebooks, video or audio files, or even a private livestream session with a celebrity.

Make sure you promote them in a way that is both effective and appealing, with clear descriptions and attractive photos.

9) Movie screenings

Viewing films at home has been popularized by services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu. The current state of public gatherings has only accelerated this trend. Why not embrace this change and host your own virtual film screening via livestream?

You could even make a film or documentary about the core purpose of your organization as a nonprofit. A wildlife charity, for example, might show National Geographic documentaries on climate change or an anti-racism group could screen “To Kill a Mockingbird” as part of its mission.

You may also enhance a standard film screening by having a group watch party or a livestream post-screening discussion.

10) Hybrid concerts

We’ve recently seen a slew of music award shows and individual musicians performing in hybrid concerts: the artist performs on a stage like normal, but to an empty venue, while that performance is streamed live to spectators at home. Why not take some of these ideas and apply them to a fundraising format? If you’re attempting to put together a concert for the first time, it may seem like a daunting or out-of-reach concept but keep in mind you don’t need to hire Drake or Justin Bieber to have a successful show. In fact, executing an event like this can be much easier than it might seem at first glance.

Try reaching out to local musicians or up-and-coming performers, and you might be surprised by the response — many individuals love the chance to create awareness for good causes.

On the technical side, setups range from simple with one person running the show to advanced with high-quality equipment and multiple personnel. Another option you may consider is hiring a partner to produce the virtual side of your event while you focus on the fundraising side.

11) Live entertainment

It’s possible to add live entertainment to your fundraising events, and it doesn’t have to be just music. Why not consider comedy, dancing, theater, or even an interview with a celebrity? All of these forms of live performance go over well over live streaming and can even be made more fun than their in-person counterparts.

The best part is that high-profile individuals or celebrities are more likely to participate in these sorts of charity events if they don’t have to travel, and you’ll save money on their accommodations and transportation.

12) Tours

Virtual tours can be surprisingly pleasurable and rejuvenating while not having to travel anywhere — just let a tour guide show you around a museum, ancient site, city, or gallery while live streaming to a group of people

It’s one of those things that you must have first-hand experience in to believe in its efficacy.

If you can find a space that aligns with your cause, this is an excellent choice for charity fundraising, as an example, a charity devoted to eradicating poverty may give attendees a walking tour of the museum depicting terrible living conditions from the past.

A last resort may be to organize a tour of your facility and staff. While this is unlikely to draw a big crowd, it can help you gain trust among your current and prospective donors.

13) Scavenger hunts

No matter how old you are, you’re never too old to enjoy a scavenger hunt. The most straightforward approach to do this is to have individuals from your neighborhood go on a search for a list of clues they may download online. These clues will help lead them to locate the ultimate prize concealed in a public place.

However, if you want to hold a global scavenger hunt, open to anyone in the world, you have that option will virtual scavenger hunts.

Another fun scavenger hunt idea is to hire a developer to alter your website’s layout, placing hints across the pages in order to provide players with clues. On the biographical portion of your nonprofit’s webpage, you may hide a riddle that leads participants to your online store’s product page and so on. You can provide everyone who completes the hunt with something as simple as a digital file.

This also may be a fantastic approach to create excitement and spread the word about your cause.

14) Gaming tournaments

It’s no secret that internet gaming is big right now, so why not jump on the bandwagon by having your online gaming fundraising tournament? Pick any of your favorite games, anything from Minecraft to Monopoly; however, try to select a trendy game to increase the number of people who want to participate.

Offer a prize to the winner and ask everyone to pay a small entrance fee which will be donated to your charity. You may place individual gamers head-to-head and compete against one another or set up a points system with teams.

15) Brand design contests

Consider a brand design contest for a more inventive competition. Every business needs to undergo a redesign at some point, so why not utilize that as an opportunity to get your fans to create your next logo or style guide if yours is approaching?

Make a timetable and outline the topics you want to cover in detail. Participants should submit their concepts after they’ve been outlined. Then, either choose the winners yourself or ask people to vote over social media. If you can, provide a reward; but if not, at least you’re providing someone with a great opportunity for getting their CV out there once their brand is included on your merchandise.

16) Hybrid costume party

It’s always a lot of fun to go to costume parties, it allows people the freedom to be creative – or even competitive.

Choose a topic and go wild, whether it’s 1920s or hippie-themed, nothing is off limits when it comes to virtual events!

This is an excellent option for a hybrid event: host the location for those who can physically attend, but allow online guests to participate through a live stream. Set up a social media page where people may submit their costumes and offer a prize for the best-dressed at the party.

17) Talent show

Hosting a talent show is one approach to discover if any of your supporters have hidden talents. While most individuals are too embarrassed to perform in front of hundreds of spectators, performing live via streaming isn’t nearly so difficult. This may encourage more participants.

To be successful at an event like this, you must come ready with your online promotion skills. Make a two-tier ticket system: one for participating and another for watching.

18) Karaoke night

Those who enjoy karaoke tend to really adore it. An online karaoke session may be a wonderful way to get together with friends and relive some old classics while tolerating the singing abilities of other people. Simply organize the songs in advance, identify everyone’s favorite song, and make someone on your team responsible for the technical side of the show.

Make sure everyone has a decent microphone and that they mute themselves when it’s another singer’s time to perform.

19) Trivia night

Trivia nights are popular among friends, family, and coworkers alike. Trivia themes that are relevant to their interests and knowledge can generate a competitive atmosphere. Quizzes based on music, TV shows, or sports are also frequently well received. Each team should be charged a modest entry fee, rewarded with a prize, and marketed via the internet.

It’s difficult to know if people are cheating when taking a quiz on the internet, therefore some level of good faith will be required – consider a short-timer where there’s no time to search for answers.

20) Book club

Virtual book clubs are popular, and it makes sense since many individuals can’t find a local group that discusses the sort of literature they enjoy. Why not pick a topic that is related to your charity’s mission for your next suggested reading?

The disadvantages are that most people will not be willing to pay more than $1 or $2 to attend a book club discussion. These gatherings, on the other hand, might be used as a helpful method to gather a group of supporters who can assist address future events.

21) Conferences

Virtual conferences have grown in popularity recently, with people able to learn something new and meet a group of others with similar interests without having to travel halfway across the world and spend a lot of money on accommodations.

The primary idea for your conference should be related to the objective of your organization; this way, you may recruit your founder and other team members to speak about the mission at the event and get the attendees even more excited about the work you’re doing.

The audience is generally made up of a host, various TED Talk-style talks from various speakers, and maybe a Q&A session at the end of each presentation. You may either charge an admission fee or just request donations during the event.

A raffle auction is also a good way to raise money for the charity at this type of event. The winner can be awarded a ticket to the following week’s action, as well as a prize.

22) Awards ceremony

People who give to charity organizations are seldom recognized for what they do. You may correct this by organizing a virtual awards ceremony, which will call attention to individuals who have been the most consistent or generous in providing donations, as well as those who have gone above and beyond to volunteer or assist the organization in other ways.

Invite the winners of the night and urge your followers to contribute so they may make nominations for the next event. Alternatively, create a virtual gala with this as a component, but give free entry to your candidates.

23) Bingo

Bingo isn’t only for the elderly; it’s a fun pastime for people of all ages. Especially if you get creative and create your own bingo cards to link the game to your nonprofit, or make the activity more comical and entertaining. You don’t have to stick to the traditional numbers.

Charge a fee for those who want to participate and give a prize to the winner. A simple way to engage your donors.

24) Toy drive

Toy drives are a popular fundraising option for charities, especially during the festive Holiday season. You can easily make this concept virtual by sending out links to the toys that you want so supporters can buy them online, then ship them directly to your collection location.

Simply make sure you’ve planned everything ahead of time so that the presents may be shipped out to those in need and arrive on schedule for Christmas.

25) Food drive

A food drive is a perfect fit for online donations as well. Create a donation site so that people can purchase the goods required using the money they’ve donated, or let them deliver food to your location.

Depending on how you want to use them, make sure you post a lot of videos following the event which showcase the effectiveness of your donations and expressing your gratitude to supporters.

26) Community business fair

A community business fair might benefit not just your nonprofit, but also the businesses in your area. Allow firms or individuals to promote their services online while also promoting your charity and soliciting donations.

It’s not the most lucrative, but it’s a fantastic method to bring the community together while also demonstrating your concern.

27) Virtual Walks and Runs

Many people still see virtual galas as passive events where people just sit at their desks and look at a screen. However, many nonprofits and charities have done a great job merging physical activity with virtual fundraisers with many positive results.

Virtual walks and runs allow your donors to compete in sporting events with other supporters while also doing something physical and getting outdoors. These types of events also work well alone or in small groups. Be sure to check into the latest exercising apps which make it easy to track your routes and number of calories burned.

You can also take photos and share videos on social media to make this more of a community event. Some participants really enjoy these events since they can literally compete with and share their results with people from around the world.

28) Virtual Dog-walk-a-thons

It’s no secret that virtual walks, runs, hikes, and marathons can take a variety of forms — and one of the most distinctive is the virtual dog walkathon. This virtual challenge has people register to walk as many dogs as they can within a set time period. Let each dog walker live stream their journey as the event takes place where the livestreams can be combined into a central location where viewers at home can view, cheer them on, and donate. This activity is a great way to bring awareness to dogs and other pets in need while raising funds at the same time.

Funds can be raised through pledge campaigns, entry fees, and other donation efforts. Few things bring people together to give like seeing delighted pets, so make sure you market this event with lots of great photos!

29) TikTok Fundraiser

While TikTok might not be everyone’s thing, one can’t deny all the people this social network attracts. If you’d like to bring millennials, Generation Z, and older generations together, why not host a TikTok fundraiser?

You have several options when considering how to create a buzz on TikTok. Some nonprofits find that pairing emotional songs with short videos of their mission helps generate a lot of views, likes, and comments, which creates plenty of brand awareness and buzz around your mission. You can also use TikTok’s donation sticker option (for nonprofits) and pair them with a popular TikTok dance challenge. And many nonprofits have found that TikTok is an effective place to share their beneficiaries’ success stories.

Ultimately, the best thing nonprofits can do with TikTok is to be creative. This social network can connect you with thousands of brand-new supporters, so build something that truly shows how special and important your mission is.

30) Social Media Challenge

Social media is a fantastic method to raise money and awareness for your causes, but it can also be used as a fundraising tool on its own — as well as a powerful way to bring in new supporters. You’ve undoubtedly heard of the 2014-2015 ice bucket challenge and other popular social video phenomena similar. Why not establish your own social media challenge?

One of the most crucial things to bear in mind when launching a successful social media campaign is to make them as simple as possible to distribute. On your donation pages and website, including social media sharing links and developing an individual hashtag for individuals to use on social networking sites to discuss your event and organization.

In Conclusion

If the ideas above don’t provide you with enough inspiration for your next virtual event, we’re not sure what will.

Don’t be alarmed by the many alternatives; simply go with an idea that appeals to you and seems like a good fit for your donor audience.

Worried that you don’t have the tools or technology to carry out the event you really want? It might be time to start using a dedicated fundraising software platform. Be sure to select a software that offers features specially designed for fundraising events and offers features such as silent auctions and live-streamed galas. Hybrid functionality is also a must and can streamline events, offering help with auctions, payments, and ticket and guest management.

About the Author

Kevin Santiago is the Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at Paybee – a nonprofit fundraising events platform specializing in virtual and hybrid event formats. When he’s not managing a fundraising event you can find him at the gym or working on side projects at home in Palo Alto, CA.

30 Virtual and Hybrid Event Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits