Alternative Fundraising Ideas for 2020 and Beyond

The nonprofit community has had to rethink so many aspects of our day to day operations this year, and with the pandemic still in full swing, that doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon. Many of us have already altered or adjusted our fundraising schedules, cancelled or postponed events, updated budgets, and more. Some of us are taking a hard look at our big annual fundraiser and asking “is it realistic to have this go on?”.

These are tough questions, but questions that do have answers! The nonprofit community is innovative at fundraising and resilient in times of change. We are going to highlight some great alternative fundraising options for you and your organizations to consider throughout the rest of 2020, and beyond.

Laura McEachen, SKC’s Grant Coordinator, has pulled together some great content around virtual fundraising events, holding safe alternative in person events, and more.

Virtual Fundraising Events

With some creativity, adaptation, and advance preparation, you can turn many live fundraising events into successful virtual fundraisers. For a good general resource about how to rework your live events for virtual attendees, check out this post from Bloomerang.

Walks and Runs.

Participants can do the walk or run (or bike race or hike) at any time at their location of choice. They still receive the usual goody bags and t-shirts, and after completion the individual participants post selfies on the organization’s social media sites. Adding a theme to the event such as encouraging costumes or decorating bikes can draw attention to the event.

Virtual Performances/Talent Shares.

If your organization is of the creative and performing arts variety, a virtual talent show might be a great way for the community to still see your creative efforts without needing to attend in person. Request registrations in advance using an event registration app, and then provide a virtual ticket to access the performance or talent show via a link. Using a service like YouTube Live, you can live stream your event to the attendees and include links for your virtual attendees to make online donations.

Virtual Lesson Fundraiser.

People have extra time on their hands (or kids to entertain), and they’re eager to try new things, learn new skills, and just have a little fun. Take advantage of this opportunity by offering virtual lessons. Cooking is one example, but it really could be any skill or hobby as long as you can live-stream the lessons and the people who sign up can order the supplies. Consider a virtual class where participants create a painting that somehow reflects the cause or theme you’re supporting. Another way to raise a little extra money is to add affiliate links to your supplies list. If people order their supplies using the affiliate link, your organization receives a portion of the purchase price.


If you fundraise for a physical space such as a museum, consider turning your tours into virtual ones. You can ask people to donate the price of a ticket, and take people through the space via video. This will help people still feel like they’re there, and connect them to your cause without needing to be there in person.


While not a very traditional fundraiser, this idea has been a very successful peer-to-peer online donation strategy. Encourage supporters to use their birthdays to raise money for your nonprofit. For example, if you’re turning 30, you can invite all your friends to make a $30 donation to the charity in lieu of gifts. With social distancing and quarantines, traditional birthday parties are being canceled. Offer branded swag such as a t-shirt to the birthday person and announce their birthday on your social media pages.

Virtual Raffle.

This idea works well to mobilize a lot of people to participate and contribute small donations (which add up quickly). People of all ages and giving levels are familiar with charity raffles. Using a strategy that people know and understand during a time of uncertainty can pay off.

Wish List Drive.

Some of your donors may prefer to give specific items rather than money. Create an online wish list or registry with any supplies or items your organization needs and share it in your newsletter and social media posts. Ask people to support your organization, link to your Wish list, and the items can be delivered directly to you. Be sure to post photos of the items in use and tag the donors.

Making The Decision: Hold Your Event As Planned, Reschedule, Or Go Online

If your annual live event is your most important fundraiser of the year, it can be difficult to decide how to move forward. The first step is to consider your options and make a list of all the details you will need to consider:

  1. Hold the Event as Planned: Can you hold the event safely and will people attend?
  2. Reschedule: If you reschedule, how does this affect your vendor contracts and service providers? Your attendance?
  3. Go Virtual: Will your supporters still engage from home if you go online?

Next, you will want to gather key leadership, staff and volunteers and make an informed decision that has the consensus of the group. Finally, work out a new event plan and reorganize roles as needed to execute the plan.

This can be an incredibly difficult and individual challenge for organizations, and while there are many more layers to answering the question of whether or not to hold an event as planned, we think this is a good “jumping off point” to start with. If you have more questions on this topic, do not hesitate to reach out and start a larger discussion.

Boosting Your Social Media Presence

We talked about this in a post back in April ahead of Giving Tuesday on May 5th, but boosting your social media presence is always a good thing to keep in mind, especially as we move to a more “virtual” space with our fundraising efforts. Being present online and on social media can help boost your fundraising in both direct and indirect ways. Here is a quick list to consider:

Digital advertising.

With for-profit advertisers pulling back their marketing budgets, the cost for digital ads has come down and may now be a more affordable option for nonprofits looking to reach new audiences. Right now there are fewer competitors but more audience screen time.

Social media.

Make use of content you already have. Repost highlights of your organization from recent years. Consider a new video featuring your ED. Ask your social media followers to share stories of why they support your organization and share their replies. Encourage your supporters to run their own Peer-to-Peer fundraiser on behalf of your organization.

New Demographics.

Yes, many nonprofit fundraising events have had to be cancelled or rescheduled. But so have sporting events, festivals and other live entertainment. Getting a new audience engaged now provides the opportunity for more attendees once live events become possible again.


Use this time to update your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of crises like COVID-19. Extend the evidence that your organization is trustworthy and a legitimate entity.

Google Ad Grants.

Google allows qualifying 501(c)(3)s to apply for a $10,000/month advertising credit-based grant.

YouTube Nonprofit Program.

Tell your story and reach greater audiences through video as well as make it easy for supporters to donate with YouTube Giving features.

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For the benefit of the nonprofit sector everywhere, we wanted to provide resources for ways we can continue to operate and grow within this era. And once social distancing begins to fade, what lessons can we take from this to improve our operations permanently. Come back often for more updates.

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