Nonprofits need to engage donors now more than ever before. And the challenges of 2020 require you to be more creative in your fundraising efforts. 


Two things have not changed: donors still want to give, and they still want to see how their donations impact the world. 


There are many ways you can continue to engage your supporters when holding traditional fundraising events isn’t possible. Read on for clever fundraising ideas to help your nonprofit adapt to the COVID-19 environment. 



Virtual Fundraisers


In-person gatherings have traditionally been a significant part of many nonprofits’ fundraising programs. They are opportunities for donors to hear directly from your team and the people your organization serves, to socialize with one another, and to witness the impact of their donations. 

You can still do all that virtually with a livestreamed event. 


There are four best practices which are key to the success of a virtual fundraiser:


1. Secure access


Why not just livestream your event on Facebook or YouTube? You miss out on a lot of valuable data and the power to remarket to your attendees if you don’t secure access (you can still offer free admission!). 

Your Passage allows you to secure access to your event while offering multiple access types. You can offer paid access (perhaps using the same sponsorship tiers you used for traditional in-person fundraisers) or offer free tickets to any donor who registers. And coming soon: pay-what-you-can tickets. 


Only registered supporters will be able to access your virtual event, which means you get the contact information for every guest and can appeal to them for support after your event ends. If you livestream on an unsecured platform, they’ll be gone in the wind the moment they exit the stream.

Read more about why secured virtual access makes your event more successful


2. Use the “donate” button for instant gifts


If you’re using Passage as your virtual event partner, your supporters can donate to your organization live during your event. It’s simple and requires only two clicks to make a donation of any size. 


Remind donors about instant donations throughout your event, and encourage them to give. They want to help you reach your fundraising goals, and watching the donation totals climb during your event can help supporters collectively pull together to get you there. 


It’s also a good idea to ask for a specific amount and provide a tangible benefit to help your supporters visualize the direct impact of their donations. If $22 lets you provide healthy after-school snacks to a kid for the week, let supporters know that. It might help someone who was going to give $10 or $20 bump their gift up to meet the need.


3. Engage supporters with chat


Passage has a live chat feature which allows guests to chat with each other during your event, comment on the program, and chat with the event organizers. The best-livestreamed events use this feature to answer donor questions, thank them for their support, and promote their message during the event. 


4. Re-broadcasting


Record your livestream and continue selling access after the event ends. There’s no limit on the number of attendees with a virtual event!


Need help setting up your virtual or socially-distanced fundraiser? Schedule an onboarding call with our support team. We’ll set everything up for you!




Virtual Fundraising Ideas


A virtual fundraiser isn’t one-size-fits-all. Snag one of these ideas that fits your organization’s culture and traditions. 


Live gala


Missing your annual fundraising gala, awards banquet, or holiday dinner? Invite supporters to tune in from home with their favorite meal. Then, host the program portion of your gala virtually; you can even pre-record large portions of the program in advance to play during the live stream.


Donors still get an opportunity to hear from your team and the people you serve, and they can even interact with one another through live chat. 


Virtual concert


Virtual concerts have been some of the most successful programs we’ve seen in the COVID-19 era. They’re uplifting, appropriate for all ages and nearly every type of nonprofit. Whether you host a one-hour event featuring a single artist or musical group, or a multi-day, festival-style gala, a virtual concert can be a great way to entertain and engage supporters. You might even find new supporters who tune in because they are fans of the artist!




An at-home walk-a-thon is a great way to encourage your supporters to get some fresh air and movements while supporting your cause. The walking itself doesn’t have to be livestreamed; provide your supporters with all the details they need to share their individual walk on social media or other channels, form teams, and gather donations. 


Then, host a livestream after the walk-a-thon is complete. This is a great opportunity to thank all of your participants and donors, to announce the total funds raised, and to allow your supporters to hear from some of the people their donations will impact. 




Missing your annual golf outing? How about switching things up this year with a putt-a-thon: invite supporters to participate from home by setting up their own putting greens (you could provide the parameters on your website or send them in advance). Gameify the event by creating more and more advanced setups as the rounds progress. Encourage putters to take photos and videos of their setup and show fellow supporters how creative they can get (and show off their skills). You can compile all that media into a prepared video for your live stream. 


Virtual tour or open house


Give supporters a behind-the-scenes look at how you are adapting to the challenges of 2020 with a guided virtual tour. You could even set up a digital map of your facility and allow supporters to click into different rooms, each with their own tour or programming. 


Keep in mind that it’s ok to show what’s NOT happening at your location, too. Many nonprofit organizations have had to close their doors during the pandemic, either by choice or by government mandate. Show donors what preparations you’re doing to reopen or what you need help with to safely serve your constituents again when it is safe to reopen. 


Weekly services


If you are a religious or faith-based organization, your congregation may be missing the shared experiences they enjoyed before the quarantine. If you have reopened at reduced capacity.


Even if your venue’s capacity isn’t impacted by COVID-19, some of your congregants may be unable or hesitate to visit in person, particularly if they belong to a high-risk group. Hosting a livestream option allows everyone to participate and to continue supporting your organization.


volunteers packing bags and boxes of food


Socially Distanced Fundraisers


In some locations, it’s safe to host smaller in-person events – if you do it properly and follow social distancing protocols. 


You may even create a hybrid event, with some supporters attending in person and others watching the livestream from home. The benefit of adding a livestream option to your in-person fundraiser is that you won’t be limited to your venue’s capacity – you can have unlimited guests (and unlimited donations) online! A hybrid event allows supporters:

  • Who are immunocompromised to attend without health risks;
  • Who don’t yet feel comfortable attending an in-person event to participate;
  • Who live far away to attend from their home state.

Read on for best practices for hosting socially distanced fundraisers. 


1. Host outdoor events


Outdoor events are safer than indoor gatherings when it comes to preventing the spread of COVID-19. If you’re in an area that experiences winter, take advantage of these last few weeks of warm weather, or just get creative with physical distancing. Take a cue from restaurants which have been installing individual outdoor “pods” to keep donors separated while staying warm. 


2. Use social distance seat selection


Want to make sure guests stay physically distanced while in your venue? No problem. Passage has a social distance seat selection tool which automatically blocks off a given number of seats once a guest has selected their space. It helps ensure guests are evenly spaced out and separated during your event. 


3. Sell tables, not chairs


Encourage guests to sponsor an entire table rather than individual seats. It’s better for social distancing, and it helps bring in larger donations. Only guests within the same party will be seated at their table. 


You can also use Passage’s seating chart tool to allow guests to select their table or individual seats. The chart can be completely customized for your venue’s layout. 

Need help setting up your virtual or socially distanced fundraiser? Schedule an onboarding call with our support team. We’ll set everything up for you!