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Virtual Fundraising: Top 5 Tips for Non Profits

Spring and early summer are when many nonprofits host major events including galas, auctions, dinners, and races so they can communicate and engage with their partners, provide development updates, and generate financial support. However, the pandemic has caused nonprofits to pivot and figure out how to create successful virtual events when group gatherings aren’t possible.

The need for social distancing presents a host of challenges for donation-dependent nonprofits. Do you choose to cancel, reschedule, or get creative? Caring Network recently went through this dilemma when our live auction event was no longer possible, opting to “get creative” and go virtual. We’re here to share our top five tips for success.

Caring Network, a pro-life faith-based organization that has been offering spiritual counsel, emotional support, and practical help to Chicagoland women facing unplanned pregnancies for almost four decades. By coming alongside women at a critical time of need, we can be the hands and feet of Christ. Throughout the COVID-19 outbreak, we have continued to provide free, vital services keeping our staff members’ safety and the women we serve in mind. None of this is possible without the dedication and support of our partners. If you’d like to learn how Caring Network has adapted to continue serving women and families, contact us today for more information!


The trends indicate that even as our communities open up again, virtual events are here to stay. An increasing number of donors have been working remotely and are now accustomed to interacting online. Instead of worrying about what they will wear, hiring a sitter for the kids, and traveling to an event, supporters have found that virtual events are convenient, saving them both time and money. Let’s examine our top five tips for a successful nonprofit virtual event.


It is crucial to stay emotionally close to your supporters at any time, but particularly during a pandemic that requires social distancing. Know where your audience spends their time and engage your donors regularly wherever they are. You can consider reaching them on Facebook, MeWe, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and TikTok. When you’re ready to plan your virtual event, you already have an online presence established.

Putting together a plan for your virtual event cannot be emphasized enough. It’s essential to outline communications, strategy, and role responsibilities. Deciding to shift to a virtual event can occur during a tight timeline. So developing a plan of who does what, when, and precisely what the message will be – is critical.

The first step is to notify the donors, or potential guests, of the change. Due to so many other adaptations that occurred as a result of COVID-19, most will not be surprised. But, sending a notification to potential attendees to get the new date or changes on calendars as soon as possible is important.

Utilize a communications schedule that provides updates and information consistently. In our experience, we created a targeted email campaign to start almost immediately that mapped out dates and exact content. We dribbled out details on the event little by little to generate enthusiasm and draw interest. Consider spreading out content and employing “teasers” for the event.

While these emails are being created, you can get the content of the “night of” outlined and established. Some of this may already be in place if you’re moving from an in-person event to a virtual event and can easily be transferred.

Keep the nature of the new “venue” in mind – attendees will not be together in a banquet hall eating a meal or in the middle of a race with you, and they won’t be planning to spend three or four hours sitting. They will be watching from their laptops, tablets, or phones and can walk away or log-off any time. So, keep it simple, short, and light/entertaining. Instruct the speakers and scripts to be brief and succinct; give them a time limit. This information will be communicated to attendees in the emails, and it must be firmed up promptly.


What would you say is your most powerful fundraising tool? According to Fundly , it’s videos. In fact, a quadrupled amount of money is raised by campaigns that incorporate a video compared to those that don’t.

As previously mentioned, because attention spans are limited and distractions are prevalent, use video to capture a story, educate the viewers, and explain your mission. For example, utilize personal stories from previous clients or staff members. There is no better way to generate understanding and empathy than to let your supporters hear what you do directly from those who rely on it. Additionally, it’s great for supporters to “meet” the people who are directly impacted by the services or are working behind the scenes to fulfill your mission and vision.

  • Keep videos short

People have short attention spans, and they will disengage quickly. Ideally, your video should range between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to keep from losing your audience’s attention.

  • Tell a story

The golden rule of storytelling is: “Show, don’t tell.” However, with video, we prefer to show and tell. Storytelling is a way to create an emotional connection with your audience while sharing critical information. Telling facts alone doesn’t have the same impact that sharing the humanity of a situation does.

Telling: “Worldwide, 73 million women have abortions every year.”

Showing and telling: “Jenny was stunned when she saw her positive pregnancy test. For a second, a part of her heart smiled at the thought of having a baby. Then reality set in. Then panic as her thoughts raced. ‘My parents will be so angry — they can’t ever find out!’ ‘There is no way I can afford to raise a child!’ ‘I don’t see any way out but abortion.’ Jenny agonized as she lay upon the abortionist’s table, wondering if she was doing the right thing. In the time it took to tell you Jenny’s story, 270 women like her aborted their babies.”

Most people find themselves invested through personal connection when they hear the second example of showing and telling. When you’re helping an audience see a problem that needs to be solved, showing and telling brings humanity into the topic.


In our case, the main “attraction” of our event was an auction. For others, it may be an activity, a well-known speaker, or live entertainment. Whatever it is, make sure it’s engaging. Again, many distractions can take a viewer away from a virtual event. It’s your job to keep them engaged.

If planning an auction, you may find some of the following tips helpful.

  • Support local: Generate packages that support local businesses and give attendees something to look forward to as the state opens up.
  • Have a live auctioneer: This provides entertainment and a sense of excitement.
  • Post packages early: Use a platform that allows the items to be displayed in advance so attendees can plan their bidding.
  • Consider ending the event with a paddle raise : This is an effective way to fundraise with limited time in a fast-paced, energetic way.

If you don’t have plans for a live auction, there are many platforms out there that accommodate silent auction items, and these packages can be made available for bidding before the actual event. It’s an additional way to generate funds.

Note: you will need staff to generate ideas, track down, locate, assemble, and then write descriptions for the auction items, so allow yourself ample time to get this done. We chose to create and offer just eight larger auction packages with significant value to maximize our team’s energy. If you have a good-size event committee, the sky is the limit.


As more events “go virtual,” more options become available for hosting the event online. Take your time, do some research, and find a platform that works well for your agency.

Some things to keep in mind: User-friendliness: Pick a platform that is accessible to those who are not technologically savvy.

  • Consider your typical attendee base and make sure that your chosen software program is easy for them to navigate.
  • Donation ease: Chat with staff members at your organization that process donations. What information do they need from a platform in order to accept and fully process any monetary items that are submitted?
  • Reliability: Has another organization you partner with used this platform before? Are there online reviews from previous events? How is their customer service? Can you participate in a demo prior to the event?


The event is over, and you’re feeling great that a first-ever virtual event is in the books. You created interest in your mission and generated funding for a worthy cause, one that people-in-need rely on. And this was presented in a new way that you may have never used before. You learned something new!

But you are not quite done. Consider the invitation list you used; there will likely be many who could not or chose not to be with you due to other commitments. You can still reach them. If your event is live, plan to record it so you can send it out. By posting the recap video on your website, Vimeo or YouTube, your partners and supporters who could not be with you – can see what they missed! They can experience the events of the evening and be impacted, despite not being able to “attend.”

Email this out with an invitation to contribute to the fundraiser. It provides one more chance to donate and be part of the cause of your ministry or mission to support your efforts. This video can also serve as a valuable staff training source for future virtual events.

Lastly and most importantly, never forget to thank all those who supported you with their generosity! You were not there, with them, to thank them in person. It’s this wonderful team that allows us all to serve and do what we love. So thank them, and most of all, thank God for the blessing they are!

Caring Network is a faith-based nonprofit agency in the Chicagoland area that has been serving women facing unplanned pregnancy since 1981. Through the generous support of individual donors, companies, and churches in the community, we can reach more women and save more lives. If you’d like to learn more about our mission or view our virtual fundraising event, contact us today!

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