The shift to being constantly online has been difficult for everybody, especially those in events. 

And this struggle can be amplified for people in fundraising roles, where in-person events ranging from sporting events to galas packed with glitz and glamour have been the norm to attract donors.

However, virtual events look like they’ll be a part of the events landscape for the foreseeable future. So how do you make the most of them for your fundraising efforts? 

In this article, we’ll dive into the Virtual Events Research Report put together by Wild Apricot, and reveal the top three fundraising secrets that came out of their research – and how you can use them for your own efforts. 

And what kind of insights are we sharing? Well, we asked organizations how they’re throwing events, what they’ve tried during the last six months,  and  – arguably the most important – what you can learn from what they’ve already tried. 

Top 3 Ways to Skyrocket Your Fundraising Efforts

There are some powerful stats that show the growth of online events – like the fact that the number of organizations putting on these virtual events has doubled the last six months. 

With growth like that, it’s pretty clear that it’s a path you can’t ignore.

Based on the answers and insights that came out of the report, here are the top three ways you can plan your virtual event with online fundraising efforts at the top of mind. 

Share a Donation Page

If you don’t ask for donations, you don’t even give people the chance to say yes to you!

Sometimes, simply asking people to donate is the best tactic. And it’s a tactic that’s shockingly underused right now, despite the fact organizations doing this are seeing some major successes! In fact, according to the Virtual Events Research Report, almost a third more of organizations who reported generating more revenue from their virtual events than from their in-person ones used this tactic.

If there’s less people asking right now, it also makes for an even better time to put out the donation page. If people aren’t thinking to ask, you have less competition for those donation dollars. 

Pro tip – you can also ask for support generally, not just tied to an event! While most organizations think to share the donation page during or at the end of an event, you can even consider using the page as a general callout for support. Build a page that is easy for you and your team to regularly share. 

If you want an even simpler way to run a fundraiser that your team can share on their personal networks, Facebook Fundraisers are easy to set up – and bonus, they’re free if you’re a non-profit organization!

If you aren’t actively asking your audience for support, they may not even know you need it! Make sure to ask.

Start Selling Merchandise

Who doesn’t love a cute mug or shirt that supports one of their favorite causes?

According to the Virtual Events Report, only 10% of organizations are using merchandise sales as a way to fundraise. This means that there is a huge opportunity within merchandise sales to differentiate your organization from others while raising funds – people aren’t fully tapping into this area!

Create an online store to house your merchandise, and you can share the link to this at events. You can do this right through your own website or bring in a third-party vendor for support. (Just remember that many third-party sites that you use to manage your stores may charge a monthly fee or take a fraction of sales for their services.)

This can also work as fuel for other fundraising ideas, like online auctions (this works better for limited edition merchandise, like a signed jersey or custom-made item, since you won’t be regularly selling them) or crowdfunding. If people donate over $50, you can send them a free t-shirt as a thank you gift!

And while it does require a little more forethought (from planning merchandise, getting designed made, and manufacturing, to name a few steps), it has proven to be hugely successful. Organizations that were selling merchandise peer-to-peer raised two or three times the amount as others. 

Although this isn’t as common a tactic for organizations, it’s clear it has a ton of potential when utilized!

If you’re not sure what types of merchandise to sell, here are  some starting points with examples to spark your creativity:

  • Clothes: Look at getting different clothing items, like a shirt or hoodie, designed and sold! This has been hugely successful for a lot of organizations. You can look at tentree, an organization that’s whole mission is supporting a cause through clothing sales, for some design inspiration. 
  • Socks: Specific, yes, but people really do love fun socks as an easy way to support causes they care about. WWF has a fundraiser called Sack of Socks to support their initiatives  
  • Accessories: There are so many different types of accessories you can brand and sell! Think hats, phone cases, or masks (they’re so in this year). Save our Scruff, a Toronto-based dog rescue, just released a dog lover bucket hat where proceeds go towards their rescue initiatives! 


The above is by no means an exhaustive list. Get creative with merchandise options you want to offer! You can try mugs, tote bags, keychains, water bottles, the list goes on! You can find a promotional item to fit any budget. 

Consider Virtual Sponsorship Opportunities 

You’ve probably seen it without even realizing it. From Rec league jerseys to official drinks of different sports teams, sponsorships exist in so many shapes and sizes that it’s definitely possible to find one that will suit your organization.

However, many organizations haven’t capitalized on this as a way to boost virtual event fundraising because it  seems like it’s something that strictly works for in-person fundraising, right?

Wrong! Looking for virtual sponsorship opportunities just means you have to get a little more creative in your search, but it is definitely doable. 

And as more people move online, it can be even more valuable to have these sponsorship moments. You still want to get exposure and ensure you’re top of mind. Since people are inside, they may be missing some of your traditional ads and – even worse – potentially forgetting about it. And if they’re forgetting about you, they definitely aren’t putting money towards your fundraising efforts. 

If anything, now is actually a better time to capitalize on sponsorship opportunities. After all, they’re attending these events right from their computers – if something reminds them of your organization, going to your website to learn more or donate is quite literally a click away for them!

Here are some fun virtual sponsorship opportunities you can look into:

  • Sponsor blog or social posts with influencers: Every industry has their influencers now, from mommy bloggers to fitness junkies. See what influencers are in your space and reach out to them about sponsoring some content with them. They have a super engaged online audience, so a few posts with an authority in the space can go a long way!
  • Get on panels: This is a tried and true sponsorship approach that has translated nicely to the online world. See if you can get somebody on your organization to speak on panels that impact your industry. When they speak on these panels, you could be exposing your organization to listeners who may not have heard of you before! This may result in new donors! On the other hand, if you’re hosting your own panel, charge guests to sponsor their seat on it — resulting in profit for you and exposure for them.
  • Offer Zoom backgrounds: Zoom backgrounds can have you on a beach or resort in a few clicks, but why not use that as a sponsor benefit for your next event? It’s a small but impactful way to keep people thinking about your partners. Alternatively, if you know of an online event that your audience will be at, sponsor them and request they use your branding as Zoom backgrounds for their sessions. 

Virtual sponsorship ideas may be a little harder to come up with – online sponsorship at this level is completely new for everybody – but these may actually work better. You’re reaching them when it’s arguably even easier for them to reach you!

Being Online is a Whole New World of Opportunity

There’s no doubt about it, having to move your events plans online isn’t easy. 

But there’s no clear answer as to when large scale events will be able to happen in person – and when people will even be comfortable going to attend them. 

Hopefully, armed with these new ideas (and some creative ones of your own!) you’re feeling more confident in your fundraising abilities, even if they’re online for the meantime! In no time, you’ll be generating more revenue from your online efforts – and maybe finding even more new ways to boost your bottom line!

Good luck!

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