Social Media Challenge
Remember how nuts everyone went for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014? Millions of people were videoed dousing themselves with buckets of ice-cold water and nominating others to do the same. The initiative raised nearly AU$290 million for motor neurone disease charities and people continue to be reminded of the cause when their challenge videos pop up as memories on their social media channels.
It was a winning formula; it was easy to do, it appealed to our competitive and narcissistic tendencies, it took advantage of social media peer pressure and it attracted a few high profile celebrity participants. Try to think of a photogenic challenge that is easy to do and relevant to your cause and you could be on to a winner.
Virtual Auction of PromisesThis idea could work well for smaller non-profits with a strong local community support base (such as schools, churches and sports clubs). Ask people to donate their time and/or skills and then sell them to the highest bidder at an online auction. Elderly and health compromised people will be particularly appreciative of simple services such as dog walking, shopping and prescription collecting, so this fundraising event idea could fill a real community need, as well as raise valuable funds. The event can either be staged live online, giving people the opportunity to raise their bids in real time as the auction progresses, or it can be a silent auction, where people submit closed bids.
Virtual Sporting EventsDesign some attractive medals or put together some suitably attractive prizes and challenge people to run/cycle/walk/hop/skip as far as possible in a given time frame. They can then submit Strava/Garmin/Fitbit proof of their endeavours via email and you can select winners for various categories, such as fastest kilometre, furthest travelled, best fancy dress, strangest mid-challenge sight etc.
Basic funds can be raised from entry fees, but you could generate additional revenue by creating event merchandise too, if you feel that the number of entrants warrants it.
Individual Sporting ChallengesIf you don’t want to organise others for a sporting event, you could undertake an individual challenge. This could be as straight forward as getting sponsorship for running a 10k, half marathon or full marathon on your local roads, trails or city park pathways, or it could be as madcap as dressing up as a kangaroo and jumping around your neighbourhood for as long as possible.
Community Clear Up CompetitionWith supermarkets and food outlets forced to u-turn on re-usables and revert to throw-away packaging to reduce the likelihood of virus transmission, our public spaces are going to be more in need than ever of a good clean up. Challenge people to get sponsored to pick up as much litter as they possibly can on a designated day and offer a prize to the person who a) collects the most and b) gets the most sponsorship money.
Social Media Photograph CompetitionThis can be themed to your cause, so would work really well for an animal shelter, to which could people submit pictures of their much-loved pets. Charge a minimal entry fee, offer a really worthwhile prize and make sharing the competition a condition of entry, so that you get maximum exposure and more competition entries.
Alternatives to Scheduled Events
When the UK's London Marathon had to be removed from the sporting calendar in April, the charity sector there had to get creative to make up some of the money that would have been raised by the event. The 2.6 Challenge asked people to come up with any fundraising idea that involved the numbers ‘two’ and ‘six’. Some people ran 2.6 miles and made a donation to a favourite charity while others took things further, running 2.6 miles backwards in 26 minutes, baking 26 cookies and delivering them to family and friends, wearing full cricket kit non-stop for 26 hours. The possibilities were endless and the self-imposed challenges helped to lift people's spirit as well as raise a bit of the shortfall from the postponed marathon.
As the pandemic continues and more events worldwide are cancelled, postponed or taking place behind closed doors, there are even more opportunities to come up with fundraising challenges in their honour… Living Room Olympics anyone?
During lockdown, people spent more time with their immediate families than they had done for years. Some people will have be using a prison-style tally chart to mark off the days until they can escape, but others will have relished this opportunity to spend more time with their closest family and would definitely be up for a fundraising challenge that involved everyone in the household.
This could be anything from a Give Me Ten challenge where, for example, mum and dad run ten miles each and the kids each run ten laps of the local recreation ground, or a Come Dine With Me Australia challenge, where each family member is responsible for the dinner and entertainment one night of the week and everyone else votes on the best evening.
Live Stream Events
If you were planning concerts or comedy nights for your chosen cause and have had to re-think your plans thanks to coronavirus, you could still run the events online and live stream it to your audience. It is unlikely that you will be able to charge the same amount for this type of event as you would for a live event, but it may help you to generate some funds and keep your cause alive in people’s minds.
Online Private Tuition
If you have a hidden talent such as playing the tin whistle, watercolour painting or crocheting and think you have the patience and panache to teach others to do it too, you could raise money by offering online tutorials. These could be one-offs or run as a course, depending on what you are teaching and the time you have available. Don't forget to allow time for audience questions and consider recording the class and releasing the video content online, so that people can refer back to in future.
Shave Your Head
No need to go to the hairdressers for this one, just grab the clippers (or borrow some if you don’t own any) and dare to bare your scalp for charity. Get someone in your household to record your efforts on their phone and share the footage on social media, ensuring that it is shareable and tagging the charity name in your post, so that people who don’t know you but support your chosen cause have the opportunity to sponsor you too.
Turn Pre-Loved Items into Charitable Funds
If lockdown brought out the de-cluttering demon in you, turn some of your pre-loved items into a charitable donation by selling them online and donating the money you receive to your chosen cause.
Social Media Birthday Fundraisers
Use the social media buzz around your birthday to raise awareness and valuable funds for a charity close to your heart. If you have a story behind your fondness for your particular charity, use your birthday as an opportunity to tell it, because it is that personal connection that will resonate with your friends and encourage more donations. Gain additional donations by encouraging friends and family to do birthday fundraisers too.
Many pubs that were famed for their quizzes pre-lockdown successfully took their trivia tests online during lockdown. Use their winning formula to make a success of your own online charity quiz. You can either charge a set fee for participation or ask people to match the cost of the drinks they consume during the quiz as a charitable donation. Paying twice for a shop-bought drink is still cheaper than drinking in a bar and a good cause will benefit in the process.
Donate Your Fuel Costs
If lockdown forced you to work from home when you normally commute to an office, calculate how much you have saved and donate it. Share your calculations on social media to encourage others to do the same as a peer fundraising effort.
Donate Your Take Away Coffee Costs
If you frequently commuted long distances for work and the above calculation resembles the third world debt total, go more manageable and donate the cost of your take away coffee instead. Again, share your calculations on social media to encourage your peers to get involved.
Turn Your Bake Sale into a Delivery Service
If the cake stall is always the most popular at your local charity event, take the trouble to collect the usual baked donations from your supporters, sell them online and then deliver them to the buyers. This only works for small, local events, but it could really benefit people who are shielding and could do with a sweet treat to cheer themselves up.
Recurring Giving Campaign
Contact supporters who regularly attend your events and ask them to stump up a regular monthly or quarterly donation. A successful recurring giving campaign provides around five different amount options for people to choose from and gives an example of the way in which each amount could be used (e.g. AU$20 feeds a woman and a child living in a shelterfor x days)
Donate Your Time
If, for whatever reason, the coronavirus pandemic has left you with a bit of extra time on your hands, donate that time to a good cause. A number of organizations co-ordinate volunteers to collect prescriptions, go shopping and generally support people in need at this time of crisis and it is an easy way for many of us to give something back to the local community.
If you are using your down time to knit, crochet, paint, draw or jewellery-make you can raise money for charity by selling your crafts via an online selling site such as Ebay or Etsy. You can use your product listings to explain why the proceeds are going to your chosen cause, as this can help to engage potential buyers and close a sale or two.
Traditionally a sponsored walk involves getting together with lots of other people to walk a given route on a given day, but it doesn’t have to be organised that way. You could give all participants different designated start times to walk the same route or challenge people to walk a certain number of kilometres and leave them to calculate a route of the required distance (sending you the activity tracker evidence afterwards).
An easy one to organise and manage at a distance, a t-shirt fundraiser is also a great way to raise funds and awareness for your cause. You can run the designing of the t-shirt as a competition and then run a campaign that rewards online donations over a certain amount with a t-shirt printed with the winning design.
Virtual Dinner Party
It’s not quite the same vibe as sitting round a table with some of your favourite people, but it does provide the opportunity to catch up with friends and raise a bit of money for a good cause. Share the recipes for each course in advance of the party, so that discussion of how easy each one was to prepare, how it tastes and any cooking disaster anecdotes can form part of the conversation.
Ask people to donate the ingredients cost or the cost of the wine to your chosen charity. If people are willing and able to, you could make it a recurring event and theme each dinner to a national cuisine. You could even run a series of virtual dinner party events and create a charity cookbook of the best recipes to sell to supporters.
Online Candygram Sale
This is a thoughtful gesture at any time, but could be particularly appreciated at the moment, when social distancing is causing some people to feel really lonely and the delivery of a sweet treat and a personalised note could really make their day.
Buy a wholesale bag of popular sweets (avoid chocolate, as you cannot be sure it won’t melt in transit) and design a few different cards that people can choose from to send out with their candygram. If you can, print these cards with your social media details and encourage recipients to share their thank-yous online and tag you in their posts.
Digital Book Club
Reading is a great way to pass the time, especially if you are shielding or self-isolating and your entertainment options are limited. By setting up a virtual book club you can turn your reading into an opportunity for socialising and fundraising too. You can use social media to set up your group and then get everyone together on a virtual platform once a month to discuss the book, either via online messages or on video chat. You can pre-agree a charity donation amount for each book, or donate the cost of the book to your chosen cause.
Virtual Film Club
If you prefer the silver screen to the printed word, you could try setting up a virtual film club instead. You can use social media to gather interest in your group and to let everyone know what to watch and when. Members can take it in turns to choose the film and discussion can be conducted via text chat or a virtual meeting program such as Zoom.
Approach Local Businesses
If your charity or cause offers a local service, such as home nursing in a given geographical area, you are in a great position to approach local businesses, which you know have not suffered hugely due to coronavirus, to ask them for a donation. It’s good PR for them to be donating to a local cause and businesses are usually able to donate more than individuals, so you could reach that fundraising goal more quickly.
Cycling Treasure Hunt
The traditional mass-start of a sponsored cycle ride is far from COVID-19 friendly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t organise bike-based fundraisers.
Set participants the challenge of covering a certain number of kilometres over a course of their choice and make things more interesting by asking them to tick off a checklist of things along the way (strangest bit of discarded rubbish, their reflection in the most unusual place, the most interesting cloud, an animal, something shiny). All the items can be photographed on smart phones and submitted via social media, which will give your accounts a huge boost.
The popularity of TikTok suggests that many of us think we are backing dancers who have missed our vocation. Channel this energy into a danceathon, in which event participants raise sponsorship for dancing for a certain amount of time, perhaps 12, 24 or 36 hours. In a socially distant world this cannot be done in a village hall or sports venue with an encouraging audience, but teams could get together via an online meeting platform, with individual team members dancing in their home for a given amount of time before handing over to another team member to continue the relay.
Online Gaming Tournament
If you have been using lockdown as an excuse to hone your gaming skills, put them to the test with an online gaming tournament. The gaming community is notoriously generous when it comes to charitable giving, having raised an estimated AU$98 million for charity worldwide between 2012 and 2017, so it could be a big earner for your cause. Choose a popular game, such as FIFA or Call of Duty and give the tournament a time limit so that it doesn’t drag on.
Text giving is a quick and convenient way for people to give and it has proven its worth as a fundraising channel for many charities in the US, UK and Canada. All you have to do is link up with a mobile giving service provider and then ask your supporters to text a predetermined keywork to a designated number. The money is either added to the donor's monthly mobile phone bill or deducted from their pre-paid credit.
Buddy Up With a Local Business
Cafes, pubs and restaurants have reopened but many people may be reluctant to risk enclosed public spaces just for the sake of a latte or a pint. However, they may be persuaded if they thought that their actions had a charitable element. Talk to local businesses and see if they would be prepared to donate a portion of sales of a specific dish or drink to your cause. It could get both of you valuable publicity and encourage people to support local businesses and a good cause.
Churches and supermarkets are providing safe, socially distant ways for us to donate gifts of food when we shop or as we are passing the church doors. Dropping off a couple of tins or packets as and when you are able to is a great way to support people who are really struggling during the pandemic.
Home Wine Tasting
This virtual fundraising idea works best in a local community with a small group of participants. Deliver miniatures of a selection of wines to each household that signs up and then get everyone together on a video meeting platform to sample each one. If you are a particularly avid wine buff, you could even suggest cheeses to pair with each bottle.
Face Mask Fundraiser
Help your supporters to stay safe and continue to help your cause with a face mask fundraiser. Email your nonprofit's logo to a reputable mask printing company and get them to create a custom mask for you to sell in your online shop. You could argue that it's more effective than getting t-shirts printed, as it is literally in people's faces on a regular basis!
Virtual Tea Party
There is nothing quite so decadent as high tea, with perfectly triangular cucumber sandwiches and a selection of delicious cakes. No one just makes themselves fancy tea though, they need a good excuse, such as a charitable cause. Get your guests to sign up online, share cake recipes, sandwich ideas and cooking tips beforehand and then login to a video meeting platform to share tea with others from the comfort of home.
Coronavirus Swear Jar
If you are fed up with hearing the words ‘coronavirus’, ‘COVID-19’ and ‘PPE’, get your household or workplace on board with a swear jar, where any mention of the above words requires them to feed the jar with their loose change. It’s amazing how quickly the cents will add up!
Wardrobe Clear Out Competition
Many people have used lockdown as an opportunity to sort out their wardrobes. Go online and challenge people to share the biggest fashion disaster they unearthed in their clear out and then get everyone to vote the worst one as the winner.
Set Up an Online Fundraising Page
If there is a charity that is particularly close to your heart, set up an online fundraising page, share your story with others and direct people to it via social media. Sometimes seeing that a friend or relative has a personal connection to a cause is enough to get people donating generously and spreading the word to their own contacts.
Turn your charity raffle into a live virtual fundraising event. Gather prizes and sell tickets remotely then recreate the buzz of a traditional draw by picking out the numbers live on social media, so that people can watch and comment if their number comes up. You can make organising this event easier by requesting online vouchers as prizes, or you can go the extra mile by posting or hand-delivering the prizes afterwards.
In an age where coins and paper money are considered less desirable than a germ-free contactless card payment, it may be worth talking to local businesses to see if they are happy to put a collection tin at their till point for your cause. People may be going cashless, but those who are still using it may be happier than ever to let retailers pop their change into a charity collection.
This idea works especially well for high schools co-ordinating students to raise money for charity. Dog walking is an easy activity to organise and can be done whilst adhering to social distancing guidelines, especially if the dog can be picked up and dropped off to a garden, without any need for contact or going inside the owner's house. It could reduce the anxiety levels for dog owners who are isolating or having to work long hours from home.
Social distancing has led people to place even more value on sending and receiving cards and gifts in the post. Raise some money for your cause by getting some cards printed and selling them singly or in packs via a selling site such as Ebay or Etsy. Remember to print your contact details and social media handles on the back so people can look up your cause.
Virtual Bingo Night
To keep this manageable, it will probably need to involve a smaller group than you would get if you hosted your evening at a school or village hall. However, you can still generate funds by sending out bingo cards to participants in advance of your event and then getting everyone together on a video meeting platform to draw the numbers. Cash prizes can be transferred online and other prizes can be posted out afterwards.
Take Advantage of Suitable Awareness Days
It seems that every day of the year is now designated to raising awareness of a certain cause or condition. Look through an online calendar of awareness days for this year and find out if any of them are applicable to your cause. You can then set up social media campaigns around their designated hashtags and potentially gain funds from people who are new to your specific charity or cause but are interested in the sector in which you are working.
The perfect fundraising solution for bookworms and introverts who are secretly delighted by social distancing, a readathon can easily be organised remotely and prizes can be offered to the person who reads the most books and the person who raises the most in sponsorship. This idea works particularly well for schools and kids clubs, where reading widely and prolifically are regularly encouraged.
Use Facebook to Fundraise
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many of us spending a whole lot more time on social media. Use this to the advantage of you nonprofit by setting up a Facebook fundraising campaign and adding donate buttons to your Facebook stories and live streams.
Create a Crowdfunding Campaign
If your cause is working towards a specific monetary goal, you could use a crowdfunding campaign to reach it without having to approach anyone in person. Cheap and easy to set up, a good crowdfunding campaign has the potential to go viral on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and raise a lot of money.
Virtual Night In
We’ve never had more practice at a good night in, so turn this to your advantage and get people together online to socialise and raise a toast to your cause. You can ask participants for a set donation or ask them to donate the cost of their average proper night out on the town, before such things became so complicated!
Dress Up for the Dishes Competition
With so many dressy occasions postponed or cancelled, now is a great opportunity for you to create a social media buzz (and some valuable funds) by challenging people to get glammed up to do the washing up, take the bins out or walk the dog. Get participants to post selfies to your social pages, create a shortlist and then ask your followers to vote for the overall winner.
We hope these tips for fundraising during a pandemic help you to craft an online fundraising strategy that can work alongside your regular events and have the potential to take the strain should an escalation in Australia's coronavirus situation limit your activities again in future.