• Nonprofit Learning Lab

20 Online Fundraising Ideas Perfect for Any Cause (Social Distancing Approved!)

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

This is a guest blog post shared with permission from Wild Apricot.



Wondering how to raise funds now that we can’t leave our houses? 

You’re not alone. 

COVID-19 has completely changed the landscape of fundraising, and the foolproof methods nonprofit professionals have always relied on are now out of the question. 

Nonprofits have been forced to postpone their meetings with donors, cancel their events, and figure out how to continue raising funds in the era of social distancing.

The good news is that it is entirely possible to reach your nonprofit’s fundraising goals online. 

These days people are willing to do whatever it takes to help each other, and will completely understand if you have to change the format of your events or communicate with them in a new way.

Plus, the pandemic is changing what we consider normal across all aspects of our lives, so many of these online fundraising strategies will remain prevalent even after the crisis is over. After all, there are a number of benefits that make them a more appealing option than in-person engagements.  

The Top Three Benefits of Online Fundraising


1. Less Likely to Cause Set-Up Headaches

Whether you’re used to organizing a lot of events or having volunteers go door-to-door to collect donations, you have to agree that these methods require a lot of work – planning, organizing, managing people, schedules, committees, sub-committees and a plethora of other headache-inducing tasks.

Online fundraising relies on technology more than anything, so the only work you have to do is strategic, like setting goals and thinking about how best to reach them. Fundraising online does involve a bit of work upfront to get things set up, but the rest is usually handled by the technology you choose to work with.

2.  Less Likely to Break the Bank

You don’t need to book a venue for your event, cater lunch for your committee meeting, pay for the 5,000 direct mail pieces you send out or print 500 flyers to promote your fundraiser. Most of the ideas in this post are low cost, rely on technology you already pay for, and some are completely free (other than paying your staff for their time, of course).

3. Less Likely to Restrict Your Reach

If you’re a small nonprofit in the Yukon, there’s no way that someone from New York is coming to your event (sorry to burst your bubble). 

But with online fundraising, physical distance doesn’t exist – you can spread the word about your cause all across the globe if you want to. 

The power of social media makes this possible, so why not take advantage and see how many potential supporters live beyond your local community? 

Read More: 200+ Amazing Fundraising Ideas Any Organization Can Try Today

The #1 Thing You Have to Do First

It’s important to remember what the ultimate goal of your efforts is – you want people to come to your website and make a donation.

To that end, before you even start planning your online fundraising strategy, take a good look at your website and make sure it’s ready for all these new visitors.

You want your website to be easy to navigate, tell the story of your organization in a compelling way, and inspire people to join your community. 

Wondering how to get started? Check out this post on the 22 features that every nonprofit website has

Your website should also make it easy for people to make a donation. Design a functional donate page and link to it in the header of your website to make it hard to miss. A great donate page is simple, but offers the donor lots of options to fit their unique needs.

If you’re thinking of building a new website or refreshing your existing one, you can also start a free 30-day trial of Wild Apricot to see how its built-in website builder might help you create the perfect website for your nonprofit.

Read More: How to Prepare a Nonprofit Fundraising Plan

20 Online Fundraising Ideas

Now without further ado, let’s dive into the online fundraising ideas. Feel free to skip to a topic that interests you the most:

1.   Text-to-Give

The ease of giving through a mobile phone is hard to beat — people are already on it all the time, and there are no lengthy forms to fill out. Plus, a service like Snowball, Qgiv, MobileCause or many others will set up the system for you, so all you have to do is decide on a catchy and relevant keyword and start encouraging people to text in.

Note that there are two ways of giving through a mobile phone and you might need to do some research about what your audience would prefer. Text-to-give automatically charges the donation amount through the donor’s mobile service provider, while text-to-donate responds to their text with a link to a webpage where they can complete the donation. This article explains the difference in greater detail.

Who does it well:

One of the earliest adopters of text-to-give was the American Red Cross. Following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, they raised over $43 million in relief funds by encouraging people to text “HAITI” and donate $10. Their text-to-give system is still successfully running today.

2.   Email Campaign

Hopefully, sending appeals via email is already part of your nonprofit’s fundraising practice. It’s a low-cost way of letting your community know what your immediate needs are and how they can offer their support. 

Plus, if you’ve taken the right steps to grow your email list over time, the impact of just one well-crafted email could be far-reaching.