Creative Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Arts Organizations

Basic Fundraising

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When the COVID-19 pandemic changed the fundraising industry in 2020, we heard from a lot of people who were concerned about securing funding for arts organizations. Many of those people were worried: would people still donate to arts organizations during a pandemic, or would they direct their support somewhere else? How can arts organizations engage and inspire donors when there was so much else happening in the world? And how on earth can we connect donors with the arts without in-person events? 

Luckily, nonprofit fundraisers are creative by nature! Add in the creativity that comes from working with arts organizations and you’ve got a group of fundraisers who are great at thinking outside the box. Nonprofit arts organizations pulled together some outstanding virtual campaigns in 2020. 

If you’re an arts-focused organization and need some examples and ideas to get your own ideas flowing, you’ll love this article! 

Virtual campaigns will be key to finding funding for arts organizations 

 In-person events are some of the most common ways for arts organizations to connect with their supporters. And, while the promise of a vaccine is encouraging, we still need to plan on using virtual campaigns to raise money this year. But what kind of campaigns can an arts organization run that will keep donors engaged? 

Here are some practical and creative ideas you can use! 

  1. Launch a recurring donation program!  
    Funding for arts organizations can be seasonal by nature. Building a base of reliable income is huge. 
  1. Explore streaming events. 
    You might not be able to hold in-person performances, gallery openings, lectures, or art classes, but you can do those virtually. 
  1. Consider including remote-friendly events.  
    Try planning virtual events like silent auctions, creative peer-to-peer events, and challenge-based fundraisers (think along the lines of an Ice Bucket Challenge but tweaked to suit your mission) 
  1. Try selling merchandise. 
    Consider selling items like nonprofit swag, sure. But consider tapping into the vast reserves of creativity and talent you have at your disposal. 

We hope you find an idea you’ll love!  

Inspiring Examples of Virtual Campaigns for Arts Organizations 

It’s all well and good to talk about campaign ideas. But it’s more effective when you see examples, too! Here are some of our favorite examples of virtual fundraising campaigns from arts organizations that use the Qgiv platform. Some of these are so creative! 

Run a campaign promoting recurring giving options 

Funding for arts organizations is often seasonal. That’s a big hurdle to overcome if you’re not able to hold events! If you rely on concerts, gallery openings, galas, or other in-person gatherings to raise money, this could be a good fit for you.  

Building a solid base of recurring donors is a way to generate steady, reliable income. The secret to putting together a great recurring campaign is to make it seem appealing to set up a gift. Make your recurring program appealing by: 

Creating a special group with its own name 

Setting up a recurring donation is great. Setting up a recurring donation and getting into an exclusive club is even better! Create a named group for your sustaining donors and let them know they can join by making a gift. It really works! 

arts-organization-fundraising-example
Instead of asking people to make a recurring donation, ask them to join a club by setting up a recurring donation. It’s a subtle difference, but it’s an effective one!

Giving those donors special (virtual) access to programming

One of the best ways to encourage recurring donations is to give something back. Donors love feeling like they’re getting something they value in return for their support! Try offering your sustaining donors special access to programming. Think along the lines of exclusive events (streaming or in-person), discounted rates for events, or discounts at your gift shop or merchandise page. 

Tying a monthly donation amount to a tangible outcome

Donors give because they want to make a tangible difference in the world. Tie their monthly donation amount to a tangible outcome! This is a powerful way to take your ask to the next level. Check out this example: 

Good: We need your support! Make a bigger impact by setting up a monthly gift. 

Better: Join the Museums Patron Club by setting up a monthly gift! 

Best: Join the Museums Patron Club! Your monthly gift will provide art supplies for Museum students. 

If you haven’t set up or promoted a recurring campaign, now’s the time! Spend some time making your donors feel like they’re doing something really special by supporting you on a regular basis. 

Switching your events and other programming to a streaming format 

Brainstorm how to transition your traditional events and programming to a streaming format. Some types of programs that lend themselves well to this include: 

  • Musical performances 
  • Speakers and lecturers 
  • Auctions and other events 
  • Classes or workshops 
  • Telethon-style fundraising events 

What else could you do in front of a camera instead of in front of an audience? Get creative! Monologues, instrumental performances, skits and comedy sketches, museum tours—all of these programs and more can be shared virtually. If SNL can do it, so can you! 

Polk-Museum-of-Art-fundraising-example
The art museum in our home town got creative with streaming video! Art history lectures, art classes, and Q&A sessions with the Museum Director gave supporters plenty of ways to get their art fix, even if they couldn’t visit the museum itself. 

Give members and sustaining donors a little extra something. Sneak peeks, video snippets from rehearsals, Q&A time with artists and speakers before a lecture, and Zoom calls with performers are all good ideas. They’re a way to add value without putting people at risk. 

Expanding your event offerings

Nonprofits are throwing all kinds of fun, creative events. We have a bunch of different articles on throwing virtual and hybrid events. But what kind of events can you offer? 

Flex your creative muscles!  

Auctions

Connect with your supporters by finding auction items you know they’ll love. Try combining tried-and-true auction items like gift baskets and travel packages with mission-specific items like local art, memberships, or unique experiences with your organization. 

Need more ideas? Check out these 25 virtual auction item ideas

Peer-to-peer events 

Do you have a group of loyal supporters who would raise money for your nonprofit? Would any of your traditional in-person events (like luncheons where table captains sell seats) be fun as a peer-to-peer fundraiser?  

Peer-to-peer fundraisers take some time and effort to pull together, but they’re a valuable way to raise money and strengthen your relationships with your supporters. Check out this article for tips on running a virtual peer-to-peer event

Board fundraisers

Lots of nonprofits struggle with getting their board to participate in fundraising. Often, those board members are reluctant to ask their friends and family for donations because they feel awkward or don’t know how. Try setting up fundraising pages for your board members! Instead of asking for support in person, board members can share their fundraising pages digitally.  

Not sure how this could work in real life? Check out this example from Snow City Arts, who empowered two board members to put together a virtual art tour and related fundraising pages. 

Image showing a mural that is a stop on Snow City Arts' virtual art tour in Chicago's neighborhoods.
Snow City Arts’ event banner shows one of the exciting stops on their Virtual DeTour neighborhood art tour.

Mash-ups 

If you don’t want to stick to one style of event, try doing an event mash-up! One great example of this kind of event comes from Seattle Shakespeare, who put together a fundraiser called “Bill’s Bash.” It featured a silent auction, peer-to-peer fundraising options, a raffle, and a ton of fun, interactive content.  

Seattle-Shakespeare-funding-arts-organizations
Seattle Shakespeare threw “Bill’s Bash,” which included an auction, raffles, a peer-to-peer fundraising element, and tons of cool perks for attendees.

Sound interesting? Read more about Seattle Shakespeare’s event over here

You know your donor base better than anyone. How can you engage them? What gets them excited? Which events can you make virtual? The sky’s the limit! 

Selling merchandise  

Moving your events and campaigns to a virtual format doesn’t mean you have to miss out on merchandise sales. If you’re already used to selling merchandise, keep it up! If you haven’t tried it before, now might be a good time to start. Try selling:

Branded swag 

T-shirts, hats, and water bottles are all standard options. What other kinds of merchandise could you sell? If you’re a Museum, try selling prints or books. If you’re focused on music, consider items like branded guitar picks, tuners, or sheet music. Arts education nonprofits can try selling art supplies or kits. Get creative! 

Art or art-related merchandise

What can you offer your supporters that’s totally unique? Do you have relationships with local artists who may be able to donate original art or even sell on consignment? Could you do an exclusive recording or album pressing with local musicians? Look at your mission and what inspires your donors for ideas! 

Experiences 

You could also try selling access to experiences. If you’re a museum, try selling private gallery tours. Social distancing is less of an issue if your group is limited to a handful of people and a docent! Classes are another great option; art classes, music lessons, or dance classes all translate well to an online format. Gift certificates that your supporters can use for events or merchandise is another fantastic idea for funding arts organizations! 

virtual-funding-for-arts-organizations-example
Check out these classes from our local art museum! These are true hybrid events; a limited number of people can attend in person, and virtual attendance options are available.

Your donors are already used to shopping online. Can you raise money by offering merchandise online? 

Closing 

Finding adequate funding for arts organizations—especially in the middle of a global pandemic—is a tall order. But it’s not impossible! You’re a smart, creative professional who’s good at adapting. Take these ideas and put your own spin on them. They’re great ways to raise money while keeping your donors (and yourself!) safe and happy. 

If you’re looking for virtual ways to raise money this year, here are a few options: build or expand a recurring donation program and explore streaming events. Consider hosting a large virtual or hybrid event and look into opportunities for selling merchandise or experiences. We know you’ll think of something amazing! 

All of the examples in this article are from organizations who use the Qgiv platform. Want to learn how we can help you achieve the same goals? We’d love to talk! Contact us online for more information or give us a call at 888-855-9595.

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