How to Host a Virtual Fundraiser

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Virtual fundraisers can be a great way for nonprofits to raise crucial funds without spending a lot on renting a venue to host an in-person event. With the right technology and a solid strategy, hosting a virtual fundraiser can be extremely lucrative for nonprofit organizations. Read on to learn more about virtual fundraisers and how to host them. 

What is a virtual fundraiser?

First, what is a virtual fundraiser? A virtual fundraiser is a fundraising event that is held exclusively online. Participants take part from anywhere using a cell phone or laptop to connect to the event. Virtual fundraisers come in a variety of forms, from trivia nights to virtual 5ks, and even virtual gala events. What makes a virtual fundraiser is the lack of in-person participants during the event.  

Are you ready to host a virtual event? Download the virtual event planner for a  step-by-step guide to planning and hosting a virtual event!

How to host a virtual fundraiser

  1. Start with a plan
  2. Determine technology needs
  3. Implement your plan

1. Start with a plan

The first thing you’ll want to come up with is a plan for the virtual event. Ask yourself several key questions to develop a plan for the event.

Who is on the event committee?

First, who will be on the event committee? These committee members will help you formulate the rest of your plan and host your event. Their input is invaluable when it comes to planning a successful virtual fundraiser.

What type of virtual fundraiser are you hosting?

Next, consider what type of virtual fundraiser you’re hosting. As previously explained, virtual fundraisers come in all shapes and sizes. What is your nonprofit’s ideal virtual fundraising event?

Who’s on the guest list?

Ask yourself who’s getting an invite to this virtual fundraiser. This question can also help inform the previous question. You want to invite the right participants to take part in your event. They should have an interest in both your nonprofit and the activity you’re hosting.

What’s your fundraising goal?

What’s your fundraising goal? Knowing how much you need to raise at your virtual fundraiser is a crucial piece of information. It can help you determine what side events you might need to plan to be successful.

Questions like these are designed to help you get a head start when planning your virtual fundraiser.

2. Determine what technology needs you’ll have at your virtual fundraiser

Your tech will vary depending on the type of virtual fundraiser you’re hosting. Sometimes, you can get away with just a laptop with a webcam for a simple live-streaming event. Other times, you may need more involved software solutions like the ability to track fitness activity for virtual participants. Make a list of the technology you’ll need for your specific event. Then, create a tech prep checklist to make sure you have everything you need ahead of your event date. 

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 Make a communications strategy

You don’t want to communicate about your virtual fundraiser in a random and unprepared way. Instead, consider how you can approach communicating about your event in a way that reaches your target audience where they’re at. Ask yourself the following questions to help formulate your communications strategy ahead of your virtual fundraiser.

Who are your key audiences?

Knowing who you’re trying to reach is a great first step in determining how you’ll reach your audience. By getting to know the audience and the platforms they use for communication, you can reach out to them on the platforms they use. This allows your nonprofit to reach supporters in their natural environment rather than asking them to adopt new communication tools to receive your message. Additionally, you may be able to attract participants from outside your donor database by using the tools necessary to reach your ideal audience.

What does your pre-event communication look like for each audience?

You’ll likely need a multi-channel marketing approach to reach every ideal audience for your virtual fundraiser. However, you must communicate differently across channels for the best effect. For instance, text length limitations will require shorter messages on X than you can write on Facebook. You’d likely need to modify how you talk to donors on these different platforms to craft the most effective messaging. The same goes when trying to reach donors via email. Email messages are vastly different from social media posts and should be treated as a different form of communication entirely. How will you craft your messages so that your audiences will see them and feel compelled to register for your virtual fundraiser?

How often will you communicate ahead of the virtual fundraiser?

This is another great question to ask because it determines what your communications calendar will look like. You need to know not only how much you’ll communicate, but when to reach out as well. Are you sending weekly messages during the month leading up to the virtual fundraiser? Are you giving yourself more time? Less? Determine how many unique messages you need and schedule them!

What should your audience expect during the virtual fundraiser?

Determine how you want your event to go. Set expectations for the event and communicate those expectations to your audience. Let them know what to look forward to when it comes to attending your virtual event. You can accomplish this with an FAQ section on your event page or print the schedule of events in the program. You could also craft an email to attendees letting them know what to expect.

Do you need your audience to complete any actions prior to the event?

Aside from registering, do your guests need to do anything else to take part? Do they need to download an app to bid on auction items, for instance? Are there release waivers or any other forms they need to fill out ahead of time?

Where do your participants go if they have any issues or questions?

This last question is important because, unlike an in-person event, your guests can’t just track down a member of your staff to ask questions or discuss any issues they’re having. Instead, it’s important to elect a point, or points, of contact to asskst guests before and during the virtual fundraiser. You want to make sure everyone can have a good time. That means helping people access the virtual event so that they can enjoy the festivities you’ve planned. If no one can access your event then it’s going to be a bad time for everyone involved. That’s why it’s important to have troubleshooters at the ready to handle any inquiries or issues that come up.

3. Implement your plan

Now that you’ve taken the time to develop a communications strategy, you’ve elected an event committee, and you’ve got an idea for the type of virtual fundraiser you’re hosting, it’s time to implement the plan and prepare your event.

Engage your event committee

A virtual fundraising event committee puts their hands together in solidarity around the table they're working at to implement their virtual fundraiser.

Engage your event committee to help with setting up your virtual fundraiser and getting all your ducks in a row. This means asking each member of the event committee to meet their obligation for a successful event. From setup to getting the word out, there are a number of responsibilities that the event committee can be in charge of.

Implement your communications strategy

Then, implement your communications strategy and communicate about your event using the cadence that you set when formulating your plan. Reach out across all your selected channels to reach your audience where they’re at. Be sure to vary your messaging for the platforms you’re using.

Open registration

At the time of your first communication, your event should be open and accepting registrations. You want to be able to gauge interest early on and accept virtual fundraiser registrants as soon as possible to help you reach your registration goals.

Host a dry run

It pays to be prepared. Before your event, consider hosting a dry run of your virtual fundraiser using your event committee as stand-ins for your guests so you can test your fundraising technology. This helps to uncover any issues with hosting your event ahead of time so you can address them preemptively before issues arise during the main event. You also have the option of planning a contingency plan if you realize your event can’t run exactly as you’d planned it.

Stick to the event program and deliver upon expectations

Finally, with the dry run done and any changes made, host a successful virtual fundraiser. Stick to the event program and deliver upon the expectations you set for your audience. This will help satisfy your guests and encourage them to donate more in support of your virtual fundraiser. 


With preparation and a solid strategy, hosting your own virtual fundraiser should be a breeze. For more helpful advice on hosting virtual events, download Qgiv’s virtual event planner. It covers everything you need to do to make your virtual events successful.

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