Freelancers for charities

A guide to virtual fundraising

Posted by Nicola on 04/08/2020


The lockdown and ongoing implications of Covid-19 have led many charities to look more closely at virtual fundraising.  Blume has researched what others have been doing and collated our findings into one document.  We hope it’s helpful – and of course please let us know what virtual fundraising events you are running so that we can share them with others!


Benefits and Challenges of virtual events


  • Supporters aren’t restricted by the where and when – Unlike traditional events, people can choose when they want to begin and then take the challenge at a pace that works for them. This opens the event to a larger number of people who may have wanted to take part in a fundraising event before but couldn’t due to travel or diary restrictions.
  • Accessible for a broader audience – As people can choose their own route and pace, it provides a great opportunity for those with physical restrictions to take part too.
  • Better for the environment – There’s no carbon footprint caused by supporters travelling on mass to the event, there are no print outs or signage and there aren’t any requirement for providing water bottles or refreshments. If your charity is all about sustainable options, then virtual events definitely tick this box.
  • Engage with a younger audience – Research shows that charities that have invested in virtual events have gained younger supporters. They’re natural digital adopters, so having a virtual event in your portfolio could be a way of introducing a younger demographic into your supporter journey.
  • Attract new supporters – One charity revealed that 83% of their virtual event audience was new to their organisation. This indicates that there is a strong appetite amongst people for charities to offer new and innovative fundraising activities.


  • Lower average amount raised – Compared to physical in-personal events, virtual events can generate lower fundraising revenue. On average physical event fundraisers raise between 34-79% more than a virtual event fundraiser. We expect this to increase over time as we see more charities becoming increasingly confident in hosting the events and developing the right supporter experience.
  • Participants don’t mean fundraisers – Currently, only 23% -32% of virtual event participants go on to fundraise for the charity organising the event. It’s never a guarantee that a sign up will result in donations, however in-person events typical require a participant to pay a registration fee upfront. You can still do this for virtual events, but it might be a harder sell as the person isn’t getting anything tangible in return.
  • They require a level of digital skills – virtual events require an event app or website that supporters can be directed to for information and to log their progress. This means that your team needs to have someone with a level of digital skills, or you need to be prepared to outsource support.
  • There may be a disconnect between the activity and the cause – When someone attends a group event, they can be immersed in the spirit of fundraising and a charity’s values. If someone is doing a virtual event by themselves, it might mean that they find it harder to form an emotional connection with the cause they’re fundraising for. The experience of the event and the supporting communications need to work extra hard to make people feel supported and connected to the cause.



Eighteen Ideas for Virtual Fundraising Events

So what types of Virtual Fundraising events might you organise?

  1. Virtual Quizzes - Quizzes are a great way to bring supporters together for a social and fun activity. Participants can be charged a modest fee. Facebook Live is a useful tool for broadcasting the questions and a private facebook group can be used for social messaging during the event across all participants.
  2. Virtual Bake-Off - Have a colour or other theme that links to your cause and brand. Set up a dedicated hash tag and encourage social sharing. Ask for an entrance fee and offer prizes or just request donations from all participants.
  3. Dress up / Dress Down / Wear a hat / wear pink day - These are easy and fun social challenges that can get good traction on social media with a dedicated hashtag. They work well when linked to awareness raising campaigns including official awareness days / weeks. Invite donations from all participants with a suggested nominal amount or just leave it to participants to decide what they want to give. Ask participants to share your donation link.
  4. Virtual Picnic / Coffee Morning - This is another option for engaging large numbers of supporters individually whilst fostering a sense of community. Encouraging social sharing can help raise awareness of your cause. Ensure participants are clear that any event must align with guidance on stay at home / social distancing measures.
  5. Social Challenges - the original here was MND’s Ice bucket challenge which raised over £7 million in the UK.  Other examples of very successful social and personal challenges include Movember (Prostate Cancer UK), Stoptober (British Lung Foundation), Dryathlon (CRUK) and Brave the Shave (Macmillan). An innovative idea is needed to capture the imagination and enthusiasm of your supporters and hopefully also the wider public.
  6. Online Contests/Competitions - Online contests and competitions are fun, easy, and interactive. Participants pay to enter, and then voters pay to vote! You can create a contest that is connected somehow to your cause. Ideas include a talent contest, photography competition, art/drawing contest and costume contest.
  7. Virtual Speaking Engagement - Try to recruit a local celebrity, athlete, motivational speaker, or expert, and ask them to do a virtual speaking engagement for you. The subject matter can pertain to your specific cause or it can be something fun like a comedian, a local author, or a TV personality. Charge admission for this engagement and broadcast only to those who purchased tickets!
  8. Film party - Find a documentary or film that is relevant to your cause and host a watch party to gather people virtually to watch it together. Facebook makes this very easy to do using their Watch Party feature. Choose a film, schedule a time, and ask for donations. Or, sell “tickets” to the event and even have snacks etc shipped to watchers ahead of time.
  9. Virtual Scavenger Hunt - Create a series of clues and riddles that participants must solve and navigate through in order to find places, buildings, or objects on Google Maps. They can then submit a time-stamped screenshot or GPS coordinates as proof of solving that stage of the hunt.    You can charge participants a small entry fee or use a peer-to-peer model where participants find their own donors to sponsor them through the challenge.  If possible, tie the scavenger hunt to your cause or charity.
  10. Running - There have been several examples of people running marathons in the UK by doing laps around their back garden. There’s even someone who scaled the height of Everest on his staircase! Participants taking extreme approaches like these can raise enormous awareness and funding for your cause. Alternatively how about a 30 day challenge, running 1, 2 or 3 miles a day, or trying to achieve a specific overall target within 30 days.
  11. Cycling - another sport that is still accessible, cycling events are hugely popular but like running, how about a 30 day challenge with an overall target. Many keen cyclists also own turbo trainers, enabling them to participate in virtual events broadcast on a screen and compete individually or as a team live against other riders through apps like Zwift.
  12. Walking - a walking option is great for the less sporty or those that want to participate as a family. Adding a fancy dress or colour based theme can help increase social sharing and drive increased donation levels.
  13. Virtual Workouts - Mass participation events are still entirely feasible from home as shown in the St Barnabas Hospice example below.
  14. Games Tournament  -Live streaming gaming tournaments can be powerful fundraisers. In May Comic Relief launched a Dungeons & Dragons event with comedians Sue Perkins, Nish Kumar, Ed Gamble and Sara Pascoe taking part. The tournament was hosted on Tiltify, and targeted raising £10,000.
  15. Online auctions - Premier auction house Sotheby’s May Day COVID-19 event sold lots worth up to USD1 million each, with all funds going to coronavirus relief efforts. Some of the lots included virtual cooking lessons with Heston Blumenthal; virtual conversations and a musical concert with Sheku Kanneh-Mason; and a virtual meeting with renowned businessman Sir Martin Sorrell.
  16. Indoor challenges and events - Indoor challenges leave room for supporters and donors to design their own fundraising events. Families can set an indoor challenge, and raise money for that activity. The Fire Fighter’s Charity recently used this approach – families lifted shopping bags and ran on the spot for charity. On social media, the efforts have been shared on the charity’s Twitter feed.
  17. Peer to peer - Empowering fundraisers with their own donation pages, peer-to-peer fundraising efforts work well with large-scale events. Advancing the fundraising efforts of the London Marathon, The 2.6 Challenge makes use of peer-to-peer funding by letting supporters set up their own Virgin Giving pages. Individuals or teams then raise money for the challenge under the overall banner
  18. Virtual sporting events - Swapping outdoor for indoor events, GuideDogs UK’s May Walk Your Socks Off! Fundraising event focused on increasing the number of steps taken over a week in May. Competitors joined in on the Facebook Group and receive a new pair of branded socks once the fundraising is complete.



Resources for Virtual Fundraising

If you are about to embark on some virtual fundraising, you may find these resources helpful:



Third party registration providers, for example Charity Checkout


Money collection

Just Giving, Virgin Money Giving


Activity Tracking/Engagement apps

Strava (now also integrates with JustGiving and Charity Checkout), Mapmyfitness, Fitbit, Peloton – live and on demand workouts and cycling (cycling requires dedicated equipment), Zwift – virtual indoor running and cycling including team based events (requires treadmill or turbo-trainer)


Integrated virtual event fundraising apps

everydayhero – an integrated registration, fundraising and activity tracking package offered by Blackbaud


Twelve successful virtual fundraising events

And finally, here are some of the best examples of fundraising events we have come across:


St Barnabas Hospice, Lincolnshire: Virtual workouts

Daily 10 minute virtual workouts with Mr Motivator for two weeks for suggested donation / fundraising of £2 per session equating to £28 – an hour and a half support for a patient at home.


Mr Motivator



British Heart Foundation: MyMarathon

Enables supporters to sign up to do 26.2 miles at their own pace, in their own time and in a safe environment.


ABF The Soldier’s Charity: Virtual Frontline Walk

Established their 100km Virtual Frontline Walk in October 2019. Participants can use fitbit or strava to track progress and register online to create their own personal fundraising page.


Virtual frontline walk


Brain Tumour Research’s Wear-A-Hat day

Put’s a new twist on donating to wear novelty clothing –  encouraging  people to wear a virtual one through using stickers/ GIFs. The event has been running since 2010 and in 2019 it raised over £330,000. Participants are encouraged to share images on social media, with #WearAHatDay trending on twitter. A variety of celebrity supporters participate and help to spread the message through their large social media followings.


Hat lovers



Beat Eating Disorders

... have created an open call for action asking supporters to undertake one of four virtual event types: virtual run, virtual quiz, virtual crafts and virtual yoga. They then offer a simple three step guide to enable supporters to setup a Just Giving page, setup a tracking app and register their event with Beat.

Beat eating disorders



Devon Air Ambulance: Base2Base virtual challenge

This is an exciting opportunity to be part of Devon Air Ambulance’s first ever virtual event!

This is a virtual 40 mile Base2Base challenge for you to complete in up to 3 weeks, during 1-21 June 2020. Complete 40 miles, the distance from our Exeter Airbase to our Eaglescott Airbase, either as part of your daily exercise, setting off from home, or you can complete the challenge at home. You can run, walk, jog, row, cycle or space hopper your way to the finish. The choice is yours.


Devon air ambulance



Electric Umbrella  

We created a new TV station - Magazine show & singalong every weekday. We have a club hour.  We have started a virtual choir, daily cyber sessions, online live gigs and new community partnerships. This is all to build awareness and reach MORE of our learning disabled community across the UK & beyond.



Scouts: Hike to the Moon

We’re hiking to the moon (and back!) to raise money for BBC Children in Need and Comic Relief, supporting those most affected by COVID-19. To hit your one mile target, you can hike around your home or your garden (if you’ve got one) but please be safe and stick within government advice – you don’t need to leave your homes to be part of this.


Architects Benevolent Society: Cooped up Chicken Run

The Cooped-Up Chicken Run is a virtual sports and wellbeing event running throughout the first week of May.  Like previous years the option of wearing chicken related costumes is highly encouraged as we would love to see you taking part while dressed up. There will be winners for best dressed costume, the practice/company which has the most staff sign ups and the winners of each event. There will also be a children’s category for each event. Participants can make a donation to the ABS which will enable them to enter as many of the sport activity events organized during the week as they would like to participate in. We are asking participants to photograph, video and record their times throughout the week to their social media. This way, we can spread the word and compete with others for the top spot! Please use #CoopedUpChickens when posting and tag the ABS in your post so we don't miss it. Sports events activities include:

  • The fastest solitary 5km run
  • The most consecutive press ups in a row
  • The longest continuous plank
  • The most skips in 1 minutes (counting out loud while doing it).

Winners of each event will be asked to send in video/app screenshot as proof.

Chichen run


Help for Heroes 

Wounded veterans’ charity Help for Heroes entered the gaming arena with their ‘Hero Up’ campaign. On 13 March the charity held a week-long live streaming fundraiser encouraging people to stream playing their favourite games to raise money.


Cancer Research: Game Changer Challenge

Gaming marathon - Non-stop video gaming for 2, 8 or 24 hours - whatever works for you. Check out our advice (web page link to come) and remember to game responsibly. Speed runs - Complete a level or video game as fast as possible. Host a tournament- Get your friends and family together and set up a system of points or get everyone to donate to enter. Completion lists - Obtain all achievements in your chosen video game. Extreme streams - Host a stream dressed as your favourite gaming character or allow viewers to give you forfeits in exchange for your donations. Record your reactions - Get your friends and family to play your favourite games for a donation and record their reactions – good and bad! Smash a record - Aim to beat a gaming record. From highest score to hardest difficulty, go for gold and become a record holder. Go game-free - This one for the gaming fanatics. Take on the hardest challenge and get sponsored to give up your console or favourite game this February.



Macmillan Cancer: Brave the Shave - Sign up to Brave the Shave, pick your date and location, ask friends and family to sponsor you, shave and share!

Brave the shave


RSPCA: The Big Charity Race, The Inca Trail Trek, Everest Challenge, Virtual Peaks Challenge, Virtual Cycling Challenge

Ever fancied climbing Mount Everest or trekking the Inca Trail? With our virtual events, you can do just that and more by taking on a sponsored challenge on your own or from the comfort of your own home. Whether you want to walk, run, cycle or trek we have the perfect challenge for you.