Online Fundraising
August 24, 2021

An Introduction to Online Gaming-based Fundraising for Nonprofits

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many operations and events have moved to a digital platform. This has greatly affected nonprofit organizations’ ability to raise funds. Many are now turning to online fundraising with great success.

Traditional fundraising events such as galas, dinners, and events were no longer viable during the pandemic. As a result, online fundraising saw an increase of 21%. On top of this, an increase in donor retention was also observed. This is a winning result for any fundraising organization.

The pandemic was not the only factor in the rise of online fundraising for nonprofits. Consumers have also changed how they engage with nonprofit organizations. Consumers are more inclined to interact with organizations on online digital platforms. The accessibility of the internet and technological advances are the driving forces behind this increase.

Related: Online Charitable Gaming: A New Generation of Fundraising

In this article, we’ll share more information about online fundraisers, describe a few popular ways to raise money online for your charity, outline the advantages of online fundraising and walk you through the steps of planning a successful online fundraiser. 

What is an online fundraiser?

An online or a virtual fundraiser is an event that is hosted online (through the web/internet) with a goal of raising money for a charity or a nonprofit. This can take on many forms, but the most common are webinars, raffles, and sweepstakes, virtual auctions, or virtual marathons. Online fundraisers are not a new concept. But the pandemic has forced organizations to take a more creative and innovative approach to online fundraising. 

There are a couple of different types of online fundraisers:

  • Ones that mimic or replicate real-life events such as masterclass, panel discussions and interviews with celebrities or industry leaders, galas, marathons, etc.—these are usually short, one-time events that are live-streamed; and 
  • Gaming-based fundraising like 50/50, Catch the Ace, Sweepstakes, etc. These are attractive, high-on-engagement-events that are run over several days or months. They give donors/participants a chance to win money or prizes in return for their donation.    

One of the great perks of fundraising online is that your organization has the potential to reach a greater number of donors. With a greater chance of donor retention, online fundraising is an attractive option for organizations. It enables organizations to foster long-term fundraising relationships with their donors. For a nonprofit organization, this is certainly an avenue of charitable giving that is not only recommended but imperative for success. 

According to a OneCause study: 62% of nonprofits that converted to a virtual fundraising event saw success and are more likely to be raising at or above their original fundraising goals.

Three popular ways to run online gaming-based fundraising

There are many ways to raise funds for your nonprofit organization. Here are some popular and tested methods:

50/50 Online Raffle: A 50/50 charity raffle is a raffle whereby the prize pool or “pot” is split between the winner and the organization. The split is usually 50/50, as the name suggests. The prize pot is funded through raffle ticket sales, and the winner is chosen through a random draw. Those that see success and growth with this method of fundraising typically repeat the event every month. This helps the campaign build momentum. The more people who buy tickets, the larger the pot, which is a marketable incentive.

Sweepstakes: When a nonprofit organization is looking to go big with its fundraising, sweepstakes are a good method. Sweepstakes have a massive reach, often nationwide. With regulations differing from one country or state to another, it is recommended to choose a licensed sweepstakes organizer who can operate your sweepstake at a large-scale level. 

Catch the Ace: This is known by many names—Chase the Ace or Queen of Hearts are just a couple of them. It is a weekly online and offline multiple-draw lottery that runs for up to 52 weeks or until the Ace is discovered. The winner selected in each draw gets a chance to win a percentage of the proceeds from the sale of tickets from one draw as well as the progressive (cumulative) jackpot by choosing one playing card from a single deck of 52 playing cards. If the card selected is not the Ace of Spades, that card is removed from the deck and the progressive prize portion of the ticket sales for that draw is rolled over into the progressive jackpot for the next scheduled draw. 

How to plan a successful online gaming-based fundraiser

Planning an online charity event or fundraiser is an excellent way to raise money for your cause. Here’s a stepwise approach to ensure you're not missing any crucial elements.

1. Define your fundraising objective or goal 

Raising money for an organization is a big task. From the get-go, it’s important to clearly define the goal and objectives towards which the money raised will be directed. Doing this will ensure all decisions align with where you want to go and who needs your support.

2. Define your target audience

It's easy to plan and market your fundraiser with a clear understanding of whom you want to reach. Determine if the charity's appeal is universal or local, whether it’s targeted to a niche demographic, or an open donation call. Defining your target audience will give you the best strategy for planning.

3. Set budgets and timelines

The first step to planning a charity event is creating a realistic budget and planning corresponding timelines for each task. You need to know how much you'll spend at each stage and accordingly plan the overall costs associated with each activity. Include the task on the list if you're unsure about certain cost/expense categories. Also, remember to set aside some contingency funds.

4. Plan event format and set ticket prices

A successful fundraiser can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. However, the key is finding a balance between simplicity and giving people what they need. Online gaming-based fundraisers are fun, easy to plan and implement, especially when you have a trusted and full-service partner like Ascend. With over a decade of experience in the field, Ascend offers the technology and expertise to successfully implement events such as 50/50, Catch the Ace and Sweepstakes. Whether you need help with marketing, promotions or licensing, the Ascend team can assist you every step of the way, throughout your implementation journey. 

5. Set up your tech platform and event page

For a virtual fundraiser to run successfully, a well-functioning technology platform supported by an engaging event page is key. Event automation can make running an event more fun and less stressful. It also enables analytics and detailed tracking which can be very helpful in decision-making for future events.

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6. Plan marketing and promotions

Do plan sufficient time for marketing, advertising and promoting your event online on various social media platforms as well as through email, print, digital, and radio. Be sure to choose channels and formats that you know work best with your audience. A/B test subject lines and ad copy to learn which ones stick and yield maximum returns.  

Related: 8 Email Marketing Tips for Nonprofits to Inspire Giving and Attract Donors

7. Define success metrics

Before you start promotions and launch your fundraiser, it’s important to define key success metrics so you can measure performance. Depending on the type of your online event, metrics such as ticket sales, social media mentions, online traffic/clicks, engagement rate, conversion rate, return on investment (ROI), etc. may be helpful.  

8. Promote your event

Once you have all the elements in place, it’s time to start promotions as per key dates and timelines outlined in your campaign. Keep a close eye on ad performance and social engagement; test different campaigns and learn from the outcomes, iterate, and promote until the event timeline. 

9. Go live! 

Technology for online fundraisers makes it really easy to launch the event and go live—all, by the click of a button. Unlike an in-person event, it involves less-effort and is a stress-free way to raise money. 

10. Say ‘thank you’! 

As with all formats of fundraisers, it is essential to acknowledge, thank your donors, and ask for feedback after the event. Donor recognition through personalized emails/mails, social media tags, or ‘shout-outs’ on your website can be extremely effective in building long-lasting relationships and in humanizing the giving experience. 

Advantages of online fundraising

  • Extensive reach: Online fundraising allows you to reach a wider audience in any corner of the world. This can be a huge plus in attracting new donors to your cause and thus, expanding your donor base. 
  • Cost-effective: In comparison to in-person events, online fundraisers help save overheads such as venue cost, food, parking, signage, etc., making them low-budget and high on return on investment (ROI).  
  • Easy to run and manage: The technology platform is usually the essence of a virtual fundraiser. Since all the elements such as ticketing, marketing, promotions can be managed and executed online, online fundraisers are very efficient and easy to run.  
  • Better analytics leading to improved decision-making: Technology and the virtual nature of the event makes it easier to automate processes, track donor data and review analytics and reports. The information collected from a virtual fundraiser can be beneficial in making informed decisions for the next one and can also help predict outcomes. 

From planning to implementation and tracking, there are many moving parts to a successful online fundraiser. Having the right technology and implementation partner by your side will ensure you are set to not only achieve, but exceed your fundraising goals.

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