Online Fundraising
August 11, 2021

How to Build a Donor List with Virtual Fundraisers

The world is different now. The pandemic changed the way we think, socialize, and live our lives. As we gradually inch towards “normalcy”, adapting to new trends will be key. Events such as online charitable gaming presents itself as an engaging, fun and innovative way to not only raise money for a cause but also grow donor bases. 

It lets nonprofits, charities and foundations  invite donors to contribute towards their cause while having a much farther reach than traditional in-person fundraising efforts. In addition, since people have transitioned to a virtual world during the pandemic, it has become easier to connect with donors and meet them where they spend most of their time—online.

Difference between virtual fundraisers and in-person fundraisers

Virtual and in-person fundraisers differ in three major areas:

By definition:

An online or a virtual fundraiser is an event that is hosted online (through the web/internet) with a goal to raise money for a charity or a nonprofit. Examples of online fundraisers are gaming-based fundraising events, masterclass, panel discussions, interviews, virtual auctions, galas, etc.

An in-person fundraiser is one where donors are physically present at the event. They generally include a wide variety of events such as auctions, galas, walk-a-thons, art exhibits, concerts, sporting events and much more. 

Time and cost: 

Online fundraisers are typically more cost-effective and quick to implement in comparison to the collective time and cost involved in planning and organizing in-person events. 


Thanks to social media and the internet, online fundraisers can have a far wider and greater geographic reach thus increasing your nonprofit’s visibility. 

What are the different types of virtual fundraisers?

There are a few different types of online fundraisers. Prominent types are:

  • Ones that replicate real-life events such as masterclass, panel discussions and interviews with celebrities or industry leaders, galas, 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. 

Related: 5 Popular Virtual Fundraising Ideas for Nonprofits

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Advantages of a gaming-based virtual fundraiser

Online gaming-based fundraisers offer many advantages in comparison to in-person fundraisers and some virtual fundraisers such as masterclasses or virtual galas:

  • Engaging user experience: Because a game-based fundraiser is naturally more fun for your donors to participate in, it creates an interactive, engaging experience making it an attractive option for potential donors, and enabling nonprofits to raise money easily. 
  • Low overhead costs: Virtual events do not need a physical venue, parking, printed tickets etc. Lesser operating and admin expenses mean you save more and get a better return on investment (ROI). These events also ensure that those with busy schedules won't miss out as most charitable gaming events like 50/50 or Catch the Ace are played over a duration of at least a month. 
  • Transparency in reporting: Online charitable gaming technologies and platforms facilitate easier adherence to government regulations with an increase in reporting transparency and accountability enabled by traceable, real-time reporting.
  • Faster turnaround time: The virtual nature of operations ensures faster turnaround between sales deadlines, draws, and winner notification.
  • Wider reach: Online events allow nonprofits and charities to reach a broader audience and not be limited by city or neighborhood. 

Here’s a case in point:

The Lake of the Woods District Hospital serves a small community of 15,000 residents and a catchment area of 20K primary care and 90K secondary specialist care. In 2020, the pandemic resulted in the cancellation of all in-person fundraising events, putting 50% (or $500K) of the Foundation’s expected annual donations at risk. They quickly turned to Ascend Fundraising Solutions to recapture the shortfall with an online 50/50 program. To their delight, the 50/50 program didn’t just meet their goals but crushed them and put them on pace to generate $1.5 million in annual gross revenue. Plus, the program helped expand their reach and grow their email database from 250 to over 14K.

Nonprofits that adapt to the virtual fundraising environment reap the benefits of growing their email database and generating greater profits. Virtual fundraisers with online raffles like sweepstakes, 50/50 draws, and Catch the Ace are fun and offer lucrative ways to capture attention and  the interest of prospective donors. Besides one added benefit is that donors can earn life-changing amounts while contributing to a cause.

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