9 Tips to Transitioning Your Fundraising Online

Angad Bachhar
Posted on October 5, 2020 by Angad Bachhar in Fundraising and Grants, Nonprofit Compliance.
A young man in front of a laptop putting on a headset

By necessity, nonprofits must look to move their fundraising online to continue serving their communities. Many charities struggle with the resources or know-how to be able to transition their fundraising online seamlessly.

It is understandable to feel anxious, apprehensive and overwhelmed when faced with shifting gears from the status quo. However, virtual fundraising can even offer some advantages over more traditional methods of fundraising.  

Here are eight key elements to successfully transition your fundraising online:  

  1. Get Started: Compliance
  2. Types of Virtual Fundraising
  3. Choose a Fundraising Platforms
  4. Logistics
  5. Payment Processing
  6. Volunteers
  7. Marketing
  8. Gratitude

Comply with Regulations and Legal Requirements

Depending on where your charity is registered and plans to raise funds, you will have to comply with various rules and regulations. Every country has its own set of regulations at both the federal and local levels. 

For US-based nonprofits, complying with regulations for online fundraising can be particularly challenging. Many nonprofits don’t know that they must register in states they want to fundraise in legally. The process requires a lot of work, but it is also further complicated by states defining specific terms differently, which makes compliance difficult. Engaging with services such as Harbor Compliance can ensure you comply with fundraising laws in as many states as possible, freeing up resources to focus on your mission.

Types of Virtual Fundraising

You may not be able to transition every idea or event online. Some events, such as auctions or galas, can be successfully hosted virtually, but others, such as this adorable ‘Yoga With Piggies’ fundraiser, may not be.  

Common types of online fundraising include events such as virtual auctions, marathons, galas or ongoing fundraising campaigns such as peer-to-peer campaigns. Like physical events, virtual events also include ticketing, registration, and donations before, during, and sometimes even after the event. 

Do not be discouraged if some of your more reliable fundraisers cannot be held virtually. Virtual fundraising opens up many new opportunities. An excellent way to help choose the format is to ask your constituents. This also helps you engage with your donors and makes them more invested in your online fundraising activity.

Choose Fundraising Platform 

There are a variety of platforms to help you host your fundraising without needing much technical expertise. For live-streamed events, some popular platforms are Zoom, Facebook Live and YouTube Live. Many platforms offer a free or freemium version, and Facebook and YouTube also allow donors to donate in real-time directly through the platform. 

Fundraising on Twitch is becoming increasingly popular but tends to be more effective if your organization has the endorsement of popular streamers on the platform, who advocate and solicit donations on behalf of your charity. Think of fundraising on Twitch as crowdfunding with a live feed or an online telethon.

Manage Logistics 

You should approach organizing virtual fundraisers just like you would in-person events. You must establish goals, assemble your team, set your budget, and create an event plan. Other commonalities include ticketing, registration, and donations before, during, and sometimes even after the event. 

The difference between online and in-person events are in their logistics. In many cases, virtual events are much easier to organize because you do not have to arrange for a physical venue. Virtual events are much easier for you to coordinate, convenient for your guests to attend and are more cost-effective.

Just as with in-person fundraisers, we recommend you have an agenda and script prepared for the event and pre-recorded videos featuring speakers. You may also want to set up peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns

In addition to external communication and promotion of your event, it is important to communicate well internally with your nonprofit’s employees, volunteers and board.

Have a Payment Processing Solution in Place

A significant component of online fundraising is donation processing. To receive your donations in your bank account, your nonprofit needs a merchant account and a method of collecting donations, such as an online form on your website.  

Payment processing can be an intimidating and complicated process, especially for nonprofits. Many nonprofits do not know the intricacies of payment processing, such as hold periods. They often find themselves stuck complying with policies intended to serve for-profit companies and can be significantly inconvenienced and harmed. Thus, it is essential to work with payment processors with demonstrated compassion towards nonprofits and their unique needs

Organize Virtual Volunteers

One of the main benefits of in-person volunteering is that it can add an element of human interaction between your organization and the public and the volunteers themselves, which helps increase volunteer motivation. 

Since you do not require volunteers to manage physical events or be out in the field, an effective method of mobilizing virtual volunteers is peer-to-peer fundraising, which offers the additional benefit of supplementing your charitable funds.  

Virtual volunteering overcomes time constraints and geographic boundaries and offers flexibility and convenience to your volunteers, who can participate as much as their schedule allows.  

Develop Marketing and Promotional Material 

Prepare brief comments about your programs that are easy to recall for content creators. Prepare impact statements that include the name of your organization and cause, the value of the donation that would get something done, and the benefit recipients would receive.  

You should regularly virtually engage with volunteers and try to encourage volunteers to engage with each other. Instead of developing physical collateral for them to promote your cause, you could create virtual material such as social media toolkits containing ideas for social media posts featuring your organization’s logo and key messaging points.

Express Gratitude

Virtual fundraising events facilitate visual storytelling, which is more effective at soliciting donations than appeals based solely on statistics. It is essential to create the best possible experience for donors and non-donors at your virtual event.  

One way of doing so is by developing a process of properly thanking donors. Developing the right gratitude process has been proven to make donors more likely to donate again in the future. An advantage of virtual, particularly live fundraising is that it makes giving an interactive experience in which donors don’t have to move to a different page to donate and can be thanked immediately and publicly in real-time.

The New Normal

Moving your fundraising online may seem like a daunting task, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it can be done quickly and effectively. Charities can often raise more donations virtually than in-person because of the productivity boost and wider reach provided by technology.  

Seattle-based nonprofit Upaya Social Ventures had to cancel its annual gala that 225 people were expected to attend at the start of the lockdown and quickly switched to a 4-day virtual gala instead.   

Despite the change, Upaya made the virtual gala feel like a physical one. Upaya’s CEO, board members and auctioneer recorded videos dressed in formal attire explaining the situation and what attendees could expect from the event. These videos were embedded in the gala’s event page and were released over the four days prior to the event to keep attendees engaged. 

Table captains were made peer-to-peer fundraising captains, who created personal fundraising pages and appealed for donations to their online networks. Upaya notified attendees whenever new videos were published and maintained consistent communication over the four days to keep them engaged and informed.   

Ultimately, Upaya’s virtual annual gala was a great success – the peer-to-peer fundraising captains exceeded their already ambitious targets and the fundraiser raised over $295,000 compared to their goal of $200,000. 

Your nonprofit should not view virtual fundraising as merely a temporary measure and should instead be prepared to commit for the long term. If you’re concerned about lacking resources to effectively fundraise virtually, you can partner with organizations like CanadaHelps.  

The chances are that your donors understand the gravity of the situation and want to help if they are able. If you communicate with them authentically, transparently and make it easy for them to donate online, they will.


Angad Bachhar is a member of the Marketing team at iATS Payments. He is passionate about technology and socially responsible business practices and loves that his current role allows him to help nonprofits achieve their missions and support their communities through technology solutions designed specifically to meet their needs.


Harbor Compliance does not provide tax, financial, or legal advice. Use of our services does not create an attorney-client relationship. Harbor Compliance is not acting as your attorney and does not review information you provide to us for legal accuracy or sufficiency.


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