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3 Creative Ways Nonprofits are Rethinking Virtual Fundraising

By April 14, 2020

Leading Through Change

For many nonprofits, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it mission-critical to find new ways to fundraise. The stakes are high as many organizations rely on donations to continue to serve their communities.

No strangers to thinking out of the box, nonprofits are finding innovative ways to transition from in-person to virtual fundraising. nonprofit Trailblazers, War Child UK, Upaya, and SEALKIDS, share how they are leveraging creative virtual fundraising tactics to keep their missions running through this unprecedented time.

Gaming for Good

War Child UK has been unwittingly preparing for this moment for years. Two-time winners of the Institute of Fundraising’s ‘Most Innovative Fundraising Strategy’ award, they’ve raised over £700,000–or more than $850,000–over the past two years with their video gaming campaigns. These forward-thinking crusades harness the popularity of video gaming, the power of celebrity, and the creativity of live streaming. For the uninitiated, there’s a massive community of hardcore gamers who pay to watch the best gamers in the world do their thing using a streaming service called Twitch.

War Child UK took advantage of an opportunity to leverage thousands of captivated eyes to further their mission of protecting and supporting children in war-torn areas across the world by hosting a gaming livestream. Utilizing non-traditional mediums like Twitch to fundraise for your organization can bring awareness of your work to an entirely new demographic, potentially growing your support base at the same time. Platforms like Tiltify are designed specifically to help you raise money via livestream.

Gaming for Good

War Child UK is harnessing the massive popularity of video gaming in their virtual fundraising efforts.

A Black-Tie Affair at Home

Unfortunately, many nonprofits are facing a difficult situation: the biggest fundraising event of the year is quickly approaching and there’s no end in sight to social distancing mandates. Seattle-based nonprofit, Upaya, encountered this scenario right as the COVID-19 pandemic was hitting the United States. With their fundraising gala scheduled for March 6th, they had to make some quick decisions and take decisive action to re-imagine the annual event, which covers a quarter of their yearly operating budget.

With 225 guests RSVP’d for the original event and a lofty $200,000 fundraising goal, the decision to change the format certainly wasn’t an easy call to make. Upaya CEO, Kate Cochran, said, “After evaluating the facts as we knew them at the beginning of the week, we made the decision to cancel the in-person Gala and attempt to engage with our donors in a way that might recapture as much of our goal as possible.” The organization did what nonprofits often do so well; they came up with a creative way to connect with their donors and further their mission.

In less than a week, their small-but-mighty team transformed the annual gala into a virtual event–black tie and all–and the results were better than they ever could’ve dreamed. Their community of supporters rallied around them and responded in a huge way, donating a whopping $306,000 through Upaya’s online auction and fundraising campaign. Their creative thinking and adaptability made this huge success possible, enabling them to continue their incredibly worthy mission of creating jobs and scalable businesses for impoverished people across the world.

Learn more from the Upaya team about how to host a successful virtual fundraising gala by watching their recent webinar.


Kate Cochran and the team at Upaya raised over $300,000 from their virtual fundraising gala.

Incentivize Giving with Exclusive Content

SEALKIDS is devoted to supporting the children of active and retired Navy SEALS, helping them thrive in the classroom and beyond. They rely on a network of organizations to provide important services like scholastic testing and tutoring.

After some of their biggest fundraising initiatives for the year, including their annual fundraising gala, were canceled, the team at SEALKIDS came up with the idea to host fundraising webinars with Navy SEALS on important–and timely–topics like communication, team culture, and leadership through adversity. They turned to the community through the Power of Us Hub to get insight from other organizations that have also turned their efforts towards virtual fundraising. The result was a crowdsourced list of the best setup, registration, and payment platforms for their series of fundraising webinars.

After weeks of brainstorming and planning, SEALKIDS’ inventive idea will come to life on April 30th with their first webinar featuring former Navy SEAL and New York Times best-selling author, Chris Fussell, who will be talking about leadership through the uncertainty of change.


SEALKIDS is fundraising virtually for their mission of supporting the children of active and former Navy SEALS.

As nonprofits are facing new challenges, we are inspired by forward-thinking organizations who are getting creative with new fundraising models in order to continue to run their missions.

Register for our upcoming webinar on April 16th to learn more about how nonprofits are adapting to change during COVID-19.