Enthuse - Donor Pulse Summer Report is here. Get the report (on a blue button).

Virtual fundraising ideas during the coronavirus lockdown

#TheViralKnit - recruiting all knitters. Background closeup image of multi-coloured wool strands.

As the coronavirus pandemic reduces the options for fundraising yet further, with one in four people on the planet facing some form of severe restriction on their movements, it’s time to share some virtual fundraising ideas.

What kind of fundraising can you and your supporters take part in when virtual fundraising is about the only option left? 

1. Donate your commute

If you are saving money on your daily commute to work – and even better, if you are a season ticket holder and have secured your refund from your rail or bus company – why not donate some of that to a charity? If you don’t fancy a single gift (although that would be most welcome at any charity under current circumstances) then think about eking it out over two or three months.


An introduction to AI for charity professionals by Ross Angus


2. Donate whatever you’re not spending money on

What else are you not spending money on whilst restricted to the house? Coffees at a coffee shop, child care (!), petrol, treats at the till, or haircuts?

Of course many people are not in this position and are in a precarious financial position. There are still plenty of other ways they can give or make a difference to a charity.

3. Donate your birthday

If you can’t go out to celebrate or your family or friends can’t come over to join you on your day, why not invite them to make a donation in your name to a charity of their choice or yours?

Don’t forget that Facebook birthday fundraisers are a very popular tool: Facebook gives individuals the tools to run a birthday fundraising campaign online amongst your friends and contacts. And it doesn’t take a penny: all the money is donated to the charity.

4. Donate your PC’s spare processing capacity

[This account and tweet are no longer available].

There are many services that let you donate some of your PC or even phone’s spare processing capacity to benefit charities or research programmes.


5. Home challenges

If you’re at home with children, set them a challenge and sponsor them for it. It could be cooking, cleaning, or making something creative. It could be built up in coins, if you’ve still got any, or with a calendar where you tick off (or tear off?) each day that they complete their challenge.

Or why not ask them to draw a traditional giving thermometer to show the total they’ve raised so far?

6. Isolation challenges

There are lots of different isolation challenges springing up, some of the them supporting local NHS staff or hospital charities.


7. Coin hunt

We hear how much money is stuck down the back of sofas, so why not see what you can find in your furniture? This might be the one bit of spare time you ever get to focus on such an exercise. What you can find?

Then maybe round-up what you find to the nearest pound and donate it online.


8. Virtual pub quiz

You won’t be surprised to know that remote quizzes and pub quizzes have really taken off:

[Tweet at https://twitter.com/Childdotorg/status/1244312383000129537 is no longer available]


9. Find items to donate later

While you get to know your own four walls better than you ever have, why not look again at anything of value or utility that you realise you could do without and put it aside to donate to charity shops when they reopen?

Anne Webb, deputy trading director at Oxfam, told Civil Society UK: “We are asking the public to please hang onto goods until we are able to start collecting again – their generosity makes Oxfam’s work fighting poverty around the world possible”.


10. Foodbank virtual fundraising ideas

Since donating food physically to a foodbank is now impossible for you or them, then you have other options:

Do check your local foodbank’s website or Facebook page to see if they have other ways to support them. They might include Amazon Smile for instance.


11. Amazon Smile shopping list

Amazon Smile
Plenty of charities use Amazon to present a shopping list of all kinds of items that they need, either on a regular basis or as a one-off. Find what you’d like to buy and donate to them (they’ll be delivered to the charity), but make sure you access Amazon via its Amazon Smile giving version (“same products, same prices, same service”). The charity will then earn a small donation on what you spend at no cost to yourself.

The charity does need to have registered with Amazon Smile first (at no charge) in order to be on the list of charities.


12. Out of office emails

What does your out-of-office email say? With any luck you’ve updated it to mention that you’re working remotely. But have you included a giving opportunity in it? Is it just a link to your donate page? Or is it more engaging and particularly suitable for people stuck at home for the foreseeable future?


13. Philanthropy education at home

If you are home-schooling children now, are there ways you can include lessons about giving, volunteering and philanthropy? With a sense of fun or creativity? 

It will be positive and reassuring for them and you to learn about the unending record of ordinary but remarkable people who make a difference in public health crises and disasters, as well as in everyday ‘normal life’.

If you were thinking of donating to a charity or charities, maybe you could make that a maths question?


14. Donate your time

Citizen science activities abound: you are spoilt for choice with Zooniverse.

If you wish to focus on COVID-19 try the COVID Symptom Tracker app.


15. Volunteer for the NHS

The initial call from the UK government for 250,000 volunteers was passed within a day. Over 700,000 people have now volunteered.


16. Donate masks and other PPE

In many countries individuals and companies are being asked to donate personal protective equipment (PPE) to healthcare professionals, given the woeful lack of protection that many of them have to work with. Who might have unused PPE? Tattoo artists and shops for one.

GetUsPPE is a new resource to help match those donating with healthcare professionals in need. It covers the USA only.

Museums, schools and other organisations are donating their PPE supplies too.


17. Sew a mask

Also in the US the Sewing and Craft Alliance has published patterns and video instructions on how to sew and donate a mask for healthcare professionals.

18. The Viral Knit

The Viral Knit campaign
The Viral Knit campaign

The Viral Knit is a campaign to inspire knitters around the world to knit a face mask for health professionals and donate to mental health charity Mind. The fundraising target is £10,000.

What other craft or hobby networks do you know that could turn their skill and interest into social contact and fundraising?


19. Remote portraits

Creative tasks are a popular focus at present with so many of us working from home. Not all of us are wonderful artists of course, but that can lead to a fundraising pot of gold.

Try this idea from just before coronavirus took hold in Europe and the USA.


20. Show appreciation for healthcare workers

Joining in and thanking people are two actions that are good for the soul. 

In other times showing support for groups of workers unrelated to your core work might be criticised by some as ‘charities getting political’. Now it is simply the right thing, and plenty of charities are doing so:


21. Run where you can

Sometimes you don’t have to switch to a virtual version of your planned fundraising: if you are really committed you can make do with what you’ve got access to – even if that does mean running back and forth on your balcony!

Imaginative solutions are all around!

22. Street newspaper delivered to your street

The Big Issue can’t now be sold on the street. But you can still receive your copy by post to your home, and ensure that the vendors whose only source of income is from selling the magazine, continue to receive an income.

Take out a The Big Issue subscription for three months for the cost of £32.50. Fifty per cent of the cost will go to those who need it most – the vendors.

23. Timmy Mallett’s ideas

UK Fundraising’s Howard Lake appeared alongside Timmy Mallett on Channel 5 News to discuss how people stuck at home could still fundraise.

Which successful virtual fundraising ideas have we missed? Let us know in the comments below.