10 Socially Distant Fundraising Ideas to Connect Virtually - GroupRaise

10 Socially Distant Fundraising Ideas to Connect Virtually

Posted by Laura Bilsborrow

Fundraising isn’t just about raising money. It’s also about connecting with your community and spreading awareness of your cause–much easier said than done when fundraising during COVID-19. But, when well-equipped with some fun AND socially distant fundraising ideas, you can engage your supporters and get some funds for your favorite cause at the same time.


From our running master list of fundraising ideas, in this post we’ve specifically picked out COVID-friendly fundraising ideas that have some element of social or community connection while still being contactless and safe. Whether you’re a nonprofit, school, PTA, or college club, there are plenty of digital fundraising options for you.


Check out our top 10 socially distant and virtual fundraising ideas below!

The 10 Best Socially Distant Fundraising Ideas

  1. Partner with a Local Restaurant for Takeout
  2. Virtual Classes (Fitness, Art, Business)
  3. Online Games
  4. Social Media Challenges
  5. Photo Contest
  6. Walkathon / Bikeathon / Danceathon / Readathon
  7. Online Fundraising Auction
  8. Virtual Fundraising Gala
  9. T-Shirt Fundraiser
  10. Donate Your Commute


Two women wearing masks bump elbows as greeting, image representing socially distant fundraising ideas

Image by Gustavo Fring from Pexels


1. Partner with a Local Restaurant for Takeout

How about a night off of cooking, enjoying a delicious restaurant meal, supporting your cause and local community at the same time? That’s exactly what a restaurant fundraiser makes possible. A percent of your takeout order goes right back to benefit your cause.


Now in addition to dine-in, restaurants are offering fundraisers via takeout, delivery, curbside pickup, and drive thru. So communities can feel comfortable participating however they are practicing social distancing.


Restaurant fundraisers can be particularly effective when fundraising for schools. Take it from this school district foundation that had a tremendously successful restaurant takeout fundraiser in April 2020.


Partnering with a local restaurant is also a great way to bring them some extra business, as many of them could really use a boost right now.


Setting up a takeout fundraiser is actually super easy. You can find fundraising restaurants near you on GroupRaise.com. Choose from over 10,000 restaurants giving back nationwide, including MOD Pizza, On the Border, Corner Bakery Cafe, and more!


Man and woman wearing masks in a food truck deliver food. Restaurant fundraisers are great socially distant fundraising ideas

Image by Syda Productions from Adobe


2. Virtual Classes (Fitness, Art, Business)

Any skill you have that’s teachable can be turned into a fundraiser! From a Zumba class, to a drawing class, or a resume advice class–whatever you’ve learned that you’d enjoy passing on to others. 


You don’t even have to be the only one teaching. Perhaps you know a yoga instructor or chef that would be willing to donate an hour of their time. The class can be with a whole group at one time or a series of one-on-one sessions.


Charge a fee for each class and make sure everyone knows that the funds are going to support your awesome cause.


Smiling woman wearing mask exercises in park

Image by Gustavo Fring from Pexels


3. Online Games

Tapping into people’s competitive side is always a clever idea in fundraising. With online games, you can give your supporters a fun activity to do while contributing to your cause at the same time through a small participation fee.


Depending on your group’s interests and level of comfort with technology, it could be as simple as a bingo game via Zoom or as advanced as a video game tournament with online games such as FIFA or Call of Duty.


Two video game controllers in front of a TV

Image by JESHOOTS.COM from Unsplash


4. Social Media Challenges

A challenge is a fantastic social media fundraising idea, especially for nonprofits raising awareness for their cause. Just consider the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014. The challenge went viral, raising millions to help people with ALS.


Don’t worry, you don’t need to go viral worldwide for your social media challenge to have an impact. Pick something simple but memorable. It could be a dance, a workout activity, a tongue twister, a riddle, or anything else you can think of! The more relevant to your cause, the better.


The way it works is, a participant records a video of themselves doing the challenge, then nominates another person to either do it or donate to the cause. Frequently, people do both because it’s fun to do the challenge and fulfilling to support a worthy cause!


Girl records a video with a smartphone

Image by Julia M Cameron from Pexels


5. Photo Contest

Time to get some creative juices flowing! Photo contests are perfect as online fundraising ideas because the photos are so easily shareable.


Pick a theme for your contest that represents your cause well. If you’re raising for an animal shelter, hold a pet photo contest. If you’re raising to conserve the environment, ask for landscape or wildlife photos. You can make it funny, too. For example, a “most ridiculous outfit” contest could be perfect for a theater club.


Participants pay a small fee to enter the contest and then the winner gets a prize.


Woman in hat raising camera to take a photo

Image by Element5 Digital from Pexels


6. Walkathon / Bikeathon / Readathon / Danceathon

Okay, so this is technically 4 ideas, but it’s really just variations of the same concept. Participants ask sponsors to pledge donations tied to how much they walk, bike, read, or dance. For example, $1 for every mile walked or cycled, $1 for every book read, or $1 for every hour spent dancing. The donations can pile up quickly, especially if each participant has multiple sponsors.


Among socially distant fundraising ideas, walkathons and bikeathons are some of the few fundraising activities people can still do in person together, while following social distancing guidelines.


On the other hand, danceathons now work differently as a pandemic fundraising idea. Before, danceathons were held with everyone in the same room, dancing together. Now, danceathon relays are more popular, where members live stream themselves dancing on social media and pass the dance off to another person every hour or so for a total of 8, 12, or 24 hours.


Person cycling through a city, wearing a mask

Image by Victor He from Unsplash


7. Online Fundraising Auction

We’re all doing a lot more online ordering now, so might as well have it go to a good cause!


The auction items can be products, services, or experiences, delivered to the winning bidder afterwards. Items could include themed baskets, baked goods, art, consultation sessions, and more.


Depending on your group’s budget, you can buy some of the items yourself or ask the community and local businesses to donate items.


It can take some effort to put the auction together, but once you do, it can be a pretty high profit fundraising idea.



8. Virtual Fundraising Gala

An annual or semi-annual fundraising gala is one of the staples of some organizations and the good news is you can still do it virtually. The usual gala activities like speakers, music, and conversation can be done through a multi-person video call. In fact, a virtual fundraising gala done well can be a great place to reconnect and socialize.


To pull off a fun virtual event, you’ll need to plan carefully. The video call should be no more than 60-90 minutes and have ample opportunities for everyone to speak and participate. Even if you have a large group, with Zoom you can split the group up into Breakout Rooms, where people can have a conversation with only a few others.


Here are some options of gala activities:

  • 2-3 person panel discussion
  • A speaker telling a story from his or her personal experience with the organization
  • Breakout rooms with conversation starter questions
  • Live music or performance


Instead of charging for admission, try combining a virtual gala with an additional digital fundraising idea such as a photo contest or online auction. You could launch the photo contest or online auction ahead of time, then announce the winners during the virtual gala. And of course, during the video call you can appeal for donations by highlighting all of the good your organization does as well as your specific needs right now.


Smiling woman sitting with coffee in front of computer, happy because she found socially distant fundraising ideas

Image by Matilda Wormwood from Pexels


9. T-Shirt Fundraiser

T-shirts and sweats are the new suit and tie. You can raise money for your group and offer your supporters some cool swag at the same time by selling custom t-shirts. You could even incorporate a design contest, just like the photo contest detailed above, then put the winning design on your shirt.


On the fundraising platform Bonfire, you can design and sell your own shirts. Bonfire ships the shirts for you so you don’t have to stock any inventory.


T-shirt fundraising is particularly popular with sororities, fraternities, and other college organizations. Now with the pandemic, t-shirt fundraisers have become even more sought-after as a contactless fundraising idea.


Woman wearing sunglasses and t-shirt reading "Dreamer"

Image by Eric Gonzalez from Unsplash


10. Donate Your Commute

As remote work has become the new norm, a lot of people are finding a good chunk of change back in their pockets that previously went towards gas or Starbucks. Ask your community to donate the money they’d usually put towards commuting or coffee to your organization instead. You may be surprised at how quickly it adds up!


To attract even more participants in your fundraiser, focus it on a particular day or week. Some people may be more willing to donate their commuting costs for a fixed period of time.



An Extra Idea: Crowdfunding

No list of socially distant fundraising ideas would be complete without at least mentioning crowdfunding. With crowdfunding, you put up a fundraising page online where people can make donations, then share it with as many people as possible. Even small donations can snowball into fundraising success.


It’s easy to put up a fundraising page on Fundly (nonprofits & individuals), Edco (schools), CauseVox (nonprofits), or GoFundMe (individuals), just to name a few of the many options.


The tricky part though is standing out among the many worthy causes raising money digitally. That’s why crowdfunding typically works best in combination with another fundraising campaign or idea.


If you’re fundraising during COVID-19, a crowdfunding page is a must to allow your supporters to easily donate online.


You Got This!

There you have it folks! Fundraising during COVID-19 is certainly a challenge, but with these socially distant fundraising ideas you can still rally your supporters behind your dearest cause. And maybe even form some new community connections too!


If you’d like even more ideas, stop by our other blog post, 30 Fundraising Ideas Compared – Find the Best for You.


And while you’re here, aren’t you curious to find out which restaurants do COVID safe fundraisers near you? See the local restaurants you could partner with in the link below!