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Ten Virtual Fundraising Ideas to Make a Difference from Your Own Home

March 20, 2020

At a time when everyone needs to come together, we need to be physically apart. Our usual events and fundraisers have come to a halt, even after many years of tradition. As we responsibly practice social distancing to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus during this global pandemic, we must also consider other ways to support those most vulnerable to COVID-19, including immuno-compromised cancer patients. We cannot stop working toward a future immune to cancer.

With current changes in technology, there are new ways to fundraise on a virtual level. Video calls and chats allow people to connect for long distances, or in this case, short distances. Today’s COVID-19 pandemic will ultimately subside—thanks largely to the relentless efforts of medical professionals on the frontlines, scientists searching for better treatments and ways to prevent future outbreaks, and the generosity of those who fund their work. Throughout this crisis, Team CRI can advance immunotherapy research with the goal of bringing an end to an even more pervasive and pernicious disease: cancer.

Here are ten fun ideas to take your fundraiser virtual and still make a difference while safe at home.

Virtual Soirée

Don’t cancel your party. Host it via video call. (Become a Zoomster!) Ship each guest a “party in a box” for a festive atmosphere on screen; party boxes could include favors (hats, leis), tiny decorations (paper lanterns, mini-umbrellas for drinks), or even food and drink (pie-in-a-jar, drink mix). If you already ordered catering, don’t cancel it, but distribute it to each of your guests. Remember that everyone can be creative from the comfort of home. Play verbal games, or try video charades. Make the most of your virtual soirée and create a fundraising page. Ask guests to donate the money they would have spent on travel, a new outfit, a bottle of wine, a gift, or whatever is appropriate. The webcam pic is the new selfie.

Young girl cooking with tablet

Virtual Cooking Class

With so many pictures of food posted online, it’s not a big leap to offer a cooking class to your network of friends and family. (How about Facebook Live?) Put on an apron and channel your inner Julia Child, or perhaps switch to a new head chef every day or week for a fresh kitchen and dish. Set up a fundraising page and gather donations from all those participating. Alternately, consider recruiting a local chef to teach to support both charity and a local business. Offer tiered donation levels for watching the class, various take-out dishes, gift cards, etc.

Virtual Race

The gym may be closed, but you can still break a sweat. Virtual races, or “No Run Runs,” are great for individuals of all fitness levels and can be done at any location. A virtual race allows your supporters to register to “run” alone or with a virtual group of friends while fundraising. Since your “finish line” is whatever you determine your fundraising goal to be, there’s a lot of flexibility in designing a virtual race—marathon (your fitness tracker logs steps as you pace around the apartment), walkathon (how far can a daily walk in the park—at appropriate social distance from others—take you), cycling (how many people do you know have a stationary bike at home?), etc. Create a team fundraising page and have each member register to join. Use the update features on your fundraising page to keep your supporters apprised of your progress as you prepare.

Makeup live stream challenge

Live Stream Challenge

A live stream fundraiser is an excellent way to attract, nurture, and convert your audience over the course of a day or longer. Use Twitch for live video game streaming like The Dingus Boys, or YouTube for live pod streaming like Live Stream for a Cure. This approach offers the opportunity to engage with your supporters and thank donors in real time. Set up a fundraising page for donations to roll in electronically. You can even kick it up a notch with live announcements of additional comments or challenges from donors.

Conference Call Costume Contest

Never before has your office been so dependent on GoToMeeting or Zoom. It can be hard to keep the team spirit. Change up your routine with a very different conference call—the challenge being the costume only works from the neck up. Award prizes for the funniest, the most creative, or the scariest. Set up a fundraising page to get the entire workplace into the spirit.

Young woman watching movie on laptop

Virtual Movie Night

While it may not have the intimacy of a movie theater, there are apps and websites that allow people to watch movies together from long distances. (Netflix? Hulu? Apple TV? Disney+? HBO Go? Kanopy?) Treat this as any other movie night, except you’re encouraged to have your phone on for texting or video chatting with the audience. Guests can donate money for their chosen snacks, or have each guest choose an appropriate donation challenge—every time they kiss $2, every explosion $5, every pratfall $10. Set up a raffle for movie paraphernalia. Make sure your Wi-Fi connection is strong, grab your snacks, get comfy, and set a strict start time for the audience. On the upside, you don’t have to share your popcorn.

Virtual Cocktail Class

Bars and restaurants have closed; however, you should still be able to enjoy an occasional cocktail or mocktail. Create some quality time with friends and schedule one day every week when one person’s favorite cocktail is made. Host a live stream tutorial for your close friends and family on social media. You can set up a fundraising page and gather donations from all those participating and even thank them live if you’re streaming. Also consider getting a local bartender to join to support both charity and a local business. Tip: Several bars are selling pre-mixed drinks.

Grandmother's Birthday online

Virtual Birthday Party

The celebration must go on! We’ve all seen those Facebook Birthday Fundraisers, so why not take it to the next level? Host a virtual birthday party for yourself. Assign a date and time with an online save the date. Coordinate your video chat and ask for donations to your fundraising page. Send our virtual party favors such as e-cards or stickers to those who donate. Better yet, plan a surprise party for your friend. Send balloons to the birthday home and when “opening presents,” read off the list of donations in their name!

Virtual Dance Challenge

“Renegade” may have sparked the TikTok Dance Challenge, but more dances have rolled through the platform to inspire and dare your friends. Set up a fundraising page, start a challenge, and tag a friend to continue. People must donate to pass on the challenge before tagging the next person. That way, you keep both the moves and the money rolling. We suggest starting with the Coronavirus PSA dance challenge.

Virtual Happy Hour

Adjusting to remote working can be hard, and not just because Outlook isn’t working. We miss seeing our co-workers in the kitchen, too. That’s why it’s a great time to set up a regular virtual happy hour with donations at the price of your favorite drink. Once a $2 beer or a $9 gin cocktail could now be funding cancer research. If you’d rather keep the socializing non-alcoholic, try a virtual coffee break instead with donations the price of your usual oatmilk iced coffee or double-shot dirty chai. Don’t forget those gift cards for your local bars or coffee shops for additional fundraising.

Start a Virtual Fundraiser

We hope you’re suitably inspired to raise money for cancer immunotherapy research during these unprecedented times. Let’s come together to support science and medicine. With your help, we will work toward more cures for all kinds of cancer, and ultimately, create a future immune to cancer.

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*Immunotherapy results may vary from patient to patient.

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