Virtual Fundraisers for Fall and Beyond!

The 2020-21 virtual church year is making us step up and be more creative than ever! 

Fall is often the time when we have fundraisers such as book sales, craft fairs, and auctions. Congregations are adapting these events to an online venue, staying connected and raising funds to support their mission, vision and programs. There’s still time to plan and implement one or more of these ideas this fall and provide folks with connection opportunities and raise funds for your work as a church. You can start your planning now even if you decide to schedule these events in the new year. 

Book sales are often a fun way to get new (OK slightly used, but awesome!) reading material. Consider grouping your books by categories and packing 4 or 5 from one genre in a bag. History, fiction, memoirs, science fiction, fantasy, science/nature, gardening, cooking, and don’t forget spiritual. Other groupings by age (e.g. preschool, elementary, young adult) are also popular. You can add puzzles and/or games to expand your offerings; intel is that puzzles are VERY popular for all age groups.

Craft Fairs are also possible and many people are spending some of their time indoors making lots of great things. Candles, quilts, scarves, hats, jewelry, cards, pottery .. the list goes on. Photograph the items and include a description. We know some of you are already thinking of ways to make your family and friends feel extra loved this holiday season, and a handcrafted gift can be a great option.

Auctions are moving forward with many of the typical events offered in an virtual format so that they can happen safely during the pandemic, such as:

  • Cooking classes
  • Art  lessons
  • Scavenger hunts
  • Storytelling
  • Singing
  • Game nights: Codenames, Skribbl, Catan, Boggle, Scattergories and more! (Hint: search online for the name of a game you enjoy and add “adapt to play online” for tips) 😉 
  • Zoom charades
  • Dinners delivered to each house and people join Zoom to eat together
  • Dinner preparation and delivery (like Take Out, but church members are the chefs!)
  • Wine, beer, sake or kombucha tasting
  • Virtual movie night via a platform such as Netflix Party (a chat window allows you to share thoughts, jokes and more…)
  • Live online concerts
  • Art items – bid on a particular piece or for the right to select a piece of original art donated by an artist

Pick a fun theme for your auction and have a launch party online to get it started. And make sure you have a relatively short time span for people to bid – a week or less – so that people stay engaged and don’t lose interest. 

A few churches have experimented with a Radical Love Giveaway in place of their auction. The Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society gave away, through a church wide raffle, more than 80 items that could be enjoyed across the congregation, regardless of wealth. Their event was held pre-pandemic, however, it’s still a concept that others can consider as a way to raise funds. You can separate the fundraising from the giveaway by collecting donations in the lead up to the event and expand the group of folks who can participate beyond those who have discretionary funds. 

For additional tips, see our previous post about online auctions and be sure to subscribe to our blog in the Join Us box to receive email invitations to future Friday Forums. There is an invite coming soon for the October 9 Friday Forum on Capital Campaigns.

Some tips for success for online fundraisers:

  1. Have a specific church webpage devoted to the fundraiser. 
  2. Advertise it on multiple platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok (you can have a fun song & dance as a promo)
  3. Send out texts, tweets and emails about it.
  4. Make it fun! We could all use some community, connection and smiles in these unprecedented times.
  5. Make it easy to give money and/or purchase items via your website with a credit or debit card, via text, Facebook and mail in a check too. 
  6. Remind people of why their gift of funds or purchase matters. It’s a fundraiser so encourage folks who can to donate and consider that they might step up and pay more than they would at an online store since you are making an impact both within and beyond your walls.
  7. Remind your stewardship team that these fundraisers can still be successful, even if they look different than what has come before. You.Can.Do.It!

If you have a virtual fundraiser item that went well, please share about it in the comment.

Liz Coit, Kay Crider, Mark Ewert, Barry Finkelstein and Rachel Maxwell are part of the Stewardship for Us team. Please send your questions and topic suggestions for our blog or online Friday Forum discussions to