Political campaigns need to raise money to succeed, which means they need to have a strong network of donors. Fundraising events are effective because they allow campaigns to achieve two goals at once. With a single effort, a campaign can collect multiple pledges and expand their donor network and contacts lists. Social media, despite having many negative effects on democracy, is nonetheless helping campaigns expand their approach to fundraising by making it easier to reach more diverse (and more targeted) groups of people. Having a set of virtual fundraising ideas in your campaign strategy could boost your name recognition, voter outreach, and political fundraising without stressing your campaign budget.
These ideas can cast a wide net for fundraising, some of which could translate to recurring donations (and even passive donations!):
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Virtual and hybrid events are an exciting and interesting way that campaigns can modernize their fundraising. So, we’ve put together a list of 10 creative and effective virtual fundraising ideas to get you started:
1. Host a Virtual Concert
This type of virtual event works as both an in-person and a remote option because you can stream a performance with or without a live audience. The band can serve as an endorsement for your campaign and as a way to encourage contributions from potential donors who are also fans of the band. Prepare a short speech to thank everyone for coming and give donors a sense of personal recognition by sharing in the fun with them.
2. Host Live Stream Events
A fun virtual fundraising idea includes using apps like Twitch, Instagram, or Tik Tok to reach new audiences by hosting live stream fundraising events. Members of Congress, including Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, have successfully generated a lot of buzz by live streaming and playing video games like Among Us in public. Senator Elizabeth Warren has also found success with this method by simply having a beer during her live stream.
You can also live stream speeches or in-person fundraising events to increase attendance and pledge potential.
With this method, you can either raise money directly through the platform you’re streaming on or use dedicated political fundraising software specifically built for this kind of fundraising.
3. Plan a Virtual Pancake Breakfast
Bring the community together by inviting families in your community to join you in serving up delicious hotcakes and sausage, separately in your own homes, but joining together virtually. Fundraising events like these are great to involve your whole family and allow you, as a candidate, to strengthen your bond with the community.
While somewhat unconventional, virtual fundraising events like this increase accessibility for people who might struggle to attend in-person events. Setting up an order form on your campaign website or through social media can streamline the ordering and delivery process and recruiting local businesses or organizations to help or donate food could net you some endorsements from within your community.
4. Host a Virtual Movie Night
Pick a movie that aligns with an issue related to your campaign and hold a discussion after the movie. You can also post a poll on social media that lets attendees pick the movie and increase your opportunities for engagement and voter outreach.
With virtual fundraising ideas like this, you have the option to host more exclusive events where people donate to attend or a more grassroots event where you make small asks at the end but expand your potential for recurring donations.
5. Create a Spotify playlist
Spend a little time putting together a list of songs that not only represents your policies and beliefs, but also sets a mood for your campaign. Cultivating and sharing a playlist can increase the rate at which potential donors follow through with their pledges.
6. Launch an NFT
NFTs have the power to build community within your campaign by offering donors a personalized form of recognition of their contributions to your campaign. Candidates have successfully recruited new grassroots donors to their campaigns using NFTs. Host a virtual launch party to personalize the experience and build out your grassroots community. After, you can offer access to it in your merch store or through small donations to your campaign.
7. Run Game Nights
Trivia nights, board games, and poker tournaments are all great ways to engage potential donors. People can donate to play and you can live stream the event. This method works with in-person games or through virtual participation. There are tons of online games that can be played in teams. You can organize teams and have tournaments for serious fun and serious fundraising.
8. Host a Community Class
This is a great fundraising idea for early in your campaign whether you’re running for local office or Congress. You could organize a painting class using a local artist as the instructor. Attendees can donate to gain access to the class. You can learn a new skill and build a stronger connection with donors who have the potential to expand your donor networks.
9. Host a Clean-a-thon
Recruit volunteers and host an event to gather pledges for clean-up efforts around your community. Pledges could be based on the weight of garbage volunteers pick up from local beaches, trails, waterways, or roadsides. The pledges can serve as political contributions for your campaign, and you’ll be instrumental in improving the community before you ever even take office.
10. Sell Merch
Selling branded items like t-shirts, facemasks, etc., can generate a significant number of individual contributions. Political candidates like Senator Bernie Sanders raised tens of millions of dollars in the 2020 presidential race by selling political merchandise such as t-shirts and tote bags. While not an event of its own, merch can come with you and is easily customizable to your events. Plus, merch serves as a form of recognition for donors who purchase them or attend fundraising events. This approach is a fantastic way to fuel grassroots fundraising that can create a steady source of passive funding for your campaign.
Bonus Idea: Host a Design Contest
Encourage supporters to submit designs for your merch, and sell the winning designs. Host a virtual event to announce the winner and feature notable applicants on your social media. These in-kind contributions allow your campaign to continue fundraising through merchandising, creating a more consistent inflow of funds.
Virtual Fundraising Can Be Fun!
Building a successful campaign means you’ll need to be creative and look for the fundraising strategies that will best get your message out to the voters. In many ways you can maximize your efforts by incorporating a few virtual fundraising ideas into your approach. Activities like live streaming a game of Uno are entertaining and engaging — especially with younger voters — but cost almost nothing to pull off. Have fun with it!
Originally published Feb 04, 2021. Updated Sep 16, 2022.
Are political campaign contributions tax-deductible?
Contributions to political campaigns are not tax-deductible. This non-deductible status includes all cash or in-kind donations made directly to campaigns or a political party, or those made to political action committees (PACs).
How are political campaigns funded?
Political campaigns are funded through their own fundraising efforts. When first starting, many candidates wonder how to run for office with no money—or if they even can run without cash. And the truth is, they can’t. Campaigns are expensive, and having the right budget is instrumental in successfully running for office. Campaigns sometimes start seeking contributions up to two years ahead of the actual election cycle. Political contributions include both cash and in-kind donations of services or goods.