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Using livestream fundraising to replace events

As creatures of habit, many of us are still trying to wrap our heads around the rapid changes this pandemic is causing in our daily lives.

Nothing like a global pandemic to force us into more creative avenues of socializing and meeting, right?

None of us can predict when life will proceed in a somewhat-normal manner, which means event cancellations and postponements will continue to pop up across the nonprofit industry.

But what if, instead of postponing or canceling, we turned to online livestream measures to host our events as planned?

If it’s even possible, people are more connected to their devices than ever before. With a 22% spike in web traffic and a 12% increase in video streaming, people are flocking to online content while at home.

Whether out of sheer boredom or in an effort to keep up with the outside world, we can use this to our advantage.

Let’s take a look at some of the optics surrounding livestream fundraising and how organizations of all sizes can use different platforms to host online events.


Just like everything else right now, livestream fundraising has drastically changed in the last few years.

Take the telethon, for example. This form of real-time fundraising first rose in popularity when Jerry Lewis hosted a 16.5-hour live broadcast for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that raised more than $600,000 in 1955.

Since then, telethons have adopted many forms to help raise money for organizations of all types and sizes.

Considered the more modern and digital version of a telethon, livestream fundraising has the same basic principles – real-time asks for donations, hosted by a nonprofit or influencer.

There are even platforms out there, like Tiltify and Twitch, that have created livestreaming efforts specifically with the purpose to aid nonprofit organizations in their fundraising efforts.


Most recently, United Way hosted #HopefromHome, a multiplatform livestream fundraising event that took place on World Health Day to help raise funds to fight the impact of COVID-19.

Twitch Stream Aid, another live event hosted on Tiltify, raised more than $2.8 million for the United Nations Foundation in the fight against COVID-19.

Don’t get discouraged by the fact that these are large-scale examples. Like we said before, with all the resources out there, organizations of all sizes can host various types of live events to connect with donors and raise funds.

Here’s what some of those might look like.


Using a streaming platform, whether that’s Facebook Live, Twitch, Instagram Live or even YouTube, you can host a live event to connect with people and influence them to go someplace and donate.

This can be hosted by you or someone well-known in your organization. The live event can feature discussion about your organization’s mission, what you’re raising money for and why you need donations at this time.

Easier than planning an actual in-person event and more immediate than even a digital campaign, live events can reach a wide range of people and drive them to your site to donate.


Imagine how cool it would be to get on a Zoom call or a private livestream with all your top donors to host your previously planned black-tie event.

Just like you would be doing in person, attendees can get all dressed up to virtually attend. Things like silent auctions, celebrity appearances, speeches and videos can all still be held online.

You could even take it a step further and mail centerpieces or swag that was supposed to be handed out at the event to donors’ homes.

We’re all looking for human connection right now. Taking this extra step could help form a lasting impression with donors.


The influencer world has grown exponentially in the last few years. Platforms like Twitch and Instagram have a host of influencers who have thousands (even millions) of followers.

Best for targeting younger donors, influencers connect with their communities asking for donations to your organization during these livestream events.

Gamers can host live videos for donations on their pages, musicians can play live music, or things can get a little more random.

In 2017, Twitch host Cameron Aldous raised $21,000 for Doctors Without Borders while eating recipes made with pickles (which he hates) during the Pickle Challenge.

Weird, but clearly entertaining and effective.


None of us have lived through a global pandemic before, so we’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.

Don’t be afraid to take chances and try your hand at livestreaming. Start small with a Facebook or Instagram Live hosted by someone in your organization and see where it takes you.

Justin McCord

Justin McCord is the Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing at RKD Group, leading the sales and marketing teams. Justin oversees brand management, business development and content marketing for RKD, and he hosts the award-winning Groupthinkers podcast. He is also a regular speaker and contributor to nonprofit marketing events, helping shine a light on current issues and progressive strategies to align channels and improve connection.

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