• Guest Blogger

How Digital Fundraising Has Changed Nonprofits: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


 How Digital Fundraising Has Changed Nonprofits: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Have you gotten into a habit of binge-watching movies? Maybe you have exhausted the new movies and stepped back into the past and watched a golden oldie like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

In the mid-1960s, historical epics, films set in ancient times, were no longer attracting audiences. The director of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, Sergio Leone, did something different. He developed a sub-genre that came to be known as the “Spaghetti Western”. He was criticized for his style. He cast people who looked normal. They looked like you and me instead of Hollywood-looking actors. They sweated, looked scruffy, and needed a shave.

Despite the critics, the movie was a financial success, grossing over $25 million at the box office. The movie is credited with catapulting Clint Eastwood into stardom. Sergio redefined the typical vision of the American Cowboy even though he’d never been to America and did not speak English.

If Sergio could do that, we can figure out how to make needed changes to our fundraising, right? I know I’ve had my share of pity parties of what would’ve, should’ve, could’ve been done. You could probably create a list of your own. But, like me, you figured out how to adapt. I compiled a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly of digital fundraising. Here are mine (and maybe yours too):

The Bad and The Ugly:

  1. Zoom-itis was coined because we were video conferencing hour after hour after hour. We were bleary-eyed as we stared at the squares on the computer screen.

  2. Stir-crazy-itis occurred when we were locked in our houses. We longed for the day we could meet in person with donors. Then when we could meet with them, they’d gotten accustomed to meeting online and didn’t want to meet with us.

  3. Really Ugly-itis I’ll speak for myself and say more than once I hadn’t put my make-up on, combed my hair, or brushed my teeth before realizing it was a video call and that I needed to have my camera turned on. Sergio Leone did this with his characters in the movie that made them more real.

  4. Time warp-itis happened when I mistakenly got the time zone wrong for the meeting because I switched their time zone for mine.

  5. Mute-itis caused my suffering more than once when I said something really profound . . . and was muted.

The Good:

  1. Being pushed out of my comfort zone to try new ways to raise money

  2. Getting more comfortable with digital technology that I may have been avoiding.

  3. Trying an online auction, virtual event, or even a hybrid event.


Those of us who work in nonprofits are a hardy bunch of people who are flexible and adaptable to our environment. We have similarities to the director, Sergio. He was successful because he knew the old way was no longer working and tried a new idea.

So, what does that mean for digital fundraising and virtual auctions? We need to find a way, just like Sergio did, to do it differently.

Here are some ideas that worked recently for nonprofits who stepped out of their comfort zone to try something different:

  1. Virtual Film Festival—Eagle River Watershed normally held an event in person but moved it to a virtual event. They were able to reach a larger audience and raised more money. Now, they will continue to have a virtual option to include potential donors throughout the country.

  2. Variety Talent Show—The Star Dancing Gala had been held for 10 years with 100’s of people attending in an indoor venue. After the pandemic, they changed it into a variety show with local talent in an amphitheater. The local talent on stage drew fellow locals to take part in the fundraising auction.

  3. Picnic Basket Fundraiser—Instead of a huge event, the Eagle Valley Land Trust put together picnic baskets with everything that was needed for a gourmet dinner for their fundraiser and each person enjoyed their food in their favorite location.

  4. A Turnkey Virtual Auction— ZGIVE offers nonprofits a ready-to-go auction that makes it really easy to have an auction event. They do 90% of the work for you!

“There was almost no effort required. ZGIVE provided the platform and the auction items. All we needed to do was promote the auction to bidders and then just sit back, enjoy and raise money.” Reid Cox, Co-Founder/CFO of iFoster

Sergio Leone was a pioneer who is remembered today as an icon in filmmaking because he was willing to take a risk and try a new way. Let’s do the same and see what kinds of new ideas we can create!

Note: ZGIVE has developed a turnkey virtual auction fundraiser called READY-AUCTIONS™. It is so easy! ZGIVE populates risk-free auction items for you on their subscription-free auction platform, they write a custom email invite to send out to your donors, design branded social media graphics, host the auction on their platform and even mail the items to your winners! All you need to do is promote and market it to your donor base, on social media, and in your newsletter. How fun and easy is that?


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