Livestream Fundraising 101: What is Livestream Fundraising? | npENGAGE

Livestream Fundraising 101: What is Livestream Fundraising?

By on May 30, 2019


There has been a lot of buzz lately around “livestream fundraising” but what exactly does that phrase mean?  Let’s start at its root… Livestream. According to Webster’s Dictionary the term livestream is defined as to transmit or view live video and audio coverage of a person or event over the Internet. Some of the most popular streaming sites are Twitch, Mixer, Facebook Live and YouTube. 

It turns out that adding the phrase “fundraising” into the mix is when things get a little more complicated. 

Recently, I was able to spend two days with 24 nonprofit leaders either successfully running livestream fundraising campaigns or actively looking to start one of these programs. From the conversations with this group of smart people, it was clear that there are several different ways for an organization to fundraise via livestreaming. Understanding the nuances of these different types of livestream fundraising tactics will influence the technology decisions, promotional strategies, and recruiting tactics needed to execute a successful campaign.

Organizational Livestream Fundraising

The first type of livestream fundraising campaign, which I call organizational livestream fundraising,” is the concept of an organization using their own streaming channels to broadcast live video content for the purpose of fundraising. The organization is the content creator.  

It’s the modern version of a telethon.  If Jerry Lewis had been born a millennial, he likely would have appeared on Twitch instead of ABC asking people to donate online rather than over the telephone. This type of program solicits a donation directly from the viewers. 

Organizational livestream fundraising is great entry point for organizations interested in dipping their toes in the waters of livestreaming. It requires enough tech to record the stream and offer up an online donation to your viewers. The audience is yours and you are in full control of the messaging and content of your stream.  

If your organization is hosting a traditional peer-to-peer fundraising event, like a bike tour, you might consider livestreaming the finish line with your social media staffer acting like a roving reporter with their smartphone. If you are an animal rights organization, you might consider livestreaming a puppy adoption event.


Freestanding Livestream Fundraising Program

The next way to fundraise through livestreaming is by creating a freestanding livestream fundraising program.” These programs function like DIY fundraising programs that are exclusively built for people who livestream to solicit gifts on behalf of an organization from their community of followers on livestreaming platforms. The content creator in this case is a volunteer or supporter – sometimes with support from the organization, but in most cases it’s a solo endeavor.  

Similar to DIY fundraising programs, livestream fundraising programs give permission to volunteer fundraisers to create content about your organization. Of course, this can come with risks. What happens if a gamer is playing a 1st person shooter game while fundraising for my cause? Or says a bad word? Or misrepresents our brand in some way? The short answer is that there is not much you can do about it. Providing livestreaming content creators with tool kits and on message materials can help minimize that risk, but this is an area where you may have to relinquish full control and trust your supporters. 

One example of a freestanding livestreaming campaign is GameBlastGameBlast is a fundraising campaign hosted by the nonprofit organization Special EffectSpecial Effect has created a branded program that is marketed specifically at gamers who are interested in fundraising for the mission of organization 

There is a little more investment required to run this type of program. Like a DIY fundraising campaign, a freestanding livestream fundraising program requires a mix of marketing, strategy, technology and coaching. An organization must recruit content creators, then provide those content creators with the appropriate fundraising tools and coaching to run a successful livestream fundraising program.  

An organization can determine the level of investment they would like to make to get started with this type of program. It can be as easy claiming your organizational profile on JustGiving® from Blackbaud® (no subscription costs), standing up a simple campaign and directing your livestreaming supporters to fundraise. Organizations can also invest to developing a more customized experience like Special Effect’s GameBlast

Channel Diversification

The third way to livestream fundraising is through channel diversification, which positions streaming as a new fundraising channel for more traditional peer-to-peer fundraising events. The goal is to empower walkers/runners/cyclists who also happen to also be content creators with the fundraising tools to solicit gifts for the walk/marathon/bike tour from their livestream followers.  

An important nuance to adding livestreaming as an additional fundraising channel is that livestreaming is a hobby, just like playing baseball is hobby. Baseball players have special equipment and skills to successfully play baseball; content creators also use specialized equipment and skilled knowledge plus an existing audience to successfully stream. If you are considering channel diversification for your event, it’s important to keep in mind that you are looking for existing content creators who are participating in your events. You should not expect to be successful at teaching your general walk population (non-content creators) how to stream and then how to fundraise through livestreaming.  

In contrast to freestanding livestream fundraising, channel diversification leans on the marketing and coaching activities already happening for the event; however, it does have some unique technology requirements. You need the traditional technology used to conduct your event, as well as integrated livestream fundraising technology to help provide a cohesive supporter experience so that the event participant’s thermometers go up on a participant page when funds are donated through the livestream fundraising channel. 

Learn more about livestream fundraising in Blackbaud’s Straight Up Peer-to-Peer webinar, Amplify Your Events with Livestream Fundraising, where we will provide tips for how organizations can get started with this exciting new opportunity! 

Author’s Note: Blackbaud has built an integration between TeamRaiser and Blackbaud Peer-to-Peer Fundraising, powered by JustGiving to accomplish this for your organization. We are looking for a small group of customers to test out this functionality. If you are interested, please shoot me an email at [email protected]. 


Robyn Mendez is a peer-to-peer fundraising rock star. Over the last 15 years, she’s done everything from setting up pop-up tents in the rain to deploying multi-national fundraising websites.  She has a passion for using technology to raise money and believes that the collective few have the power to change the world. Robyn lives in Houston, TX with her husband, 2 kids and french bulldog.


Comments (9)

  • Claudia says:

    I don’t know if our audience is quite ready for this, but will share with the team. What an interesting concept.

    • Robyn Mendez says:

      Hi Claudia, This type of program is not for everyone. The investment to recruit and retain gamers/content creators is no joke. I suggest exploring a DIY fundraising program as a good first step toward diversifying your fundraising efforts, before jumping head first into livestreaming.

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing your perspective of livestream fundraising. Our donor base is 80% over the age of 60. How do you see this working for this demographic and do you have any tips??

    • Robyn Mendez says:

      Hi Karen,
      In my opinion, the most difficult part of building a stand alone livestream fundraising program is recruiting your content creators. If your housefile is older, this type of fundraising campaign may not be the best fit for your org. If you wanted to launch this sort of program, you would need to invest more heavily in recruitment if you wanted to start up this sort of program.

      Alternatively, some org have opted to simply add livestreaming as an option to their DIY programs. DIY programs are a little less risky for orgs because they are attractive to a larger audience of people. The Alz Assn is going to be running The Longest Day campaign this weekend, which is basically a DIY program offering some streaming functionality. Check it out for some inspiration on what this could look like for you.

      Thanks! Robyn

  • Courtney says:

    This is great and something to consider. Thanks for sharing!

  • Debra Riddle says:

    Thanks for the info! Going to pass this on to my Exec.Director!

  • Mary Sommer says:

    This is a case where marketing conduits can have fundraising impact.

    • Robyn Mendez says:

      Hi Mary,
      You are absolutely right! For stand alone programs, it’s often a celebrity play for orgs. A single social influencer with a strong following on Twitch or YouTube can raise some serious cash for your org and draw attention to your mission to an audience who may not have a relationship with you.
      Thanks! Robyn

  • Rachel Lamb says:

    How much buy in would an organization need from their marketing department? Would development still be the primary stakeholder, or would marketing need to be closely involved?

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