Fundraising in a COVID World

Never have nonprofits been more challenged in their fundraising efforts than now.  The cancellations of all events, loss of income for donors and larger donors redirecting funds to emergency pandemic needs have directly impacted the 1.8 million nonprofits across the United States.  Meanwhile we all are trying to do that magic “pivot” adjusting where needed given the circumstances and raising the funds so we can stay operational.  We are all learning and together we can help each other to meet the needs of each of our communities.

I know how hard it can be when we try to stay positive all the time.  The good news is there are still people who are working and foundations who are giving money.  For the first time ever the government has provided nonprofit organizations access to stimulus funds that otherwise would be reserved for businesses and the unemployed.  Small silver linings can keep us moving forward as we try and figure out what our nonprofit can do to raise money

Other good news is that online fundraising is well established and accessible.  Crowdfunding and social media have been around for decades and have set a standard used by nonprofits around the world to raise money.  Now is the time to inject creativity and ingenuity to invigorate online fundraising.  Here are a few ideas to kick start some thoughts about fun and creative ways to engage your donors that you can share with your fundraising committees and boards.  Additionally, there may be new ways to conduct existing fundraising events to meet social distancing guidelines to protect staff, volunteers and attendees.

Zoom Fundraisers

zoom meeting

Zoom has become the way to meet online and has much to offer.  You do need a Zoom account and they have accounts from $0 to $20 per month.  Zoom has the ability for you to share your screen where you can provide a presentation and set up Breakout Rooms. There are polls, a handraising  feature to ask questions or do a “paddle raise” and chat features. You can  include a link to your fundraising website for when you make fundraising asks. Zoom has ways to set up payment to get into the Zoom Room, so you can also charge for entry.

Instead of holding an in person Breakfast Fundraiser, consider an online Breakfast, a pajama party or a nice on the top crazy shorts/best sweats on the bottom.  You can use the breakout rooms like tables.

You can hold an online concert or dance party.  Many musicians are finding ways to do their music online and looking for audiences.

Maybe you can come up with a creative way to do Hollywood Squares as a play off the Gallery View you see when on Zoom

Charity GoFundMe

GoFundMe has set up Charity GoFundMe for nonprofits to raise funds.  The key to any of the crowdfunding fundraisers is in the marketing.  It is important to use all social media accounts and have inlcuding even a Facebook Event Page that links to the GoFundMe page.  Successful GoFundMe campaigns raise money for a specific program or project.  Set fundraising goals just like you would with any event and do regular, even daily, updates as you raise the funds.  Engage your donors and help them share the word by providing ways they can contact their networks to participate.

time is nowNetwork for Good Text To Give

Texting to donate can work best in conjunction with an event.  It is a simple way for donors to make a quick donation. Advertise the text to number during the event and use it as a “flash event” to get people to quickly donate. Try it as a paddle raise encouraging people to text an amount as it is said out loud.

Online Auctions

There are many organizations running online auctions or you can DIY.  Using other services can be expensive so if you can develop your own payment and management of obtaining, photographing, posting, providing receipts and tracking of the donations you can cut your costs.

Virtual 10K Run

People want to get outside and exercise.  This is a great kind of fundraiser that has been going on for years.  Post this event on facebook or other event invitation service and set up a date range for your event.  Have people sign up and pay to enter the race.  They can run when they want and where/how they feel safe.  You can send them a t-shirt or a run bib or some other way for them to advertise your nonprofit while they run. The runners can seek funding from others to reach preset goals of fundraising for your nonprofit.

Move events outdoors


The challenges of having events outdoors is real but  it is going to have to be a new normal. This can help with social distancing as we are able to gather but with awareness of other people’s individual space.  Plan for tents, large tables with fewer people or just family members and a set up that helps traffic flow to prevent people from getting too close.  The advantage is having the excitement of an event with people around.  Try obtaining a portable screen and you can probably still have a band and alcohol.  Keep in mind that all events may be limited in numbers and you may still want to set up ways people can participate from home.

outdoor event fundraiser

Small monthly events

I first saw the benefit of this method years ago in an arts organization where I served on the board.  Special invitations to a select group of donors for a special night provides for more opportunity to intimately share your organization.  You still share the mission of the organization and have one or two people who have benefitted from the nonprofit speak on their experience.  Having a small group allows for donors to get to know each other better and gives a nonprofit the chance to exchange more directly with the donors.  Do advertise this as a fundraiser and consider foregoing charging a fee for entry.  Do make an ask for money and include fun ways they can donate like a heads/tails event or grab bag.

Letters and Personal Asks

This should be the first one you do.  Recruit your board of directors to help you and go ahead and make one on one asks for funds.  Whereas it is best to have donations that are unrestricted feel free to share what funding needs exist and how money could be used.  Remember, on average 70% of funding for nonprofit organizations comes from individual donations so don’t be afraid to make personal asks. Also work to expand your donor network.  Setting up monthly giving plans work very well also.

Grant Writing

If you have been sitting on the sidelines for grant writing, now is the time.  Foundations actually prepare years in advance for downturns in the economy and their funding amounts don’t change much during the down times.  In many cases they open up reserves to meet the need.  This is the time for grant writing.  The best way to search for grants is at a library that houses the Foundation Center online search site.  However, the Foundation Center has opened up their search tool if you go through your local library online. This is temporary and once the libraries open again access from the library will be available again.  Also, each state often has their own search tools and programs.  Contact your state nonprofit association for more information. There is a plethora of information on writing grants out there. But if you need to hire a professional, remember they should follow the Association of Fundraising Professional ethical guidelines including not charging commission but rather flat rate fees.

Charity LiveStreaming

This fundraiser is a live stream broadcast using Youtube, Twitch, Mixer, Facebook Live or other live streaming app.  Consider the audience you want to see your event and choose the platform that reaches the right people.  Livestreaming requires planning one timeframe of the live stream, what guests you will have, what activities you will do including games, what charity donation platform you will use such as Tiltify, JustGiving, Paypal and your marketing strategy.  For more information on this fundraiser go to YouTube and google Charity Livestream and Markiplier.

online coffee date

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