Socially Distant Fundraising Strategies

Fundraising doesn’t have to be a once a year event.

There’s another 364 (sometimes 365) days available to get people involved and contributing to causes that are important to them. Finding safe ways for them to donate during COVID-19 is just as easy, too.

Creating a comprehensive plan with a series of small fundraising events scheduled throughout the year will make contributing fun and interesting for your nonprofit’s community, as you watch your fundraising goals come to fruition. We’ve collected ten outdoor events and ten online fundraising options that are safe enough for everyone to get involved.

Outdoor Fundraising Events

1. Fitness challenges can be in the form of virtual walk/runs or a cycling event. Have start schedules that adhere to social distancing mandates and direct each participant to register and pay online and pick their scheduled time to begin the challenge.

For people who love water sports, consider kayaking, canoeing, or stand-up paddleboard events. Paddlers can create a parade and celebrate the event with each other from the safety of their own craft.

2. Outdoor movie night and picnics can be held in a park (*approvals, reservations and fees may apply) with a big screen and plenty of space for safe distancing. Each family or group can bring their own food and beverages to a beautiful setting and watch a great movie safely with their community.

3. Fishing, golfing, tennis, and frisbee golf are some of the first activities that were allowed during social distancing. Host a tournament with a well-established fundraising roadmap. Just make sure you are practicing safe social distancing when you have all the participants together.

4. Talent shows are easy to set up with an outdoor stage. It’s a great way to support your local music community while raising funds for your nonprofit. And, you are setting up great relationships with entertainers you can call on for future events.

 For more information about the “new normal” in fundraising check out Greater Giving “Benefit Auctions in 2020. The Return to Normal or the NEW Normal?” with Mark Schroeder CAI, BAS, CES of Auction brio LLC. He discusses ways to keep your online guests engaged and excited to be a part of your fundraising community.

5. Crusin’ car parades can attract a large audience who love vintage cars. Everyone can safely ride in their favorite automobile, passing by donation boxes along the route to deposit their contribution. This has been successfully done as a way to supply community food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

6. Game nights can be held as socially distant events outside with clearly marked areas that can be purchased by the different groups. Place a game at the center of each circle, then let each group choose which one they’d like to play. This is a great way for families to enjoy an evening outside and an appropriate theme for a school fundraiser.

7. Socially distant outdoor yoga classes can bring a lot of like-minded people together safely in a park (*approvals, reservations and fees may apply). Each person needs a significant amount of space for their equipment and poses, so the activity is already set up for social distancing.

8. Fresh delivery services are not only a great way to raise funds, it’s also a helpful service you can provide during a pandemic. You can arrange this service with local farms, markets, restaurants, garden centers, and flower shops. You can do it once or have a specific day of each month for the entire year and a contributor can add a donation to their total bill.

9. Singing telegrams are a fun way to lift someone’s spirits and help your hard-hit local music community. People can donate and schedule a time to send a talented person to the front door (6 ft. away) of someone who is unable to get out and lift someone’s spirits. This can also be a virtual singing telegram by scheduling a Zoom call.

10. Geocaching and scavenger hunts are fun options for small groups of adventurous people. Groups can register online and get their first coordinates or starting location and clue. Participants who finish the challenge can receive a prize.

Please consult proper social distancing guidelines when hosting outdoor group events.

Online Fundraising Events

1. Email campaigns have already been adopted by many nonprofits. When writing an appeal, you’ll want it to have a compelling subject line, include visuals, and provide a strong call to action. It should be distinctly different in formatting and content from other emails you send out, such as welcome emails, newsletters, and invitations, to catch attention and draw interest.

2. Social media challenges and campaigns can provide several benefits that go beyond the main goal of raising funds.

Sending out a campaign appeal through your social networks will encourage engagement in shares and comments, as it drives up your fundraising totals. Use compelling language and visuals to get the most impact and engage with commenters to create a bond that will begin to build a relationship with new contributors.

Social media challenges need to be specific and something most people can accomplish. Encourage participants to capture their attempts in a photo or video that they can share on their social media. Provide them with a challenge hashtag and encourage them to tag your organization. As part of the challenge, the participant makes a donation.

3. Google ads are highly effective and free for nonprofits. Google Ad Grants (*not every non-profit organization qualifies) is a program that will help you create an ad that will be posted just as the paid-for ads are. You also have the ability to choose your targeted audience through the use of Google’s demographic research, making it even more effective.

4. E-Cards can be used as a special invitation to participate in a fundraising campaign, an announcement, or personal communication with your major donors who deserve extra attention.

5. Crowdfunding is well known for helping startups, but nonprofits can benefit from this type of platform, too. The key to making it successful is offering a strong appeal, a specific goal, and a firm deadline.

6. Peer-to-Peer fundraising offers your most dedicated supporters the opportunity to become more involved in your nonprofit during social distancing. Provide them with the tools, an online donation page, marketing materials, etc., so their efforts will be rewarded and you may create a new group of online advocates that you can tap into in the future.

7. Partner with an online business to raise funds through a donation at checkout button on their website or favorite e-commerce platform. Amazon Smile is a great example of this. It’s an ongoing program where shoppers can attach a cause to their account and with each purchase, part of the payment will go to the organization.

Matching gift programs can become an on-going program that will tie you more closely with a business. Work with a business to decide on the specifics of the program, then provide them with all the materials they’ll need to encourage their community to join them in helping to raise funding for your mission.

Social media takeovers are a fun way to get your appeal to a new community. Consult the business’s Human Resources and Marketing heads ahead of time to ensure there will be no missteps that could endanger your relationship.

8. Partnering with a social media influencer who has shown a particular interest in your nonprofit can get the word out to a larger audience. Look for someone who has a sizable audience and whose online personality aligns with your mission, such as someone who loves animals for the Humane Society.

9. Live streamed or taped events, such as an un-gala and virtual silent auction, can serve as a substitute for a large in-person event. While the program will need to be scaled down, you can effectively duplicate the entertainment, presentation, and appeal you would typically have for an annual event.

Keep your fundraising goals by hosting a series of events that will appeal to a broad range of donors online and at socially distant outdoor events. You will reach more people, increase the size of your community, and maintain your mission’s goals for 2020.

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