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25 Cheap & Easy Fundraising Ideas During COVID

Author: Sayana Izmailova
March 18, 2022
🕑 10 min read

As the COVID-19 pandemic drags on, no one is sure whether things will ever truly return to normal. For nonprofits, this has meant changing up the way they approach fundraising. No one is organizing elaborate in-person galas or sending volunteers to collect door-to-door donations.

In many ways, the pandemic has helped nonprofits become more resourceful and more creative with how they raise money.

In this post, we’ll share 25 of our favorite fundraising ideas that we’ve seen nonprofits use in the past two years. We’ll go over 18 ways to fundraise virtually, as well as seven ways to do it in-person, while allowing people to maintain a safe social distance.

These ideas are so effective that they’ll likely stick around as the go-to fundraising tactics even after the pandemic is over.

Digital Transformation: Top Tools Nonprofits Should Have in Place

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed fundraising. In-person events have become very uncommon, and everything has moved into the digital space. People now discover nonprofits and make their donations online. Nonprofit staff members and volunteers have had to learn how to use technology to promote their cause and engage their supporters.

With this in mind, there are a few things that your organization needs to have in place before you’re ready to start fundraising virtually. These are:

  • A functional website: this is how new donors will discover your organization and learn about what you do.
  • Google Analytics: you can use this tool to evaluate how well your website and your promotional efforts are working.
  • Social media presence: social media has the power to grow your community and spread your message to more people.
  • A donation page: this is how donors will be able to make gifts directly from your website.
  • A peer-to-peer fundraising platform: this is not a must-have, but peer-to-peer fundraising has been proven to be very effective, and a dedicated tool will make organizing your campaign much easier.
  • Donor management software: this is how you’ll keep track of your donations and nurture relationships with donors.
Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

Before You Start: Create a Fundraising Plan

You could dive straight in and try one of the 25 ideas we share below, but you’ll see much better results if you first take some time to create a robust fundraising strategy. All of these ideas are great on their own, but they’re even better when they’re used in conjunction with each other, as part of a cohesive, well thought-out campaign.

Take a moment to think about your message and why you’re trying to fundraise in the first place. Use this message consistently across different platforms and fundraising channels — if people see the same message several times and in a few different places, they’ll be much more likely to take action and donate.

We have an entire article on How to Prepare a Nonprofit Fundraising Plan, so be sure to check it out first.

18 Virtual Fundraising Ideas During COVID

Now, let’s dive into the 18 ways you can rally your community to support your organization without leaving the comfort of their homes.

1. Direct Mail Campaign

You don’t always need to reinvent the wheel to fundraise during COVID — direct mail is a tried and true method of raising money that works in virtually any circumstance. As long as you have a database of past supporters, members, event attendees, and other potential donors, you can prepare a compelling letter and send it the old fashioned way — i.e. via snail mail.

Don’t forget to segment your data and customize your letters to make sure that your message is as personal as possible.

Read More: How to Write the Perfect Donation Letter (+ Examples & Template)

2. Matching Campaign

No matter the fundraising channel you choose — direct mail, email, social media, etc — there’s always an opportunity to introduce a matching donor. People will be much more likely to give, knowing that their impact will be doubled.

To find a matching donor, look to your major gift or corporate donors. In a pinch, you can even ask a major gift donor who is already planning on making a substantial donation if they’d be willing to position it as a matching gift.

3. Monthly Donor Campaign

Instead of soliciting one-time donations, consider asking people to become monthly donors. Even if they only give $5/month, recurring donations are a much more reliable and sustainable source of revenue, and can help you tremendously with planning your future programs and activities.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Monthly Giving Programs (+ Examples)

4. Cause Marketing Campaign

In a cause marketing campaign, a company partners with your nonprofit to direct a portion of their proceeds to you. They get the benefit of increased sales, while you get an influx of donations. Plus, you both get exposure to each other’s audiences. It’s a win-win!

Read More: How Your Nonprofit Can Succeed with Cause Marketing

5. GivingTuesday

GivingTuesday happens every year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. It’s a global movement that encourages people to support causes they care about. Since they’re already in a giving mindset, all you have to do is make sure that people are aware of your nonprofit, your mission, and the impact they could create by donating. Be sure to use direct mail, email, and social media to spread your message on this important day.

Read More: 8 GivingTuesday Email Examples that Inspire and Convert

6. Your Own Giving Day

GivingTuesday is a great opportunity to raise funds and attract new donors, but it only happens once a year. The good news is, you don’t have to wait a whole year to reap the benefits of a giving day — why not create your own in addition to GivingTuesday?

Simply choose a day that doesn’t conflict with any other holidays or observances and start spreading the word. Be sure to start promoting it well in advance to maximize your results.

7. Online Peer-to-Peer Campaign

With a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, you can ask your existing supporters to be your advocates and fundraise on your behalf. They can then ask their friends, family, and colleagues to get involved or spread the word on their social media. You can even create a bit of friendly competition by creating a leaderboard, rewarding the top performers with badges, or giving them a shout out on social media.

Read More: Peer-to-Peer Fundraising: A Guide For Nonprofits

8. Crowdfunding Campaign

There are plenty of platforms out there that make crowdfunding a breeze. Simply set up your campaign and start spreading the word. Most importantly, make sure your campaign centers around a compelling story. If it resonates with people, they’ll be much more likely to share the campaign within their networks and help you reach your goal.

Read More: Crowdfunding for Nonprofits: How to Succeed + 6 Platforms You Can Use

9. Text-to-Give

People love the convenience of being able to accomplish tasks on their mobile phone. With text-to-give, they can make a donation to your nonprofit simply by texting a number. To incorporate text-to-give into your fundraising campaign, choose a platform that will facilitate transactions and make sure everyone knows about this giving option.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide To Text-To-Give Fundraising

10. Fundraising Video

If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what video can help you accomplish. You can use video to tell your nonprofit’s story and inspire people to support your cause. It doesn’t have to be very high-tech or cost a lot of money, either. All you need is a great story that will resonate with people and compel them to share it on social media.

Read More: 7 Tips to Create a Fundraising Video to Increase Donations (Even If You’re Not a Tech Person)

11. Social Media Campaign

Speaking of social media, you can leverage the power of people’s social networks to spread your message and raise funds. Most platforms even have dedicated fundraising features. In addition to regularly posting share-worthy content, you can invest in paid advertising on social media or partner with influencers whose values align with yours.

Read More: The Ultimate Social Media Guide for Nonprofits

12. Social Media Challenge

A tactic that works particularly well on social media is inviting people to participate in a fun challenge. Some of the best examples of this are the ALS bucket challenge and Movember. People love sharing videos and photos of themselves taking part, all while helping to spread the word about your cause.

13. Virtual Events

Virtual events have gained popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are they much safer than in-person events, but they’re almost always more cost efficient and easier to organize. Not to mention, they often raise more money, simply because more people can attend them.

You can host a virtual panel discussion, conference, or even a gala! Really, almost any type of event you used to organize in-person can be turned into a virtual one.

Read More: How to Host a Successful Virtual Fundraiser for Your Nonprofit

14. Online Silent Auction

To raise even more money at your virtual event, why not organize an online silent auction? There are plenty of platforms that can help you run the auction without a hitch. When it’s over, the purchased items can be delivered or picked up by the winners at their convenience.

Read More: A Complete Guide to Online Auctions for Nonprofits

15. Raffle

As part of your virtual event (or separately), you can organize a raffle. For example, when people make a donation, enter their name into a draw for a big prize. Raffles are a great way for people to support a worthy cause while having a bit of fun. Just be sure to get the proper license from your state, as raffles are considered a form of lottery.

16. Livestreams

Virtual events are often livestreamed, but that’s not the only way you can engage with your community in real time. Outside of events, hop on a social media livestream and take people behind the scenes — show them your space, a day-in-the-life, or have a beneficiary take over and share their story.

When you’re in the middle of a fundraising campaign, livesteaming can act as an extra touchpoint that might inspire or remind people to donate.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to Live Video Streaming on Social Media for Nonprofits

17. Online Classes or Workshops

Invite people to participate in a cooking, mixology, or painting class from the comfort of their own home. You can partner with an organization that will provide a qualified instructor to teach the class. For a small fee, your attendees will learn a fun new skill, while supporting your organization.

18. Online Store

People love branded apparel and merchandise. Create a fun design that reflects your mission and values and sell the items in your online store. By buying your merchandise, not only will people be supporting your cause, but they’ll also help spread the word about you every time they wear or use the item.

7 Socially Distant Fundraising Ideas

Here are seven more ideas — they’re not exclusively virtual, but they’ll get your supporters to come out and engage with your organization (and each other) in a fun, safe, socially distanced way.

1. Virtual Run or Walk

You won’t be able to invite hundreds of runners to run alongside each other during a global pandemic, but you can get them to complete their run or walk on their own time and in their own neighborhood. They can even get together and complete the challenge in small groups. The most important part is that they’ll still make a donation to participate and garner support from their friends and family.

2. Donation Drive

Fundraising isn’t just about monetary donations. If your organization has use for in-kind donations like food, clothes, and supplies, invite your community to drop them off at a specified location.

3. Drive-Thru Bake Sale

Bake sales are a fun way for people to support your cause while enjoying delicious treats. Skip the large crowd and organize a drive-through bake sale instead. The idea is exactly the same as a regular bake sale, but people will be able to stay in their cars.

4. Outdoor Movie Night

Pandemic or no pandemic, an outdoor movie night is a fun event that everyone will enjoy. You’ll need to find a large space, a screen, and a projector, but that’s about it. Your attendees will love an excuse to get out of the house for the evening.

5. Car or Dog Wash

If the weather permits it, why not organize a car wash or a dog wash? The latter is especially popular among animal shelters and other nonprofits that serve animals. Even if your work isn’t related to animals, you can have a dog wash — just be sure to invite professional dog groomers who have experience handling dogs with different temperaments.

6. Other Outdoor Events

There are plenty of other outdoor events you can organize — community yard sale, concert, or tree planting day. Just make sure there’s enough space for people to spread out and maintain social distancing.

7. Peer to Peer Fundraising Events

You can also invite people to organize smaller fundraising events on your behalf. They’d get together with people in their own circle and direct the proceeds to your organization as a form of peer-to-peer fundraising. You can let them plan their own events or provide them with a bit of guidance to make fundraising even easier.

Fundraise Online with Google Ad Grants

With every single fundraising idea we’ve discussed so far, your results will be directly tied to how much you’re able to promote your fundraiser. The more people know about it, the more money you’ll raise.

But how exactly can you spread the word if you don’t have a massive marketing budget?

Introducing the Google Ad Grant — a grant of $10,000 per month that you can use to set up Google ads. With effective ads, you can direct traffic to your website, promote your fundraisers, and generate more revenue to support your mission.

The Google Ad Grant has been a game changer for nonprofits. Click here to learn more about how it can help yours.

Are You Ready To Accept Online Donations?

Like we mentioned at the beginning of this article, you can’t start fundraising virtually without a functional and user-friendly donation website.

Here at WildApricot, we offer an all-in-one solution for nonprofits that allows you to build a custom website (without any tech experience), create an effective donation page, and collect data about your donors that will help you nurture your relationship with them.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can try WildApicot for free for 30 days. You’ll be able to build your website and start collecting donations in just one afternoon!

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