Fundraising event ideas during COVID-19

Daryl Hatton General

Trends & Insights

Fundraising event ideas during COVID-19

Daryl Hatton, Founder & CEO

CEO @FundRazr + @ConnectionPoint, entrepreneur, cardiac survivor, foodie, whisky nut, philosopher, mentor, father, friend, #KingOfGastown

COVID-19, the disease triggered by novel coronavirus, has officials and citizens around the globe worried. As public health officials race to contain the spread of coronavirus, they have issued guidelines restricting people from gathering in groups larger than certain amount of people. This trend will likely continue until the end of the year.

Nonprofits are directly affected by these restrictions and have postponed or cancelled their Gala and other fundraising events.

*real quotes from social media discussions

Many nonprofits rely on the gala events as a source of substantial funding. The loss of revenue is threatening the financial viability of nonprofit programs and organizations.

In response, forward thinking nonprofits are looking for new sources of emergency funding. Specialized enterprise crowdfunding techniques have the potential to rapidly fill in some of the revenue gaps.

Two of the most promising techniques being tested so far include:

The Dinner Party Gala

Donors enjoy the social aspects of galas. International China Concern (ICC) wanted to preserve that experience but do it in a way that aligned with donors’ desires to avoid big public gatherings. Using the Dinner Party Gala model, influential donors are encouraged to hold private house parties for the people they would normally share a table with at the gala. Each individual party runs its own peer-to-peer online fundraising campaign using ICC’s branded version of FundRazr technology. Guests buy tickets and optionally top it up with donation to ICC.

To reduce the burden on the hosts, ICC gives an option to cover the cost of the food to be delivered via UberEATS, DoorDash or SkipTheDishes. Guests are encouraged to bring their own wine to the party, just like they might regularly do. 

During the evening, guests participate in a Zoom video call with the Executive Director and watch a video of the results of the charity’s work. The video call allows delivery of personalized thank-you messages and helps build connections with the guests and donors.

The most important part of this model is its simplicity of implementation which is critical for time-sensitive projects. It took ICC a week to change the strategy and prepare for the Dinner Party Gala. 

 If you are considering decreasing risks from live gala events and running a safer option, here is the summary of the next steps for The Dinner Party Gala: 

Steps Time
Reach out to your advocates and donors asking them to participate in the event. What to include in the email: 
Inform them about the current state of COVID-19Ask them to participate and invite their network and community to the dinner  Share an approximate ticket price and a fundraising goalOffer to order food to reduce the burden from the host 
2-3 days 
Create a free Peer-to-Peer Dinner Party Gala event on crowdfunding platforms like FundRazr for collecting donations, selling tickets (all with tax-deductible receipts adjusted appropriately if you provide food) and sharing the mission of your charity. 2 hours 
Send the hosts the following content:
URL link to sign up for their own personalized online fundraising campaign so they can start sending out invitations to their Dinner Party Gala Pre-recorded video from your team about the mission, accomplishments and reason for fundraising (anything you were planning to say at Gala) As an alternative, your team can jump on a Zoom call for live greetings and presentation. The opportunity in running the Zoom call (or calls if you have lots of parties) is the connection it can create with these groups of donors. Consider this the virtual equivalent of walking around the Gala shaking hands with guests.
1 day 
Total preparation time4-5 days 

The Keep-Us-Safe Campaign

Many charities serve the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 including seniors and people with serious health issues or disabilities. Preventing the spread of coronavirus through their community members is one of the most important tasks facing these charities in the coming months. With charities frequently operating on budgets with little flexibility for unexpected costs and financial shocks, funding additional actions to help protect their community members poses a big challenge.

One of the best parts of crowdfunding is it allows charities to quickly spin up new campaigns to share important information with their donor communities. A Keep-Us-Safe campaign can clearly and transparently communicate the magnitude of this challenge to the donor community. In the campaign story, it is important that charities are very specific about the threats and challenges they face to help donors understand the unexpected consequences of coronavirus pandemic mitigation protocols.

Charities can use crowdfunding “wishlist” incentives to communicate the impact a donor will create with their contribution. For example, a wish list including items for additional disinfection equipment, additional staff time to support cleaning of common areas of the facility, doorknobs, food surfaces, etc. helps donors visualize the difference they make and inspires them to give more.

The charity drives initial donors to the campaign via posts on social media and by an email blast to the subset of their donor list most likely to respond. Donors making contributions are encouraged to share the story of their contributions on social media and help spread the charity’s message to a wider audience. Given the attention people are paying to COVID-19 articles in social media, this can help distribute the message to a much wider audience, bringing in net new donors.

Other options

As nonprofits continue to innovate and experiment with crowdfunding, new techniques for filling in funding gaps will emerge. Unfortunately, if COVID-19 escapes into the broader community despite all the efforts at containment, living with the threat it poses may become the “new normal”. Charities are wise to begin planning now for ways to diversify their revenue sources and reduce their reliance on live event-based fundraising. Crowdfunding provides new options for engaging digital donors in online events without losing emotional engagement and effectiveness.

Check out more ideas in our “COVID-19 vs Fundraising” Webinar:

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