A New Approach to Fundraising for Non-Profits During COVID
When COVID hit last spring, the nonprofit sector was among the many to bear the financial wrath of the devastating pandemic. According to a Charities Aid Foundation of America report, nearly 95 percent of nonprofits worldwide say they’ve been hurt by the COVID pandemic.1 The fact is, the crisis hit just in time for one of the busiest fundraising seasons of the year, leaving many nonprofits unsure of their next move.
Though life-changing and unsettling, times of crisis breed innovation. Faced with the new reality that fundraising could no longer be accomplished through in-person events and gatherings—at least for the foreseeable future—many non-profits fundamentally changed their approach in response to the current state of affairs; they embraced the virtual experience to bring communities together.
Students 2 Science: One Nonprofit’s Story of Success During COVID
Students 2 Science, an organization that raises awareness in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for elementary through high school students, had planned an in-person panel discussion in April—traditionally one of the most profitable fundraising months of the year. Their goal for the event was four-fold:
- Raise funds through sponsorships
- Increase diversity of women and minorities in STEM
- Raise awareness of the lack of diversity in our state and country
- Strengthen relationships with key stakeholders, including state officials, donors, influencers in higher education and more
Then COVID hit, pulling the plug on public gatherings across the country. In light of the new reality, Students 2 Science needed to figure out how to continue to offer value to corporate sponsors and deliver on their goals. They took a step back, evaluated all options, then stepped outside the box to devise an innovative program that, ultimately, delivered results that far exceeded their expectations.
Rather than canceling the event altogether, they decided to host a live, virtual Zoom panel that would be broadcast over YouTube. The event also included an innovation-award ceremony that recognized members of the community who actively support diversity in STEM, and a GoFundMe campaign to raise additional funds.
While their initial plans to conduct an in-person session were unexpectedly squashed, the move to virtual produced several notable benefits that could not have been achieved from a traditional event. Not only did the online setting open up the geo-radius of their market, but, because it lives on YouTube indefinitely, they have realized an ongoing opportunity to market the event and attract additional viewers, long after the fact. To date, the panel discussion has received 700+ views, whereas an in-person event would have drawn in a couple of hundred, at most.
What’s more, the online setting made it easier for the nonprofit to show corporate sponsors more digital love, helping to expand sponsors’ social reach and strengthen sponsor relationships. Additionally, they engaged key stakeholders through digital shout-outs of panel participants, guest speakers, and award recipients.
New Opportunities Await:
While this new paradigm was initially viewed as a barrier to success, we are now seeing tremendous potential and opportunity for innovation and growth in virtual fundraising events for nonprofits:
- Supplements your suite of marketing assets
- Lives forever online, which means you can continue to market it over time
- Expands your reach exponentially to audiences you’d never be able to reach via an in-person event
- Strengthens sponsor relationships
Yes, the world has gone virtual, and yes, nonprofits have been directly impacted. But there’s no reason to panic. Just the opposite, in fact. Now is the time to embrace the new reality, adjust your strategy and realize even greater results that position your organization for financial success.
Download “Pivoting Towards Profit: How to Build New Revenue Streams in the COVID-19 World,” a webinar aimed at helping nonprofit organizations thrive during this time of crisis.