3 Key Lessons from Fundraising During 2020
WRITTEN BY Leah Libolt
The COVID-19 pandemic caused most nonprofits to abandon long-standing fundraising plans and events in order to accommodate new safety protocols. The urgent need to move campaigns and events online led these nonprofits to innovate and test out new creative fundraising ideas.
As more of the population becomes vaccinated and more states open up, some organizations may want to revert back to their prior fundraising plans. Yet, there are valuable fundraising lessons and ideas from this past year that your nonprofit should consider bringing into your post-pandemic life. Below, you will find stories from three MobileCause clients who learned important information from the pandemic that will influence their fundraising far into the future.
Lesson #1: Keep Innovating
Case Study: Cancer Lifeline
After years of holding an annual fundraising breakfast, Cancer Lifeline pivoted to a virtual “breakfast” in March 2021 in response to the pandemic. They chose not to do a live stream or video program. Instead, they held a month-long omnichannel campaign detailing the importance of the fundraiser and the impact of the money raised on the lives of the people they served.
They leveraged peer-to-peer fundraising to allow some of the organization’s most ardent supporters to raise funds on their behalf as “Table Captains.” No one had to dress up or commute to a conference center as they usually did. What’s better is that their donors responded. Cancer Lifeline’s 2021 virtual breakfast raised more than ever, and they didn’t even have to serve breakfast!
This provides a powerful lesson to nonprofits as they consider their post-pandemic fundraising: the way things have always been done is not necessarily the best way to continue doing them. For Cancer Lifeline, and so many other organizations, the COVID lockdown sparked the opportunity to try new fundraising strategies. In many cases, as it is with this one, those strategies resonated with donors. As you move into a post-pandemic world, it’s important to continue innovating and stepping outside your fundraising comfort zone and try something new.
In the case of Cancer Lifeline, they now know that their donors don’t need an in-person event to stay motivated. They’ve proven that regular engagement showing the impact of donor support can be even more powerful for their cause.
Lesson #2: Hybrid Events Expand Reach
Case Study: Water4
Traditionally, organization Water4 held their Walk4Water fundraising event in person. Supporters come and walk to raise funds and awareness for their cause–to reimagine a world where all people have access to safe water. However, in response to the pandemic, Water4 realized that incorporating virtual elements to their campaign would be critical to their ability to continue raising funds.
Water4 continued with a socially distanced in-person walk, but also offered supporters the option to “Walk Where You Are.” They encouraged those who couldn’t attend to walk remotely on the same day and time and to rally together other supporters within their own neighborhood or park.
By creating this hybrid event, the organization was able to expand their reach beyond who could physically join them. In addition, they encouraged both in-person registrants and “Walk Where You Are” registrants to create a peer-to-peer fundraising page, which they could share with their online social networks. As we look ahead to post-pandemic fundraising, organizations should consider maintaining virtual components of their events as it will allow a more diverse audience to participate.
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Lesson #3: Capture Guests Information
Case Study: Seattle Opera
During the pandemic, Seattle Opera converted their annual gala into a virtual event. They introduced online ticketing so they could gauge supporter interest and collect information on each guest. By capturing mobile numbers with ticketing, they were able to send text message reminders with an event link to their guests the day before and on the day of their event for a fast and easy way to join.
After the virtual event, they followed-up with a thank-you text announcing how much they’d raised. They also let supporters know the video of their event would stay up on their page for 2 weeks. This gave guests who couldn’t view it live a chance to still tune in and give to the campaign. The strategy proved successful as gifts continued to be made in the days following their event.
Seattle Opera saw that capturing donor information and using that to cultivate participation with the immediacy of text made a big difference in achieving their goals. In future events, even if there is no longer a virtual component, they can still use guest information and text messaging to boost attendance and maximize giving. They can also add segmenting to personalize communications depending on the level of support, such as a text reminder with ways to donate for guests who have yet to give.
As these lessons and case studies show, exclusively in-person events don’t necessarily translate to more donations for your organization. While it may be hard to imagine a post-pandemic world with in-person fundraising events right now, it’s important to assess which innovative new practices, adopted out of necessity, will best serve your organization into the future.
Senior Digital Fundraising Strategist
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