Running a nonprofit is a lot like taking part in a competitive sport—there are plenty of challenges to stop you from fulfilling your goals. One good example of such a challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic. It has transformed how nonprofits fundraise.
Without a doubt, the pandemic has proved to be one of the biggest catalysts for change in a long time. And now, even with the virus under control, and as we slowly inch back to a sense of normalcy, one thing is for sure—fundraising will never be the same again. Nonprofits, therefore, need to think strategically about how they connect with donors to ensure sustainability. In this article, we will look at fundraising in a post-pandemic world.
Overview of fundraising trends during the pandemic
Before the pandemic hit, most nonprofits had fundraising events lined up for the entire year. These were mostly offline. But in March 2020, when lockdowns and social distancing guidelines were published, charities faced a tough decision. Without in-person fundraising events, revenues would drop at a time when the world needed these nonprofits the most.
A survey by the Nonprofit Finance Fund found that 60% of nonprofits experienced conditions that threatened their long-term financial stability. And some nonprofits had to scale operations or temporarily shut down operations.
But there were a few nonprofits that realized all was not lost. Since people were stuck at home, they were spending more time online—working, shopping, socializing, etc. So, some nonprofits also transitioned their fundraising efforts online. A report by OneCause claimed that 62% of nonprofits that had converted to virtual fundraising saw success and were 10% more likely to be raising at or above their original fundraising goals.
Of course, online giving has been on the rise for years, jumping from $19.2 billion in 2012 to $31 billion in 2017. But then the pandemic furthered this growth in 2020. Nonprofits had to make a choice—watch their revenue dry up or get online to raise money.
While some organizations managed to secure grants from foundations. The truth is that this wasn’t enough. Research has shown that the majority of the revenue that nonprofits depend on comes from individual gifts and donations. This is why it was necessary to follow the donors where they were already spending most of their time.
And as it turns out, there are plenty of benefits to raising money online:
- There are no geographical barriers. Just about anyone can participate in your virtual fundraiser from anywhere in the world.
- Easy to scale as virtual events usually don’t have the same restrictions that come with offline events—no traveling to the event, no limited seating, etc.
- Cost-effective when compared to similarly-sized offline events. With virtual events, there is no need to book venues, source food or refreshments, hire security, etc. And yet, you can still raise plenty of money.
- Online events give nonprofits a chance to have the same footing as bigger nonprofits. For instance, running ads online isn’t expensive. In the past, small nonprofits had to rely on local papers and magazines with limited circulation for advertising.
In the post-pandemic era, people will expect to see all nonprofits host at least a few fundraisers online. So implementing the right tools and programs to make this possible will be crucial. Focus on having a great UX design on your website, invest in mobile browsing, and ensure you have a straightforward, secure donation process.
Running a hybrid fundraiser
A hybrid fundraiser refers to a fundraising event that offers donors a chance to participate in-person or online or both, relying on tech to ensure the experience is engaging for both audiences and to promote a feeling of togetherness even if the participants are oceans apart.
With the social distancing guidelines still in place, this is the best way to ensure you are offering your donors a chance to engage with you in a way that they’re comfortable with.
In addition, you get to reach out to a lot more people than just having the event offline. Those who may not be able to attend in person will still have a chance to participate.
Some examples of hybrid events include having some of your biggest donors be with you in-person while another audience participates virtually. Or you may have groups of people (from five to 10) gather in one home and join other similar groups around the world over the internet.
How to make your hybrid event engaging
- Choose a theme, it could be anything you can think of. This will bring a sense of elegance to the event and excite your audience. Your cause will help you think of a theme to focus on.
- Run an online raffle or sweepstakes alongside your in-venue event.
- Make the event live. A big mistake nonprofits make with online events is to have prerecorded speeches, music, etc. But historical data suggests that this is not engaging.
- Invite someone your audience admires. People are more likely to participate in your event if you can invite speakers or artists they already follow.
Hosting online raffles in conjunction with offline events
One of the best ways of raising funds quickly and cheaply is by hosting online charity raffles. These are great for building excitement among donors as they stand to win big. But at the same time, there is another motivator as the money goes towards a charitable cause.
Most nonprofits turned to these during the pandemic. And in a post-pandemic era, these events will continue to be popular. The best part is you can use them in conjunction with your in-person events, helping you supplement your fundraising income. Great examples of these games include:
- 50/50 raffles: This is a type of raffle where participants buy tickets for a chance to win the jackpot, which is made up of 50% of the ticket sales. The remaining 50% goes to the nonprofit.
- Catch the Ace: It is also a type of raffle with a weekly draw where the weekly winner gets a percentage of the sales. In addition, there is a progressive jackpot to be won by the person who catches the Ace of Spades. 50% of the ticket proceeds for each week go to the nonprofit, 20% to the weekly jackpot, and 30% to the progressive jackpot.
- Sweepstakes: This is a contest in which participants can win prizes, from houses to cars. The distinguishing factor of a sweepstakes is that participants are not mandated to donate or buy a ticket. They can participate for free. This makes sweepstakes a great option if you are after national or global reach as sweepstakes don’t have the same intense regulatory frameworks as raffles.
Scale up your fundraising game
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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed fundraising forever. If you were still undecided about fundraising online or with hybrid events, now is the time to get started. Digital fundraising is the future. The sooner you get on board, the better.