Fundraising from 6 Feet Away: Tips for Making Your Giving Day an Online-Only Event

  • March 25, 2020
  • by Jackie Zimmerman

In the coming days many people may start to feel lonely or isolated due to the necessary public health emphasis on social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They will look to the networks they know and love for comfort and friendship. Social good organizations are in a unique position to bolster their built-in networks during this time. People think fondly about nonprofit organizations that they support and will want to ensure their continued growth and impact. If you have a spring giving day, let me encourage you to take parts, it not all of it online.

Here are a few tips to help you move your in-person activities online or enhance your existing online presence.

General Tips to Keep Your Giving Day Going at Full Steam
  1. Emphasize your organization’s longevity: “We were here before, and we plan to be here after.”

  2. Emphasize ways people can be involved virtually—donate online, sign up for your newsletters, follow you on all forms of social media, etc.

  3. Talk about how your organization is supporting the community–discuss what you are doing for the health of the community and the why; for example: “Our neighbors of all ages are important to us, to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, we are raising ________.”

  4. Consider what other components can be virtual – is there a volunteer component? What can folks do to support you from home? Plan a volunteer calling tree or have volunteers write notes at home that can be sent to those sheltering in place in your community.

  5. Livestream your mission. Picture, for example, your development coordinator (or any member of your staff) walking through a line of full kennels to get outside and share what receiving donations today will mean for these animals now and in the coming months. Ultimately this should all be planned, and you should share your plan with your donors, volunteers, and board members.

Livestream Ideas for Giving Days

Livestreaming can be a great tool to engage your networks virtually. Not sure what to livestream? I have a list to get you started.

  • Engage team captains (from your past events, if applicable) or active and engaged donors to livestream from their homes. Ask them to talk about why they support your organization or they have agreed to be a team captain.

  • Use Facebook to host live streams or post specific messages for your Giving Day
    • Pull out the pictures from past years of your organization – your founder, your original board, examples of the impact you’ve had
    • Ask people to post in the group with prompts such as “Share your favorite ORGANIZATION NAME moments”

  • If you offer classes (like a children’s center, YMCA, art classes, etc.), have them taught as short online versions for people that are sheltering in place or need entertainment for their children. Make the classes upbeat and engaging, leaning into your staff and board members’ strengths. Examples could include:
    • Teach how to make a new recipe from items found at your food bank
    • Dog Training/Grooming 101
    • Teach kids how to make a craft using common materials they likely have at home

  • Invite people your organization has helped to join a livestreamed chat from home to talk to your constituents
    • How did your organization change their life or their family’s lives?
    • Why is your organization so important to them still?

  • Host an online happy hour — take what would normally be an in-person event and go virtual!

  • What’s new at your organization? Consider a virtual tour of your facility, offices, etc.

Preparing to Livestream on Your Virtual Giving Day
  1. Have a plan. The plan should be loose enough to account for changes, but your livestream sessions should be structured and scheduled in advance.
    • Know what you plan to discuss, when you plan to ask questions, what you plan to encourage people to do, etc. 
    • Have a plan for how to handle any negative comments.

  2. Advertise the event the same way you would a “normal” in-person event. Consider Facebook ads, create an event and invite people to it, use an email invitation, and have your donors/volunteers invite their friends.

  3. Record the livestream for those that can’t attend so they can watch it later.

  4. Consider timing for livestream sessions – over lunch hour or during “happy hour” could be good times.

  5. Prepare open ended questions that are simple, fun and engaging that you can ask your audience. You’ll want to moderate the conversation to keep it going. Here are a few questions to get you started:
    • What is your favorite memory from one of our past events…?
    • When our organization was founded in ____, what was in fashion?
    • If you could relive any ORGANIZATION NAME memory what would it be?
    • What do you want to see in the future for our organization?
    • What makes you proud to be a ORGANIZATION NAME supporter/board member/volunteer?
    • Encourage selfies that are part of your brand to be shared during the livestream

  6. Virtual Volunteer Ideas

    If you giving day also contains an in-person volunteer component, it is possible to provide volunteer-at-home activities.

    • Create a form on your website where people can sign up to receive a card/message from a person your organization has helped
    • Send the information of one supporter who is home-bound to another and they can exchange notes
    • Create a printable for all supporters of your mission to send to their friends – what a fun way to get new supporters and happy mail!
    • Phone calls for fundraising
      • A tried and true way to fundraise is over the phone-especially now when in-person fundraising isn’t possible, connect over the phone!
      • Volunteers can call to fundraise, inform people of your giving day, etc.
      • Phone calls are more personal than email, and if you have your constituents’ updated data, this is an easy task for volunteers

    A final thought: As a nonprofit, your unique competitive advantage is (and will always be) your networks. While it is natural to be disappointed that your giving day will lose some of the in-person connections, technology, combined with a plan will enable your organization to continue your giving day fundraising. In times of crisis, the nonprofit sector is unique positioned to bring people together around a cause they love, a mission they support; we are just getting more creative about how we can connect six feet away from one another.