Budget-friendly fundraising ideas for your nonprofit station

Date Published
07/13/2020

Fundraising is a year-round concern for nonprofits, providing the donations needed to keep working toward their goals. The current economic and public health climate has made fundraising more challenging than ever, preventing leaders from organizing in-person charity drives and face-to-face events while supporters follow social distancing guidelines.

Now more than ever, nonprofits need to get creative with their fundraising strategies and start thinking outside the box. Even under the current conditions, there are many ways for nonprofits to reach out to listeners and prospective donors and raise necessary funds. You just have to get a little creative to come up with nonprofit charity ideas for your next fundraising campaign.

COVID-19 presents fundraising obstacles

Fundraising can be stressful for nonprofit organizations under normal conditions, but the economic hardships brought on by the recent COVID-19 crisis have further exacerbated these concerns. The fallout from the coronavirus pandemic has decimated entire industries and left millions of Americans unemployed. According to Pew Research, the United States’ unemployment rate skyrocketed in a matter of months, increasing from 3.8% in February 2020 to 13% as of May 2020.

With no end in sight to the COVID-19 crisis, many leading economic analysts predict that the nation’s financial woes will continue for the foreseeable future. Several financial services firms, including JPMorgan, Bank of America and Morgan Stanley believe a recession is inevitable, if it hasn’t already arrived. Given these circumstances, many Americans are reassessing their finances, cutting back on expenditures beyond the bare essentials and preparing for an economic future that is – at best – uncertain. That means they may be more careful about how they spend their money and hesitant to donate – even if they strongly believe in a nonprofit’s message or cause.

Another concern is the fact that nonprofits may not be able to hold in-person fundraising events, depending on local ordinances and guidelines regarding public gatherings during the crisis. Popular fundraising activities like carnivals, fairs, fun runs and concerts are much more difficult to organize with strict social distancing rules in place. The logistics may prove too insurmountable to pull off, and potential attendees may avoid public gatherings while the pandemic continues.

Even so, nonprofits can still find other ways to encourage donations and jumpstart their fundraising efforts, without breaking the bank. Let’s take a look at some of the best fundraising ideas for nonprofit organizations right now.

Go virtual with your fundraising events

Many nonprofit organizations have been forced to cancel or reassess their planned fundraising events in the wake of COVID-19. While in-person gatherings may not be practical or safe at the moment, nonprofit leaders don’t necessarily need to pull the plug on their 2020 events just yet. Converting fundraising activities into virtual events is a viable alternative to traditional, face-to-face get-togethers.

For instance, organizations can hold happy hours and other meet-and-greet events over videoconferencing applications. There are plenty of free options to choose from today, and several videoconferencing services are offering steep discounts on their more expansive platforms to nonprofit organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

Pivoting toward virtual events can be a real cost-saver for nonprofits. They don’t need to reserve a space, hire caterers or worry about staging the event, which drastically reduces the amount of money needed. Set the time, create an invite list and email a link to anyone interested in joining the fun.

While attendees miss out on the face-to-face interactions of in-person activities, that doesn’t make virtual fundraisers any less fun or engaging. Put on a digital show with local musicians and artists to bring in folks who have been missing the concert experience over the last few months. You could even hold an online viewing party to watch a movie with supporters and potential donors.

With the latest technology, there are tons of ways to put together creative fundraisers for nonprofit organizations. So, don’t get discouraged if your original fundraising plans fall through.

Hold an online raffle, auction or giveaway

Some traditional fundraising activities can still be done today, just as long as you remove the in-person element. Raffles are a great example of a fundraising tactic that can be easily managed online. Sell tickets online using digital payment platforms to get people engaged and excited about an upcoming virtual event. In a typical setup, organizations split the proceeds 50/50 with the raffle winner.

Nonprofits should consider other types of giveaways that can bring in donors. For instance, an online charity auction is a great way to raise funds and give supporters a fun activity to take part in while they shelter in place. Nonprofit organizations can even partner with local companies to give away exclusive products and services while increasing awareness for small businesses that might be struggling during the coronavirus crisis.

Penny auctions are another option that translates well with digital platforms. Participants buy tickets at a very low cost and then use those tickets to bid for items on the auction block.

You don’t have to break the mold when coming up with an effective charity giveaway. Something as simple as a free T-shirt can be more than enough to draw donors to your event. Don’t worry about coming up with an extravagant giveaway item. Just be sure that whatever it is, it connects with your organization’s core message and mission.

Create and promote matching gift programs

During these difficult times, individual donors may have less money available to give to their favorite nonprofit organizations. Companies and businesses, meanwhile, may have more financial flexibility to make a donation. Building relationships with local businesses and large corporations presents new opportunities to raise funds to support your nonprofit.

If you have already forged a successful relationship with local companies, it might be worthwhile to reach out to them about matching gift programs. Under a matching gift program, corporations agree to match whatever dollar amount employees donate to your nonprofit. Knowing that their donations will go even further since they are effectively doubled can encourage workers to give more or make more frequent donations than they might otherwise.

It’s always important to keep your donors apprised of any matching gift programs that they can participate in. Not everyone will realize they can take advantage of these policies – or that they even exist in the first place.

Approach public events with care

If you’re extremely careful, you can still put on in-person fundraising activities without putting anyone’s health at risk. Always be mindful of keeping six-feet apart when interacting with volunteers, donors and participants, and make sure everyone wears a mask at all times.

Some safe fundraising activities include:

  • Car washes
  • Bake sales
  • Arts and crafts sales

These kinds of events will likely require more space than normal to give everyone room to move around without risking exposure. Finding an empty or unused lot to hold a car wash or bake sale should be relatively easy, though.

The good news is that these types of fundraising activities can be organized quickly without too much planning and don’t require much up-front investment. They are great fundraising ideas for nonprofit groups that really need to make every dollar stretch.

Organize sporting events (with caution)

Sporting events like 5Ks and fun runs are some of the most successful fundraising ideas for nonprofits, helping organizations bring in a lot of donations. Even in the current climate, it is possible to hold an outdoor, active fundraising campaign, as long as the organizers set strict guidelines for participants.

Races can be tricky to safely organize right now, to be sure, but there are other sporting events to consider. Golf outings, for instance, don’t require people to get close to one another and can be held in wide open outdoor spaces. Not to mention, it’s much more comfortable for participants to wear a mask while golfing rather than running.

Whatever type of event you decide on, take every precaution to keep both volunteers and donors safe.

Put on a game night

Using technology, there are a number of creative ways to fundraise for nonprofit organizations. Today’s videoconferencing and web conferencing platforms offer high-definition video and audio that make you  feel like you’re sitting right next to other people on the call. If you’ve held game nights in the past, there’s no reason you can’t continue bringing people together online to have fun and contribute to your nonprofit’s cause.

Online trivia is very popular right now with people who are socially distancing themselves from their friends and are looking for ways to entertain themselves in their free time. This a great, low-cost fundraising tactic because it doesn’t require any special equipment or upfront investment to get underway. Anyone can create a few rounds of trivia with relative ease, but if that seems like too much work, bingo is often considered one of the best fundraisers for nonprofit organizations since it’s so easy to organize. Whoever wins might receive a cash prize or a giveaway like branded clothing or accessories from your organization.

There are also plenty of digital game services available right now too. So, if you want to explore more creative ways to fundraise for nonprofit missions, take a look at the slew of online party games on the market.

Another option is holding a virtual karaoke contest, with each contestant singing from the comfort of their home. There’s no reason the fun has to stop just because people are social distancing.

Dinner to go

Charity dinners are always big fundraising events for nonprofits, but they’re not very practical right now. If you’re looking for a creative spin on nonprofit charity ideas, consider a virtual black tie dinner. Rather than have attendees come to a banquet hall or restaurant dressed to the nines, you can deliver their meal directly to their home. Delivery drivers can even wear tuxedos or other black tie-appropriate attire to add a touch of luxury to the event.

Explore different fundraising ideas for nonprofit organizations

With the current state of things, nonprofits may not be able to put together the typical slate of fundraising events. Now is the time to think outside the box and put creative spins on traditional fundraising activities. Incorporating technology to create virtual events that recreate in-person experiences is a great way to raise money and awareness for your organization.

Keep in mind that people are looking for opportunities to break out of the daily grind, so don’t be afraid to try out unconventional or unique fundraising ideas. You might just find the next big fundraising idea for nonprofits.

Eventually, the economic and public health crisis will abate and nonprofit can return to in-person events where people come together in close quarters. Until then, experiment with different virtual and online fundraising activities to keep donors engaged and donations coming into your nonprofit.

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