Starting a COVID-19 fundraiser can seem like a huge lift when your nonprofit is already in flux. These four easy steps will help you get a #GivingTuesdayNow fundraiser off the ground quickly.
COVID-19 hit the United States hard and fast. And the nonprofit sector has had to respond fast. Since March, nonprofits have had to jump to serve the needs of their communities, postpone, cancel, or reimagine Spring fundraisers they relied on to provide funding for their programs and services, and adapt to working remotely. Many nonprofits are making hard choices, scaling back their operations, or working overtime to help their communities. So, in all of this chaos, how do you even begin to put together a COVID-19 relief fundraiser?!
At Mightycause, we know things are hard right now, so we want to make it as easy as possible to start a fundraiser. Whether it’s for #GivingTuesdayNow on May 5, 2020, or a fundraiser to help see you through this pandemic, you can create a fundraiser in four easy steps.
The Current Fundraising Landscape
We’ll be honest with you, there’s not a ton of data to draw from regarding the effect of pandemics on nonprofits. But we can draw from what we know about disaster fundraising: people look for ways to give during and after a disaster, and many nonprofits actually see a spike in giving after a disaster. (And while certainly a pandemic is very different than a hurricane or earthquake, it is definitely a disaster.) So, people are looking to engage in charitable giving, and charitable giving will be happening.
And on May 5th, the folks behind #GivingTuesday (the annual event that takes place on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving) will be hosting a COVID-19 event, #GivingTuesdayNow. Local events have sprung up across the country for #GivingTuesdayNow, with some starting earlier and lasting later in the month. What we know is that lots of charitable giving is happening now, and we’ll see even more of it in May. And we know that your nonprofit deserves to be in the mix.
Step #1: Determine your needs and capacity
The first step to plotting any fundraiser is goal-setting, but you’ll want to adapt your goals to the current situation.
What do you need right now?
Meet with your team (remotely) and determine what your nonprofit’s needs are right now. Do you have a critical funding need? Would getting more recurring donors be more meaningful for your organization? Is donor engagement a better goal?
Your goal doesn’t need to be a concrete financial goal if that doesn’t make sense for your nonprofit right now.
What’s your capacity right now?
When you’re looking to start a COVID-19 fundraiser quickly, it’s important not to overextend your organization. Take stock of your assets. How much time do you have? What’s your staff and volunteer situation like? How much time do they have to contribute? And how are they doing? Do they have the ability to take on a fundraiser? Think about what you can accomplish with what you have at your disposal, and scale your goal and your efforts to what is realistic and achievable.
It may be helpful to think about your nonprofit’s limits: What’s the most you can do right now? What’s the least you can do to generate some funding for #GivingTuesdayNow?
When setting your goals for your COVID-10 fundraiser, it’s important to keep in mind that perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of good. Since people will be giving on May 5th (and in general), doing some fundraising is better than doing none at all. And with May 5th right around the corner, it’s more important to move quickly than it is to get all the details perfect.
At Mightycause, we recommend keeping it simple. Now is not the time for high-concept fundraising! Keep it honest and realistic and focus on accomplishing as much as you can with the assets you have available.
Step #2: Find the right messaging
This is probably the hardest question facing many nonprofits right now. How do you ask for money during a pandemic? Is there a right way to ask at all? And while these are worthwhile questions it’s entirely logical to struggle with, finding the right messaging is easier than you think:
- Be direct! Get to the point quickly. What does your organization need, how can people help? People want to help, they know there is a crisis happening, they don’t need a wordy recap of the situation. Just let them know what you need.
- Be transparent: It’s helpful to be honest about how COVID-19 has affected your nonprofit, to give your supporters context when you’re asking for their help. Are you providing direct aid? Have you had to shut down some programs, or scale back your work? Is COVID-19 fundamentally affecting your ability to work toward your mission?
- Reaffirm your mission & place in the community: Obviously, if you are providing direct aid during the pandemic, it should be easily to highlight your mission. But even for organizations that aren’t providing direct aid, it’s necessary to remind people what you do and why you do it. Get back to your core mission and use that to frame your ask. (And even if you aren’t providing aid, this explains why your work is important and is in need of funding.)
- Reassure and Inspire: The news is pretty gloomy these days. Nonprofits are in a unique position to deliver a message of hope. Now, this doesn’t mean to invent a false narrative of hope, but messaging from a place of community, connection, and helping can pull people in and inspire them to help.
Especially for nonprofits that are currently not operating at full capacity or have had to halt operations, focusing on recurring giving can be the best way to message a #GivingTuesdayNow or COVID-19 fundraiser. Recurring giving focuses on long-term investment in your nonprofit. And it also allows donors to give in smaller amounts that feel more approachable, which can make all the difference in whether or not someone decides to make a donation.
On Mightycause, recurring donations can be made through your profile, the widget on your website or blog, or your custom donation page. Setting up a recurring gift is an excellent way to ask your supporters to pledge their support during this crisis.
Include alternative, non-monetary asks
So, a lot of people are feeling the pinch economically, and that’s why it’s more important than ever to make it clear that donating isn’t the only way to help. Mentioning things like remote volunteer opportunities, peer-to-peer fundraising, and even things like sharing posts on social media, signing up for your email list, and helping your nonprofit spread the word about your fundraiser are ways people can help. If you have a need for in-kind donations, talking about how to donate what you need safely is appropriate, too.
Giving your supporters alternative ways to get involved and help your cause makes people feel more empowered to help… and might help you find some much-needed assistance!
Step #3: Set it up
Once you’ve figured out what you’re asking for and how you’ll ask for it, all you need to do is set up a fundraiser. There are a few different options, of varying difficulty, which we’ll outline for you.
EASY: Use your Mightycause profile
This is an easy option for nonprofits already set up on our platform. It’s already there and ready to collect donations! We do, however, recommend making a few key updates:
- Update your Description: This is the spot where your mission statement normally goes. We recommend updating this to be relevant to COVID-19 and your fundraising efforts! But the least you can do here is just remove anything outdated as well as any outdated campaign efforts. How to edit your profile.
- Update your Thank You page and email receipt: These are easy wins! Customize these sections to be specific to your COVID-19 relief campaign, or simply make sure they don’t reference any outdated campaigns. Learn how to update these messages.
- Suggested Donation Amounts & Descriptions: So, every nonprofit on Migthycause can customize the four default amounts suggested to every donor when they click “Donate” and add a brief description of what that amount provide. These both catch donors during a critical moment: when they’re deciding how much to give and whether to make it monthly. If you have never customized these, now is the time! Here’s how to do it.
- Update your Goal & Progress Bar. Make sure an outdated, fulfilled goal doesn’t turn people off from donating! This is an easy thing to update, and will refresh your profile’s metrics for your new campaign. Here’s how to update your Goal & Progress Bar.
To use this option, you’ll just be sending people right to your Mightycause profile in your appeals. Couldn’t be easier!
EASY: Start a campaign page
So, if you’d like to keep your Mightycause profile evergreen and want to have a separate page for COVID-19 fundraising, you can create a campaign page. Here’s a support article on how to set up a fundraiser connected to your nonprofit’s profile.
This is a simple and easy option that allows you to utilize campaign-specific fundraising tools like creating a deadline, in a matter of minutes. Fundraiser pages are a template on Mightycause, so all you need to do is fill in the content. That’s it!
INTERMEDIATE: Start a Team or Event
One excellent way to harness people’s desire to help is through peer-to-peer fundraising. If you’d like to simply facilitate an organized peer-to-peer campaign, Teams & Events are the right tool for you. Both offer all the features you need to get fundraisers signed up and fundraising, while helping your seamlessly manage your campaign.
The difference between a Team and an Event is simple. A Team page allows individuals to create their own fundraising pages, where they raise money for the cause and their team. An Event takes this a step further by allowing individuals and Teams to fundraise together for a cause. So, for instance, an organization that wanted to enable its Board of Directors to start fundraisers might want to start a Team. That would allow each board member to have their own page where they can ask people to donate to your nonprofit (and you can track their progress). An Event would be a great option for a virtual 5k where you’re looking to organize a large group of people, some of whom may want to fundraise as a Team.
These types of campaigns require a bit more time and coordination than just using your Mightycause profile or starting your own fundraiser, because it involves asking others to join and start fundraising. But they are usually well worth the effort for nonprofits that have the capacity for it. Teams & Events raise more than other types of fundraisers on our platform. And setting them up is easy! Check out our Team & Event Fundraising support library for walkthroughs and how-tos.
We also have live training sessions available. Find one happening at a time that works for you to get a technical walkthrough of our Team & Event fundraising tools!
The most important thing to remember when you’re choosing what type of fundraiser you want to set up is to keep it simple! Make sure you’re setting your nonprofit up for success and scale your campaign to your current capacity. You may want to start an Event, but if you’re just getting started, that may be harder to pull off by May 5th for #GivingTuesdayNow. So keep your efforts realistic.
And as much as possible, use what you’ve already got! Use images, videos, and assets you already have at your disposal.
Step #4: Get the word out
Once you know what and who you’re asking, how you’re asking, and where you’re sending your supporters, all that’s left is to get the word out!
Send a blast email
So, if you read Mightyblog a lot, you’ll hear a lot about segmenting emails and some chatter about why email blasts to your whole list aren’t ideal. Well, we’re temporarily suspending that talking point: Email blasts are totally fine! Starting a COVID-19 fundraiser is all about moving quickly, and a blast email is the quickest and easiest way to get the word out to your whole list.
Keep the email announcing you campaign short, simple, and punchy. You want your message to be brief and direct. And your CTA should be general and immediate: DONATE NOW, GIVE NOW, HELP NOW, and so on.
With that said, if you’re already familiar with email segmentation, we highly recommend using segmentation for your follow-ups. Send more specific, personalized asks to your key audiences: last year’s #GivingTuesday donors, your recurring donors, your volunteers, your board, and donors with a robust giving history.
After you send an email, get the word out on social media! Schedule some posts letting people know about your COVID-19 fundraiser, paying special attention to the channels where you have the most followers. Social media is also a great place for some non-monetary asks like sharing your post, starting a peer-to-peer fundraiser, and signing up for your newsletter for updates.
Early engagement (meaning likes, shares, comments, and so on) is a key part of making sure your posts are seen, so as much as you’re able to, stay responsive and get engaged in conversations with your followers. (This could be a great job for a remote volunteer!)
We know you’re pressed for time and we’re not suggesting a ton of personal outreach, but we do suggest doing as much as you’re able. Sending a quick, personal email to your key supporters to thank them for their ongoing support and ask them for their support for your COVID-19 fundraiser is well worth the effort. And we recommend doing a bit of research to build a list of donors that have repeatedly shown up to support your work and are worth the extra effort to get onboard with your new fundraiser.
A tip that can make this easy as can be is creating an email template you and your team and copy, paste and customize so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel with each email.
The thanks is part of the fundraising plan! First, utilize the tools Mightycause already has built-in to our platform, like your Thank You page and custom email message that’s included with donors’ receipts. These are easy wins that help your nonprofit thank donors quickly. But a simple plan to send an email, post on social media, and wrap up your campaign is all that’s needed here.
If you have the volunteers for it, coordinate them to handle phone calls, cards, and emails thanking donors. These are high-impact thank yous that are easy for volunteers to do from home!
The minimum effort
So, let’s say, you’re just at capacity right now and can’t do much. But you know that participating in #GivingTuesdayNow is necessary. But you also don’t have enough time to start a new COVID-19 fundraiser. What do you do?! Here you go. This is the least amount of effort you can put in:
- Scan your nonprofit’s Mightycause page for any outdate information or references to old campaigns. If it’s there, remove it or update. Otherwise, don’t change anything.
- Schedule 1-2 social media posts for May 5, 2020 with a link to your Mightycause profile. And only post on social media channels where you have followers. If you have 50 followers on Instagram and 5,000 on Facebook, don’t worry about Instagram — post on Facebook only.
- Schedule 1 blast email to your whole email list on May 5, 2020 asking them to donate to your Mightycause page.
That’s it! That’s the least you need to do. That simple strategy should net you a few #GivingTuesdayNow donations with very little time sunk into planning a campaign.
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