Money & Business

Four Ways Organizations Are Getting Creative About Fundraising

By / May 21, 2020 (Prostock/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Much like associations, schools, charities, and political candidates have had to use different tactics to drive fundraising efforts in recent months. Here are some of the things they are trying.

Trying to raise money in an unusual environment was undoubtedly going to be tough for nonprofits.

If there’s any cold comfort, it’s that lots of other types of organizations that rely on fundraising, such as charities, political campaigns, and universities, are having to scramble as well to figure out a Plan B.

But despite the scrambling, these organizations are letting creativity win the day. A few ways they’re doing so:

Creating interaction-heavy virtual fundraisers. Charity wine auctions have traditionally been an affair driven by, well, wine. Often in person, they mix the experience of going to a vineyard, playing a few yard games, and mingling with others. However, COVID-19 has made that a challenge. But as Wine Spectator notes, that hasn’t stopped Oregon’s Classic Wines Auction from trying a creative virtual approach. The organization is combining virtual mixing with a little interactivity, by adding trivia and a virtual “ring toss” to the event. “It’s all about creativity and versatility, hoping that our guests will come along for the ride and continue to support our community in this new way,” explained Classic Wines Auction Marketing Director Julie Dalrymple.

Leaning on old-school campaign marketing techniques. Often, the tactics used for get-out-the-vote efforts involve a lot of handshaking and in-person campaigning. But that’s not necessarily possible right now, and political campaigns—already tapped out from tough primaries—are having to change tactics to raise more money, says Ohio-based political consultant Jeff Rusnak of R Strategy Group, who told Crain’s Cleveland Business that previously on-the-decline techniques like direct-mail appeals are making a comeback of sorts right now. “Fundraising is being done online and direct-mail, which was on a downward trend,” Rusnak told the outlet. “Expect to see an uptick in digital ads and, as people are stuck at home, television advertising will play a major part of the campaign.”

Putting a political candidate or other familiar face on Zoom. Another way political candidates are working the circuit is through virtual fundraiser events, something many running for office during the 2020 election cycle are trying, often charging thousands of dollars for direct access to the candidate. Candidates such as Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-VA), who owns a distillery, have even taken to sending out gifts to donors ahead of the event—in the case of Riggleman, bourbon. Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for president, has been leaning heavily into the virtual fundraisers approach, Politico notes. Associations could borrow from this strategy, for example, by bringing a celebrity on board to entertain or support your organization.

Rallying around a specific issue. College campuses and universities, which have been severely affected by COVID-19, have managed to continue fundraising through a variety of tactics, according to Campus Technology. One noteworthy approach, as used by Texas Tech University, involved leveraging a single issue—getting study-abroad students home—to raise funds. The tactic earned $130,000 for that cause, plus another $300,000 to support nursing students. “Not only have the institution’s actions inspired incredible generosity, they’ve reminded us all that a clearly stated, specific goal goes a long way in mobilizing support,” writer Beth Brenner explained.

Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is the social media journalist for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. More »


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