Five Ways Organizations Are Getting Creative About Fundraising

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. During his presidential campaign, Joe Biden leaned heavily on celebrity cameos via Zoom—with the Democratic party going so far as to reunite the casts of popular TV shows and movies to support the party’s ticket. 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.

Taking part in a crowdfunding collaboration. In the wake of protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police, nonprofits in Minneapolis faced major challenges from being caught in the crosshairs. In the case of the Native American community youth nonprofit MIGIZI, this meant the loss of their building caused by neighboring fires. In response to this incident, the creators of the classic Minneapolis-born television show Mystery Science Theater 3000 announced a Kickstarter-style crowdfunding campaign that would aim to create new episodes of the popular show, which had recently been canceled by Netflix, in support of MIGIZI. The campaign, which raised more than $50,000, led to the creation of two new episodes that were released last month.

(Prostock/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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