If your annual gala, donor breakfast, or poker night benefit is responsible for more than 30% of your annual operating costs, it may be time to overhaul your organization’s fundraising plan. COVID-19 has taught us many lessons, one of which is that the unexpected can and does happen. Limitations on in-person gatherings have shuttered many key fundraising events heavily relied on by nonprofits. In the aftermath, some are now struggling to keep their doors open.
The good news is that there’s never been a better time to go virtual, fundraising in the new normal. We now have the tools and technology at our disposal to effectively pivot fundraising efforts to a wholly online or hybrid platform. Along with this shift comes the potential to expand our reach indefinitely without the inhibitions of locality-based events. And virtual fundraising opportunities can create even more touchpoints of opportunity to tell your story and steward supporters but fundraising online also comes with new responsibilities such as registration.
Virtual Fundraising Options
Microphilanthropy. The rise of social media together with improvements in financial technology has given rise to the surging popularity of micro philanthropy, or donations between $0.25-$10 received at scale over time to accumulate serious cash. According to GoFundMe, Gen Xers and Millennials composed nearly 50% of givers through the platform in 2017, with 68% percent of funds raised from donations of $50 or less. generation of givers looking for a closer relationship between their activities and the causes they care about.
Virtual Events. Events such as auctions, galas, and luncheons can successfully be moved to an online platform. High-quality tech tools, along with thoughtful planning of all the details that make for an engaging and memorable event (like shipping party favors and champagne to participants) can help nonprofits maintain relationships with current donors and win over new ones.
Peer-to-Peer. Did the Komen foundation throw up their hands and shutter their doors when COVID put the brakes on their iconic walk for the cure? Rather than cower in the face of change, they took the walk virtually, touting their new slogan Walk Where You Are. Participants are encouraged to walk their neighborhood on the official day of the challenge. A custom mobile app, that includes messaging functions, activity challenges, and virtual badges and medals for participation, allows participants to replicate the camaraderie and excitement of the in-person event.
Merchandise Sales. Print-on-demand providers, such as Bonfire, can make merchandise sales a no-fuss and low-risk fundraising opportunity. Not only do merchandise sales help pad your nonprofits coffers, but wearable or highly visible merchandise serves a double-packed punch by increasing your visibility to others. Many merchandise vendors also serve as an online storefront for your wares, further expanding the reach of your nonprofit’s message and fundraising efforts.
Key Steps for Taking Fundraising Online
If you want to pivot your fundraising efforts to take advantage of new virtual opportunities, you’ll want to take a few preliminary steps before launching your first event.
Make a Plan. What are your fundraising goals and objectives and how can you really leverage virtual fundraising opportunities to meet these objectives?
Prepare. Before launching your virtual fundraising event or strategy, you’ll want to make sure you have the right tools, technology, and staff in place to do so successfully. Considerations may include a good online giving platform, effective mobile giving tools, a robust but useable CRM or client relationship management system, marketing software, an optimized website, and adequate staffing and training in using these tools.
Get Registered. If you are soliciting online donations, it’s highly likely that you will need to register in any state in which you solicit donations. Forty states and the District of Columbia require a charitable solicitation registration in advance of engaging in any fundraising or solicitation activity. Failure to register can result in fines and penalties against directors and officers and even being barred from further fundraising activities within a state. Caritas Law Group can help with your charitable solicitation registration needs.
Ellis Carter is a nonprofit lawyer with Caritas Law Group, P.C. licensed to practice in Washington and Arizona. Ellis advises nonprofit and socially responsible businesses on corporate, tax, and fundraising regulations nationwide. Ellis also advises donors with regard to major gifts. To schedule a consultation with Ellis, call 602-456-0071 or email us through our contact form.