fundraising in a pandemicMany schools rely heavily on donations from generous families, community members, and alumni to supplement limited government funding. If you’re a teacher, parent, or volunteer, you know that coming up with the funding your school needs can be difficult, especially in the midst of global challenges that are out of your control.

The pandemic presented unique challenges for fundraisers everywhere, but this difficult time has also led schools and other organizations to come up with more creative fundraising ideas than ever before.

As we collectively take stock of what we’ve learned from the pandemic so far, we need to take a look at the ways parents and teachers evolved school fundraising to meet today’s needs. Let’s walk through four lessons we learned from fundraising during the pandemic and learn how your school can implement these tips moving forward:

  1. Leverage online fundraising tools.
  2. Communicate frequently with your supporters.
  3. Get specific fundraising asks.
  4. Make the most of each donation.

Whether you choose to fundraise online, hybrid, or in person, these tips can be extremely useful for any school fundraiser. Ready to learn how to use these lessons from the pandemic to raise more for your school? Use these tips to get started!

fundraising in a pandemic

Virtual fundraising tools have been incredibly valuable during the pandemic, allowing traditionally face-to-face fundraising methods to be moved online. From using fundraising web stores to hosting virtual auctions, schools have relied heavily on online fundraising tools in the past three years and received great results from them.

In fact, online giving rose by over 20% amidst the pandemic. And that’s not likely to decrease by much any time soon!

Because of their success, virtual fundraisers will continue to be a popular and prevalent way to get in front of supporters and donors, even past the pandemic. We can expect online donations to remain a major source of revenue for schools moving forward. For your next fundraiser, provide donors the option to give in person or online depending on what’s easiest for them.

Take advantage of the increased flexibility of online fundraising tools. For example, product fundraising companies now provide customized online stores and in-person forms for hybrid fundraising events. Partner with one of these companies to sell anything from cookie dough to discount cards in exchange for donations. With hybrid options, students and parents can sell in person and share the web store with their families and friends online.

fundraising in a pandemic

At the height of the pandemic, we didn’t have face-to-face events to keep up with supporters and get to know them on a personal level. We learned to make conscious efforts to keep up in other ways. Often, these consistent and intentional forms of communication cultivated strong relationships with donors.

One of the best ways schools learned to connect with their supporters is to use several different communication platforms. This is a strategy you don’t want to lose moving forward! If you don’t have one already, create a consistent strategy for donor retention that includes using multiple platforms to reach out to community members.

Focus on building relationships in a variety of ways to reach as much of your audience as possible. Use a mix of these platforms for communication:

  • Email
  • Social media
  • Zoom meetings
  • Direct mail
  • Flyers sent home with students

Then, combine these methods with in-person events and meetings if everyone is comfortable with that. You can even use livestreaming to add a hybrid element to these in-person opportunities. Use a variety of platforms to extend your fundraising reach, but remember to prioritize the platforms that you know your audience responds best to.

fundraising in a pandemic

Throughout the pandemic, schools have needed to be very specific with fundraising asks. For example, if your school needed a certain amount of money for computers to support remote learning opportunities, sharing that specific goal was a great way to motivate donors to contribute. You prioritized showing donors exactly what would be funded in order to make it as appealing as possible. This was effective!

Giving more information to donors during a fundraising ask is always more impactful than omitting it because the details get them excited about your initiatives. Continue to be specific with your fundraising asks and case statements, explaining your school’s exact needs.

You may have requested smaller donations at the height of the pandemic to take into consideration the financial troubles facing many families and community members. This is still something to keep in mind! You know your community best, so make sure to evaluate what size donations are feasible right now before you specify the size of your ask.

fundraising in a pandemic

Maximizing donations has been essential throughout the pandemic. Especially when the crisis first hit, schools needed to stretch every dollar. Now, while it may be less essential, you can do more if you continue with some of those strategies to maximize gifts and take them further for your students.

One strategic way to make the most out of each and every donation is by using corporate matching gifts. According to Double the Donation’s matching gift statistics, many donors are more inclined to give (and to give more) if they know that a match will be applied by their employer. 

Many companies have programs that match donations to schools and other educational institutions, but donors are often completely unaware that they’re eligible for these programs. It’s a great idea to promote matching gift opportunities to your donors and encourage them to research their eligibility for a match from their own employer.

Another way to maximize donations going forward is to combine two fundraisers together. This is often easier than you think! Start with ABC Fundraising’s list of fundraising ideas to look for two fundraisers that can easily work together to raise more for your school.  For example, you can place a collection box for a shoe drive at a 5K event. Or, you can sell popcorn at the concession stand of a talent show or sports game.

The Bottom Line

While your school may not need to make emergency appeals for funds anymore, you can still take the lessons learned from fundraising in the pandemic into the future. With these tips, you can continue to make the most out of your fundraising to provide the best for your school.

About the Author

Debbie Salat is the director of fundraising activities and product development at ABC Fundraising(r) – Debbie joined ABC Fundraising(r) in 2010 and is responsible for launching over 6500 fundraising campaigns for schools, churches, youth sports teams and non-profit organizations all across the USA. With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Debbie knows the path to success for fundraisers which she shares with groups on a daily basis so they can achieve their fundraising goals.