How To Fundraise During COVID: 5 Digital Marketing Ideas

Written by: Ron Stefanski is a website entrepreneur and marketing professor who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online business. You can learn more from him by visiting

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Like most other industries, the nonprofit sector was hit hard by the recent global pandemic. According to studies, over half of the nonprofit organizations saw a decline in individual giving in 2020 while 83% reported a loss in revenue.

One of the main reasons for the drastic reduction in annual donations was due to postponed and canceled fundraising events.

As the coronavirus pandemic gained strength, more and more organizations were forced to either adopt a hybrid model or transition their fundraising campaigns online. Charities that had already been using technology to communicate with donors and nurture relationships had a strong foundation to weather the crisis. But even then, they still found the need to update digital marketing strategies and execute innovative campaigns to see them through the pandemic and overcome the challenge of finding volunteers and leading teams successfully while working remotely.

Whether you already have digital marketing systems in place or if you're just getting started, read the rest of this article to discover 5 digital marketing ideas on how to fundraise during COVID.

1. Create an Effective Email Marketing Campaign

Your first step towards building an effective fundraising strategy is to create an email marketing campaign. Emails are a great way for you to communicate with donors, build relationships, and boost your revenue - all the while having fun during your campaign to raise funds. Regardless of the size of your nonprofit, email is a simple, effective, and affordable way to reach all your donors without needlessly overextending yourself.

You can get started by sending email appeals to all your contacts where you explain things such as:

  • Your nonprofit's mission;

  • Your organization’s current needs;

  • Short-term or long-term goals;

With emails, you'll be able to reach your supporters quickly and you can even personalize messages by segmenting your email list to ensure that your content is relevant to each recipient. Sending proposals is a great way to get your message across. To make this virtual fundraising idea more effective, make sure to include a prominently placed link to your online donation form or page so users can easily access it. Don’t forget to add a compelling call to action for your donors and supporters to give to your cause.

Pro Tip: Make sure your online donation page is optimized. It should be mobile-friendly, fast-loading, and easy to navigate. If necessary, spend time revamping your design to improve user experience and you’ll see the benefits as the donations start to roll in.

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2. Create Webinars to Elicit More Online Donations

Webinars are a proven virtual fundraising strategy for nonprofit organizations. They are a perfect idea for raising funds during COVID because they not only allow you to interact with donors and supporters from a distance but also help you provide engaging online content at a time when people are spending more and more time on the internet.

The best part about using webinars is that you can create them once and then run them over and over again. This way, you can continue to rally more supporters, automate sharing of fundraising content, cut back on recurring expenses that cut into your donations, and free up your time to focus on other fundraising tasks.

An example of an organization that does this well is Changemakers Foundation.

This nonprofit achieves its fundraising goals by regularly creating webinars to share its virtual takes on fundraising campaigns. There are many other nonprofits that use webinars as an innovative technique to adapt to the challenges brought on by the global pandemic.

Pro Tip: Creating memorable webinars that engage donors and successfully raise funds requires the right software. Fortunately, I’ve created this list of the industry-leading webinar software platforms to help your and your non-profit increase donations.

3. Use Social Networks to Boost Fundraising

You can use your social platforms to help boost fundraising during COVID-19 by integrating your social media marketing strategy with your other marketing strategies.

For instance, remember your updated donor page that you promoted on email in point #1? Promote that page on your organization's social media to help spread the word about your cause and get more people to give. You can use social media planning tools to cut down your efforts for the same.

You can also conduct Facebook Fundraising, a fast-growing virtual fundraising concept where you leverage the platform's massive potential to get more people to give to your organization online. One of the main advantages of using Facebook is that it's one of the few fundraising platforms with no platform fee. The company covers processing fees for any gifts made to charitable organizations during Facebook Fundraisers, which means you will receive all the funds given to your nonprofit.

You can also hold virtual auctions where you ask your volunteers and donors in your community to donate auction-able things such as artwork, handmade facemasks, signed memorabilia, or anything else bidders would be interested in.

Another way to leverage the power of social media is to hold virtual talent shows. You can ask your audience to shoot videos of themselves showing off their talent, compile the videos and share them on your social channels. Instead of charging an entry fee, ask viewers to make a donation to your charity.

Basically, any type of event that can be enjoyed online will work to get your nonprofit in front of the eyes of current and potential donors. And, you can take this a step further by reaching out to local and online merchants to ask for donations in exchange for being mentioned as one of the sponsors of the contest.

One last interesting way of boosting fundraising with social media is offering influencers a piece of the action.

Thalita Ferraz from, a popular fashion and beauty blog explains, “Near the end of 2021, I was approached by multiple brands that were asking for me to sell apparel supporting their cause. To compensate, they offered me a cut of the profit generated (usually 10-20%) if I shared their apparel with my Instagram audience and it resulted in sales. I did this for free with two of the three organizations that approached me because they were focused on causes that I was passionate about”.

4. Generate Social Proof

Without the rhythm of in-person interaction, you have to work harder to convince big-dollar donors on your website, email, or social media - and one way to do so is to use social proof AKA reviews.

Placing social proof on your organization's donation forms, email newsletter, email signatures, and landing pages can be a great motivator for prospective donors to join the many others who have already given to your cause.

Place calls to action on your website, email, and social media marketing channels encouraging donors to not only give but also offer reviews or other positive comments that can be used as social proof.

5. Find Innovative Ways for Virtual Engagement

As nonprofits work to abide by the guidelines of social distancing, it's important to focus on virtual engagement to attract and build relationships with new donors, as well as retain current ones. With higher donor retention, nonprofit organizations can raise adequate funds. After all, retaining donors costs much less than attracting new ones, and supporters tend to increase their donation size over time.

Host a Fundraising Marathon
Host a Fundraising Marathon

Fortunately, there are many creative ways for nonprofits to engage donors during the pandemic and beyond. Organizations can choose from a range of strategic ways to engage donors and volunteers virtually. For example, you can do the following for donations:

  • Host a virtual 5k marathon

  • Host virtual cooking classes

  • Host a socially-distanced class using an online course platform or YouTube

  • Invite donors and supporters to a sofa safari

… the list goes on (check out more ideas below).

Donors want meaningful virtual engagement, and you can find ways to partner with others (e.g. fitness instructors, chefs, crafts experts, etc.) to engage the rest of your audience virtually.

This is an important part of your overall fundraising efforts that will ultimately increase your donor retention rate by helping you broaden your organization’s support network and develop stronger relationships with your supporters.

For example, Assaf Cohen, who runs gaming site Solitaire Bliss, raised funds from his users by doing a virtual gaming night where users could win swag and other prizes. It was highly relevant leading to a great fundraising campaign.

More Socially-Distanced Fundraising Ideas

For many nonprofits, COVID-19 resulted in a lot of lapsed supporters. And, although the world is slowly getting back on its feet, some disturbances caused by COVID may still be felt in the future, and creating these fundraising channels now is a great way to increase awareness for your nonprofit and ensure donations, even when physical tactics are off-limits.

Here are a few more competitions/challenges/events that you can host to help you engage supporters and maintain relationships as society adjusts to the new norm:

  • Social Media Photograph Competition

  • Social Media Family Challenges

  • Live Stream Online

  • Online Private Classes

  • Individual Sporting Challenge

  • Shave Your Hair Off Challenge

  • eBay for Charity Sales

  • Social Media Birthday Fundraisers

  • Socially Distant Sponsored Walk

  • T-Shirt Fundraise

  • Virtual Dinner Party

  • Online Candygram Sale

  • Digital Book Club

  • Virtual Movie Club

  • Online Danceathon

  • Online Gaming Tournament

  • Virtual Greyhound Racing

  • Face Mask Fundraiser

  • Home Wine Tasting

  • Donate as You Shop Online

  • Virtual Tea Party

  • Coronavirus Swear Jar

  • Wardrobe Clear Out Competition

  • Online Raffle

  • Virtual Bingo Night

  • Readathon

  • Sponsored No TV Month

  • Virtual Night In

  • Dress Up for the Dishes

Wrapping Things Up

There you go - effective digital marketing ideas for fundraising from a distance.

Regardless of what’s been going on in your nonprofit, you can use these tips to begin raising awareness of your cause so you can get more donations.

The best part about digital marketing fundraising ideas is that they can be scaled according to your organization’s audience and fundraising capacity, making them incredibly helpful and effective for nonprofits of all sizes.

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