[Guest Post] Innovation is best when there are unmovable constraints, and this year, there are plenty of new restrictions to overcome. Successful fundraising used to mean bringing a community together for a cause at a fun event. In 2021, that is still the case, but coming together now requires more creativity and innovation.  

Social distancing and other health-related measures have severely impacted how nonprofits host their events. Interacting in person isn’t feasible at the moment, and taking extra steps to engage your audience is a must right now. Whichever approach you take is entirely up to your nonprofit’s abilities and supporters’ preferences, and luckily, there are several COVID-friendly options out there in which organizations are finding success.

To help you get started, this article will examine how organizations can innovate their efforts to garner donations through remote and socially-distanced events. Here’s a quick list of what this article will cover:

  • Start with a creative fundraising idea.
  • Build and rely on a team of passionate volunteers.
  • Go the extra mile to engage participants.
  • Don’t forget about post-campaign follow-up.

Even when we begin to transition back to in-person engagement opportunities, these steps will still be invaluable when connecting with donors. Ready to create standout strategies that engage volunteers and donors despite the distance? Let’s dive in!

Start with a creative fundraising idea.

In today’s landscape, people can choose from thousands of organizations worldwide to donate their hard-earned money to, making it more critical than ever to stand out from the crowd. With COVID-19, it is even more important to be creative in your fundraising efforts since typical fundraising events are no longer an option.

Fundraising can be difficult in an economic downturn, so consider raising funds for a cause without asking too much from your donors since they are also struggling. Hosting a shoe drive fundraiser with a fundraising coordinator like Funds2Orgs is a brilliant way for people to donate to a cause without asking for monetary donations. Everyone has extra shoes lying around, making it incredibly easy to participate. 

The process is simple: organizers from a charity can simply run a socially-distanced shoe drive fundraiser in which they collect gently worn, used and new shoes with help from their supporters. All they need to do is place collection bins around the community and promote the opportunity. When the fundraiser wraps up, Funds2Orgs will write the charity a check for the shoes collected. This novel approach to fundraising is creativity at its best! 

It can take a lot of effort to develop a new creative fundraising idea for your cause. To spark some creativity, it helps to do some research and see what other organizations are doing. Then, you can come back and collaborate with your team to develop a new approach to ideas you came across during your research. In any case, how you choose to fundraise should align with your organization’s mission, culture, and cause. 

Build and rely on a team of passionate volunteers.

No fundraising event can take place without the help and dedication of passionate volunteers. With social distancing and remote work, it is more important than ever to make sure your volunteers are set up for success while they work from home or socially distanced with health protocols. 

For many volunteers, the sense of community created while volunteering is a significant motivation. Now in a more isolated environment, it is essential to stay connected to your volunteers than ever before. Let’s take a closer look at two options you might consider to keep your team invested: entirely remote volunteering and socially-distanced volunteering.

Remote Volunteering 

If you are planning on running your fundraiser remotely, you will need volunteers to help out remotely as well. A volunteer sign-up sheet won’t work in this scenario. It is time to consider how to recruit, schedule, communicate and manage your volunteers remotely. 

This is where a volunteer management solution shines; volunteers can sign up for shifts that work best for them right from your website, saving time. The volunteer can check themselves in and out of shifts, which allows you to keep track of who is working at any given time. The logistics of running a remote fundraiser doesn’t need to be difficult if you have the right tools for the job. 

Socially-Distanced Volunteering 

If you can’t do your fundraising entirely remotely, you must follow your local health authorities’ health and safety protocols. As part of your volunteer management strategy, you want to ensure that all your volunteers are safe while volunteering for your organization. You must accommodate any volunteers with high-risk health conditions and ensure they do remote work to protect their health. 

Once you have recruited a team of volunteers who understand the risks, it is essential to ensure that they are set up for success. Here are some health and safety protocols to consider implementing:

  • Mandatory health and safety training before volunteering 
  • Health screening before shift check-in 
  • Consistent schedule cohorting for contact tracing 
  • Mandatory masks, personal protective equipment (PPE), and hand sanitizer stations

Not only will these extra precautions protect your volunteers and staff, but they will also convey that you genuinely care about their wellbeing. Whichever steps you take, be sure to proactively communicate them to your volunteers so they know to comply.

Go the extra mile to engage participants.

Now that you have a creative fundraising idea and a fantastic team of volunteers to help you execute that idea, it’s time to start promoting it to your community and participants. Since in-person events are off the table, you will need to look at digital channels to get the job done. 

In 2021, there are many marketing and media channels to promote your fundraiser through. It is important to understand who your target audience is to help inform your decision on effectively promoting the opportunity and engaging donors and participants. 

Here are a few channels that you can use to promote your event and engage your participants: 

  • Live stream through YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram
  • Host a virtual event or conference 
  • Hold prize draws for donors through social media posts 

No matter how you choose to engage with your audience, it is essential to keep your fundraising cause at the center of everything you do. Use all marketing efforts as a medium to educate your audience on your cause and why it’s worth it for them to donate. 

Don’t forget about post-campaign follow-up.

Once your fundraising event is over, don’t forget to run a follow-up campaign to inform donors of all the positive impact their donations have on the world. Fostering a long-term relationship with your donors through communication campaigns that educate them on your work will serve you well in the long run. 

You don’t always know where that next sponsorship or large donation will come from, but working with your existing list of contacts will help get your cause in front of more people through word of mouth advertising and information sharing. Outside of your initial event follow-up, try creating a communication campaign for your donors at least once a quarter to keep your cause top of mind for any future fundraising event you are planning. 


Now it’s your turn to start planning your next remote or socially-distanced fundraising event. Remember, creativity and innovation will go a long way in creating an event that stands out from the crowd to bring in all the funds you need for your cause. As you begin planning, remember that technology will be critical to your event’s success this year. 


Cassandra Smallman

Head of Marketing at InitLive

Cassandra is a passionate content creator dedicated to fostering positive impact through thought leadership in both the Nonprofit sector and live events industry. You can find her work at or on Linkedin and Twitter.

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