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Fundraising Events Are Cancelled. Giving is Decreasing. What Now?

The Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic classification put nonprofit funding and programs in jeopardy. But there is hope for all kinds of organizations, not just those centered on medical-driven missions.

As the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic crept across the globe, conference and event organizers worldwide faced their worst nightmare: cancelling events they put blood, sweat, and tears into for months.

For nonprofits, cancelling a major event isn’t even the worst part of the situation. It’s the fundraising budget they’re losing (or might lose) if things get worse economically. As a result, fundraisers everywhere are wondering, what is going to happen to giving now?

How decreased giving affects annual fundraising goals is one thing to consider. But, decreased giving on this level implies a much more important question.

How will nonprofits who provide essential services stay operating?

The question is on everyone’s minds. Here’s what people are saying and how you might be able to recover from your own cancelled fundraising event or decrease in donations.

Fundraising Uncertainty Caused by the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic

The events and conference crisis that stormed the world this week affects nonprofits the most. For some, it’s most (or all) of their annual budget.

For others, events are essential to their main mission. Some organizations hold them to educate the public or provide services to their communities. For example, animal shelters host events to get pets adopted.

I’m more concerned with it affecting shelter operations if things continue to get worse. The virus is in our immediate area now. We’re just now suspending some of our events that bring groups of kids and people into the shelter. We just want to do everything we can to prevent the virus from spreading among our volunteers and staff.

Whether or not events were in the picture for any particular nonprofit this year, most are experiencing impacts of the Coronavirus Pandemic in a more alarming way. The economic crisis that began this week is already slowing down unnecessary household spending.


I think we may see people being more cautious about spending overall, which could hurt giving.

Donations have started to slow for some and stopped altogether for others. Fundraisers are worried that this will only get worse.

I already see it affecting our fundraising because the stock market is tanking and making our major donors too freaked to give.

Many nonprofits are also unable to continue their programs for the foreseeable future. Organizations with nonessential services may be held back from operating for a while.

We send musicians into hospitals to sing for kids. Needless to say hospitals are stopping any outside visitors so we’re postponing all our visits until who knows when. That means we’re not spending as much. We usually do online fundraising so we’ll see how that works out.

This situation could even cause programs, like those who send volunteers to cheer up hospital patients, to stop forever. When global crises reach this level, new regulations get set. Where the dust settles will determine what happens in the future.

For now, nonprofits need to come together and harness their own communities as well as the comradery of other nonprofits. Many organizations have complementary missions that are essential during a global crisis. Health causes are only the beginning.

How can you overcome this? Revisit your marketing. Restructure your programs. Find new technology to supplement face-to-face interaction.

It’s Time to Update Your Fundraising Strategy

This global crisis actually presents an opportunity for many NPOs and NGOs to show how crucial their work is. It just takes a little strategic planning, critical thinking, tons of creativity, and a robust online donation platform. The Coronavirus Pandemic could create more opportunities for online fundraising creativity.

I think this is a huge opportunity to increase fundraising because we will be forced to look at it differently. Time to update your fundraising strategy.

Granted, we aren’t blindly optimistic. Not all nonprofits will come back from this pivot in society, just as not all businesses will. But there is hope!

There is a clear way forward right now, no matter how bleak things seem. It’s important that we band together and use the strength of those around us – though it may be virtual – to transform how nonprofits and businesses work.

Nonprofits, businesses, and the communities they are surrounded by all need to work together. It’s your organization’s job to convince everyone else of that. Some people are attuned to the issues that the disruption in daily life has caused.

Others are not as aware. You have to make them aware.

How to Combat Decreased Giving in a Time of Global Crisis

Re-think your messaging and public positioning. This pandemic is not YOUR fault and may not be directly related to your cause, but in some ways it is a public relations nightmare for anyone trying to raise money right now.

People are lashing out when the wrong messaging comes across them. Fear is causing panic, which is limiting generosity. When people are focused on themselves, they stop giving.

How can you convince people afraid to spend that their extra money is wiser invested in your cause than in their monthly Netflix subscription or Stitch Fix order?

Associate your work with helping the effects of the Pandemic. The repercussions of this are far-reaching and touch all levels of society in all industries. People give more in a time of crisis, you just have to show people how you are associated with it.

YOUR Nonprofit’s Work Helps Those Affected by the Pandemic

The effects of a pandemic reach across every aspect of society. So, if your nonprofit provides an essential service, you are potentially helping people affected in various ways. Yes, of course any organization with a focus on medical research or who send response teams to help contain the outbreak are primed and need the most funding right now. But, other missions shouldn’t be forgotten.

When officials are able to contain the outbreak and the safety of the public’s health is no longer a risk, other effects will remain. We’ll be in a much better place as a society if people continue to support nonprofits of all kinds when the Coronavirus Pandemic is over.

Look for what your nonprofit can do to provide help. You’re killing two birds with one stone by promoting common good and keeping your nonprofit active.

Homeless and Poverty Levels Will Rise

People are losing their jobs and even more will follow. Homeless shelters and food programs are essential in this time. Many areas of the United States and elsewhere were already facing growing homeless populations before the pandemic. We need these kinds of programs now more than ever and we need them to grow, not shrink.

Fear is Creating a Societal Break

The level of fear that this kind of situation causes is deeper than anyone ever wanted to imagine. Uncertainty, anger, and shock have set in all cultures. People are reacting in a myriad of ways and our mental health will universally suffer. When mental health declines in society as a whole, coupled with panic and limited resources, riots can happen and a universal mindset of fear causes violence to follow.

Most people cannot afford to pay for professional help. Many won’t even search for it. We need easily accessible mental health organizations and crisis counseling centers right now to prevent imminent increases in suicide, violence, and chaos.

Children Need to be Protected

Children are not in school right now and their educational and social development is still important. Plus, many parents rely on school food programs to feed their children. Our kids are the future. Without school to focus on, or even after school, if there’s nothing else to do, kids will have a much more direct view of what is happening. For a child of any age, the effects of widespread panic and fear can be life-altering.

Learning and other training programs are essential to keeping the minds of children focused on being a kid and exploring instead of the pandemic. Any youth organization can get around a ban on face-to-face tutoring and public gatherings with the right shift in programs combined with technology and funding.

Food Scarcity Follows an Economic Recession

While the economy dips, so too will food production. As trade diminishes, it will be harder to have access to certain food staples that are important. Food scarcity is on the horizon if things don’t start to turn around.

Local community gardens and sustainable food sourcing organizations provide solutions to not only prevent this issue from happening, but also combat it once it does. Education on how to budget food and adjust cooking for smaller portions are beneficial to families adjusting to the new norm.

We Need Nonprofits More Than Ever

It’s clear that the world needs to come together right now. You have the opportunity to show your community how you can help them. Shape your messaging to quell the fear, promote calm and level-headed thinking, and show your impact in relation to the Coronavirus Pandemic. Take a step back and ask yourself what effects might be coming down the line that you can help prevent or solve?

If you want to spice up your online campaigns, try different kinds of fundraisers. Replace an event-like sense of urgency and setting by hosting a give-a-thon and inviting people you would normally invite to an event. You can also host a fundraising competition with another organization to rally your whole community around your cause, like The City Mission did last year.

We will get through this together.

How is Your Nonprofit Affected by Coronavirus? 

We’re collecting data now and will again in the future to track the effects of this pandemic on nonprofits. Please participate in our survey so we can get the largest possible survey sample size.

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