Dejaih Smith
January 14, 2021

10 Strategies for School Fundraising During COVID-19

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10 Strategies for School Fundraising During COVID-19

In one week, COVID-19 forced the world into self-isolation where financial markets fell, and the novel coronavirus spread at a rapid infection rate. The world, as we knew it, changed. 

Among many other things, COVID-19 also altered how you fundraise. The way your school responds to the community, the utilization of volunteers and the types of donation requests matter more under these new circumstances. Because the community consists of your student body, your campus can be the problem solver. 

Due to the pandemic, it is tempting to put fundraising on hold. The Association of Fundraising Professionals reports show research that says “not so fast!” Their Growth and Giving Database study will reassure you that the time to fundraise is still now. 

You can survive this uncertainty and even prosper. Just ask for those donations. These effects will be a long-term recovery for all of your community.

Let’s get your school prepared with a pandemic response. 


School Fundraising: Then & Now 

With so many unknown variables, what you can do is focus on known factors. Fundraising nowadays looks a lot like avoiding person-to-person contact and more cashless POS exchanges. 

During these strange times, successful fundraising can be socially-distant, well organized online, and, most importantly, fun! 

We are used to social gatherings like galas, luncheons, and marathons. But newfound circumstances call for creativity. 

Now, COVID-19 is popularizing minimal risk styled events like online auctions, donation websites, paid webinars, and dressing up for virtual galas.

Organizations have even raised funds through virtual athletic events like Racing for Orphans with Down Syndrome [RODS]. 

What made RODS stand out was the creativity and flow of communication and the use of social media campaigns.

10 Strategies for School Fundraising During COVID-19


Like RODS, today’s fundraisers are all about strategy. With your organization experiencing strain from COVID-19, you can experiment with various tools and focus on hidden opportunities for growth you may have overlooked. 

Outlets to generate revenue and increase your emergency expenses are endless. No matter how many things are needed to be postponed, attacking your fundraising goals is still attainable. It merely means you must plan.

Like RODS, today’s fundraisers are all about strategy. With your organization experiencing strain from COVID-19, you can experiment with various tools and focus on hidden opportunities for growth you may have overlooked. 

Outlets to generate revenue and increase your emergency expenses are endless. No matter how many things are needed to be postponed, attacking your fundraising goals is still attainable. It merely means you must plan. 

Ideas for Fundraising During COVID-19

Fundraising, like everything else, may not be business as usual, but business as adapted. Here’s how to get started, according to educational organizations like yours.

How To Organize a Fundraiser

Rachel Butts with Mabel’s Labels, shared how they begin to equip their fundraising partners amidst the pandemic. Read her three tips on how to organize yourself to be a fundraising partner alongside Mabel’s Labels. 

  1. Keep it simple and accessible. 

An organization looking to raise funds during COVID-19 needs to seek simple and accessible fundraising programs. These programs need to be straightforward to all members of their fundraising community and beyond. The fewer steps a donor has to complete to support a fundraiser, the easier it will be to donate.

  1. Engage donors by guaranteeing something in return.

Fundraising programs such as the Mabel’s Labels Fundraising program allow donors to purchase a must-have product that directly gives back to the organization. The donor gets durable personalized labels, and the organization receives a 20% commission on each sale. It’s a win-win.

  1. Leverage social media networks.

“We know our fundraising champions - or captains as we like to call them - use Facebook groups and Instagram to promote their fundraisers and engage with their parent community.” 

Communicating fundraisers on social media is a great way to “share” with broader communities. Organizations should create simple video or photo content posted on the organization’s social media accounts (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). 

When organizations share their fundraiser on social media, prompt parents to simply hit “share” on Facebook or add to their Instagram stories, this will increase the reach of your fundraising program.

Now, with Rachel’s help, you have a couple of different ideas on how to get started. With most strategies, you will need options that are low-contact, minimal attendees, or completely virtual. Here’s how to give your lesson plans a philanthropic twist.

Socially Distant Fundraising Ideas

Galas, marathons, yoga, and many other usual in-person activities have become increasingly popular. Everyone has a different model that reflects their organization. However, monetary goals can still be reached, and your donors can have fun while being safe. With carefully curated means of convening, let the show go on–but from home.

Here are some ideas:

Virtual auctions: Whether it's jewelry, clothes, or even a Star Wars collector’s item, use enticing items to get your donors interested. Of all the ideas, this may be the most familiar in a virtual space. Make sure you have educated your attendees about the software you’ll use to conduct the auction. This event could give you the same benefit as it would if it were offline with a wide variety of gifted items to win.   

Multi-Day Virtual Conferences: What better way than to strengthen ties with supporters and facilitate meaningful discussion? 

Select a community figure, local expert, or even a board member to address your audience. Arrange a schedule mixing talks, presentations, and virtual networking events. 

Your options for funding could range from donations appreciated, or a set registration fee can be charged. You can still be impactful and connect supporters with your mission. Deepen your level of engagement with them. 

Staying in touch (virtually) is more critical now more than ever.

Partnerships: COVID-19 hit restaurants hard during this past year. Why not establish a relationship with your favorite hometown restaurant? 

Surely corporate sponsorships can also be an option. Support could come in the form of displaying marketing collateral. Aim for their dedication through a gift or commission of sales. The point is to express transparency and be the bridge that helps the other get over COVID-19 hardships. 

Make your sponsors aware you want to know what is going on with them. Make the donor feel like they’re your partner. Authentic interactions will make them stand as a proud ambassador for your school.

Money Free Fundraising Efforts

Anyone can have a role in keeping your institution afloat. Offer ideas of ways people can give back without money being an object. Potential money free fundraising efforts could be any of the following.

  1. Get social.

Other than being socially distant, everyone is online right now. People are looking for comedic relief or just wholesome content to engage with online. 

Creative content across social media platforms can increase awareness of your need. The good thing is sharing a post can go a long way. It is free and provides new opportunities for lasting connections. 

New platforms like Tik Tok have taken to a younger demographic. They may not have much money to donate, but they are suitable for rallying up awareness.

LinkedIn has seen growth in activity due to job searches and people wanting to expand their network. People have been looking to be philanthropic towards others during this time. 

Use the digital world to get in front of persons that can help you fulfill your fundraising goals.

  1. Provide testimonials.

A ‘Thank You’ or a ‘How Are You Feeling?’ message carries high integrity. Testimonials are an excellent way to appeal to emotions. Remember, we mentioned having compassion is vital. Risa Stein, CEO of Aamica, used her ‘Thank You’ fundraiser to show lasting gratitude and appreciation to COVID-19 heroes. Be in the business of creating compassionate connections. The emotional appeal takes you down a pathway to reward.

  1. Connect with potential donors.

Sometimes, it’s not about what you know but who you know. Have your donors notify friends in their circle that would be helpful with raising funds. Anything from one time gifts to gaining in year-over-year pledges will boost your budget. This will help when it is time for forecasting and future planning of funds. 

Lay your projections out on a timeline so you can adjust during the pandemic period. You know your bandwidth and your mission. Enlist the partners you have in your community of supporters. 

Your donors’ and volunteers' support will get you through the pandemic. Don’t be afraid to be optimistic in your gift requisition and use this time to reposition yourself and fortify your mission. 


“Don't just ask for donations, but try to do something that is so outrageous that

individuals will follow along and feel the desire to donate and be involved.”


- Mike McKnight, Director of Operations at Racing for Orphans With Down Syndrome 


Why You Should Be Fundraising Now

We know what you’re thinking: “It’s not the appropriate time to ask for money.” 

Now is not a time to panic. Now is a time to regroup and confront changing circumstances.  

During planning with COVID-19, there will be immediate needs and long term growth and needs. An asset that will come in handy regarding funds projection comes from CCS. They constructed a downloadable Excel tool to help make sound fundraising forecasts for 2021. 

Using the tips we will offer in this article, you can be well equipped to forecast your revenue with well-calculated strategies. All signs have pointed towards an unpredictable fundraising year. However, there’s always a method to work through the madness.

Don’t be afraid to use messaging that speaks to the unique and trying times we are facing. Never underestimate the power of compassion and empathy

Layoffs or the inability to work at full capacity have been among the pandemic’s overarching and devastating side effects. Your donor pool may also be facing financial hardships. 

As a result, you should also start to see your volunteers as potential donors. All you have to do is coach them into the sponsor or donor direction. However, if they believe in your mission, they will help you.

There are many ways to continue educating your students and supporting your staff. Funds are needed to address the immediate expenses of the institution and the staff. 

By establishing best practices and prioritizing long-term donor relationships, your organization can weather this storm.