Fundraising During COVID-19

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Covid-19 vs Fundraising

Fundraising auctions and events is a popular way for nonprofit organizations to raise money for their missions.  But, what happened when the Covid-19 pandemic flooded the globe?  Nonprofits rely heavily on donations and fundraisers to operate their organizations.  So, what happens when their plans are changed because of no fault of their own?  How do they cope?  This article will dive into this question and analyze the effects of Covid-19 fundraising and nonprofit organizations.


Covid-19, or the coronavirus, is a respiratory disease that has affected the entire globe. In the middle of March 2020, the entire world got a taste of what life would be like for months. Shutdowns, mask mandates, and travel restrictions were all that were being discussed and during that time businesses were on extremely thin ice. Countless headlines filled the news channels about companies going out of business and the “new normal” which was a title given to the new restricted work and social life. However, something that seemed to skip the minds of millions of people were the nonprofits being affected by this global pandemic.  Not just the organizations themselves but the countless communities they support and provide needed help.  For more information on how nonprofits adjusted to the “new normal”, I interviewed a few organizations in the Tennessee area.


Along with almost every business or organization (except essential businesses), charities, foundations, and schools were forced to close their physical doors and adapt to the online universe.  Operations like fundraising events were required to be strictly digital.  Like anything else, certain situations and scenarios affect companies differently and I decided to speak with a few nonprofits to understand their situation a little better. Nonprofits and the fundraising industry as a whole saw a sharp 6% decrease during the Covid-19 pandemic, however, during those months donations of under $250 saw a 6% increase.  While nonprofits missed out on millions of dollars during the pandemic, a glimpse of hope was seen at the end of the tunnel when small donors stepped in to fill the void.


Friends of the Troops is a nonprofit organization that was established in Chattanooga, Tennessee and strives to help newly recruited, active duty, and veteran soldiers feel supported and loved. They send care packages, cards, and other aid to support our soldiers and they are led entirely by around 1,000 volunteers.

Friends of the Troops has done some incredible work for many different communities and even shipped a number of supplies obtained from donations and fundraising to the USNS Mercy naval hospital ship. This ship was utilized in Los Angeles, California to aid Covid-19 patience and Friends of the Troops contributed by sending supplies and doing what they do best; leaving communities better than they found it.

I had the privilege to speak with the Founder, Jessica Duke, and she had some interesting insights as to how Friends of the Troops pivoted during the Covid-19 pandemic. She began by stating that the Covid-19 outbreak had caused needs to go up and donations to go down. She emphasized this point, because fundraising and asking people to give money is hard when the entire world is worried about job security and their own financial well-being.

Jessica shared that operations were immediately converted from in-person to online and remote efforts. The fundraising and donation attempts were all switched to remote format and she said that packages had to be shipped directly from amazon by implementing a package pickup service.

By implementing these strategies, Friends of the Troops saw a growth rate of 6% during 2020. Jessica felt this was likely due to market behaviors and their affiliations with Covid-19 relief.


I had the opportunity to speak with Todd from Elephant Sanctuary, which is located in Hohenwald, Tennessee. The Elephant Sanctuary’s mission is to provide elephants care, companionship of a herd, and the opportunity to live out their lives in a safe haven dedicated to their well-being. Todd also stated that their goal is to educate the public about the complex needs of elephants and the crisis that elephants face in the wild.

To begin our conversation, Todd revealed that fundraising efforts came to a complete halt in April of 2020. There simply was not enough activity or interest in giving during that point in the COVID crisis.  Fortunately, he’s seen fundraising slowly starting to ramp up again and they’re excited to get back to normal operations.  Fortunately, The Elephant Sanctuary was somewhat prepared for the pandemic because they set aside unrestricted financial operational reserves of five times its annual budgeted expenses in order to ensure the care of its elephants.

We then discussed Elephant Sanctuary’s fundraising landscape. The organization does not have any one standard model for its fundraising efforts, but they are typically on a smaller scale.

When asked if they are considering doing larger scale fundraisers, Todd expressed that they want to do bigger fundraisers in the near future and are looking for a more electronic outreach. They plan to build up social media and their internet presence to gain more recognition.

Other than those aspects, operations ran the exact same for The Elephant Sanctuary and the organization is looking ahead to find ways to adjust and put themselves in the best position to succeed during times of uncertainty.


Take a cue from the experts that handled the crisis well.

1) pivot to smaller donors and how you can supply those in need because of the pandemic and

2) always have a reserve in your budget to be ready for any circumstance that might come your way.

No matter what type of fundraising you do, be it donations, appeals, auctions, ticketing, galas, sporting events, etc.  When you want a great resource for online fundraising and management of events, consider CausePilot.  CausePilot offers an array of fundraising tools that give your nonprofit options that can be changed on a dime and that can take your efforts to new heights.

Be sure to check out the CausePilot website and watch the demo video!

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