Abby Jarvis, Nonprofit Education Manager at Qgiv


If you’re like a lot of nonprofits, you may be looking for new ways to connect with your donors this year. 2020 has been such a wild ride, and the last quarter doesn’t seem to be shaping up to something much different. Will you be able to host an in-person
event this year? Should you plan on making it virtual just in case? What on earth are you going to do about sponsors?

We don’t have all the answers for you. But we do have some ideas about virtual events you could try this year (plus examples!). These ideas come directly from nonprofits who shared what fundraising ideas are helping them through the pandemic and the general
unpredictability that has marked this year so far.

Could you use any of these ideas at your organization this year?

Idea #1: Connect Donors and the People They’ve Helped

When UrbanPromise Charlotte launched a Family Stability Fund to serve their clients during the pandemic, they were blown away by their donors’ responses. They set out to raise $3,500 and ended up raising almost $35,000 instead! That campaign attracted
more than 100 first-time donors and inspired many existing donors to give above and beyond.

Check out what UrbanPromise Charlotte’s Ashley Sullivan has to say about how they kept those donors engaged:

“…We’re trying something new this month called ‘Family Meetings.’ We invited donors to a 45-minute meeting to hear an update on programming and the Family Stability fund and also to hear from a couple of our students. We hope it will be a fun way for them to also have a chance to ‘meet’ other supporters they may not know.”

What a beautiful way to show donors their impact, build relationships with your supporters, and build a community of people who are all driven by the same passion for your mission!

Where to start

First, reach out to small groups of your supporters and invite them to a virtual hangout. If possible, invite one of your clients or beneficiaries who’s willing to share their story about how your mission has touched their life! If you’re concerned about
privacy, prepare stories from clients of yours that have been edited to be appropriate for this kind of meeting. Share updates about what your donors’ gifts have accomplished, the impact they’ve made, and what’s coming up next for your organization.

Bonus: this is a great exercise to explore before your year-end fundraising appeals. Taking the time to connect with donors and personally share stories about their impact may make them more interested in donating to you later.

Idea #2: Talk to Your Sponsors

Do you have a group of businesses who consistently sponsor your year-end events? If so, you may be wondering how on earth you can ask them to continue their support when the possibility of hosting in-person events is hazy. Well, take note of how Rose
at Pickens County Habitat for Humanity handled this predicament:

“The first major change in response to COVID-19 was cancelling our in-person annual fundraiser and moving it to an email campaign. We asked our original event sponsors to consider their sponsorships to be 100% tax-deductible donations instead, and all five committed their money to us. So, we used that as a ‘match’ amount for other donors to achieve.”


This was such a creative solution! They managed to hang onto the sponsorship revenue that had already been promised to their event, and they used that money to springboard into another fundraiser.

Where to start

Have you already secured sponsorships for an event you’ve had to cancel or postpone? Ask your individual sponsors if they’d be willing to consider their prepaid sponsorships as donations. Remind them that their donations would still be tax deductible,
then work with them to figure out what you can give them in exchange for their support. You could include their logos on your website or newsletter, offer a shout-out on social media or other channels, or work with them to come up with something totally
novel. If you’ve decided not to run your traditional events this year, consider asking loyal sponsors to support a virtual event or campaign instead.

Idea #3: Start an Amazon Wish List

Does your organization depend upon in-kind donations? Try setting up an Amazon Wish List! When Hope Center set up an Amazon Wish List that contained items they needed for their shelter, they achieved two goals. One, they had a way to safely accept gifts
of soap, towels, and other much-needed supplies without worrying about social distancing precautions. Two, they found a way to engage their donors while they did something they were already doing—shopping online.

As your donors limit the number of people they encounter every day, more and more people are turning to online shopping. Creating a wish list on Amazon (or other online stores—go wild!) gives donors the opportunity to support a mission they love while
they shop online.

Where to start

Setting up a wish list is simple. Add items to a public wish list on your nonprofit’s Amazon account. Then, periodically share links to your list on social media or appeals. Make sure you reiterate why you need the items on your list! Donors are more
likely to add a 6-pack of towels or a jumbo-sized box of laundry detergent to their cart if they know how it’ll be used.

Idea #4: Offer Different Ways to Get Involved

When the state of Florida locked down to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Lakeland Volunteers in Medicine faced a unique problem. As their name implies, the organization is mostly volunteer-run, and the lockdown meant they had to reduce the number of volunteers
who could work at their facility. Since demand for their services increased, LVIM had to do more with less.

In response, they launched their “Be a Helper” campaign. While the campaign did include appeals for financial support, LVIM also included calls for in-kind donations (like meals for their staff) and non-financial gifts (like notes of encouragement). That
meant that anyone had a way to support the clinic even if they couldn’t give financially. Running a similar campaign is a great opportunity for nonprofits to engage their communities and connect with donors, even if people find themselves in positions
that prevent them from giving monetary donations.

Where to start

Look around you. What needs do you have? What ways can your supporters meet those needs? You need financial support, of course, but can your supporters help you by sending other kinds of help? Can you work those into a larger campaign?

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to share your donors’ generosity with your audiences. If you ask for kind notes for your staff, clients, or beneficiaries, highlight some of them on social media. When a donor drops off a carload of material donations,
give them a shout-out in your newsletter. The more visibility you can build around your campaign, the more likely others are to see and support your work.


If you’re looking for ways to engage your donors at the end of a difficult year, these options might be a great way to do it. Work on connecting donors to the people they’ve helped so they can see firsthand how their support makes a difference. Talk to
your sponsors and see how you can continue to work with them even if you’re not holding an in-person event. Set up an Amazon Wish List so donors can get you the supplies you need while staying safe. And give your supporters lots of ways to get involved!
The more avenues you give people to support you this year, the more likely they are to do it. Your donors love you and they want you to succeed (they wouldn’t be your donors if they didn’t!). Give them ways to help!