Pivoting Programs as a COVID Fundraising Strategy

October 17, 2020
5 minutes

These days it feels like we're living through the Wild West of life, and for that matter, fundraising. In-person events, visiting donors face-to-face, and traditional stewardship are all out the window due to COVID-19. The pandemic is forcing everyone to pivot fundraising strategies and tactics on the fly—just bearing witness to how fundraisers everywhere are navigating this time is amazing and motivating.

One of the COVID-19 fundraising strategies a few organizations have tested out is pivoting their programs to make the ask more relevant to our current circumstances. While this may not be a strategy every organization can try out, it’s an interesting one because it addresses two challenges—how to keep operating your programs and how to keep raising money. Let’s look at a few examples of this in action.


WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre

WAVAW Rape Crisis Centre has operated in-person support services for survivors of sexualized violence for over 25 years. Due to the pandemic, in-person counseling is no longer feasible. While WAVAW operates a crisis phone line, they knew that they needed to find more ways to support survivors.

This summer they launched WAVAW Connect—an online text and chat service for survivors of sexualized violence. Here’s the announcement email.

WAVAW email

Check out this key part of their email:

“We know that due to COVID-19 many survivors are experiencing additional violence in their homes, and privacy has become more scarce. We understand that survivors can’t always reach out for support over the phone, and we want to offer additional ways for survivors to have access to support.”

This paragraph showcases a perfect case for supporting this service and makes it easier to fundraise. WAVAW connects the current circumstances (COVID-19), the impact it has on their clients (being at home more, potentially experiencing more violence), and how they can help (WAVAW Connect). This is a very well-constructed argument perfect for future fundraising opportunities.

Variety BC

Variety BC has been helping special needs kids and their families for 54 years. They provide grants to families so that they can afford mobility equipment, specialized therapies, and more. While they are not the direct service providers, they knew that some of what they provide to kids would no longer be possible during the pandemic. Additionally, they wanted to find a more relevant fundraising ask to keep fundraising.

The result was their COVID-19 Heart of Variety Fund campaign. In this campaign, they pivoted the ask to focus on virtual therapies that kids could still access, such as counseling and tutoring. Variety BC made this ask even more powerful by giving donors the compelling reason that virtual therapies helps kids maintain the progress they’ve worked hard to achieve. Even better, this ask doesn’t stop at virtual therapies. Instead, they add an emotional component to the ask by referencing the kids’ progress.

Variety BC email


Your Takeaways From These Examples

One of the nonprofit-applicable qualities shown in both of these examples is that the organizations created an ask that very clearly draws a line between the pandemic, its impact on their clients, and ways their nonprofit can help. This is essential for a relevant, timely fundraising ask.

In general, when you construct an ask, you're essentially building an argument for donating. Ideally, you want that argument to be as unobjectionable as possible. When you're able to make the argument (and therefore the ask) unobjectionable, you’ve provided your donors with clear, compelling reasons to give.

As your nonprofit continues to navigate fundraising during COVID-19, remember that relevance is a key component of urgency. The more relevant you can make your ask to the current circumstances, the better.

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