Challenges and Creative Responses to Fundraising during a Pandemic

Feb 09, 2021
by Corrie Mckee

Stressful. Frustrating. Overwhelming. Stretching. 
Just a few words to describe fundraising during Covid-19!

By now, we have all been in the midst of a pandemic much longer than we expected. Those who were hoping to fundraise in 2020 have now had almost a year to settle into raising support in this odd time. Fundraising is hard enough already, even without a pandemic. Can I get an “Amen”?!

If you are in the middle of or just starting to raise support for a missional endeavor, this article is for you. We have captured the experience of three people who attained 100% of their budget during COVID-19. 

Kelli, a campus minister in her 4th year with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, had been raising support for some time, but reached full budget during this time. 

Jennifer, a new missionary teacher in Papua New Guinea with Ethnos 360, and Anna, a Canadian missionary going to Mexico with the Christian Missionary Alliance, began their fundraising journey right in the middle of 2020.

The one thing they have in common is that they say getting to 100% IS possible!

Biggest Challenges 

At COVID’s arrival, the first consideration was the challenges. Fundraising is typically a people-heavy, in-person networking adventure that involves being in close proximity to small and large groups. These ladies began by thinking of alternative ways to connect with potential donors.

Obstacles in preparation will look different for missionaries serving overseas vs. stateside. Jenn faced scheduling challenges from her country of service, Papua New Guinea. Paperwork and visas from the embassy took longer to receive back, and her students’ school schedule continued to be pushed back (including her arrival date). As of this writing, Anna is still waiting on her visa to go to Mexico, and Canada has pushed back the dates that plane tickets can be booked to travel to Mexico. 

In terms of fundraising though, their challenges looked similar: not being able to present to large groups or put on large events. Kelli cancelled her dessert parties and church presentations. Jenn cancelled her pancake breakfast fundraiser and visits to different churches and small groups. Anna had to present her mission through video at her online church service instead of in person, which negatively affected the  giving she first expected.

As for donors’ finances being affected by the pandemic, Kelli said that during COVID, it was important to keep in mind her donors’ financial situations. She needed to consider the added stress to their lives and be open to postponing the Ask to entrepreneurial donors who had taken a hit to their new businesses. “It was really important to know when to ask or not, to be prayerful and have common sense and intuition about where donors were at,” she said. Regardless of financial situation, though, Kelli said all her donors were happy to reconnect with her while she used down-time from ministry to reach out to her supporters. 

Anna said of her donors, “People were cutting back, but they were also prioritizing how they use their resources. In my personal experience, I have had to increase the number of supporters.  Many are wanting to give but are giving a smaller amount. Anyone who has done fundraising knows that any amount goes a long way, so I just feel humbled that people are choosing to support me, especially as their financial situations are full of uncertainty. I think it’s important to be sensitive to the economic situation many are in, but it’s still okay to ask.” 

Creative Responses

Desperate times call for creative measures. Just like technology has become even more indispensable in school and work, technology is also the name of the game when it comes to fundraising during a pandemic.

As Jenn was getting started on her first-time fundraising campaign, she created her own update videos and posted them on social media. Under the videos, she posted a link to a Google form where people could sign up with their contact information to receive updates. The form gauged interest in financial giving, redirected people to Jenn’s ministry giving site, and then alerted Jenn when a new potential donor had signed up. Jenn learned from this experience that she would much rather create an update video than an update newsletter; therefore she will be continuing this way of keeping in touch with her donors as she moves overseas. 

As Jenn’s travel date was pushed back and needs began to change due to the pandemic, she had a large Zoom meeting to discuss these changes with donors, make the Ask in a group context, and host a Q&A session. She recorded this Zoom call and sent it out to all the potential donors and prayer partners on her team. 

Speaking of Zoom, one thing Kelli ran into was Zoom fatigue, especially among Millenials. “Texting my Millenial friends was so much better than a Zoom chat, because they are so tired of Zoom. They don’t mind talking about important things over text.” Kelli also sent a regular email update via mailchimp every 4-6 weeks. 

Anna said that her success came from using a variety of mediums: text, pictures, videos, social media, video calls, and paper newsletters. Using so many different ways to communicate helps donors stay connected to the ministry and also reaches a wider audience of ages and stages of life. 

Another great friend (and requiring less tech knowledge) is the good old phone call. Jenn noticed that many people who had pledged to give did not fulfill their pledge until they received a personal phone call connecting with them. “Social media is key, but so are phone calls,” she said. Each week, Jenn would go through the “likes” she received from her video posts and contact each person one-by-one to ask if they were interested in hearing more about her work. 

Social media is a great tool for getting the word out about your ministry, vision, and financial needs. But personally contacting individual people results in “closing the loop” on most potential donors’ gifts. People are busy, and they are inundated with a barrage of information on social media. So encourage them with that personal touch of a voice-to-voice conversation, if they have at first shown interest.

One of the great aspects of using technology for fundraising during the pandemic is that it prepares missionaries for life overseas, where they will need to cultivate their donor base digitally. Anna said, “While I would have preferred to use less technology, I feel well-prepared for a future of fundraising from the field. With the current [Covid] restrictions in my province, I may as well have been fundraising from a different country. Covid forced me to put myself out there in ways I otherwise wouldn’t have.”

In addition to technology and personal contact, donors also seemed to enjoy “swag.” Both Jenn and Kelli sent out stickers that displayed their ministry logos; Jenn used her stickers specifically as a fundraiser. Her donors displayed them on cars, water bottles, and laptops.

Finally, Jenn hosted one fundraising event which also doubled as a goodbye party: an outdoor bonfire with live music, requesting suggested donations. Sadly but importantly, Jenn said, a sign was posted at the party’s entrance: “Please do not hug Jenn” - as she needed to stay healthy for a Covid test before boarding her plane!

All in all, while fundraising in person is much preferable to doing so remotely or virtually, you can see that it’s still possible to get to 100% with the confines of social distancing measures. With some creativity and tech skills (and, as always, prayer), nothing will be impossible!


Stay tuned for our next article on how these missionaries kept up their morale while fundraising in some dark times of 2020. We’ll cover prayer, encouragement, and tangible organizational tips!


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