How to fundraise for your grassroots group or nonprofit during COVID-19

Hey, neighbor! We just wanted to say, we see you and we see the hard work you’re doing. We see you adjusting to a new way of life. We see you stepping up and serving your communities. And we see your work to ensure that your homes, your families, and your neighborhoods are safe and healthy in the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19.

Since COVID-19 has altered the way we interact with one another, we know that many of you may be looking for ways to continue (or expand!) the great work your group or nonprofit is already doing. We’re here to share with you: all it takes is a little thoughtfulness and creativity! We’ve got a few suggestions of some small, social-distancing-friendly changes you can make to your community project, as well as some examples of ioby leaders who have used crowdfunding to pivot their fundraising strategy. 

Adjust what you were already doing to reach new people. 

Changemakers like you are experts in paying attention to their community’s needs, so you might already be aware of how you can provide some extra support right now. If not, that’s ok! You could start by reflecting on your own personal experience during this crisis: What aspects of your life have changed, and how might these changes be affecting other members of your community? How have your neighbors been impacted? Asking yourself these questions and listening to others’ concerns can give you some insight as to who could use your helping hand.

How to fundraise for your grassroots group or nonprofit during COVID-19
Gertie, a local restaurant in Brooklyn, NY, adjusted their operations to serve as a soup kitchen to serve hospital workers, unemployed restaurant workers, and others in need.

Gertie Feeds NYC’s leader Eric B. has been responding to the needs in his community by turning his restaurant into a soup kitchen, and continually adjusting his operations. After first focusing on feeding hospital employees and unemployed restaurant workers, their group has now expanded their outreach to also include delivering food to underserved children, families, and seniors. “Our goal is to take care of those communities being hit the hardest in this crisis,” he says. “We feel it’s our duty to support our community.”

Angela M. of Cleveland Art Week also had to adjust her pre-pandemic plans for a project. As a lifelong supporter of the arts, she’s passionate about preserving art programs in her community. For a few years now, she’s hosted an in-person Art Week to give kids a chance to flex their creative skills and dip their toes in the arts. Her scheduled Art Week this year couldn’t happen because of social distancing requirements, so she changed her plans and curated free art kits for kids and delivered them right to their homes. “Now more than ever, it’s imperative for families to be creative,” she says. And we agree! 

You might also be interested in learning how to conduct a needs assessment—learn more here.

Lean on the networks you already have.

It’s no secret that we are stronger when we work together. We also know that right now, many people are looking for ways to help. This could be a great opportunity for your group to partner with others in your area! 

Think about the connections your group already has. What companies do your members or volunteers work for? Is there another nearby nonprofit who has a complementary mission? Any time you team up with other groups or organizations, you’ll likely be increasing the impact of your work—and growing your pool of donors and supporters if you crowdfund!

The folks behind The Windham Community Food Network are a great reminder of this. They’ve always been dedicated to fighting food insecurity by serving community meals in their hometown of Willimantic, Connecticut. But with building closures and many of their volunteers staying at home, they had to rethink the logistics of how they would provide for their neighbors. At the same time, they noticed another need: like many small businesses across the country, their local restaurants were struggling financially. So they decided to partner with local restaurants to provide their community meals. Sydney M, their project leader, explains: “We want to keep people fed while keeping our small restaurants and caterers in business. Feeding the community, feeding the economy,” she says.

How to fundraise for your grassroots group or nonprofit during COVID-19
The Windham Community Food Network partnered with local restaurants to help offer the restaurants a financial lifeline, and offer community meals to neighbors who need food.

Use a special skill you have to serve a new purpose. 

Now is a great time to take stock of any untapped resources or skills your group already has. Do some of your volunteers have cars? Is anyone in your nonprofit bilingual? If you take time to consider the unique set of strengths that each of your members possesses, you might find new ways to serve your community.

Your group members’ professional skills can be helpful, too. For instance, are there any design experts in your group? Make Art Work/Detroit is an example of a project that channels that type of expertise into action. Project leader Eno L. knows that not all Detroiters have access to the internet or local news channels, so they’re working to spread the word about social distancing through billboard messaging. “Multiple public service announcements at ground level on billboards stresses the urgency of the shelter-in-place order,” they say. 

Eno’s project is a great reminder that we all have strengths we can use to uplift one another.

Adjust your plans, then crowdfund for them! 

It’s as important  as ever for us to continue to follow the CDC guidelines for social distancing, wherever we are. Even though we may not be able to gather in big groups, there are many ways we can reach our neighbors without compromising anyone’s health or safety. Can you provide your services virtually? Can you deliver the things to people’s homes instead of offering them in a public setting? 

Remember: you don’t have to make drastic changes to what you’re already doing. Small steps can have a big impact! It’s all about using the knowledge and resources you have, and crowdfunding with ioby is a great way to help you elevate your mission. We’re here to support you as you continue your important work in the age of COVID-19 and beyond. 

Want to know how to take the next steps? Learn how to start fundraising and get donations matched by visiting our “Care during COVID-19” resource page. When you’re ready to get started with your own project, let us know about it! We can offer support and resources, and work one-on-one with you to come up with a fundraising plan that works.