Virtual fundraising finds acceptance

The new tool is attracting donors

COVID-19 has made Earth a digital-savvy planet. The consumer moved, leaving no choice for the marketer to adapt. For instance, BookMyShow was a business built on offline events and entertainment. Within a month of a lockdown, the offline business vanished. Today the organization is pivoting and trying to put in place an online event and entertainment business.

Co-founder and director Parikshit Dar said that the idea for the digital live entertainment platform was on the whiteboard for the past one year, but was fuelled only after the brand lost over 50 percent of its traffic in the past couple of months. 

“We were thinking of augmenting live events, especially the limited capacity ones and the ones with certain geographical limitations, by steaming them virtually. The plans were in pipeline, but we started building on it after March this year.”

Nonprofits largely have been an offline business. With the pandemic still a big part of our life, the working culture of nonprofits has changed. Adopting digital was no more a choice.

Organisations have had to adapt their fundraising strategy to counteract the effects of the pandemic, with virtual fundraising being one of the main solutions tried across the sector to boost income. 

60% of respondents have done some form of virtual fundraising during the pandemic, with over three-quarters using it for the first time. Overall, 64% found virtual fundraising to be a good way to attract new supporters.

These numbers reflect the Status of UK Fundraising Benchmark Report 2020. The study is a joint effort by Blackbaud Europe and the Institute of Fundraising. The data was collected in May and June 2020 via an online survey of 66 questions. A total of 1,990 respondents, up from 1,012 in 2019, completed the survey from a wide range of charity types and sizes.

Social distancing and online donations

The report found that despite the unprecedented circumstances presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, over a quarter of the sector was still generating fundraising income and the ability to raise more than anticipated. Over the last 12 months, 27% of organisations managed to exceed their annual fundraising target.

Respondents who reported the income growth attributed to Talent( Having enough of the right people with the right skills (61%)) and Innovation ( Planning new and different activities (60%)) to be the major factors. Virtual fundraising is one of the new and different activities that nonprofits carried out.

The study found out that the respondents who had seen an overall decline in income were less likely to be optimistic about the role of virtual fundraising. 

Extended lockdowns and social distancing meant that less of offline tactics and adopting the digital norm. 65% believe that the social distancing measures will lead to an overall decrease in donations from events and challenges, with a further 56% predicting that their event income will be impacted long-term. However, whilst social distancing is in place 44% of respondents anticipate that they will experience a positive increase in online donations.

With a major consensus around the impact of COVID-19, waiting, and expecting that everything will go back as it was is a utopian dream. Over half of respondents (57%) said the impact would last at least a year, with 19% of those believing the impact across the sector could last more than two years.

Virtual fundraising

The fundraising landscape has completely changed over the past few months in response to COVID-19. 76% of organisations have used at least one virtual fundraising initiative for the first time during the lockdown. And the good news is that the majority say they will use it again as it’s been a good way to attract new supporters, as well as engage existing ones.

Across the board, 53% have tried some form of online video streaming to raise funds during the pandemic – including pub quizzes, exercise classes, and video gaming. 65% have tried a virtual physical challenge using a fitness app or launched a team virtual event.

Medium-sized, growing organisations have been the most likely to have engaged with some form of virtual fundraising. At 36%, small organisations were shown to be the least likely to try virtual fundraising citing the main reasons being either a lack of resources or tools.

However, adapting to the new ways of fundraising remains a slight challenge. Habits take time. But with ongoing lockdowns, donors adopting to online mode and nonprofit employees finding work from home effective. Virtual fundraising is here to stay.