Fundraising During COVID: What Nonprofits Should Plan For In 2021

We’re now a few months into 2021 and a full year into the COVID-19 pandemic. With vaccine rollouts underway, nonprofits are still wondering: how do I fundraise during COVID? Will there be a return to in-person events and normal fundraising for 2021?

No one can predict exactly how vaccination rollout and the pandemic will play out this year. But we can plan carefully to ensure that fundraising is successful regardless using the latest insights and strategies. 

Here’s what nonprofits should plan for the rest of 2021 to navigate through fundraising during COVID.

Fundraising During COVID: Virtual Events Are Front and Center

Even as more and more people are becoming vaccinated, we still have not reached herd immunity. Until upwards of 80% of people have either been vaccinated or contracted and recovered from COVID, any in-person events raise the risk of spreading the virus further.

While many experts are predicting that we’ll reach those numbers by the end of the summer, experts caution that relaxing precautions now is still dangerous. An article from the New York Times warns “Precautions remain especially important as new variants of the virus emerge. If social distancing measures aren’t followed, a stronger virus could rapidly infect and kill hundreds of thousands of people before they can be vaccinated.”

That means you shouldn’t be planning on in-person events just yet. Luckily we’ve had all of 2020 to become experts at virtual events, and CauseVox has tons of resources about running virtual events. Wherever possible, assume that your events will be virtual through the rest of 2021.

Let’s take a look at one of our favorite virtual events to see what the benefits of digital events are.

Summit Assistance Dogs was planning their annual Unleash Your Love luncheon for early May 2020. After shutdowns and quarantine orders, they made the tough decision to move the event to a virtual platform. What was truly amazing was that in just over a month, they moved the event from in-person to virtual and and netted over $35,000 more than the previous year at their in-person event.

Screenshot of a slide with the title “Virtual Fundraising Case Study” and a photo from Summit Assistance Dog’s Unleash Your Love. They increased their ROI by 8 times.

Here are a few of the big benefits of virtual events:

  • Lower costs: you don’t have to pay for a venue, food, and other costly expenses, which means your ROI will be higher in the end.
  • Larger reach: anyone can attend a virtual event, no matter where they are. You’re not limited to those in your geographic area.
  • Ease of use: when you’re running a virtual program, you have the option to add donations directly to your page so that donors and fundraisers never have to leave to make a donation. It’s easy and makes it even simpler to donate.

All of this means that virtual events help nonprofits come away with more funds raised with less effort.

Here’s a few of our most popular Virtual Event resources:

Fundraising During COVID: Hybrid Fundraising Events Are Coming

As the year progresses, nonprofits can anticipate hosting more hybrid events: part in-person and part virtual. This way, in case something changes and you can’t host in-person, you still have virtual already set and ready. 

Hybrid is definitely a new frontier for many of us, so here are some tips and tricks for making sure they’re the right fit for you.

1. Start With Virtual-First

Historically it may have been true that hybrid events were focused first on in-person and added virtual as a secondary option. In 2021 it should be the opposite. We don’t have any guarantee that in-person will be possible, and many of your audience may not feel comfortable being in person. That means virtual comes first.

Autism Society of Minnesota’s Brunch @ Home virtual event + livestream.

2. Create Two Unique Experiences Of The Same Event

From registration through to the thank you note, both your in-person and your virtual attendees should feel as if they’ve received a whole event experience. 

That means setting up multiple event ticketing tiers with different price points for virtual and in-person, with customized communication for each group of attendees, and clear schedules for each option.


Want to learn more about how to sell more tickets to your event? Check out our webinar, How To Sell More Tickets For Your Nonprofit’s Event With CauseVox Ticketing.

3. Think Through Event Details

There are many small details that will look different with a hybrid event. 

Venue: Consider where you’re going to hold your event. If you have the option to use an outdoor venue, you’ll have more freedom with distancing measures. Whenever you can, choose an outdoor venue. If you are holding your event indoors, keep in mind that you may have to make changes to your traditional approach. Keep more space between guests and vendors, limit food and drink, and ensure that everyone is masked.

Time: If you’re like many of us, you never had to consider time zones before as all your attendees were local. Now you’ll have to make sure you include time zone information in your marketing. 

Cancellation Policy: You may have to look more closely at other details, like your cancellation policy (what happens if someone cancels their in-person registration due to COVID exposure?). 

Fundraising: Fundraising in a hybrid event is a bit more complicated than either an in-person or a virtual event because you have to have options for those on site and those who are virtual. Consider using a QR code at the in-person event for people to give through the fundraising site. For virtual attendees, you can link them directly to the site.

It’s even more important in a hybrid event that your fundraising site is mobile-friendly, as your in-person attendees are likely to be giving on their phone. CauseVox seamlessly creates a mobile-friendly fundraising site for both in-person and virtual donors.

Summit Assistance Dogs’s fundraising site makes it easy to donate across multiple virtual events.

Use Sustainable Fundraising Practices To Drive More Gifts Year-Round

While no one can predict the future, we can say with certainty that the strongest fundraising during COVID in 2021 is going to be sustainable and digital-first. 

Sustainable digital fundraising relies on creating optimized processes that helps you get away from strictly event-based individual giving so you can fundraise year round.   When you adopt sustainable fundraising practices, you’re free to focus on building long-term relationships and connections with your donors to increase giving. 

A few great sustainable fundraising best practices to focus on during COVID are:


You can check out in-depth discussion of sustainable fundraising practices on our blog, or take our Sustainable Fundraising Class On-Demand for only $35.

Raise More in 2021 With CauseVox

No matter how you move forward in 2021, virtual fundraising needs to be an essential component of your fundraising strategy. Get the most out of virtual fundraising with CauseVox’s simple, no-clunk software.

CauseVox has tools that make it all easy, from beautiful donation tiers and branded forms, to simple recurring donations and featured matching grants.

Raise more with less effort. Easy for you to set up and easy for your donors to navigate.

Get Started with Fundraising on CauseVox.