How the Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Fundraise

4 minute read

The world of fundraising is constantly shifting and the impact of the last few months has only accelerated our need to be innovative and creative in a socially distant landscape.

The charity sector, particularly, has had to embrace significant, long-lasting change in response to the coronavirus pandemic. For fundraising, it’s meant the adoption of new tech and a greater reliance on digital platforms. And though this shift hasn’t been easy for everyone, it’s highlighted a huge digital skill gap that a new generation of fundraisers can easily fill.

Thinking of starting a career in fundraising? Let’s take a closer look at some of the changes that are already underway and how you can develop your skills to match them.

How the Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Fundraise

Making the most of digital platforms

Traditionally, non-profit organisations have lagged behind the private sector in their use of digital platforms. Just last year, in fact, The Charity Digital Skills Report stated that 52% of charities don’t have a digital strategy in place, whilst 68% rate their board’s digital skills as low.

The pandemic has undoubtedly prompted many organisations to invest more time and money into how they use digital platforms. Alongside shifting the provision of core services online or to apps, many charities have been forced to modernise their fundraising efforts. Without the possibility of holding in-person fundraising events, they’ve turned online, utilising their websites and social media to create, enable and share ‘viral content’ that resonates with potential donors and encourages donations.

The 2.6 Challenge is a perfect example of this. Organised in response to the cancellation of the London Marathon, the 2.6 Challenge was an umbrella campaign aimed at raising funds for UK charities. It asked potential donors to complete a challenge related to the number 2.6, make a donation and share their attempts on social media in order to spur further donations. The challenges could literally be anything; so far, attempts include Jessica Ennis-Hill keeping a golf ball in the air with 26 bounces on a cheese-grater and Chris Kamara getting his granddaughter to sleep within 2.6 minutes. Either way, the campaign has raised over £11 million to date.



Embracing fewer cash donations

Cash usage has been declining for years. In 2017, debit card transactions overtook cash as the most frequently used mode of payment in the UK, driven primarily by the popularity of ‘contactless’ technology. UK Finance predicts that by 2027, 36% of all payments will be made via contactless cards or smartphones, whilst just 16% will be made in cash.

The coronavirus pandemic has only hastened this trend towards a cashless society. The most recent statistics from LINK, the UK’s largest operator of ATMs, show that cash withdrawals in April 2020 were 60% lower than those in April 2019. Such a huge drop is the result both of the temporary closure of non-essential shops, and fears over whether cash can harbour and transmit COVID-19.

This move away from cash has clear implications for charity fundraisers. Not only does it reiterate the importance of digital platforms to raise funds, but it also highlights the necessity to provide potential donors with a contactless donation option. When in-person fundraising events do eventually return (in whatever form that may be), you’ll be unlikely to see volunteers rattling buckets of cash and coins. Much more probable are contactless ‘tap-to donate’ terminals, standing stationary and offering customised messages to passersby.

How the Pandemic Has Changed the Way We Fundraise

How to prepare for your fundraising career

This shift towards more tech-based donation changes the required skillset for future fundraisers. Whilst traditional qualities will still be important (organisation, communication, sensitivity), there’ll be a much greater emphasis on specific digital-related skills. If you’re considering making the jump into fundraising, here are the areas that will help you land your ideal job:

Get a grounding in Digital Marketing

Digital fundraising shares many aspects with digital marketing. Rather than promoting a product or service, however, you’re raising awareness of your cause and encouraging donations. For most entry-level fundraising jobs, you won’t need an in-depth knowledge of digital marketing techniques, but it certainly helps to have some idea of the main aspects, including:

  • Content marketing – ‘Content’ can be articles, videos, music or photos—essentially any type of media that attracts and holds the attention of visitors to a website. For charities, effective content is that which communicates its core purpose whilst prompting.
  • Social Media – Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Weibo or TikTok, knowing the functionalities of different social media platforms and how charities can use them will be invaluable.
  • Analytics – The benefit with digital platforms is that you can track the success of your fundraising efforts and amend your strategies. Familiarity with Google Analytics and Google Search Engine, as well as the analytics functions of the various social media platforms, is sure to impress any potential charity employer.

Here are a few resources to help boost your digital marketing skills:


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Learn how to analyse data

Future fundraising attempts will be data-driven. This means decisions will be increasingly based on real data that’s been collected either online or through contactless donation terminals. To make sense of it all, you’ll need to be comfortable dealing with data. Again, you don’t need to have extensive experience or knowledge with datasets. We would, however, recommend getting to grips with the basics of Microsoft Excel (there are, of course, other programs but Excel still comes out on top). Learn how to do a pivot table, VLOOKUP, SUMIF, and INDEXMATCH – and be sure to state you know these on your CV.


Research the cause

Despite all the number-crunching of data-driven fundraising techniques, your understanding of the charity’s cause is still the most important aspect of your application. When researching the work of the charity that you’re applying for, be sure to consider these questions:

  • What problem is the charity looking to solve?
  • How does the charity communicate its message?
  • How does the charity currently fundraise?
  • How could it improve its fundraising strategy and reach a larger audience?

If the cause of a particular charity has personal significance to you, let it be known on your application. Those working in charity are generally doing so out of a sense of purpose; if you make sure to communicate yours and back it up with some solid digital know-how, you might just clinch your dream fundraising job.

Will Stolton

Will Stolton is a writer with GoodBox, a Manchester-based company that makes contactless ‘tap-to-give’ donation devices. He writes on everything to do with data, donations, and charities.

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