How Nonprofits Thrive Under COVID

As the ongoing pandemic continues to derail daily life across the nation and the world, some nonprofits have struggled to adapt to the new norm. Lacking the means to engage with their communities in person, some have had to shutter altogether. Others, however, have found ways to not just survive but thrive. There is a way forward and it involves adaptation, collaboration, and the deep-rooted desire for positive change that is at the heart of every nonprofit.


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Here are just a few organizations that have demonstrated success in pivoting their causes to the unique challenges facing us at this time.


As COVID hit, Upaya Social Ventures had to move their annual gala online at the last minute. The original program was recreated and filmed using cell phones, and the auction taken to an online platform. Surprisingly, these moves served to increase donations, exceeding Upaya’s goal by 50%. What’s more, new donors who were not planning on attending the original event accounted for 40% of these gifts. Proof that virtual campaigns can be an effective way to reach and engage your community!

Learn more about Upaya’s experience hosting this event here.


Mary’s Place took their annual Dream Big Luncheon virtual this year with help from Amazon, who matched donations up to $1 million. As part of this effort, the nonprofit also posted a call for virtual table captains to fill tables with friends, families, and colleagues.


Continuing with the momentum built, they will be hosting their Shine Gala online in October, with live musical performances, a celebrity competition, and live auction packages.



Junior Achievement of Washington turned their JA Bowling Classic into a new virtual event, Get Active With JA. Participants raised money by running, walking or biking and sent screenshots of their progress as tracked by their phones or fitness apps. They were also encouraged to share selfies and tag the organization by using the hashtags #JAWA #letsachievetogether.


The organization has more virtual plans in store. For the first time, they will be taking their annual Dare to Dream fundraiser online. The event will feature a 1920s themed virtual party and auction with guest appearances, a cocktail demonstration, raffle drawing, and a live stream of the night’s events on their YouTube channel.



Seattle Humane’s mission of promoting animal adoption, education, and welfare, is supported each year by their Day of Giving. This year, they were able to exceed their goal of $100,000 by taking the event online and raising $159,533.


Celebrations were held on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #RescueSquad, and participants got a behind-the-scenes look at shelter events and surprises throughout the day. They also partnered with Watershed Pub & Kitchen and a local Tory Burch store to donate a portion of all proceeds received that day towards the cause.


In conjunction with these activities, they invited supporters to fundraise and Livestream on Facebook and Tiltify, a charity platform.


In an effort to continue providing literacy programs to low-income children under lockdown, Reading Partners Seattle launched their “Lunch-In” Virtual Campaign. To date, it has raised $94,282 of a $100,000 goal. Additionally, they have been hosting virtual read-alouds and mailing book packages and postcards to students to keep them engaged during the pandemic.


Fundraising campaigns are also underway to sponsor additional initiatives such as access to a digital library platform, and online and phone-based literacy resources.


Make-A-Wish of Alaska and Washington raised $1.4 million with their Virtual Wish Night in June. The jam-packed program featured a cocktail demonstration, trivia questions, testimonials, an auction, and much more. They will continue with their WOW: Wonder of Wishes event in October.



As these nonprofits show, there are numerous ways to engage donors and communities with online initiatives. Putting together entertaining fundraisers using the same programs you would normally host live is a start. Partnering with local businesses and organizations continues to be another effective strategy. But using online platforms is absolutely necessary to sustain the important work that nonprofits do. With the freedom provided by virtual space, campaigns can have an even greater impact with potentially less cost and organizational work.


Now more than ever, people are looking to connect in significant ways. By reaching out and engaging people in their living rooms, you can build greater awareness and an even bigger base. Social media was built for engagement in the digital age. It’s time nonprofits take advantage of its benefits to help shape meaningful communities for the future.



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