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Development officers at any nonprofit organization will agree that creating successful fundraising campaigns can require months of careful planning, communication, and teamwork. But sometimes you are presented with an opportunity to fundraise around a current event that requires immediate attention, which does not afford your normal timeline for planning.
In this guide, we’ll explain how nonprofits can learn to expect the unexpected and take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. But first, let’s consider why current event fundraising is important and how it can help you work toward your nonprofit’s purpose.
Why is current event fundraising important?
Centering donation drives around current events is an important aspect of nonprofit marketing and fundraising. By aligning fundraising campaigns with breaking news and trending topics, you can leverage the momentum of public awareness to inspire donations. The timeliness and relevance of these events also provide your organization with an opportunity to engage with supporters about your work and explain how it directly affects the issue at hand.
Additionally, current event fundraising can help your nonprofit stand out in a crowded media landscape, as the high visibility of current events helps amplify your purpose-driven message.
An example of current event fundraising in action
Sometimes it’s hard to know when a current event will spark a cultural phenomenon and present an opportunity for your organization. The term “expect the unexpected” can seem contradictory, but there are a few things you can do to put your organization in a position to take advantage of these events.
To start, keep a list of topics and keywords handy. They should be contextually relevant to your industry or meaningful to your organization directly. A great way to do this is by setting a Google alert or following a hashtag list on your favorite social media platform. When that word starts to trend, you’ll immediately get notified and can spring into action.
When the #BettyWhiteChallenge started to trend in 2021, a rescue shelter director created a graphic to memorialize White’s commitment to animal shelters and shared it on Facebook. They encouraged everyone to honor her by donating to local animal shelters on White’s birthday, January 17th. As White was famous for her support of animals as she was for her work on the silver screen, this was a fitting tribute!
Soon, the post had thousands of likes and was being circulated and shared by humane associations across the country. American Humane quickly jumped into action with a fundraising campaign that raised more than $25,000 in just a few days.
5 tips for hosting a current event fundraising campaign
Now that you understand the importance of current event fundraising and how it has helped other organizations achieve their goals, you can begin creating your own campaign. For the best results, follow these tips:
- Be timely. Timing is everything when it comes to current event fundraising, so keep track of news related to your nonprofit's purpose and create campaigns for relevant events. This will allow you to leverage the public's attention and reach the widest possible audience with your campaign.
- Create a sense of urgency. Use the momentum of current events to make a compelling case for donations, highlighting the immediate impact they have in response to the current event. Consider also setting a short-term fundraising goal or deadline to inspire action.
- Tie the event to your purpose. Make a clear connection between the current event and your nonprofit's work. For instance, an education-focused nonprofit might send out the following message in light of a new bill being passed: "Join us in celebrating the passing of the Better Education for All Act with a donation to support schools and families in need!” This ties both the fundraising campaign and current event together, giving supporters a clear reason to donate.
- Use social media. Social media is a powerful tool for promoting fundraising campaigns centered around current events. Leverage platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to amplify your message and reach a wider audience. Use relevant hashtags and tag influencers or organizations involved in the current event to increase engagement.
- Collaborate with other organizations. Consider partnering with other organizations that have a stake in the current event or issue. Collaborative efforts can help amplify your message and expand your reach. Plus, partnering with organizations that have a different audience than your own can help you build new relationships.
With these best practices in mind, you can create current event fundraising campaigns that inspire supporters to take action in support of your nonprofit’s purpose. Remember to keep a close eye on news and trends to help you drive positive change in your community and beyond.