Fundraising in the time of COVID-19

Run for Something
5 min readApr 13, 2020

Fundraising is something that many first and second-time candidates struggle with, even under the best of circumstances. Trying to raise money for your campaign, in the midst of a global pandemic, might feel infinitely more daunting.

Everything we know about campaigning has changed as we deal with this unprecedented situation, and there is no cookie-cutter solution on how campaigns will pivot from this moment. But when it comes to fundraising, we know we have to persist. Fundraising will not be easy, and you will have to work hard. But just know that we’ll be with you every step of the way.

First, the lay of the land: Most people are hurting right now. People are losing their jobs and millions of people are filing for unemployment; millions more are showing up to essential jobs at their own risk. Everyone is still getting used to being isolated and it’s a difficult adjustment — especially those with kids at home, or those whose employment status may have recently changed. At the same time, there are many people who are still relatively comfortable. These tend to be high-dollar donors.

You shouldn’t stop fundraising, but be very thoughtful of the environment. Connection rates are up and people are looking for people to step up. You will hear “no” more often and that’s ok. We want to listen to people and see where they are.

Call time is still the best way you can raise money during this time, just as it always has been. As you go through your list, be conscious of who you are calling, where they live, and how brutal the pandemic may be in their community. Also, be cognizant of what job they have and how it might be affected.

Start off every conversation with a Wellness Check — meaning, ask how they’re doing and how you can help. RFS Candidate Godfrey Plata in California has a great script you can adjust for your campaign.

Always start with a sincere “how are you?” — people may not be financially hurting, but people are hurting on a deeper human level. They may have family or friends who are affected by COVID-19. Consider spending at least 5–10 minutes chatting before getting to any ask.

It is ok to just check on your donors and continue to build your relationship with them even if there is no ask attached. If you are asking for money, due to people’s financial situation, this might be a good time to change to a monthly ask or a lower amount.

If you have staff, engage in a virtual call time where your staff can join you on Zoom while you make calls. They can read out names and collect data after your call; it’s a way to be accountable during call time.

If you have not incorporated call time into your fundraising plan and/or would like to practice with shifting your tone in call time, please contact your regional director to set up a meeting to work on that. Two additional resources for you re: call time:

Consider shifting to virtual events. People are having Zoom and Google Hangout calls to substitute the lack of human connection. If you had an event that was scheduled before COVID-19, try as best you can to shift it to a virtual fundraiser

Be creative with the type of events you propose. We have seen simple virtual house parties, happy hours, game nights, trivia, Q&As with experts, musical performances, yoga classes, and everything else in between.

This is a good way to leverage any surrogates or endorsements. Most people are looking for ways to help your campaign and asking them to be a featured guest at a virtual fundraiser may be good way for them to help

Follow the same rules, you did with other events: schedule, confirm, follow-up. You still want to recruit for these events through phone calls and digital, and make sure you follow up on any pledges.

Two resources for virtual events:

Using your email list: Whether or not you’re an elected official, you want to use your list to inform constituents about local resources such as unemployment benefits, food banks, and even grocery store hours. You are the best messenger to your neighbors; your voice carries authority.

That being said, you can also use it to raise money. Be very smart about how you write any fundraising email and make sure it accounts for our moment.

A process note: Now may be a good time to clean up your CRM/email database, add any names you may be missing, and update any donor information.

Two resources for online fundraising:

Adjusting your budget: While money may be tight for a lot of families, money is also tight on your campaign. Start figuring out how to adjust your budget to save money in this time.

No one is canvassing at this time so a good place to start is to not reorder walk cards. You can shift that budget to the summer if your election is further out. You might also need to account for things such as getting a Zoom Pro Account, Peer to Peer Texting Platforms, and Digital Ads.

Two resources for your budget:

Be flexible: No one has campaigned under these circumstances, so don’t discredit any new ideas. Some of the tools you have are still available such as phone banking, events, and more. We’re continuing to compile resources for you and provide examples on how to put them into practice. Take a look:

Fundraising isn’t going to be easy for the foreseeable future. But this is a moment for you to step up and demonstrate leadership. It’s a time for candidates to get creative and rethink traditional tactics.

Here at Run For Something, we are here for candidates and we will continue to update our resource hub, host webinars, and be a helping hand to your campaign. If you are an endorsed candidate, check in with your Regional Director as we are always ready to work with your campaign. Thank you again and we look forward to continuing to work with you.

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Run for Something

Recruiting & supporting young people running for office. Building a Democratic bench. Want to help? hello@runforsomething.net