Digital Fundraising Ideas During Covid for Healthcare Nonprofits

Jared Mauskopf

Jared Mauskopf

Posted on February 12, 2021

Fundraising during Covid with a virtual 5k for healthcare nonprofits

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought sweeping changes to the healthcare industry in the United States, and organizations that rely heavily on fundraising have been affected in a unique way. In addition to the impact that economic instability typically has an individual’s or organization’s ability (or willingness) to donate, nonprofits are limited in their ability to hold in-person activities and events, which are a huge driver of donations.

Just as other businesses have adapted to a remote-work model, healthcare nonprofits will need to adjust their strategies for fundraising during Covid to a model that works remotely in order to stay afloat and continue to help their communities. Regardless of what your current in-person fundraising strategy is, there are ways to modify it to suit the “new normal” in 2021.

Reaching Donors Online with Digital Tools

According to the Nonprofit Research Collaborative, 82% of nonprofits fundraise via in-person events such as galas, fairs, concerts, marathons, or other sporting events. Though the need for social distancing has severely limited the ability of most organizations to host in-person events, the good news is that the pandemic has led to an explosion in the popularity of virtual events.

With online events via conference apps or online portals becoming commonplace, charitable organizations in the health and medical sector now have opportunities to not only continue fundraising efforts, but expand their pre-pandemic strategies in order to:

  • Overcome geographic barriers and attract participants from beyond their local area,
  • Engage participants who don’t have the time or resources to participate in in-person events,
  • And leverage analytics and user behavior data for personalized communications and more effective targeting.

There are a huge number of possibilities in terms of ways that nonprofits can engage with their donor base online, and the use of well-designed custom digital fundraising tools – such as mobile apps – can make a huge difference in the success of an online event.

Leverage Wearables to Host a Virtual 5K (or Virtual Fitness Challenge)

Though in-person 5K and 10K run/walk events have always been standard, hosting a virtual run both helps your organization comply with social distancing guidelines and expands your pool of available participants, as anyone can participate regardless of location.

Technology like custom healthcare mobile apps and integrations with wearable devices (such as Apple Watch or Fitbit) can make virtual events just as engaging for participants as in-person runs. The event could be held on a set day and time, with all participants running together virtually, or users could complete the 5k on their own time before a specified deadline.

Though a set date/time can build a sense of camaraderie among participants and helps hold them accountable, the more flexible “fitness challenge” format eliminates the constraints of a scheduled event. Users can participate in an event around their own schedule, wherever and whenever they want, which is particularly helpful for those who may have unstable work or childcare schedules due to the pandemic. For example, you might host a month-long activity-related event, with goals based on distance, duration, number of workouts per week, or reps of difficult exercises (e.g. push-ups or pull-ups).

Donations would be tied to activities tracked on the participant’s Apple Watch or Fitbit. For example, the participant’s friends and family can pledge $1 for each mile run or biked. Pledges can be made via the connected custom mobile app, or via your website and sent to the app through a custom healthcare interface.

Pledges could also be made based on other trackable metrics, such as:

  • Steps per day
  • Running or biking pace
  • Calories burned

Keeping Users Engaged During Virtual Fitness Events

The user’s activity can be tracked through their wearable device, which would send data back to your nonprofit organization’s custom mobile app. Custom features within the app can help keep participants and pledges’ enthusiasm high, and keep them motivated to continue participating in digital fundraising.

  • Leaderboards within the app can encourage friendly competition.
  • Gamifying the experience with performance-based virtual awards, such as a badge for completing a 5k or meeting a fitness challenge, keeps participants motivated. A point system also encourages healthy competition, and your organization could send budget-friendly prizes (such as swag or gift cards) to participants who attain certain levels of points.
  • Social sharing allows users to connect with each other in the app. The app could grant participants the ability to view the activity progress of friends or family members, send messages, and cheer someone on during a run or workout. A custom photo filter that allows users to snap a photo branded with your organization’s logo upon completion of a run and share it via social media helps build awareness for your organization.
  • Regular push notifications and emails can remind participants of their goals and to exercise. It can also alert a participant’s connections to an in-progress event, and give them the ability to message the participant or send virtual encouragement (e.g. “Amy is starting a run. Cheer her on!”).

Host Online Classes and Events

For donors who aren’t engaged by group activities or fitness events, online activities and resources – available through your organization’s branded app – can help keep your organization top-of-mind, and keep users motivated to contribute.

Hosting online classes or webinars pertaining to your cause is a great way to engage users who prefer to stay at home. Offering these events through your custom mobile app gives you a way to keep your organization on your donors’ minds – you’ll be able to send push notifications to their device through the app, and can integrate the app with your existing donation management software to allow in-app donations. (And seeing the fitness event features may also motivate these users to try a virtual 5k.)

For example, a research organization for cardiovascular disease could host an online cooking class featuring heart-healthy meals, or a nutrition class that provides guidelines on how to lower your cholesterol.

Courses could be held behind a paywall, with proceeds funding your organization, or could be held for free as a way to attract interest and expand your audience. Live-streamed classes can be made available in a downloadable format for a specified number of days after the class.

Offer App Features that Reinforce Your Brand and Message

A custom mobile app offers an opportunity to strengthen your brand, and keep your mission on your donors’ minds whenever they use their mobile devices. Your app could also incorporate custom features that tie in to your mission, and add value for your users.

There are a great deal of opportunities for this in the healthcare sector. For example, a nonprofit organization whose mission pertains to cardiology or heart health could offer a “guided meditation” feature, which takes the user through a series of brief guided meditations and integrates with a wearable to give the user data on how their heart rate changed during the session (just as we built for Baylor Heart & Vascular Hospital – download their app here). This is a great way to educate users about the benefits of meditation for heart health, and to encourage them to return to your app frequently.

Serve Content Through Your App

All nonprofit organizations understand how much of a struggle it can be to get media attention on your cause. Even with a strong public relations outreach campaign, getting your news and updates in front of potential donors is difficult. By adding a “Learning” module to your app with medical content from your blog, videos, or podcasts, you’ll be able to serve that content directly to your users through push notifications.

Digital Fundraising Ideas During Covid Can Help You Survive the “New Normal”

Though the Covid-19 pandemic has put limitations on healthcare charity and nonprofit organizations’ ability to fundraise, it’s also expanded opportunities to fundraise virtually and with no requirement for activity-based donors to be located within a target geographic area. With a well-crafted digital strategy that leverages technology your donors are already using, modern healthcare nonprofits can adapt to the post-pandemic landscape and continue to meet their fundraising goals.

Jared Mauskopf

Jared Mauskopf

CEO of Medical Web Experts Jared Mauskopf has led dozens of high-value marketing and development projects for enterprise healthcare clients. Jared brings excellent cross-functional communication skills, design, and regulatory knowledge to all of his projects to ensure successful solutions. Jared is a judge for the 2020 eHealthcare Leadership Awards and has appeared on the Outcomes Rocket Podcast.

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