Over the past two years of the pandemic, one of the messages Kennari has championed most ardently is that this is the time to prioritize new approaches and innovation in fundraising. Nonprofits have faced numerous and varied challenges over this period so it is understandable that some were forced to pause events and initiatives that would take place in normal years, even those that significantly contribute to annual revenue. Adapting events to a virtual format, for example, takes significant effort, new technology, and a mindset shift from how things have been done. Yet those organizations who took on those challenges – who used the shifting landscape as an opportunity to try something new – have come out ahead.

One of Kennari’s lakeshore clients, Read Muskegon, exemplifies this effort. As a nonprofit providing adult and family literacy programs, Read Muskegon had to significantly shift their programming model, moving tutoring online and adapting programs for children and adults to a virtual format. This shift was no small feat for the small but mighty organization, but they also had fundraising growth goals they were eager to achieve. So over the past two years, Read Muskegon reimagined their fundraising events to ensure they would continue to receive that critical support while staying connected with their donors in a different way. Read Muskegon Executive Director Melissa Moore reflected on how her organization pivoted, sharing: “We weren’t unique in facing what seemed like insurmountable challenges when the pandemic began, not the least of which was how we would rescue our planned fundraising activities. Besides figuring out “what” we would do, there was fear in investing funds in something that had an untested return. After a lot of deep breathing, thoughtful conversations with our board, and creative guidance from Kennari, we reimagined both our 2020 and 2021 fundraising to include an “event in an envelope” and two smaller lunch events at our local farmer’s market. Out of forced innovation, we discovered a lot of valuable things that we will continue to utilize in our future fundraising efforts.”

In addition to keeping their events going, Read Muskegon launched a new Community Partners program this spring. Melissa and her board connected virtually with local businesses, sharing the very timely message of how the pandemic was exacerbating an already challenging local literacy landscape. They also developed a package of partner benefits that included literacy resources for employees who may themselves be struggling. After a successful first year, Read Muskegon is preparing for the next wave of Community Partnership opportunities next spring. To learn more about Read Muskegon, visit their website.

We’d love to hear from you – how did your organization implement new fundraising approaches during the pandemic? What did you do differently over the past two years that you plan to continue? Share your comments so we can continue to share stories of innovation and inspiration!