How to Raise Parish Funds in the COVID Era
The landscape for events remains uncertain, but with many parishes relying on an annual programme of activities to raise funds for church repairs or critical community projects, generating income can become a challenge.
As we adapt to the new normal, all types of industries and charities will need to embrace a wider range of technologies to ensure fundraising can continue in this socially distanced era.
What kind of support is available?
But while virtual events might seem daunting, they do present a range of opportunities that even in-person events don’t offer – such as direct donations through sites like Crowdfunder UK, and the chance to create greater inclusion for those who are home-based or who may not ordinarily engage with these types of events.
As well as fundraising opportunities, a number of grants are still available.
The National Churches Trust (NCT) have already distributed over £1.4 million so far this year, and continue to encourage applications from churches that need to tackle urgent repairs or maintenance work.
Additionally, they have set up a Kickstarter Kit to support urgent church fundraising needs.
Shropshire Council is also running a Community Small Grants Scheme to support parish groups and village halls through COVID-19 – more information can be found here.
For nationwide grants provided by organisations, businesses, associations and supermarkets, the Grants Online website, updated regularly, features an exhaustive list of available community grants – including Hygiene Grants, Mental Health Response Funds and Community Aid.
Should we request online donations?
Online giving has increased in popularity in recent years due to its speed, convenience and transparency, and this trend looks very much set to continue.
For churches in particular, it represents a significant opportunity to expand their audience within the community by engaging parishioners who haven’t traditionally attended services.
The NCT, however, notes that churches still rely heavily on cash collections and have therefore been hugely impacted by the drop in income since their closure during lockdown.
While many churches have now re-opened with social distancing measures in place, some remain behind the curve in remaining reliant on cash collections, which is less safe and hygienic in the current climate.
An excellent example highlighted by the NCT of how churches can seek online donations with clarity and sensitivity is the archdiocese of Birmingham, who provide a ‘Support our Work’ page on their website where visitors can make one-off or regular donations with speed and ease.
How can we reach new supporters?
Parishes can also look to the larger charities for ideas, inspiration and insight on how they’ve steered their fundraising efforts through these uncertain times.
The general consensus is that it’s OK to continue asking for donations, as long as it’s done with sensitively, authentically and without pressure.
Equally important is to thank those who have contributed, whether they’ve donated their time, money or anything else to your cause – and keep them updated through regular correspondence.
Larger charities suggest that building strong relationships throughout the community – beyond your traditional support base – will be crucial to long-term fundraising efforts.
You can connect with your supporters in a variety of ways; while a traditional quarterly parish newsletter is still important, don’t neglect other marketing tools that might resonate more strongly with a broader range of demographics in your community.
If you don’t already have one, think about setting up and maintaining a parish Facebook page, adding a news section to your website and sending out a monthly digital newsletter via email (taking care not to reveal subscribers’ email addresses for data protection purposes) too.
While these are certainly challenging times, thinking outside the box and investing time in learning and understanding new technologies will help parishes to get ahead of the curve and ensure their fundraising efforts can continue, even when some of their traditional activities cannot.
To give you a little inspiration, we’ve put together 9 virtual and socially-distanced fundraising ideas to help you generate income for your parish. These can be run purely in your area, or in collaboration with a neighbouring parish.
#1. Set up a Fundraising Page
This allows people to make direct donations through their Paypal or bank account of whatever amounts they choose.
#2. Host a Silent Auction
You could ask local businesses to donate prizes and auction them in an online event.
You don’t necessarily have to do a live auction; if you have an area of your website you can use, people can make their bids over a set period of time.
Prizes like a meal for two, a hamper of local produce or simply a bottle of wine are always popular.
This would also work in a raffle format, where everyone buys a ticket and you draw the winners from a hat online.
#3. Have a Community Clear Out
Encourage everyone in the community to have a clear out and donate one item for sale.
This could be something small, like unwanted jewellery, or even a piece of furniture.
As a parish, you can decide how and where to sell these items to raise community funds.
#4. Ready, Steady, Bake!
A bake sale is always a popular fundraising idea, but it can also work well online. Participants could all agree to bake their cake on a particular day, then take pictures of the cakes for judging.
A prize could be awarded to the Star Baker, and the cakes could be collected and sold ‘per slice’ in the village shop, parish hall or local pub.
You can even use social media polls, which are free and easy to set up, for people to vote on the best creation.
#5. Sponsor a Brick
If you’re looking to raise church funds, you could start a ‘Sponsor a Brick’ campaign where members of the parish can each sponsor one of the bricks that make up the church building for a set amount each.
A number of other churches have raised vital funds in this way and it’s a good way to help the community feel more connected to, and invested in, the church. Keep supporters updated on how their funds are helping via email newsletters.
#6. Throw an Open-Air Cinema Event
In the age of social distancing, drive-in-style cinema experiences and open-air viewings like these are set to become more popular.
If you have a large community space like a park or village green, consider hosting an open-air cinema night, where visitors are charged a small entry fee and encouraged to bring their own picnics and rugs.
You could always provide popcorn or sell snacks too, and there are lots of affordable projectors available that work well with mobile phones and can be projected onto any wall. All you need is a good signal!
#7. Hold a Socially Distanced Fete
If your parish has missed out running its traditional annual events this year year, consider hosting a socially distanced village fete or food festival instead – following the latest advice on distancing measures and food service safety for vendors.
You could even take your fete ‘on the road’ in a condensed format and visit parishioners ‘street by street’.
For those unable to attend, you could make up goody boxes with produce from the event, and sell and deliver them to households throughout the day.
#8. Run a Virtual Race
This type of event attracts a broad range of people and can be done in whatever format suits them best.
Virtual races can be run anywhere, in any time, and are very effective for charity fundraising.
Participants would simply need to use a tracking app, and as a parish, you could charge an entry fee or leave it to runners to seek their own sponsorship.
The London Marathon’s 2.6 Challenge has been very popular with fundraisers.
#9. Host a Pudding Evening
In a similar vein to the Bake Off idea, you could host a pudding evening inviting parishioners to buy tickets to sample a selection of locally made puddings in the village hall.
Each person could be given a plate with a sample of each one, to ensure people aren’t self-serving and keep the event safe.
A church in Warrington raised £400 through their pudding evening for very little outlay and effort; you’d simply need to find some willing cooks!
We hope you’ve found this guide useful – do keep an eye out for our forthcoming parish guides on How to Create Community Engagement and How to Host a Virtual Event. If there’s anything else we can do to support your parish, please do let us know.