Healthcare Fundraising During COVID-19

It is tough to fundraise for healthcare when the economy is do well. It must be extremely challenging to do it during an economic crisis and a pandemic. My heart goes out to all the charities, foundations and grassroots teams out there who are raising money right now. Their determination is inspiring.

In the early days of COVID-19, many healthcare organizations pivoted from their standard fundraising and began running programs to help obtain Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for their staff. Community and grassroots organizations did the same. Most used a two-pronged approach:

  1. Outreach to local businesses that use PPE and ask them to donate it to frontline workers (ie: tatoo parlors, dentists, etc)
  2. A $$$ donation drive where all the money collected goes to purchasing PPE

There were many successful campaigns and many businesses stepped up. Here are just a few examples:

After this initial rush of PPE donations, however, I found fundraising efforts went quiet. It wasn’t until this past week that I started to get electronic requests from various healthcare foundations and charities that I donate to.

I wonder if it was strategic on their part – to wait until the COVID-19 situation had stabilized (somewhat) before attempting to reach out to donors. I’m not sure how people would have felt receiving a donation request to help with Alzheimer’s research in those early days of the pandemic.

With the pandemic far from over, however, healthcare charities and foundations are in a bind. Social distancing rules have cut off many fundraising events that organizations depend on like galas and run-walk-bike events for example. Without those cornerstones, they are having to adapt. I’ve heard that some organizations are experimenting with virtual galas while others have put on virtual running events. I couldn’t find any data on the success rate, but I imagine that these events do not bring in the same dollars (or press) of the in-person versions.

According to a survey conducted by Campbell Rinker on behalf of consulting firm Dunham & Company back in April, 53% of donors plan to continue giving during the pandemic, but more carefully than before. 20% said that they plan to stop giving until the economy is back up and running.

In April, the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) projected a $20 million loss. CEO Andrea Seale called the pandemic “the greatest challenge that the Canadian Cancer Society has faced in our 80-year history. We expect to see a financial loss between $80-100 million out of a total budget of $180 million this year.”

So what can healthcare charities and foundations do?

Jeanne Jachim, President of Virginia Mason Foundation in Seattle Washington recently share this sage advice in an interview with Alice Ayres, President and CEO of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP):

I think it’s about being real, remembering that our work is relationship work, and honoring that relationship in the conversations that we’re having. Most donors are sitting at home and happy to answer their phones, which is a big shift for us. That opens the door for us to have conversations with them that three weeks ago that would have been more challenging. My organization has crafted some messages that we are willing to share publicly. Our team is using those messages, but then it’s more just, “How are you doing?” I talked to a gift officer today who talked to someone whose children have the virus, and their feelings about that became a very important conversation.

Many experts agree that despite the pandemic, organizations should continue to push ahead with donor outreach. Amy Eisenstein, a fundraising consultant who serves healthcare organizations and disease-specific causes, wrote the following: “You’re not wrong to feel nervous during these unsettling times. It’s true — some donors are going to pull back on giving for the time being. But I promise, there will be others who step up to help during a time of extreme need. Meanwhile, your clients may need you more than ever. Many donors will recognize this and do whatever they can to assist your efforts. But that will also depend on your outreach and leadership. Do your best to stay the course and keep calm.

I thought it would be interesting to discuss charitable giving and healthcare philanthropy with the HCLDR community. Are you continuing to donate? Are you being more selective? Have you seen a particularly successful donation drive?

Join the community on Tuesday August 4th at 8:30pm ET (for your local time click here) when we will discuss the following:

  • T1 How do you feel about healthcare charities or foundations reaching out to ask for donations while we remain in a pandemic?
  • T2 Have you seen any effective donation drives for non-COVID related causes in the past several months? Share links if possible.
  • T3 As a potential donor, is there anything that a charity could do or say that would convince you to donate NOW vs wait until the economy is better?
  • T4 Shout out time. Give a shout out, share a link and give some love to your favorite healthcare-related charity.


“20% of Donors On Sideline Waiting For End Of COVID”, The NonProfitTimes, 12 May 2020,, accessed 2 August 2020.

Eisenstein, Amy. “8 Steps for Successful Fundraising During the Coronavirus Crisis”, Blog, March 2020,, accessed 2 August 2020.

Love, Jenny. “Fundraising in Crisis: Philanthropy and COVID-19”, AHP Connect, 20 March 2020,,

Phillips, Catherine. “Fundraising During COVID-19: How Charities are Fighting to Move the Needle and Make a Difference”, The Philanthropist, 20 May 2020,,

Galambos, Dan and Cericola, Nick. “The data is clear: hospitals should fundraise during Covid-19”, Advisory Board, 14 May 2020,,

Irish, Allen. “Hospital Fundraising Amid the Coronavirus: Bright Spots and Big Questions”, Inside Philanthropy, 22 April 2020,,

“Canadian hospitals join fundraising efforts to close COVID-19 ‘gaps’”, CBC, 21 April 2020,,

Robbins, Rebecca. “Medical nonprofits are hard-hit as the pandemic upends crucial fundraising”, Stat News, 31 July 2020,,

Strong, Suzette. “Building a culture of philanthropy – one person at a time”, Hospital News, 2020,,

Spencer, Donna. “Wickenheiser plea for PPE, with Ryan Reynolds assist, scores big donations”, CityNews, 7 April 2020,,

“Mayor Lightfoot Thanks Companies, Organizations and Volunteers for Helping in the Fight Against COVID-19”, City of Chicago, 9 April 2020,,

McClure, Olivia. “How 100 Tech Companies Are Supporting Their Communities”, Built In, 18 May 2020,,

Erickson, Mandy. “Not yet able to treat patients, Stanford medical students help caregivers”, Stanford Medicine News, April 2020,,

Iyer, Shruti. “UCLA Anderson students lead donation drives to gather PPE for health care workers”, Daily Bruin, 27 April 2020,,

Theis, Michael. “One in Five Donors Has Stopped Giving, Survey Says”, The Chronical of Philanthropy, 6 May 2020,,

Image Credit

Photo by Étienne Godiard on Unsplash

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