When running a virtual fundraiser during a pandemic, your messaging to parents needs to be on point. What you say, how you say it, how often you send messages, and how you follow up with questions and concerns can make a big difference in how much money you raise.

Follow these best practices to communicate clearly with customers to help boost sales or attendance and meet your fundraising goals.

Talk about the goal

Be upfront about how much you want to raise, what the timeline is, and why it’s important that people in the community give or participate.

“Our goal is to raise $2,000 for this spring’s year-end thank-you gift for teachers and staff. We will be collecting donations of gift cards until April 10. After the year we’ve had, let’s show them how much we appreciate them!”

Don’t be vague about why you’re asking for money. People are suffering from donation fatigue and want to know how the funds will be spent (and when) before they decide to support your cause.

Explain how the fundraiser fits your mission

Clearly state how your fundraising activity supports your group goals. For example, your trivia or bingo night might raise money for field trips (goal 1) while also providing fun family time (goal 2).

“For each bingo card you purchase, one student can go on the STEM field trip. It also helps us get closer to reaching our goal of hosting two family fun nights each semester.”

Don’t leave parents thinking all you do is ask for donations and have no idea you do with the money. That leads to distrust and lower participation.

Holiday shop how-to! Choosing a vendor, getting organized, and lots of promotional tools

Create a well-designed fundraiser page

Include important information a customer needs to attend your event or to donate: your group’s name, event name, goal, important dates, ticket price (if applicable), contact information, fundraising company’s contact information, prize or incentive levels, and more.

“The ABC PTO Auction benefiting the sensory playground project will be Saturday, May 9, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Baskets will be on display virtually at xyzpto.com beginning May 1. Minimum bid is $2. Tickets cost $10 each, and each ticket buyer will receive the auction Zoom link. Email us at auction@​xyzpto.com with any questions.”

Don’t include so much information that the page looks jumbled. Make sure it’s easy to find, read, and share.

Sell the positive aspects

Talk up the benefits of your product. If you’re selling spiritwear, talk about how sales will help the school and mention how the new sweatshirt material is guaranteed not to shrink. Or if you’re promoting a restaurant fundraiser, talk about how picking up a meal there helps support a struggling local eatery and raise funds for the library project, all while making dinnertime easier.

“When you buy ABC School spiritwear, you’re helping our library book fundraiser but also helping your child feel more connected to school and his classmates while we’re remote learning.”

Don’t get too pushy with your messaging. Keep in mind that the economic toll from the pandemic has many families struggling financially.

Emphasize the convenience

Tell customers how participating virtually is convenient and can help them find gifts or other items while following social distancing guidelines. Add information about shipping, delivery and pickup options, and when they can expect their orders.

“Thank you for ordering a spring bulb basket! Your item will be available to pick up on Tuesday or Wednesday after 4 p.m. Call the number at the top of this email when you arrive, and a nursery employee will deliver your item to your car.”

Don’t forget to use phrases like “touchless” or “contact-free” to make people feel more at ease with the process.

Promote early and often

Start sending information at least a month ahead of time through all your communication channels. Share the link to your website (see "Create a well-designed fundraiser page,” above) with a headline and a fun meme one week, then again the following week, and continue to update your talking points as the event gets closer. When your messaging is fun, people will pay attention.

“Heads up! Our ABC Widget fundraiser will kick off next month. Orders will be due April 12 so you can deliver them before Mother’s Day. Like and follow our Facebook page so you don’t miss important updates!”

Don’t assume one announcement is enough. Even if the entire community sees a flyer or one Instagram post, they’re likely to forget some information and ask you several times for basic details.

Give great customer service

Enlist your board and volunteers to answer questions quickly and efficiently. That might mean taking turns watching social media threads or checking email and text messaging to make sure everyone gets an answer or you’re delivering product in a timely way.

“Questions? Email us at abc@​pto.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

Don’t leave questions unanswered; a lousy experience can cause people not to participate.

Follow up with thank-yous and totals

Announce how much was raised and whether you reached your goal. Parents who invested in the fundraising will want to know how their dollars are helping. Hand in hand with the announcement should be a thank-you to everyone who donated, purchased, or worked to make the event a success.

“A huge shout-out to everyone who purchased ‘ABC School Proud’ T-shirts last week! We raised $7,500 for the new outdoor learning center—that’s $1,500 more than our goal. Thank you for your support!”

Don’t forget to personally thank volunteers and school staff who helped run the event. A small token of appreciation like a handwritten card or gift card for coffee can earn a lot of good will.