How One Nonprofit Is Pivoting To Fundraise During COVID-19

Are pandemic restrictions hampering your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy? Rachel Frey of Centro Infantil de los Angeles shares how her organization kept fundraising during the COVID-19 crisis.


Rachel Frey

Development Director at Centro Infantil de los Angeles (CILA)

Who She Is:

Rachel Frey has an undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Rachel has worked for more than 10 years in poverty alleviation, community capacity building, and empowerment in vulnerable populations. She has worked on multi-country initiatives in Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic. Rachel was a Corporate Relations Officer in Latin America for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and most recently accepted the role of development director for an international NGO in San Miguel de Allende that provides free daycare and preschool for low-income families.

Q: Tell us about your organization and its mission.

A: Centro Infantil de los Angeles (CILA) is an organization in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico that benefits low-income families by providing free early childhood education. CILA enables low-income mothers to go to work and earn an income with the confidence that their children are supported, fed, and cared for in a positive and motivating environment. This provides a path toward a bright future and prepares children for the next phase of early childhood education by stimulating their growth, health, and pride.

Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your organization’s fundraising?

A: A pillar of our funding usually comes from our volunteer program. Since CILA began, we have received more than 1,800 volunteers from all over the world who come to help our teachers. We had to suspend this program because of COVID-19 and associated travel restrictions, and that forced us reevaluate our fundraising strategies entirely.

Our new donor cultivation strategy focuses on strengthening our online presence, investigating new donors, and evaluating our online resources. One resource we took advantage of was GlobalGiving’s Little by Little matching campaign. That helped us cultivate a strategic online campaign to address the emergency relief our families need during this unprecedented time. We shared our promotional materials across social media platforms and in a newsletter. Thankfully, our donors came through—we raised more than $3,000 in one day!

Q: What tips do you have for reaching out to donors during the pandemic?

A: The best (and safest) way to reach donors right now is online. Look at your strengths and opportunities around how your organization presents itself through your website, social media accounts, and other online presences. Often, we need to invest in tools—like a newsletter or content platform—that can help us reach a larger audience.

Another more personal way to engage your donors is to write to them directly and ask for additional support. Large and small donors alike need to feel their help is greatly appreciated, and the best way to show them is through personal engagement. Building strong relationships with your supporters shows your commitment—not only to the organization but also to them as individuals.

Q: How has COVID-19 shifted your organization’s programming?

A: CILA operates a daycare and preschool with more than 200 children from low-income families. Part of our program includes providing 450 hot meals a day. Since the suspension of in-person classes, we have had to shift our focus to distance learning and now provide groceries to our families who need them most.

We used some of the emergency funds from our online campaign to purchase Zoom accounts and set up online learning platforms for our families. Patricia Palacios, our executive director, worked quickly to ensure that our kids would continue learning and receiving nutritious hot meals in their homes. Together with our teachers, they designed the children’s online lessons and created materials parents can use to help their kids learn.

Q: How do you communicate your organization’s critical work and impact to potential donors?

A: We always provide testimonials regarding the positive impact we have created through our program. We capture important monitoring and evaluating (M&E) statistics that are proven to engage donors. For example, we continuously monitor our students during and after graduating from our program. We found that they have above average test scores and perform better than their peers at the local and state levels. Through surveys, we also found that more than 90% of the mothers we serve would not be able to work without the help of our services. These M&E tools help us show the difference we are making.

Instead of showing the desperation and the need, we show the outcome and impact of our program. Instead of seeing how large the problem is, donors are more interested in how they can contribute to positive impact and transformation.

Through social media, newsletters, and our blog, we tell their stories and show how our work has made a difference, thanks to our supporters.

Q: What energizes you to continue fundraising during COVID-19?

A: During times of crisis, energy can be hard to come by—especially if you are not at the office or not seeing the wonderful, smiling faces in your community. The one thing that has helped us continue our work is knowing that now, more than ever, our families need our services.

On the other hand, self-care is also important to sustain energy and achieve long-term goals. Our community comes first, but when things feel overwhelming, we should take a step back and figure out a different way to go about things. We did not get to the moon in a day, so we need to understand that good outcomes take time. If your team members are in a good state, your work will be, too.

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Featured Photo: Casa de los Angeles - Feed 150 kids for a year! by Centro Infantil de los Angeles
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