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What Does Grassroots Fundraising During a Global Pandemic Look Like?

Team Fox Member in New Orleans

The following story appeared in our Fall/Winter 2020 edition of The Fox Focus on Parkinson’s newsletter. For this story and more, download the full edition.

Concerts, marathons, golf tournaments and galas were canceled, and group training and planning meetings paused. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the camaraderie and coordination so central to our grassroots fundraising community appeared to be at stake. Not to mention, how do you raise funds during a global health and economic crisis?

In the first six months of the year, our grassroots fundraisers raised almost  $3.74 million — nearly $900,000 of which  has come from first-time events. 

“Our committee spoke every week in March, and we put together a plan. Even if we raised a little bit, it’s still something,” says Laura Fiske, co-founder of Pedaling 4 Parkinson’s, an annual cycling event based in Denver, Colorado. In June, the organizers pivoted to a virtual ride and altered the format — rather than a one-day event, they created a month-long challenge to reach 25,000  miles collectively, biking or otherwise. “We were understanding that people may not have bikes or be able to join on a specific day or contribute financially,” Laura explains.  “That freedom motivated people.”

Not only did they nearly double their 25,000 mile goal, Pedaling 4 Parkinson’s drew more participants than ever before and raised almost $90,000 — just shy of their pre-pandemic 2020 goal. But “the year’s not over yet!” Laura reminds us. “We are so encouraged and touched that people reacted the way they did,” she says. “And next year, we’re going to encompass everything we learned and try to tune it up!” 

In New Orleans, Team Fox NOLA, a group of young professionals raising funds and awareness in their community, didn’t waste time setting up virtual meetings to share resources, navigate changes, and stay connected. “A silver lining is this is a wonderful opportunity to innovate and think creatively about how to engage and solicit funds virtually,” says Madison Hurwitz,  Team Fox NOLA Executive Board chair. 

One team member began selling handmade masks on Etsy and donating 100 percent of the proceeds, and another is hosting Zoom workout classes to raise additional funds. “Prior to COVID-19, our fundraising was mainly targeted to our local community, but now we can expand our reach,” says Madison.

“We also are trying to find ways to support our local businesses that have been struggling,” says Madison. In October, since they can’t host their annual bowling fundraiser, Team Fox NOLA is planning a silent auction via Instagram in which people can bid on curated baskets featuring local products and services. 

On the East Coast, the New England Parkinson’s Ride (NEPR), based in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, changed courses with a “Cycling in Sync” remote challenge. By August, they had secured riders in all 50 states, plus Canada, England, Ireland and Singapore for the September event. Peter Marconi who is living with PD and is the captain of Team CRCF Strong, the top NEPR fundraising team, says, “Continuity is important; we can’t just miss a year. Any amount we raise is worthwhile.” He adds, “When I reach out to supporters this year, it’s more about letting people know how I’m doing and why I’m still riding. Continuing to raise awareness and keeping people engaged for future years is critical.”

Visit our virtual events hub ( for  upcoming virtual fundraisers and to download guides on fundraising via social media, canceling or postponing your event, and more.

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