Fundraisers for Congregations During COVID-19: Pizza Anyone?

Our Unitarian Universalist congregations have always been creative about our fundraisers and these unprecedented times show we are stepping up to the challenge!

There are several ways UU’s are helping the bottom line with fundraisers using food, music, education, and re-imagining typical church events like an annual auction. 

At a minimum, here are some key things to define as you plan your online fundraiser:

  • Have you followed the usual approval process for your intended fundraiser? Assuming you have a process, folks will likely want to know the answers to the other questions below.
  • Who/what is the intended recipient of any funds raised? Is it to replace lost rental income that funds your mission and programs? Is it for staff that help run those programs? Is it for congregants who have lost their job or who have uncovered medical expenses? Is it to help local immigrants who do not qualify for stimulus funds?
  • What is your intended launch date and if it’s an event with a specific date and time, how does that fit into your congregation’s other online offerings?
  • What is the amount of your suggested donation? Will you offer a sliding scale of $25/person or more, if congregant viewers can afford it, and free if they cannot?
  • Have you made it easy to give? For a pizza fundraiser, congregants and their friends call or order on the restaurant’s website. For concerts, auctions, learning events and other church-run fundraisers, make sure you provide a variety of electronic options to give. See our previous blog post on this topic.


Let’s start with food since a lot of us like to eat and dare I say some of us have even ventured into extra comfort food during these anxious times (yes, that was me that had pizza two nights in a row).

Here are examples of how some UU congregations are using food to fundraise:

Pacific Unitarian Church received a percentage of the proceeds from delivery or takeout pizza from California Pizza Kitchen from March 15 to April 15, 2020.  This type of fundraiser allows for congregants to buy (and eat!) pizza or gift a pizza to another household and raise funds for the church at the same time.

First Unitarian Church of Des Moines is having a “Fabulously Fun Favor and Food Fair Fundraiser” from April 26 to May 3, 2020.

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Athens is highlighting their program where a percentage of grocery store purchases are donated to the church. Congregants enroll their grocery reward card in the online program. Yes, that even includes grocery store pizza! 


Many musicians have stepped up to give online concerts for a variety of causes during COVID and we can use those as a model. We all have talented vocalists and musicians in our midst. If the 8- to 12-year-olds from the Community Music Center Children’s Chorus can join together virtually to sing together online, our congregational musicians and/or other church-friendly musicians may want to step up to help. 

For inclusivity, you can encourage people to donate and also let them know that there’s no cost to watch if they are facing difficult times. Folks outside your congregation may wish to watch and donate too. Send event announcements to extended family, friends and the wider community and post on your website, Facebook page, your blog and any other avenues you use to communicate. 


Some of you may have held online auctions in previous years. If not, now’s your opportunity! Virtual auctions can still raise substantial funds and you can set your parameters for donated items with a date of Sept. 1 or later. A great online auction description comes from Edmonds Unitarian Universalist Church:

“They planned a live-auction and dinner for all to attend, but an awful virus came to the land and ruined their plans. The people all stayed home to protect each other, but something magical also happened. They learned that EUUC is much more than a place. They learned to use all sorts of devices to stay connected and kept the community bonds strong. They could still hold an on-line auction to keep their treasure chest full … with a costume contest and variety show to lift their spirits.”


What types of talks, classes or workshops would your congregation normally offer pre-pandemic? Consider converting those to online with a sliding scale donation for participation. There are many congregations offering education and discussion online via Zoom or other electronic platforms. Topics such as Anti-Racism, the Science of Language, Buddhism, and much more! We have not included the links here since those are congregation-specific discussion groups.    


The UUA’s Faithify program allows funds to be solicited for Disaster Relief Campaigns and waives the “All-or-Nothing” requirement for reaching a fundraising goal in order for the campaign to be funded. In addition, the Faithify program has made some shifts for regular campaigns to allow an open campaign to close if there is a pandemic-related reason the project can’t continue. Check out the Faithify requirements … online at the links above. 😉


Finally, there is a  UUA Disaster Relief Fund that has given out many grants in the past few weeks. Grants are intended to support collaborative and community partnerships of a congregation and are limited to $5,000 per grant. Priority is given to new requests, however, a congregation can request a renewal of a grant for community programs each month. 

The Takeaway: you can extend your fundraising creativity online. Eat, feed others, sing, learn and connect, and help support our congregations at the same time. Some folks can and will donate if you ask. And remember the fundraising that can happen during your online Sunday services. See our previous blog post on that topic. 

If you have a fundraiser you’ve done during these online-only times, please share it in the comment section so others can benefit from your wisdom.

Liz Coit, Kay Crider, Mark Ewert, Barry Finkelstein and Rachel Maxwell are part of the Stewardship for Us team. Please send your questions and topic suggestions for our blog or online Friday Forum discussions to