Virtual Fund-a-Thon 2021
by Wendy Hathaway
Fund-a-Thon season has always looked a little different depending on which community you’re in, from traditional bowling to trivia night to dance marathons.
That hasn’t changed during the COVID-19 pandemic and while some funds organized virtual film screenings, yoga practices, and online brunch, others discovered that hosting an event just wasn’t a good fit and found success through more low-key social media and crowdfunding.
Despite some challenges—being a fairly young fund, fundraising entirely online, and navigating COVID-19 safety considerations—the volunteers behind Virginia’s New River Abortion Access Fund say their first official Fund-a-Thon was a success.
“It’s been absolutely amazing and I’m so happy and so impressed,” says Jen Simonetti, Board President and Founder of New River Abortion Access Fund.
Simonetti established New River in 2019 after finding the Blacksburg, Va., area lacking in on-the-ground reproductive justice and abortion funding efforts, outside student-led work on the Virginia Tech campus.
A wave of supporters from all over the country have come out for the fund over the past year—in large part due to pandemic fatigue and political frustrations, Simonetti believes—contributing to an impressive inaugural fundraising season.
“I think a lot of people were excited to support a newer fund,” says Sophie Drew, Intake Coordinator and Board Vice President of New River. “There’s so much energy around protecting abortion access in the South and in Appalachia where there are so many barriers to abortion. I’m very grateful for all the people who chose to spend their money the way they did when everyone is struggling.”
Most of their fundraising was through word of mouth and peer-to-peer fundraising, although the team also promoted Fund-a-Thon on social media, held prize giveaways, and hosted a virtual sex ed trivia night.
Simonetti and Drew are thankful for the support of fellow funds, who shared advice and elevated their message on social media.
“It definitely helped having this network of shared resources all over the country and being able to ask questions of more established funds,” Drew says.
Simonetti agrees: “This is a fantastic community, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without the assistance of all the funds I talked to—everyone we’ve met or co-hosted events with or who shared documents and advice. I love this network.”