COVID-19 Fundraising Toolkit

These are very tough days for all of us, and we face many challenges ahead. But Covenant House has existed as a beacon of hope for more than 40 years because of our incredible community: thousands of quiet heroes, with families and bills and busy lives and joys and sorrows, who decide that young people should not be homeless and alone.

Thank you for continuing to advocate for these young people amid this global pandemic. Fundraising is an immediate, powerful way to ensure that our youth continue to receive the care they deserve, but we know it might feel uncomfortable right now. This toolkit will arm you with facts and stories to share, and serve as a guide for how to proceed. Our team of fundraising coaches is also available to help you however we can. 

Sleep Out Fundraising Coaches:
(212) 727-4990 | [email protected]

Toolkit Index:

  1. How to Start
  2. What to Say
  3. Where to Learn More

How to Start Fundraising

Customize your fundraising page.

Adding a photo and personal note to your fundraising page is always important, because it lets people know immediately that they're in the right place. Now more than ever, though, it is important to explain why you joined the Sleep Out, what that means, and how they can help. 

Here’s how:

  1. Click “Your Page” from the black menu at the top of the screen.
  2. To add a photo, click the pencil icon over the photo avatar and follow the instructions to upload an image.
  3. To add a personal note, click the “My Story” tab under your name and photo, then click the pencil icon in the right corner. 
  4. To customize your page URL, click the “Settings” tab (next to the “My Story” tab). Click the “Customize” link and add your name or initials in the field provided. Be sure to click the blue “Save Changes” button.

If you’re a team captain, click the “Team Page” icon from the top menu and follow the same steps to customize your team’s page.

Make a list of people you want to ask for support.

Start with a few basic categories and fill in a list for each. For example: immediate family, cousins, childhood friends, college friends, current and former colleagues, neighbors, etc. Include people whom you see less regularly, like a LinkedIn connection, but still may want to hear from you. 

Consider the following questions when making your list: would this person open an email from me? Would I want to hear from them about something they’re passionate about? Is this a cause that they could connect with? Has this person been especially affected by coronavirus? (e.g. have they or their family fallen ill, are they facing any uncertainty with their job?)

Try to identify between 20-50 people. Now may not be the right time to ask some people to support your Sleep Out, and that's ok. By reviewing your list carefully and sorting it into categories, you can feel more confident about sending a message that each group will find meaningful. Remember, many people are looking for ways to give back during this difficult time. 


What to Say in Your Fundraising Appeals

Finding the right words to talk about your Sleep Out can be tough, especially now. Use the pre-written messages below as a starting point and allow yourself time to add a personal note.

Once you're ready, use email, text, and social media to share your message. Always include your personal URL. Email is usually the most effective (we recommend sending at least 2 as most people need a reminder). Your page is mobile-responsive so when you text your page link in a group chat or to people directly, they can donate directly on their phones.

Social media can allow you to reach a larger audience and this folder contains images that you can share. Connect a Facebook Fundraiser to your Sleep Out when you register (or through your Participant Dashboard after you register) and automatically send a notification to all your friends. On Instagram, add your personal URL to your bio (learn how). Always use the hashtag #chsleepout to be part of the national conversation.

Sample Messages Menu:

Donation Appeal - Short
Donation Appeal - Long
Donation Appeal - Returning Participants
Donation Appeal - Reminder
Thank You Note
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Your Impact Now
How to Write a Personal Note


Donation Appeal - Short

The COVID-19 crisis has turned the world upside down for many of us. Lost jobs, isolation, and the loss of friends and family are incredibly difficult to deal with -- but what if on top of all of that, you didn’t have a safe place to sleep? Covenant House keeps their doors open 24/7 to keep youth facing homelessness safe during these scary and trying times. For one night, I’m giving up my bed so youth can find a safe place to sleep under a Covenant House roof. If you can, please consider supporting me with a donation of any amount today. INSERT PERSONAL URL


Donation Appeal - Long

This year, I signed on to Sleep Out on the street for a night to raise funds for youth overcoming homelessness at Covenant House. Unfortunately, due to concerns about coronavirus, I am no longer able to join the Sleep Out in person.

I’m disappointed, of course, but whether I get in a sleeping bag on the concrete outside, in the backyard, or on the floor of my kitchen, I’m proud to be part of a movement to shelter and support youth facing homelessness. These young people are the most vulnerable among us, not only to something like coronavirus, but to so many other illnesses, both physical and mental, that come directly from the trauma of living on the streets. Covenant House provides them with the life-saving care that they so urgently need, and their doors remain open 24/7 for every young person seeking help.

Our support is their lifeline, which is why I am continuing my fundraising efforts. If you can, please consider making a donation of any size in honor of the incredibly resilient young people at Covenant House. The beds are full, and your gift will be put to work immediately to help establish quarantine zones, provide clean linens and three nutrious meals a day for the increased number of youth, and arm front-line staff with critical cleaning and medical supplies. 

Here is the link to my Sleep Out page: INSERT PERSONAL URL

Thank you so much. 


Donation Appeal - Return Participants

Now is the time of year when I write to you all about my Sleep Out to support youth overcoming homelessness at Covenant House. But this year, Covenant House is bracing for the effects of COVID-19 and the Sleep Out has taken on a whole new meaning. 

Now more than ever, housing is healthcare. That's why I am still giving up my bed for a night in solidarity with the 2,000+ young people sleeping at Covenant House each night. These young people faced incredible challenges before the pandemic and now are among its most vulnerable victims. Covenant House remains open 24/7 and has established quarantine spaces for youth exhibiting symptoms, created a new intake process with help from the CDC, doubled down on cleaning, moved beds to be a minimum of six feet apart, established an emergency staffing protocol, and adapted to be able to provide more meals than ever before to the young people -- more than 80% of whom have lost their jobs -- who are sheltering in place. 

I know that these are trying times for all of us. The uncertainty and anxiety that we all feel is something that youth who have experienced homelessness are all too familiar with. If you're able, please consider making a donation of any size to my Sleep Out. Your gift will be put to work immediately to ensure these youth stay safe and healthy during this crisis and after. 

Here is the link to my Sleep Out page: INSERT PERSONAL URL


Donation Appeal - Reminder

In X DAYS, I am giving up my bed for a night so that young people facing homelessness can sleep safely at Covenant House.

I’m trying to raise $X AMOUNT REMAINING before my Sleep Out. These funds are critically important now more than ever, as Covenant House continues to shelter and protect young people facing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I know that this is a difficult time for everyone, and so much is out of our control. But it has also been a time of people coming together -- however they can -- to offer comfort and support. If you're able, please consider making a donation to my Sleep Out page. Your support will be an incredible comfort to the young people and staff at Covenant House. No matter the amount, the value of it to these kids who have so little is enormous. Because it’s more than what the money provides -- it’s a symbol that you care. INSERT PERSONAL URL


Thank You Note

Thank you so much for your donation in support of my Sleep Out. In this time of uncertainty and anxiety, your gift means that much more -- to me, and to the youth and staff at Covenant House. 

Covenant House will continue to be open 24/7 for young people facing homelessness. Your gift helps their staff protect and care for every kid who walks through the doors, to keep them healthy, and to meet the many challenges they face. Thank you.

I hope that you stay healthy and safe as well, and know how grateful I am for your support. 


What's Happening at Covenant House

As you talk to your community about Sleep Out and Covenant House, some people may want to know more about how life has changed for young people in our care. Here are a few key things to share: 

  • Our doors remain open. Last night, over 2,100 young people found safety under a Covenant House roof. Our intake protocol has been revised with help from the CDC and we are prepared to assess and/or test symptomatic youth as a first action before sending them to the local ER. Quarantine spaces have also been established at every shelter.
  • We are focused on ensuring that the youth in our care are safe and secure. In addition to quarantine spaces, we are ensuring a safe distance between beds in all rooms, increasing the frequency of disinfecting common areas, and distributing cleaning and hygiene supplies to youth and staff regularly.
  • We have temporarily suspended all visitors and non-essential staff on-site, and an emergency staffing protocol is in place to ensure front-line coverage while keeping our teams safe.
  • We are providing as much on-site youth programming as possible, including additional mental health programming for youth experiencing anxiety as a consequence of the outbreak.
  • With youth sheltering place, we are seeing increased costs in food and staffing since all youth are in our building 24/7 — these costs are in addition to the staffing and supplies costs associated with the extensive emergency preparedness measures described above.
  • Update from Kevin Ryan, Covenant House President
  • Reflection from Kevin Ryan, Covenant House President

How to Write a Personal Note

If you're not sure how to start your personal note, try asking or answering the following questions:

  • How has the person or group you're asking been affected by the pandemic? How are they holding up?
  • How have you been affected and how are you doing?
  • What made you decide to Sleep Out now? What are you hoping to get from the experience? 
  • If you have done the Sleep Out before, what's different this year? 
  • What's something that has made you feel hopeful recently?

Where to Learn More

Every day brings new developments, new challenges, and new stories. Here are a few ways to stay up to date on how youth at Covenant House are affected by COVID-19:

  • The newsroom on our website is updated daily with new stories from youth, front-line staff, and supporters. 
  • Twitter: follow @CovenantHouse for news from across our fedation and follow Covenant House President Kevin Ryan @CovHousePrez for more stories and reflections.
  • Follow Covenant House on Facebook and Instagram and follow the hashtag #chsleepout for photos from across the movement. 

Your Impact Now