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Halloween Isn’t Cancelled: Nonprofits are Turning a Scary Halloween Into a Feel Good Story

By Liz Hamel October 20, 2020

What will Halloween look like in 2020? While trick-or-treating is out of the picture for many families, and a spooky movie is probably a better idea than a crowded haunted house, our Nonprofit community is here to tell you that Halloween is not cancelled.

In fact, it might be better than ever! Nonprofits are getting creative to leverage this moment to engage their supporters, while celebrating safely.

Mother and son looking at tablet

UNICEF and World Wildlife Fund are encouraging families to celebrate Halloween from home while giving back.

Reimagining Trick-or-Treating to Raise Critical Funds

Seventy years ago, UNICEF USA began Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF as a way to help kids affected by World War II. Since then, millions of children across the United States have gone door to door with UNICEF coin boxes, saying “Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF!” collecting donations instead of candy. The annual tradition has helped to raise $180 million since 1950, allowing UNICEF to provide children around the world with immunizations, education, health care, nutrition, safe water and sanitation, emergency relief, and more.

Kids trick-or-treating for UNICEF

Celebrating its 70th year, Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is the longest-running youth engagement campaign in America. Photo courtesy of UNICEF USA.

Not only has Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF raised critical funds, it has also taught multiple generations of children important lessons about global citizenship. Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF founders Clyde and Mary Emma Allison started this annual Halloween campaign with the vision of teaching kids in the United States that there are kids just like themselves growing up in dire poverty and in refugee camps. The Allisons called American children to action and showed them that helping others can be more rewarding than collecting treats.

One thing that has not changed since the Allisons began this tradition in 1950 is that children have the capacity, and the heart and desire, to make a difference. So seven decades and a global pandemic later, UNICEF USA is not cancelling Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. Instead, they are reimagining their Halloween tradition to a virtual, gamified experience.

This year, UNICEF is inviting kids to get into costume and reach out to friends and family online through email, social media, and video get-togethers on Halloween. Kids can track donations in their “virtual Trick-or-Treat box” and find activities to have a fun and meaningful Halloween from home.

Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is going virtual for 2020 from UNICEF USA on Vimeo.

UNICEF Ambassadors and Supporters including actress Lucy Liu, WWE Superstar Kofi Kingston and actress Sofia Carson, share how kids can make a difference by signing up for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF.

“Halloween is not cancelled. It’s just going to look a little different this year.” – UNICEF USA

“Gaming for Good” is a rising nonprofit fundraising trend that has continued to gain popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. To tap into this trend, UNICEF USA allows kids to unlock Trick-or-Treat coins that add up to real-life earnings by completing activities and games, all accessible through their Virtual Collection Boxes and customized link and QR code.

Another fun twist on this year’s Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF is kids can now decide which UNICEF programs their funds will go to. Nonprofits have found that younger people want to know more about specific issues and how their donations are being leveraged. From safe water tablets to immunization vaccines to N-95 masks, UNICEF USA’s campaign allows children to pick contributions that resonate with them most and see how their efforts can have a tangible impact.

Halloween is Fun, but Extinction is Scary

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is another organization leaning into the Halloween spirit to engage their youngest supporters from home.

They gave their “symbolic adoption” program a Halloween flare, sharing interesting facts about the snowy owl, black jaguar, tarantula, vampire bat, and gray wolf and encouraging supporters to symbolically adopt their favorite. Supporters can purchase kits with plush animals, photos, and an adoption certificate to celebrate Halloween by protecting endangered species.

Taking it a step further, WWF has shared timely content about these spooky animals, such as a photo gallery of animals dressed in black for Halloween and another gallery depicting five animals that change costumes based on their surroundings. They also have free downloadable stencils for pumpkin carving.

Their newest campaign focuses on a Halloween trademark: ghosts. Not the cute Casper kind, though. Our oceans are haunted by ghost nets, which are dangerous abandoned fishing nets that are littering the oceans and killing animals. They present a huge problem for the health of our oceans and marine life, and contribute to the high levels of ocean plastic that pollute our waters. WWF is one of many groups working to remove deserted fishing gear from the oceans, and advocating for the implementation of better regulations in the future.

You can join WWF’s spooky animal celebration by sending a Halloween ecard. These ghoulish greetings are free to download and a sustainable and safe way to spread Halloween cheer (or fear?!).

 A World Wildlife Fund Halloween eCard

Our Nonprofit community never ceases to amaze with their resilience and creative approaches to fundraising.

With end-of-year giving rapidly approaching, tune in for this on-demand webinar on How Building Supporter Journeys Prepares You for End of Year Giving.

About the Author

Liz Hamel, Communications Manager at

Liz oversees the blog, a social impact newsroom with actionable content and inspiring stories from our nonprofit and education customers. With a background in nonprofit communications, she’s passionate about using clear communication to influence positive social change.