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  • Writer's pictureAnnie Albrecht

5 Tips for Fundraising in the Era of Coronavirus

We're living in a different world than we were a month, a week, or even a few days ago. For nonprofit professionals around the world (and frankly, everyone) it's a scary time. Coronavirus has markets crashing, businesses shutting down, individuals closing their doors.

The impact of this pandemic has yet to be seen but there is one undeniable truth for the social sector: much of nonprofit revenue only exists because of discretionary spending. With 68% of total giving coming from individuals, the nonprofit industry is one of the first to be affected when the market crashes. For most people, charitable donations are not top-of-the-line priorities. A donation is not food, or rent, or health care, or even gas.

Here's the hard truth: fundraising will be affected, one way or another. This is not going to be an easy time. You’re going to have to get creative. And you need to be prepared.

Put yourself in your donors' shoes. They are likely feeling scared and uncertain. Will their industry survive the crash? Where did their retirement savings go? Are their families safe and healthy? All of this may affect their willingness and ability to give.

What can you do? Stop, take a breather, and make a plan. Here are 5 simple tips to help you fundraise in the era of Coronavirus.

1. Map out a plan

Develop a high-level plan and don't get too stuck in the weeds. Think big picture. Will you have to cancel your events? Do you still have reliable grant funding coming in? If spring/summer donations drop off, can you put in place a strategy to ramp up your fundraising come fall? Think long term here: this isn't going to be a couple of weeks of economic downturn, it will be a couple of years. Be ready.

2. Take control of your messaging strategy

While it may feel that everything has gone out the window, there are many things that you can still control: particularly how and when you communicate with your donors. Your messaging is more important now than ever. Make sure that your communication surrounding this crisis is sensitive and timely. The last thing you want to do now is offend your donors with an off-color comment or mistimed email.

3. Identify your heroes and talk to them NOW

This is a great opportunity for your biggest donors to step up in a new way. Reach out to your major donors before you need them. Keep them in the loop about everything you're doing to prepare, get their advice, and ask if you can circle back to them for help if the need arises. By being prepared ahead of time, you may be able to head off the worst of this crisis.

4. Stay connected to all your donors

With a good portion of the workforce working from home, you're likely going to get more engagement on your social media and more opens on your emails (let's be real, working from home means plenty of mindless phone scrolling). This is the time to get more personal with your donors and, in this time of crisis, it's ok to communicate more. In fact, many of your donors may be worried about you and your organization. Reach out to them! Send weekly updates on what is happening at HQ and with your clients. And don't worry about communicating too frequently. As long as your messages are sensitive to the crisis, it's ok to be a little noisy.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask - but do it strategically

Before you make any big moves, carefully consider the ramifications. Maybe instead of asking for a gala sponsorship, you ask for financial support for necessary COVID-specific adjustments to your programming. As you continue to fundraise, consider using language like this:

"In these uncertain times, it is important that we all come together to support the most vulnerable among us. The struggles our clients are going through every day aren't going to change. In fact, they need your support now more than ever."

At the end of the day, we've all got to keep moving forward. It's time to be brave, innovative, and resourceful. Your work is now more important than ever. Continue to reach out and ask for support when you can - your clients depend on you.


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