Rethinking Fundraising During COVID-19

April 30, 2020

The pandemic has exacted lasting economic damage and societal upheaval on our nation and in our communities. To support community revitalization efforts, nonprofits are stepping into the void to tackle the new social challenges we are all facing. Unfortunately, many of these organizations have seen major disruptions to their fundraising capabilities, with cancelled fundraising events and strapped resources.

In this time of crisis, though, we’ve also seen a deep, shared desire to contribute and help support local communities. Nonprofits need to pivot their fundraising efforts and tap into these desires, build out their donor bases and continue to provide vital services in order to navigate this new environment, making adjustments to how they communicate with their donors along the way.

Make Specific, Relevant Asks that Depict the Human Need

Create specific and concise messaging around how your organization is contributing to the COVID-19 relief efforts. Outline the specific contributions your organization is making to your community and provide direct resources for those looking to contribute in order to engage existing donors and attract new ones.

Build asks around the human element. Don’t exploit individuals but do no not be afraid to depict the needs that people have in your messaging. Where you can in the ask, use first names only and/or approved photos so the ask takes on a personal nature.

Consider a COVID-19-specific fund which will provide a credible and tangible sense of impact and help potential donors looking for the right organization to support your work.

Shift to Virtual Outreach

With in-person events cancelled or postponed, fundraising will need to take place primarily online. Build out a thoughtful and impactful email marketing campaign that shares your message, your impact and your ask with your network regularly. Additionally, making the shift to online fundraising events, virtual galas or solo marathons can keep your network engaged and mitigate losses from canceled in-person events.

Expand Stewardship Initiatives

The importance of stewardship cannot be overestimated in this time. Expanding your efforts that thank contributors will help you retain donors. Identify personal stories within your network and share them with your donors regularly through email outreach. This will help new donors feel engaged with your mission and will encourage existing donors to contribute to your new, COVID-19-specific initiatives.

Seek Out Grants, Emergency Funds and Donor-Advised Funds

There has been a great increase in the availability of large emergency relief funds. By applying to these grant programs, you can access resources that have been pooled to support local nonprofits. Many of these grants have made previously restricted funds unrestricted, which would allow you to cover your overhead costs, ensuring all individual donor funds can go directly to supporting your ongoing community efforts.

Rethink What Fundraising Means

Beyond increasing email campaigns and shifting existing initiatives to a virtual environment, now is a great time to completely rethink how your organization approaches fundraising. Look to unexpected partnerships and funding sources: tap into your local mutual aid network or look to form partnerships with businesses in your community that are investing in community engagement and CSR initiatives. Let this pandemic serve as a challenge to rethink what your organization is capable of and how you share that with your network of supporters.

Skip to content