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COVID-19 Fundraising Concerns

Mueller Prost

March 27, 2020

Many nonprofit organizations are facing an unprecedented challenge when it comes to fundraising with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Below are a few tips and suggestions we’ve heard and wanted to share.

  1. You must be checking in with your donors to make sure they are doing okay.  Your organization needs to do everything possible to continue strengthening your relationship with the donor. Donors sometimes stop giving to an organization after a crisis because they no longer felt connected to the organization.  Set up phone calls or video calls with them. Consider having board members reach out as well.
  2. Now may not be the best time to do a general fundraising ask. Many fundraising consultants are recommending that if you can wait on asking, you should. However, if you need emergency funding, that is another story. Also, if you were in the middle of a capital or other campaign, the need didn’t go away – so you can let people know it is still ongoing.  Each organization will need to gauge their approach based upon their typical donor pool.  Many donors are facing financial hardships, but some are also still doing well right now.
  3. You do need to let donors know how COVID-19 is impacting your organization. Is there now more need for the organization’s services?  Is the organization expecting a loss of revenue due to not being able to provide programmatic services?  Let them know what it is that you need.
  4. Deciding to cancel a fundraising event is a scary reality for many organizations. So much time and effort goes into planning an event, and often represents a significant portion of an organization’s fundraising revenue for the year.  Before you fully cancel the event, consider converting it to a virtual event!  Invite your donors to celebrate with you that day, but through a digital platform. The night of the event, people can still celebrate the mission of the organization from their homes, and you can stream content to keep them engaged and enjoy the night. They will still want to see and hear about the great programs of the organization and what you’ve accomplished with their support. Any spotlight story of a programmatic success you would have showcased during the live event, could be part of what you stream online.  Another way to continue to engage people virtually is to have your live or silent auction online.  Facebook live can be used to facilitate a live auction with donors bidding in the comments. Silent auctions can also be made available online through bidding applications or websites.  Also, consider hosting small “virtual dinner parties” where people can set up a group video chat with those they would have shared a table with at the event. For any tickets already sold to the event, don’t automatically refund the money.  Communicate to the donor about the organization’s programmatic needs and what their funds would be used for.  Some organizations are offering options to their donors who bought tickets: 1. Full refund. 2. Partial refund, 3. Donation of 100% of the ticket.  Many donors will choose to donate their ticket price.  Organizations will need to revise any donor acknowledgement letters to adjust the amount of their deductible donation if the donor decides to donate the price of their ticket.
  5. If you don’t have a social networking committee, now may be the time to create one.  This is something your volunteers can help you with while staying home. This committee can help create content for the organization and get the message on social media platforms.
  6. Create other ways to keep in touch with donors or expand awareness of the organization, by sending out suggestions for things people can do while at home. The hope would be if some suggestions are fun, they would forward along to friends who might not be aware of your organization. They may not be a donor now, but you just expanded your awareness for future potential donations.

We hope these tips provide some insights and thoughts for consideration as we all navigate COVID-19. Please reach out if we can help answer any questions.

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