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Nonprofit Fundraising During Coronavirus

There is no doubt that we are collectively feeling uncertainty as every routine, plan and goal we had is being put on pause or changed entirely. Many donors and corporates will be watching their spend and of course, this will impact on fundraising.
So what can we do as fundraisers to position ourselves so that we can bounce back once things are normal again?

#1: Don’t stop fundraising

When times are tough it is always important to keep doing business as usual as much as circumstances allow.

When I co-founded Redstone in 2008 little did I know that the GFC was only weeks away. It was terrifying. But we stuck to our strategy and although there wasn’t a lot of budget for marketing, we kept it up. We marketed the hell out of ourselves. We did probono work. We cold called. We did whatever it took. So from experience, I can say that it is vital that you do not stop fundraising. It will produce funds, albeit lower amounts, but more importantly it will keep you front of mind of donors.

Your non-profit needs funds now more than ever because we know there is always an increase in demand for community services when times get tough. So you need to keep raising funds in order to deliver your programs. Stick to your current (fundraising) plan as much as you can. Of course, the face-to-face meetings will drop away but try connecting using Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. One good thing that may come out of this pandemic (besides a healing planet) is people feeling more comfortable using different technologies in their daily lives.


#2: Don’t cut your fundraising budget

If at all possible, avoid cutting fundraising budget. Most companies know that cutting investment during a financial downturn is not a good idea.

The same is true for fundraising.

If possible, shift any budget you had for events or other face-to-face activities towards:

  •   Donor communications
  •   Fundraising audits
  •   Database clean ups. A deep dive into your donor data. This analysis will provide insights that you can use to drive your fundraising strategy for better results down the track.

It’s very likely that your organisation will lose donors and some big gifts during this time, so it will become very important to focus on acquiring new donors and looking at new revenue streams such as; merchandise, raffles or virtual events.

In these challenging times we will all need to be flexible and able to pivot into a new direction. If at all possible, don’t cut your fundraising budget but rather move it into new activities that suit the changing environment. We are facing difficult times and it calls for new measures.


#3: Re-look At Your Fundraising Plan

Every day the rules are changing but it looks as though we are moving to a work-at-home situation (where possible).

This may be an opportunity to find some quiet time, to re-look at your fundraising plan and refine it where you can to ensure your organisation weathers the storm and is in an even stronger position when things return to normal.

Over the past eighteen years, I have worked with many non-profits to develop strong fundraising plans and the good news is that this work can be done remotely. If you would like to talk more about working with me during this time to shore up your fundraising plan, please send me an e-mail to make a time to chat about ramping up your fundraising for the mid to long term.


#4: Keep communicating (retention)

Don’t let the pandemic stop you sending your newsletters, updates and impact reports.

Donors will want to hear from you and they will have time to read your collateral. But please whatever you do, make sure your communications are sensitive. Remain positive about the future of your non-profit but keep front of mind that many donors are feeling anxious at the moment and experiencing financial pressure.

So use this time to connect with donors on a more personal level. Share what your organisation is doing in these times and how the demand for your non-profit’s work hasn’t gone away – in fact it has probably increased.

Benefits of direct mail:

  •  Letterboxes are empty so your piece will stand out
  •  People staying at home will now have more time to read
  •  You may even engage an audience that hasn’t previously responded to direct mail
  •  You will help keep printers printing!

It’s important to keep communicating with your donors because if you stop now, it will be harder to get going once the crisis passes and if they don’t hear from you they may leave.

In your cover letter communicate how you expect these uncertain times to impact your organisation. Be transparent and open, donors will appreciate your honesty. Reiterate your vision and how you will be working hard to deliver it – and always remain positive.

By being in communication with your donors now it will help reinforce the fact that they are very important to your non-profit achieving its mission. It’s also a really good time for you to acknowledge that you understand how they might be feeling – it would be nice if they received well wishes from you in this instance. If you can continue your Direct Mail program (see section #5) include a handwritten “well wishes” note or a bounce back so donors can write back to you – this may be useful in helping reduce their feelings of loneliness and isolation.


#5: To ask or not to ask

We all understand that it is important to be thoughtful and sensitive in all donor communications but this does not mean that you can’t ‘ask.’

HOWEVER, the tone and content should acknowledge the current challenging times and reflect the general sentiment.

Start your letter as though you are writing to a friend. Write from the heart.

Express your concern for their health and wellbeing. Take this time to share with them how your organisation is operating through this time – they will be interested and appreciate you taking the time to include them. Be honest. Explain that their support is still needed and it’s ok to ask for a specific amount but don’t apply aggressive or overtly tactical approaches to your ask ladder. Your donors are under financial strain and we need to respect this.

Be mindful of the fact that donors may give less but this is ok because it shows that they are still engaged and wanting to continue to support your cause.

Be honest, be thoughtful, but continue to ask.


#6: 8 Fundraising tactics to keep you strong

1. If you don’t have a Welcome pack yet for one-off donors – invest in one. They will have a 24-month shelf-life, so they are a very cost-effective investment. They welcome new donors into your cause and they are the starting point for a long-term relationship. (Contact us if you would like to see some successful examples).

2. Invest time and resources into donor analysis to extract information that will inform and drive your fundraising. 

3. Update your fundraising plan – supercharge it for better future positioning and then stick to it!

4. Change your major donor meetings to online meetings. Use skype or Zoom to still meet ‘face-to-face’.

5. Conduct a fundraising audit to maximise your fundraising efforts in FY21 by streamlining your processes to save time, money and resources.

6. Donor surveys – what better time to hear from your donors. They have time and their insights are invaluable. Design your survey to identify potential bequests and regular donors now so that you can convert them later.

7. Develop a Bequest Conversion pack. Use this time to develop a pack to send to ‘requests for bequest info’ and to your potential bequest donor segment that you have identified as a result of the above donor analysis. This pack will help move donors through the bequest pipeline.

8. Create or rewrite or revisit your Donor Journey plan. (If you don’t have one, you can request our much loved doc here to help get you started or just give us a call).

Redstone can help you with them all (except #4)


#7: Supercharge your fundraising skills with online training

We’ll all have a bit of extra time over the coming weeks and months so it might be a great opportunity to add to your fundraising skills so that you are more than ready to hit the ground running when we are back to normal.

Here are a couple of suggestions:


#8: Stay in touch (by phone or email!)

Remember, you’re doing great work and it will pay off.

Stay focused on fundraising and continue to follow your (revised) fundraising plan as much as possible. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The team is here, albeit remotely, and we are happy to continue sharing fundraising ideas with you so that we are all ready to move forward once these strange days have passed …