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Virtual Fundraising Strategies During COVID-19 Crisis

As we continue to practice social distancing and work remotely, when and how do nonprofits continue critical fundraising activities to sustain their missions?

It helps to consider all the parts of fundraising which revolve around the donor cycle. While we are familiar with tactics to solicit donations, we can also focus on other aspects to continue developing and nurturing relationships with our donors.

The donor cycle is an ongoing process and we should never focus too much on any one area. Right now the best approach is to reach out to donors and check on them. Keep them updated with your work and share resources if you can’t provide services in person.

I’m advising my nonprofit clients to stay top of mind, reach out and be open about the new reality. This is not the time to stay quiet and worry about bothering donors. They have shown their interest by investing in your organization, they want to be updated.

When speaking with them, remember that everyone has a new reality. While your annual donors give typically from their regular income/salaries and major donors tend to give from their investments, both of these financial areas are uncertain right now.

Making desperate, repeated asks right now should be tempered with calm, measured communications that show how your organization is adjusting their fundraising strategy to continue helping their clients, students and others.

Ways to stay connected:

  1. Social Media – Since more people at staying and working from home, this is a good time to increase your social media efforts. Tell stories about your impact and talk about how COVID-19 is impacting how you deliver services.

  2. Videos – Send a message from your Executive Director, board member or longtime volunteer on the importance of your work. Tell a personal story, be relatable and bring your mission to your donors.

  3. Plan Content – Work on your ongoing messaging for the next few months. If you had a fundraising event planned, repackage it as a virtual option. If you cancel the event altogether, in lieu of receiving refunds, ask for outright contributions to cover costs. Share work from home photos and testimonials from clients and partners. Remind them that you understand the financial uncertainties around us.

  4. Collect Stories – This is an opportunity to reach out for these positive stories that are part of your ongoing social media content. Don’t forget to interview program staff and clients for their insights.

  5. Appreciate – This is the time to call, email and really connect with longtime donors to express your gratitude. Enlist staff, board members and volunteers to do a Thank You Campaign.

  6. Online Giving – Utilize Facebook or your own giving site and customize an appeal for needs around the COVID-19 situation.

  7. Team Approach – Reach out to other agencies and nonprofit leaders who do similar work. Can you partner together during these times to help the community? Share resources and encourage each other.

  8. Foundations – Research and increase your grant making efforts. There are several, new funding opportunities around the COVID-19 situation and funders are easing grant restrictions in an effort to help.

  9. Regular Mail – Consider a letter or note card as another way to keep in touch with your donors. For those who don’t utilize social media or electronic means as often, getting something in the mail can be a treat and brighten their day.

Overall, look at your previous, in person fundraising activities and repurpose in a virtual manner. For major gift officers, use Zoom, Go to Meetings, and other services to conduct visits. For special events, look at virtual auctions, online campaigns with links to give and be sure share updates and celebrate the results.

The timing on getting back to “normal” may take longer than we anticipate but ongoing contact with your supporters will ensure your donor base is still connected to your mission. They will remember and appreciate your efforts.


Michelle Crim, CFRE

Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.

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