Fundraising in the Time of Coronavirus | Impact of COVID-19 on Fundraising

The second post in our blog series to help your organization navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Fundraising

Asking for money when people are busy dealing with the impact of COVID-19 is a tough beat.  However, we must be careful not to make assumptions about how your donors will respond – you may be pleasantly surprised.

Here are some considerations:

  • What are your fundraising needs during this crisis? Do you have valid needs that people might want to give to? This is where a temporary program pivot can increase your organization’s relevance and fundability.
  • Don’t assume donors won’t give. Many won’t give as they are consumed by their own situation, but some will. They may have money available via donor advised funds, such as the Jewish Community Foundation, or they are in businesses that are doing well during the pandemic, such as medical supplies.
  • The key to unlocking donor support is the rationale of the need presented. E.g. a library can host an online Coffee Hour for its elderly members who are not able to go out of the home currently.
  • Consider launching a mini-campaign to provide emergency funds. This approach is especially effective if you have pivoted to provide programming that meets people’s immediate needs. E.g. a drop in rental income for a synagogue adding budget pressure can be a pressing fundraising need IF the Synagogue is also providing important support to its members.
  • If you have existing pledges, evaluate your cash flow needs and allow donors to defer pledge payments if your programming is suspended during the pandemic and you can afford to defer payments. This will depend on how easy it is to cut program costs. Many people’s income has taken a hit as well as their personal savings due to the market drops.

Major Fundraising Campaigns

It is a difficult time for NPOs to make decisions about major fundraising campaigns. How you decide to proceed depends in large part where you’re at in the campaign. We recommend:

  • Planning phase: continue with planning work; delay the launch date; lengthen the timeline; delay the recruitment of volunteers and the solicitation of lead gifts.
  • Quiet phase: continue building lead donor and volunteer relationships but hold off on making any asks; lengthen the campaign timeline; and evaluate the campaign goal.
  • Public phase: reassure your committed donors and allow them to defer pledge payment dates; lengthen the campaign timeline; postpone public phase fundraising for lower level gifts; and evaluate the campaign goal.
  • Campaign close/groundbreaking: postpone closing celebrations; reach out to all committed donors to reassure them and inform them of decisions and progress on a regular basis.

The strategies that are determined for the campaign should be evaluated every month as the situation continues to evolve.

The key message is to communicate with your donors and prospective donors and support them through this difficult time. Use this opportunity to build stronger relationships so that when the situation normalises and they are ready to give again, your organization will be well poised to secure their future support.

Stay safe.

Written by Camilla Leigh, Partner, Philanthropica