Adjusting Nonprofit Fundraising Practices During COVID-19 Pandemic

Since the start of the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, nonprofit organizations have had to rethink not only their usual in-person methods of fundraising, but direct attention toward the effectiveness and messaging of online, virtual fundraising.

** LEGAL UPDATE **

Since the start of the COVID-19 or coronavirus pandemic in early 2020, nonprofit organizations have had to rethink not only their usual in-person methods of fundraising, but direct their attention toward the effectiveness and messaging of online, virtual fundraising.

The statistics are coming in, and the news isn't all bad. Charitable giving actually increased by 1.2% in the twelve months leading up to June 2020. However, this level of success is ascribed in part to existing momentum from earlier-planned springtime events (April being the highest-revenue month by far).

However, the rise also reflects some nonprofits' ability to harness the power of online giving. According to sources at Blackbaud, online giving increased by a whopping 82.5%.in the past seven months. (This means fundraising via email, social networks, your organization's website, and peer-to-peer fundraising, or crowdfunding.)

Now is therefore the time to examine where your organization's online practices might need adjusting. For example:

  • Is your website fresh and up to date? Ideally, your organization's home page should reference what you're doing in the light of current issues (or disasters), so that you don't appear out of touch compared to readers' daily lived experience. Also, does your website make donating easy, with particular encouragement toward monthly donations? (See next bullet point).
  • Are you promoting monthly, sustainer giving? With methods of donor outreach currently limited, being able to count on some gifts is more important than ever.
  • Are you thinking creatively about peer-to-peer fundraising possibilities? By offering interested supporters a way to reach out to small groups of friends, neighbors, or coworkers, for instance for a socially distanced mini-bike-a-thon, you can promote support in the real world. People are hungry for a meaningful alternative to Zoom meetings.
  • Have you tried an online auction? Online shopping is on practically everyone's radar screen, with retail shopping not always possible or safe. The fact that it supports a nonprofit offers an added excuse to buy.
  • Have you combed through your email list? A long list of donors' email addresses does your organization no good if few people are opening them. In fact, it could end up harming your organization's reputation with the email providers who decide whether you're sending spam. That's especially true if you're mailing to addresses that are so old that they've been claimed by users who aren't your original contacts, who actually mark your emails as "Spam." Check into who's not opening your emails, and ideally send a message asking whether they'd like to continue to hear from you. For those people who never open your emails or reply, simply take them off your list.

This is a stressful time for everyone: nonprofit fundraising staff, their clients, and their donors. But community interest is still there. With creativity and a willingness to try something new, nonprofits are finding strategies that might even be worth keeping for the long term.

Effective Date: September 15, 2020