Fundraising through the pandemic

by Sara Lundenberger, director of nonprofit consulting | May 07, 2020 |

Consulting, Giving, Fundraising |


Normally, Giving Tuesday is held on the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving. Due to the unexpected changes caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic, Giving Tuesday Now was created to help nonprofits raise awareness and money to help support their operations now. Some nonprofits are on the front line helping with healthcare needs, the homeless, food insecurity and more. Others have had to stop programming, lay off staff and essentially close their doors for the foreseeable future. Fundraising events and appeals were postponed, and stewardship activities have become nearly impossible to complete. Essentially, the nonprofit community has had a rough few months. To help you refocus after Giving Tuesday Now, and during the uncertainty of this pandemic, here is a guide to reviewing your Giving Tuesday Now results and planning for fundraising in the future.

I participated in Giving Tuesday Now, but I don’t know if the campaign was successful.

If you haven’t maintained ongoing communication with your donors since February and decided to do a large Giving Tuesday Now push, you were probably disappointed in your results. Special campaigns like Giving Tuesday Now and the original Giving Tuesday can’t be your only strategy for fundraising.  However, when they are included as part of a larger strategic fundraising strategy, participating in these special days can help you raise awareness and money for your organization.

To determine if your Giving Tuesday Now campaign was successful, there are three primary things to looks at:

1.  Did you raise additional funds? You may have set a monetary goal or a specific number of anticipated donors. Either way, did you hit those numbers?
2.  Did you attract new donors? Online campaigns like Giving Tuesday are meant to bring new donors to your organization, not receive a donation from people that already support you. Are you noticing new names on your reports? If your consistent supporters donated, are you just moving their donations to different times of the year through a different vehicle?
3.  Did you raise awareness about your organization? This is the hardest metric to track. On a day like Giving Tuesday Now, your message might have gotten lost in the plethora of emails and Facebook posts every other nonprofit sent. You can look at how many new followers you received on your social platforms or if there was higher engagement with your messages to measure increased awareness.

Regardless of how your Giving Tuesday Now campaign went, now you need to look ahead to the next steps of your fundraising plan. You need to capitalize on increased awareness and engage your new and consistent supporters moving forward.

So, Giving Tuesday Now is over. What do I do next?

Reach out to new donors. This is a perfect time to start stewarding new donors and introducing them to your organization. If you can, call them and thank them for their gift, ask how they heard of you or why they decided to give.

Hopefully, you have been communicating with all of your donors throughout the last two months. If you haven’t been communicating consistently with your donors, start creating a plan now – or as soon as you are done reading this blog post. Your plan should include email messages (both mass email and personal emails), social posts and, in some cases, phone calls.

I haven’t had much contact with my donors since the pandemic started. What can I do now to fix that?

Run a list of your top donors and email them personally, call them or have a board member call them. Let them know what you’ve been doing since the pandemic started, how it has affected you and what the next six to nine months look like for your organization. With information changing so quickly, an 18-month plan might seem a little ambitious right now. But you can share what you hope to do when everything returns to “normal.” If they are close enough to your organization, they may be willing to help in different ways, like giving their end-of-year gift in July to help you reopen your doors.

You should also be touching base with grant funders, especially if their funding was for a program that had to stop or never even got started due to COVID-19. Most foundations are going to be flexible about the use of their funding, but you must have a conversation with them if there are any changes to your programming and the intended use of the grant money you received.

Send your spring appeal. The messaging, tone and voice might be very different than what you were planning on saying, but if we have all learned one thing in the last few months, it’s that plans change! If you are still operating, explain what you have been doing and why it’s important. If you haven’t been operating, talk about what you plan on doing when you reopen, why you are going to be a vital service and how you are changing your programming to fit social distancing guidelines and other restrictions that may arise in the coming months.

What if my event was postponed or cancelled?

Unfortunately, not every event that was scheduled for this spring or summer will be able to be rescheduled this year. I have seen some inventive ideas using remote conferencing, virtual run/walks, scavenger hunts and “non-events.” Brainstorm what will work best for your audience and employ the “no idea is a bad idea” rule. Think outside the box and get creative. Ask your board members, event committee and supporters for their opinions and advice.  Aren’t we all a little bored at home and hoping for something fun to come across our computer screens? A reimagined version of your annual fundraiser might be just what you need to get current and new donors reengaged with your nonprofit.

This pandemic has sent plans, strategies and events into a tailspin. The creation of Giving Tuesday Now shows just how much COVID-19 has impacted nonprofits and the vital services they provide to our communities. There are a lot of people that are looking to help nonprofits and local businesses right now, and one of the best things to come out of this strange time has been the generosity and philanthropic spirit that has emerged. It can be hard to shift gears, but restructuring your fundraising strategy, and using momentum built through Giving Tuesday Now, can help you raise awareness and money for your nonprofit.

By engaging your supporters, getting creative and sharing your nonprofit’s story, you can continue to raise the funds and awareness you need to come out of the pandemic strong and ready continue to serve the community. And, if you need advice on developing or altering your fundraising strategy, we are here to help. Schedule a call with us today!


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