March 31, 2020

Fundraising Priorities in a time of Crisis

Given the turbulent state of our world, there’s no shortage of overwhelm amongst the nonprofit community. Development teams, especially, are faced with the challenge of maintaining some level of stasis in a time of social, political, and economic uncertainty.  

With so much chaos around us, where should a fundraising team begin?

TW&B President Don Souhrada and Senior Vice President Amy Funk held a roundtable conversation with over 25 nonprofit members of the Chicago Literacy Alliance to discuss fundraising strategy and priorities in our current time of crisis. Here are the answers to some of their most frequently asked questions. The full recording and a downloadable deck can be accessed below.

Where should development associates and fundraisers be putting most of their energy? 

  • Let your community know what’s happening and why your case is STILL important.
  • Keep your donors, patrons, and volunteers informed and aware. They have a stake in your organization and your response to the crisis.
  • Communicate your organization's impact in the larger community and how the usual outcomes are being altered in these uncertain times. Keeping them up to date maintains trust and equips them to be your advocates in the community.
  • Use a variety of tools—not just words—to share your impact. Infographics, stories, photos, and videos can all be effective ways to showcase your mission.

What are the ways that development teams can communicate with donors to help reassure them that they should still invest in their nonprofit despite the current pandemic?
  • Remember that donors may be re-assessing their charity – you want to be front of mind and heart. 
  • Now more than ever, help your donors stay connected – literally and virtually. Relationships and a sense of community are especially important as people isolate themselves for the duration of this crisis. 
  • Be creative about alternative program delivery. Think about options this digital age makes available, e.g. virtual performances, online training, behind the scenes tours on YouTube, and "condensed" events.

What advice do you have for organizations that have had to postpone or re-envision their fundraising events?

  • Decide on a case by case basis – and communicate
  • Do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether upcoming events should be postponed, held remotely, or canceled entirely
  • Review contracts with vendors and review (or purchase) insurance policies for all of your scheduled events.
  • If you do decide to do a virtual event, our clients have found:
    • Get your board involved—their participation is the most important factor
    • Engage on social media through activities and boosted posts
    • Utilize an online platform for all your auctions/bids/communication
    • Be sure to get good contact information from your participants
    • Let people know what the schedule of events is and have it culminate in a large scale fundraiser, such as a virtual paddle raise
    • Keep reporting results in real-time

Is there any advice you have for post-crisis corporate fundraising or stewardship strategies?

  • Board members are key
  • Nonprofits ARE still getting corporate gifts, even event sponsorships
  • As in other fundraising climates, these are board-driven
  • New gifts are unlikely–focus on stewarding and renewing existing relationships
  • Unless you have a board member or large donor as your contact, corporate giving is not a good investment of your time

How do you think this will impact foundation giving? 

  • Stewardship and retention are critical
  • Foundations will likely focus their energy on their core grantees
  • Keep in communication with your existing grantors about your organization so you are top of mind
  • Reach out to them if you need to redirect previously restricted funds to help with COVID-19 response
  • Funders will keep funding arts, education, etc. – those priorities still matter to the community
  • For now, emergency funding is limited to organizations providing immediate, front line services 

When will we get through this?

  • Eventually, this will also pass. (Although we don't know when!)
  • It can be easy to panic and focus on the short term, but taking a more strategic approach usually pays off.
  • Focus on maintaining and building relationships with all of your donors. You will need their support when we’re on the other side of this pandemic. And some may be inclined to increase their giving as they see how you relate to them now.
  • Take this opportunity to reach out and keep them informed. After days of social distancing, they just may be ready to welcome your personal phone call.
  • Keep it personal--handwritten notes, phone calls, personalized emails always matter, but even more so when we face difficulties.
  • And remember we’re all in this together. It’s not just your organization dealing with this pandemic—your donors are, too.



Written by

TWB Fundraising

Let’s explore moving forward together. Our approachable working style combined with decades of specialized experience keeps our clients thriving.


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