April 23, 2020 Douglas Shaw & Associates

Over the past few weeks, we have been asked over and over how COVID-19 will impact nonprofit fundraising. The truth is . . . we don’t know for certain. However, if we apply our learnings from previous major crisis situations, what we can confidently say is this:

Direct response fundraising will help you get through this!

Under the current set of circumstances, your organization will likely be impacted by situations like . . .

  • Direct contact opportunities that require face-to-face interaction are no longer options, e.g. group events, major donor visits, face-to-face marketing, etc.
  • The dramatic fall in the stock market that may have resulted in major donors delaying, reducing, or even stopping their otherwise generous giving.

However, your donors still care about helping the people you serve—together. They have supported you in the past and will continue to support you now. Historically, donors have given more in times of crisis but to fewer organizations. So, it’s vital that you continue to keep your message in front of them through multiple channels, especially now.

So here’s the truth: your direct response income will help get you through this crisis!

Wondering what you should do, or not do, to keep your donor’s attention during the coronavirus? Here are four ways you can stay present and engaged:

1. DO – Call your donors—especially the major donors—to show them you care. Spend time understanding their specific situation, and let them decide how they can help during these challenging times. And if you can’t call them, send them a voice broadcast message, text messages, or host a donor conference call. The goal is to stay in contact with them through these tough times and show them you care.

2. DO – Continue to send direct response fundraising efforts—both print and digital, but be certain your message acknowledges the uncertain times we are currently living in. And don’t forget to ask for their continued support.

3. DO – Create a full digital communications plan. Emailing your supporters at least 3-4 times per week and posting on your social channels daily shows your donors you are still operating, still offering hope, and still in need of their support.

4. DON’T – Cut your fundraising efforts to save money. History has taught us that short-term reductions in direct response fundraising (especially acquisition efforts!) not only hurt the organization’s revenue upfront, but it negatively impacts revenue for many years to come. Don’t stop your direct mail acquisition efforts! Your organization exists for a purpose, and your needs are still very real. Your donors not only need to hear more frequently from you during times of crisis, they want to because they care about your mission as much today as they did yesterday. Remember, your income and response will be zero if you don’t communicate your needs and give your donors the opportunity to give.

Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that this pandemic will come to end. And direct response fundraising and the continued acquisition of new donors today will help get you through and position your organization for years to come.


Our team is happy to help advise you on what strategy may work best for your organization. Please contact us today to get the conversation started.

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