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August 9, 2020 Wiley Stinnett

Now that we are a few months into this global pandemic, what have we learned about its impact on fundraising and what’s on the horizon—especially with the upcoming election?

So far, we’ve learned that the impact of COVID-19 is a process, not an event. We are dealing with a situation that seems to be changing daily and will likely be impacting donors and your fundraising activities for a long time. And, right now, donors are experiencing a wide variety of emotions—pessimism, optimism, fear, hope . . . the list goes on. But what they’re looking for the most is a sense of normalcy—a feeling that something in this crazy situation is familiar and makes them feel in control.

That’s where you come in. Your donors gave originally because they felt your mission was important—and they still do! And their ability to make a difference in the world is something they can still control through their gifts to you.

But in the midst of all the hype and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, another huge distraction is lurking with an insatiable competition for your donors’ attention and their gifts.

It’s the 2020 presidential election.

While the upcoming election has been almost totally eclipsed by the pandemic in the media, it will definitely find a way to compete for relevance and attention in the months to come.

However, studies of past presidential elections show that the election itself has not impacted individual giving. But how do you make sure your donors continue to support your cause, especially at a time like this with everything else going on?

Here are a couple of steps you can take to help carry your organization though these uncertain times and keep the funding you need coming in:

  1. Create clear offers. Now, more than ever, you need to be really clear with what you are asking so your donors understand how their gifts will have an impact in fulfilling the cause they chose to support.
  2. Use as many channels of communication as you can. Multi-channel communications are key. While traditional large events and other personal direct contact with donors will not likely be an option in your fundraising efforts in the near future, a multi-channel approach to donor communications—including calling, mailing, and emailing—are highly effective ways of letting donors know their gifts can still make a difference, and their support is still needed.
    • Call as many of your donors as possible. Check in on your donors to find out how they are faring, if there is anything you can do for them, and let them know that the work you share still has impact while also highlighting any specific actions you’re taking relating to the pandemic.
    • Direct mail is not showing any sign of weakening. In this environment, following ALL the best practices of direct mail fundraising is especially critical right now. People still give to make good things happen or stop bad things from happening. And your fundraising communications need to focus on what their gift will make possible and why you need their gift now.
    • Email and social communication provide the opportunity to get your message to your donors quickly. Digital updates will give your donors an opportunity to find out how your organization is responding, adapting, and adjusting in the ever-changing circumstances. They also provide another way for your donors to give now.

These are challenging times for fundraising, but there are many opportunities and new tactics you can try. You have to be even more diligent in your direct response communications and adjust quickly based on what you’ve learned. What you do has never been more important . . . and neither this pandemic nor the presidential election will change that!

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