fundraising heart

We are living in strange, stressful and difficult times. Globally we are dealing with a pandemic that is deeply impacting people’s day to day lives and an economic recession is on the horizon. Chances are you might be working from home and that your nonprofit is having to rethink how it offers programs and services. Amidst this need to rapidly respond to what’s unfolding with COVID-19, you might be trying to figure out how to keep your fundraising program going. Donor communications during a crisis are a key component of steadying the ship while we all wait for things to stabilize.

Why Communication?

Your donors, whether they have only recently given their first donation or have been giving for over a decade, have a lot on their minds right now. Giving is probably not a top priority for them. Similarly, giving them updates that ignore the context of what’s happening around the world will seem tone deaf and unimportant. But, sending donors periodic, relevant communications that draw on our current context can keep the relationships going.

Start with the Essentials

There may be some essential communication you need to send donors about events and building access. To start, take a look at your calendar to see what kind of events donors might be attending and work with your team to make a decision about the fate of your event. Nonprofit Marketing Guide recently published some useful tips for event communications during COVID-19. You may find canceling events especially necessary during the time of social distancing and to protect the health of older donors.

If your nonprofit has a community space or is a community center, you are likely having to make some tough decisions right now about your programming and hours of operation. Once you’ve made decisions about these aspects of your operations, you’ll need to communicate the changes to your donors as well as your broader community.

Beyond the Essentials, Be Useful

During these uncertain times, your donor communications should focus on being useful and informative. As a nonprofit you have a platform to communicate important and accurate health information. You can use your donor communication channels to provide donors with useful information to navigate an ever changing situation. For example, you could share information about local testing options, health care support, or even mental health support. Connect with other local nonprofits who may have services your donors could benefit from. In this way you act like a concierge during the crisis.

As you think about what to send to donors, think about what might be happening in their day to day life right now. Many people are working from (some for the first time ever), schools are closed and child care may not be available, and generally people are going out less and less. All of this means that your donors are probably spending a lot more time at home. Can you offer them tips or advice for these scenarios? Maybe you send an email update with tips from your staff members about how they are making the most of working from home. Maybe you share ideas for at home activities for kids to keep everyone from going stir crazy.

There are many useful content ideas that can allow your nonprofit to stay in touch with donors and keep the relationships going. Most of all, be thoughtful and mindful with every communication you send. Seek to add value to your donors’ lives, not add to the chaos of their current situation.

Vanessa Chase
Vanessa Chase is President of TheStorytellingNonprofit.com and co-founder of Stewardship School. Her goal is to help nonprofits connect in more meaningful ways with donors through stories and stewardship. She works with nonprofits throughout North America—including BC Children’s Hospital Foundation, Union Gospel Mission, and Cancer Care Connection—and is an internationally recognized speaker. Vanessa is also the Board Chair of Women Against Violence Against Women.
Vanessa Chase