local fundraising

Here we are all living in the new normal that is the COVID-19 pandemic. Most organizations are worried about or are already struggling financially in the wake of COVID-19. The looming economic recession will impact individual donors’ finances and larger funders may reprioritize where they give grants in the next 6 to 12 months. For organizations not doing health or human services work, it may feel like an impossible time for local fundraising, though the Truckee Donner Land Trust proves otherwise. 

Many nonprofits have had experience raising money during natural disasters. This kind of crisis fundraising lends itself well to direct response fundraising. It has an innate urgency that spurs donors to give. But if your organization is trying to fundraise during this crisis, the typical crisis fundraising playbook may not work. Instead, nonprofits need to focus on building a compelling theory of change that goes beyond, “it’s a crisis, give us money to deal with said crisis.”

The fact is that right now, nearly every organization could fundraise on the back of the crisis, increasing competition for donor dollars and attention. One trend that transcends the nonprofit sector that has come shining through during the COVID-19 pandemic is the trend towards supporting local community. People are interested in helping their neighbors and those who live nearby. Local nonprofit organizations have an advantage in this landscape because they are already helping the local community. It’s just a matter of translating what you do into a clear and compelling appeal.

In order to create a compelling appeal for your fundraising initiative you must 1) know your target donor well enough to know what will appeal to them and 2)  clearly articulate how your organization is uniquely positioned to help your community. 

Let’s look at a few examples.  

Interfaith Outreach

What this email does well is give specific examples of how donations will help people in the local area. They give three examples by bullet point that serve as an ask array in the email. From a readability perspective, this is great for email because it’s easy to see and easy to skim. 

One of the things that could be improved in this email is paring down the quantity of asks and information shared. In addition to making a financial ask, there’s an ask to volunteer and information about connecting someone in need to the organization. These are both important pieces of information, however they water down the power of the fundraising ask. For email, always think “one email, one ask.” If this means having to send multiple emails over the course of a week or two, that’s okay. 

Jewish Family & Children’s Service Boston

The conciseness of the email works well. It gets to the point quickly, makes an ask, and builds a case. The case this email makes is for the need to rapidly expand local services for the next three months and they outline exactly how they plan to do that. They also remind us that they have been doing this work locally for many years (AKA they are an established, trustworthy organization). 

The power of local fundraising is an advantage in this current climate. Utilize this angle in your upcoming fundraising appeals as a way to show donors new ways they can support their neighbors in need. 

If you are looking for more examples of COVID-19 appeals and communications, check out these public folders from Lori Jacobwith and Julia Campbell

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.