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Donor Participation Project

Challenging Fundraising During a Pandemic and Economic Uncertainty

The COVID-19 pandemic has created tremendous challenges for nonprofit fundraisers. With economic uncertainty and market volatility, donors may be more reluctant to give or unable to give at the same level as before. However, nonprofit missions remain as important as ever during this crisis. Fundraisers must adapt to continue serving their organizations and communities.

According to fundraisers on a recent podcast, transitioning donors from annual fund to major gifts and diversifying donor portfolios are more critical now to mitigate risk. Some donors who usually give smaller annual fund gifts may step up to major gifts as their passion for the mission intensifies during difficult times. Fundraisers should not make assumptions based on past giving but have genuine conversations with donors about what they care about and how they want to help.

Engaging lapsed and “lukewarm” donors also presents an opportunity.

These donors gave previously and likely still believe in the mission. Fundraisers should reach out, thank them for their past support, and start a dialogue about their favorite memories of the organization or what initially inspired them to give. Solving any past problems or complaints can rekindle their support. With a revived relationship, they may give again or even become brand advocates.


Larger nonprofits may struggle with “silos” that prevent collaboration, but partnership opportunities abound. Some fundraisers discussed connecting centers or departments that never worked together, as well as developing interdisciplinary partnerships across schools or units. These new alliances can open up funding from new sources.

Development teams

During this crisis, nonprofit leaders must provide support and understanding to their development teams. Some fundraisers expressed frustration with leadership that cared more about metrics than relationships or did not grasp the challenges of the current environment. With decreased donor engagement and giving, fundraisers need leaders who will defend them to their boards and give them space to rebuild their pipelines.

Overall, nonprofit fundraisers must remain flexible, creative, and focused on relationships to overcome today’s obstacles. By trying new approaches, forging internal partnerships, and re-engaging lapsed donors, they can continue their missions despite the chaos around them. With time and work, fundraising success will return. But for now, adaptation and resilience are key.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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