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Donor Participation Project

How to Engage Donors When In-Person Events Aren’t Possible

The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how nonprofits engage with donors. With in-person fundraising events and meetings on hold indefinitely, organizations have had to pivot to virtual and socially-distanced options for donor stewardship and solicitation. Two nonprofit fundraisers discussing their experiences shared some insights for connecting with donors remotely:

Focus on building donor relationships.

Rather than selling your mission, work on fostering genuine connections with donors. Call or write donors to check in on them, express your gratitude for their support, and ask open-ended questions about their interests and concerns. Discuss how your work continues making an impact during this difficult time. These personal touches will strengthen donors’ emotional investment in your cause.

Host virtual events.

Consider livestreaming tours, talks, or performances that donors can enjoy from home. Promote interactive webinars where donors can engage in discussion with organizational leaders or program staff. Make events social by inviting donors to mix and mingle in virtual chat rooms. Follow up to get feedback and thank everyone for attending.

Share stories of impact.

Highlight the human faces behind your work by sharing client stories or testimonials on social media, in newsletters, and on your website. Explain how donations have allowed you to adapt services to meet critical needs during the crisis. Personal stories, photos, and videos are highly compelling. Ask long-time donors if they’d be willing to share why they support your nonprofit.

Meet donors where they are.

Don’t assume all donors are tech-savvy or social media users. Provide updates through newsletters, phone calls, and direct mail as well as email and online. For older donors, offer help signing up for and using online portals or virtual events. Make sure all communication channels have a consistent message about your mission and current initiatives.

Creativity and flexibility are key to navigating this new normal in fundraising. While technology opens opportunities to connect at a distance, nothing can replace the power of building personal relationships based on trust, empathy and shared purpose. By showing donors the human impact of their gifts, nonprofits can continue moving forward together.

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

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