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Donor Participation Project

Nonprofit Fundraisers Discuss Challenges of Raising Money During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has created many hardships for nonprofit organizations that rely on fundraising events and in-person donor meetings. During a recent discussion, two nonprofit fundraisers shared innovative ways they are overcoming these challenges.

Ali Evans, Director of Development at the Voice Thompson Institute, explained that her organization had to cancel their biggest annual fundraiser, a golf outing. “We’re trying to make how do you nicely say, yes, we’ll take your child and we’ll care for them but you need to, you know, do fundraising and help us do this,” she said. To make up for lost revenue, the Institute is focusing on building personal relationships with key donors through phone calls and letters.

Joan Smith, Director of Development at Little City, said her organization relies heavily on in-person events as well. When those had to be canceled, Little City turned to virtual events and webinars to engage donors, though she acknowledges virtual events don’t work for all donors, especially older ones. “I have donors say don’t mention COVID. I’m sick of it,” Smith said.

Both fundraisers emphasized the importance of donor stewardship during this difficult time. Evans noted that she has been helping donors with daily tasks like signing up for COVID-19 vaccines, which helps cement her organization’s relationship with donors. Smith has sent donors handmade masks with the Little City logo as a way to show the organization cares for the community.

While raising money during a pandemic is challenging, Evans and Smith prove that nonprofit fundraisers can succeed through creative thinking, digital outreach, and a focus on donor relationships. Fundraisers should segment their donor base, determine how different groups prefer to be engaged, and find ways to provide value to donors even when in-person events aren’t possible. A little bit of humanity and empathy can go a long way. Overall, nonprofit fundraisers must adapt quickly to keep their missions, and funding, alive during this crisis.

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

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