Fundraising in a Global Pandemic

Today I turn my attention to a topic I know nothing about!  Namely, How does one go about raising money in the middle of a global pandemic? 

A quick internet search reveals that many thousands have already expounded on this topic in print, via audio, and on video.  What more can be said?  Let’s see.

Ask a Hard Question

First, ask yourself a hard question:  “Is this a time when people in my constituency will be more or less inclined to support our mission?”

If you’re a nonprofit dedicated to bringing help to people anywhere in the world through the delivery of healthcare services, or some other effort which will be worsened by the pandemic, you probably have a leg up.  Even in difficult times people are moved by the plight of others, who may be worse off than themselves.  They’ll want to support worthy organizations that are serving people who need help urgently.

But to ensure I comment on the obvious, with 22 million people (and counting at this date) having applied for unemployment benefits across America, there’s at least a few less able donors than there were four months ago.  Not less willing perhaps, but less able.  Don’t be surprised if you see a fall-off in revenue, no matter what kind of organization you are. But the prospect of raising less money does not mean you should not bother to try.

If on the other hand you are an organization that doesn’t have a critical role to play in addressing issues related to the pandemic, chances are your appeals during this time are going to fall on deaf ears.  Sure, you’ll have some ongoing support from core donors, if for no other reason than that they are committed to ensuring you’re around after the pandemic, and will want to help pay your basic expenses.  But now is not, quite obviously, a time to expand your work or start a new program.  You’re probably best off communicating how you are faring as a result of the pandemic.  Just make sure your message stream acknowledges that this time is difficult for everyone, including your donors.

Get Accurate Information 

Second, if you do believe your cause is worthy of support during this time, get accurate information about what is happening.  If you’re raising money for work directly related to the pandemic, make sure you get quotes, stories, photographs and videos from people affected by, or who are addressing matters related to, the pandemic.

One of our clients which delivers healthcare and development services to the poor in North India is facing the challenges of food scarcity among the population it serves.  While few of their patients have as yet presented symptoms of the virus, they are preparing for an expected influx in the coming weeks.  The story is one of thoughtful preparation and stockpiling of materials and equipment needed to address the impending crisis.

Increase Frequency

Third, heighten your frequency of communication, assuming you have something to say.  If your typical rhythm is monthly for outbound communications via print and electronic means, ratchet it up to once a weekDon’t recycle the same messages, but if you’ve got new news, get it out.  If you use your social media platforms two to three times per week, you can probably accelerate your posting frequency to five times a week.  This is also a time to build your constituency, so be sure to encourage people to follow you on social media and collect new contact information and add it to your existing database.

Look for New Opportunities

Fourth, look for new opportunities to get your message out.  Every news outlet is interested in stories that have unique angles related to Covid-19.  Certainly there is some reader fatigue growing as day after day the news hole is filled with Covid information.  But if your story presents a slightly different take on this global battle, don’t be afraid to ask television, radio, web, or print outlets to feature what you are doing.  You need to take the time to write a clear, crisp, compelling article on your activities, but you might just be surprised as to how it gets picked up.  Make yourself available to radio stations for interviews.  Pull together a bio of you and your organization and share it, offering suggestions on the focus of an interview with you.  You should even provide the questions.  Make the work easy for your host.

More could be said, but if you apply yourself diligently during this time, it could be useful in furthering the impact of your organization.

Robb Hansen is president of Next Level Insights, a Chicago area nonprofit fundraising consulting firm.  Next Level provides strategy and execution for organizations seeking to improve their effectiveness in communicating their mission and developing donor support.

©2020 Robb Hansen.  All rights reserved.  This material may be freely disseminated without specific permission of the author so long as it is used in its entirety, including the attribution paragraph at the conclusion of the article.

Next Level Insights provides support and guidance for nonprofits wishing to boost their communication stream.  Contact us today for assistance in timely and consistent execution of e-newsletters, social media messaging, and direct mail.