10 Things Fundraisers Can Do From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 17, 2020 Adam Ruble

With the state of the world right now, your school or nonprofit has likely suspended travel. Your annual giving team may be putting off doing any outreach at the moment as well. With all of the information coming out about the novel coronavirus, people are either consumed with it or are avoiding all social media, email, etc. Many teams are realizing that an ask at this time could really be a waste of resources, and an emergency plea, unless truly needed, can be seen as opportunistic.

Here are ten things you can do instead of meeting with donors and asking for money during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Check in with your donors and see how they are doing. I was just texting with a donor last night who is worried about leaving the house and about his husband who has some major medical issues. While we might not be able to do much, we can always let these folks, who sometimes become like family, know that we will be there for them if they need help.
  2. If you are a front-line fundraiser, work with your annual giving team. The folks working in your annual giving team are likely reeling right now as they cancel content and rework their plan for the end of the fiscal year. Once they have worked through the immediate issues, this is a great time to work with them on creating content. You have connections with the people on the ground doing the work and the people funding this work, so help to connect these folks with your team to write great content for when this has all blown over.
  3. Plan your travel for the summer and fall. While you may not want to reach out to donors at the moment as dates will likely be up in the air, it is a great time to map out the routes you will be taking. You can also create lists for the key folks to reach out to and you may even want to book flights because nearly every airline is allowing very flexible booking at the moment.
  4. Work on stewardship. This is a great time to reach out to donors and thank them for supporting your organization. Perhaps an even better project to work on is writing content on the outcomes of key work that donors have supported over the last year. Especially for millenials, but across the board, showing what their gift has helped to achieve is so important for retention. This is something that can go out after the epidemic has gotten to a less scary place.
  5. Discover new prospects. This one might be a little controversial as so many will argue that taking care of your current prospect pool is top priority and many teams also have a colleague or group of folks who work on finding new prospects. However, I have personally seen all of my largest gifts come from new prospects that I have discovered and worked with from the start. Being able to identify people who will have interest in what you are working on and the capacity to help is paramount in fundraising, and it’s also very time consuming.
  6. Read a book. Yes, we as fundraisers should be taking time to read about new developments in the field and remind ourselves of the basics. Reading a book on fundraising is a great way to spend this time while we are not traveling or soliciting gifts. You could also look into webinars and other online content.
  7. For annual giving folks, this is a great time to have a Zoom or virtual meeting and brainstorm creative ideas for outreach. We rarely have time to do this type of work and now is a great time to just let the ideas flow. You could even give your colleagues some homework and ask them to think about specific projects or issues that you are trying to overcome. We all know that giving day programs take a great deal of time and being creative is the name of the game, I would suggest getting a head start on next year or even thinking about how you will retool if you have to push it back this year.
  8. Have a conversation with a mentor or mentee. While you will not likely be getting together for coffee, come up with a list of things to chat about and solicit their advice. If you’re the mentor, reach out and see how you can help.
  9. You may want to work with your communication team or your alumni relations team (for university fundraisers) to see how you can get some content online for your audience to enjoy while they are at home. Could you put a class online for free for all alumni? Maybe you could hold an online book club. Museums have been a great example for the rest of us in how to continue to engage with your audience even if they can’t visit you in person.
  10. Research your own organization or program. What is your team working on now that donors might find interesting? How is the planning for the new building going and what will the space look like, can you get blueprints? What have your researchers published in the last year? Reach out to them and see if they will send you a copy to read. This will help you be up to date when you’re back in front of donors.

This is a scary time and it’s also a time to plan for the future. No matter if you’re at a university, community center, or an arts organization, we will all be taking a hit. We can be productive from our home offices and we must be if we want to rebound quickly.

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