When coronavirus forced us all into our homes and onto Zoom, fundraisers went into crisis mode — revising budgets; communication changes; reaching out to donors to check on them. As the days turned into weeks, events became virtual; Giving Tuesday was held in May; and, The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that the percentage of Americans giving to charity dropped to 73%, an all time low. Whether you are raising money for a food bank or a museum, your needs – and your goals – have changed, as have the things you can do to address them. You had to toss out the plan that looked so good in January and add to the one you threw together in March. Things are not back to normal, and you don’t know when (or if) they will be. So, what now?

Do these unusual times call for unusual measures? Maybe. I’d be lying if I said I know for certain. But, what I do know is that they definitely call for the basics, which now more than ever, are the basis for fundraising success.

  1. Your best prospects have already given to you. Now is not the best time to attract new supporters to your mission, but it is a great time to deepen the engagement of those who have already contributed to it. Mine your database for donors you haven’t had time to connect with and reach out to them. You won’t regret it.
  2. Stewardship is the best cultivation. When you reach out to donors to thank them, you are providing them the opportunity to learn more about how their generosity is making a difference and giving yourself an opportunity to learn more about their priorities. Stewardship both strengthens your relationship and helps you – and the donor – discover how ou can meet your goals together.
  3. Your mission is more important to donors than your needs. When the economy suffers, most donors continue to give, but not to fewer organizations. They focus on the organizations they care about the most. If your mission does not inspire them, it does not matter how important the work you are doing is. Make sure your communications are mission-focused so they are reminded that your goals are the same as theirs.
  4. Giving is not rational. Donors respond to how a situation makes them feel. When they see the desperation on a disaster victim’s face or the joy of a child who has been adopted out of foster care, they are not thinking about what the return on their investment will be. Instead, they are responding to an opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life. Emotion – not data – lead to giving.
  5. Stories are better than information. There is no better way to talk about your mission, engage donors, show them how their generosity is making a difference, and stir emotions than by sharing a story. Focus on one person instead of all the people you serve; show how his life has been impacted by your mission; and, make the donor the hero.
  6. You have to ask. Even if the donor supports your mission and is moved by the stories you share, you still have to ask them to work with you to create the change they care about. If you don’t, you can’t be surprised (or disappointed) when they give to those organizations that do.

None of us knows how this crisis is going to play out, but I do know that if you focus on building relationships and telling stories about your mission in action, then you will stir emotions and inspire donors to create the change our communities need.


Capstone Advancement Partners is happy to offer our followers one free coronavirus consulting session! Email us at consultants@capstoneadvancementpartners.com to schedule a time to discuss any of your strategic fundraising needs.

About the Author

Photo of Brigitte Peck

Brigitte Roufail Peck is a true believer in philanthropy’s ability to transform the world. As the principal at Capstone Advancement Partners, she helps nonprofit clients build relationships, tell stories, and transform communities one donor’s dream at a time.