jar with money flowing in and graphics of virus

Covid-19: 5 Fundraising Takeaways (so far) 5 Months into a Pandemic

It’s five months into the global Covid-19 pandemic, and it feels like five years — especially if you’re a digital fundraiser worried about a recession that seemingly has no end in sight. With year-end planning already in full-swing, you might be wondering what this giving season has in store. Here’s what we can tell you today as we look ahead to year-end giving and beyond.

Here are our five take-aways after five months in quarantine:

1. Small gifts are up, large gifts are down

According to the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) First Quarter 2020 Fundraising Effectiveness Project Quarterly Fundraising Report™, gifts under $250 are up by 1.8% in the first quarter; gifts between $250 and $999 are down by 2.2%, and gifts of $1,000 are down by nearly 17%!  Perhaps donors who previously gave at high levels are donating less or not at all amid economic uncertainty. Maybe temporary changes to the tax code are encouraging smaller gifts since people who don’t itemize can now deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions in 2020. Perhaps more would-be first quarter one-time donors have shifted to monthly giving, as giving trends indicate an uptick of sustaining gifts between 2018 and 2019.

2. Digital events are here to stay 

Yes, it’s daunting to turn your annual Gala into a digital fundraiser — even more so if you’re trying to raise the same funds you would with an in-person event. (Remember those?). But like it or not, coordinated digital events are going to be a part of your stewardship, engagement, and solicitation strategy through 2020 … and likely 2021, too. For many nonprofits, this means flexing an organizational muscle they may not have thought they had. So work out that muscle! Consider more frequent Facebook Live events to get your ‘doers’ practice at running online forums, while your program staff sharpens their presentation skills in front of a live audience. This will prep your team to run more frequent, targeted digital events and engagements during 2020 and 2021. These live-digital strategies were always an ideal format to cultivate and eventually upgrade your mid-level giving cohort. Getting your team stronger in this area could be one of many silver linings in the post-pandemic world.

3. People who are giving to you right now are amazing

Anyone who chooses to make a gift to your mission right now might be one of the most amazing humans ever. Remember to speak to them accordingly! Consider the many causes demanding our attention right now, on top of the economic strain and uncertainty that we’re all experiencing. And yet, the donor chose YOUR mission. Nonprofits should be sure to tailor the subsequent stewardship and solicitation strategy, for both the multi-year-and-now-also-COVID-era donor as well as the first-year-and-also-COVID-era donor.

4. Some people just can’t be as amazing (to YOU) as they once were

The unfortunate reality is that the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic will cause retention rates to fall, make donor acquisition more difficult and expensive, and potentially force your nonprofit to make difficult choices around program delivery and services. Your donors and potential donors are hurting and fearful but still as generous as they are able to be. Don’t forget you’re playing the long-game and thinking of donor lifetime value. Deepen your relationship with your lapsed donors now and plan to renew them at a later date. In the meantime, consider less aggressive ask strings and an even more refined case for support that acknowledges how the donor feels about your mission right now.

5. Speaking of less aggressive ask strings… let’s talk monthly giving

Building a monthly giving program takes time. And organizations that have been expanding their sustainer programs over the last few years will likely sustain that revenue through the pandemic…thankfully. Organizations that still need to develop their monthly giving programs should do so ASAP. The propensity of donors to give monthly has increased significantly over the last decade, and especially in recent years, with the advent of streaming subscription services such as Netflix and Amazon. Monthly giving is a great way for donors to give on a budget and provide your mission with the predictable revenue it needs to grow.

Finally, don’t be bashful about asking for money, even now. Your organization’s mission is no less important than it was five months ago. So make your case! State the needs, celebrate your donors, raise crucial funds, and make a DIFFERENCE.

We’re sure to have more about fundraising, nonprofits, generosity, and kindness in the months ahead, so be on the lookout, and don’t hesitate to reach out for a conversation on Twitter or LinkedIn.


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