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21 Tips for Post-COVID-19 Fundraising

21 Tips for Post-COVID-19 Fundraising

Mary, the Executive Director of her community food bank, remembered the challenge that was 2020:

  • No face-to-face personal meetings with donors. Check.
  • No in-person galas, 5K runs, or live auctions. Virtual events only. Check.
  • Increase social media presence on all platforms. Check.
  • Send more notes. Make more phone calls. Schedule countless Zoom meetings. Check. Check. Check.

And Mary’s kind, compassionate monthly and major donors responded generously. They were committed to helping supply food to people who found themselves in desperate need and living in survival mode. The donors rose to the challenge because they cared about helping people in a year of crisis.

But there were surprisingly few new donors. And because no live events could be planned, Mary tried new online approaches. Some worked. Some didn’t. She engaged her committed board members to reach out even more than normal to engage more people and work with other community-based organizations.

It just wasn’t enough. Thankfully she knew how to allocate available funds creatively. Thankfully there were adequate savings to help people. The food bank continued on its mission. Barely.

And now, May 2021. Millions of vaccines are administered daily. Health and hope are on the horizon.

Collective big sigh of relief.

Now what? How do nonprofits like Mary’s food bank, and organizations like yours, rebound and thrive in a post-COVID-19 world?

In honor of 2021, here are 21 ways to help you thrive this year and be stronger than ever.

[Related: Dreaming Big and Investing Wisely Can Change Your Life and Career]

1) Remain calm.

Believe that it will be okay as you relaunch with renewed passion. Realize that you can find opportunities during challenges.

2) Keep your board active and engaged.

Ask them to create and implement a long-term strategic plan. There is no viable option not to plan.

3) Review.

What did you do well during COVID-19? Weave those proven methods into your strategic plan.

4) Be encouraged that you survived the challenges.

Consider how to nurture the sustainability aspect of your organization. How do you plan to be thriving within the next five years?

5) How many people did you continue to help?

Realize those numbers represent individuals and families who were positively impacted because you persevered.

6) Who continued to help you during COVID-19?

Make a list of your audience. Susan Storey, CFRE, current chair of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Foundation for Philanthropy Canada, says:

Keep growing your monthly and active major donor groups. These are the kinds of supporters who tend to stay on with you, even in tough times.

7) If you don’t have donor profiles developed, take the time to do that soon.

Here are some steps to help you construct those.

8) Reach out.

Personally, reach out to each person on that list via a call, Zoom, a handwritten note, or have an in-person visit, if possible.

9) Let those donors know your current need.

It’s okay to keep asking.

10) Don’t assume people can’t help now.

Let them make those decisions.

11) Refine.

Refine your goals for this quarter.

12) Take some time to refresh your energy.

You can’t lead your team well if you aren’t caring for yourself well. There are many cheap and cheerful ways to treat yourself and your staff. One of my favorites is taking advantage of a quick meditation through Insight Timer.

[Related: Why and How You CAN Start Meditating Now (Especially if You Think You Can't!)]

13) Get inspired.

While you are taking time for yourself, watch a new fundraising webinar to capture some new ideas.

14) Evaluate the effectiveness of your website.

What updates do you need to do? How can you attract more readers to your site? Make sure you include stories and specific examples of how recipients are being helped because donors are giving.

15) Are you in the midst of a capital campaign?

Continue. Gain some insight here.

16) Are you still sending direct mail pieces?

Evaluate the cost-effectiveness of this strategy. Is it worth the investment? Can you increase how many email appeals you are sending? Make sure these e-letters are strong and impactful.

17) Are people engaging on your social media platforms?

Analyze what is working and what isn’t. Do you need to increase the number of times you post? Do you need to sharpen your messages? Here is help for your social media engagement.

18) Ask your donors their opinion.

Ask them how they would like to be engaged as we enter our post-COVID-19 world. Create a survey with a shortlist of questions to encourage their responses. Could you make a list of their ideas?

19) Ask.

Ask your board to evaluate the donor list of ideas and determine how to implement the best ones.

20) In the pre-COVID-19 era, did you often have coffee meetings with donors and potential donors?

If so, purchase packages of coffee and send them to donors with a personalized message. If you have them, include a mug from your organization.

21) Finally, embrace the new.

2021 will continue not to look like 2020. Thank goodness. But realize that it also won’t look like 2019. Some things will not return to “normal.” The good thing about that is that it forces us all to be creative. Purposeful. And thankful for our mission and the people who help us.

And bonus! Consider an outdoor event! Everyone wants to safely socialize again. Now that we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, you may feel safe enough to plan an al fresco fundraising event.

Did you find something useful on that list? Mary did. She:

  • Took a deep breath and started making a list of things she will do personally and things she will lead the board to do.
  • Started writing handwritten notes, a few each day, thanking donors for their help.
  • Visited the food bank location, talked with volunteers and recipients.
  • Listened to their stories and shared them with her communication director, who shared them with donors.
  • Started again with #1 -- remained calm and believed that it would be okay as she relaunched the nonprofit with renewed passion. She realized the potential for new growth in the middle of challenges.

What’s next for you? Where do you need to start? What have you done to reenergize your organization in our post-COVID-19 world? Will you share that with us? We could all use some encouragement. Write

Then, pour yourself a cup of coffee and carry on!

[Related: Three Ways to Use Philanthropy to Boost Your Career]


Susan Madon is the Founder of MInerva Nonprofit Management Consulting. She is also a jazz/Broadway singer and voice-over actor.

Have more questions? Follow up with the expert herself.