Nonprofits & COVID-19: How To Fundraise During Uncertainty

April 15, 2020
These are our top tips for nonprofits during COVID-19.

Contact DNL OmniMedia today to create a digital strategy to help your nonprofit weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a society, we’re facing an unprecedented landscape. The COVID-19 pandemic is sweeping the U.S., and nonprofits and for-profits alike are experiencing unexpected challenges.

In the nonprofit realm, successful fundraising has grown in necessity just as it has grown in difficulty. With the signing of the CARES Act, specific allowances were made to help nonprofit organizations operational through the pandemic. It’s now up to these organizations to continue their essential mission in response— something that begins with successful fundraising despite the challenges of current events.

Over the course of a few weeks, digital engagement has become the only method of interaction as in-person interactions are no longer accessible. Many nonprofits now have to quickly pivot to digital methods, with no time to waste in the transition.

At DNL OmniMedia, we create nonprofit digital strategies allowing organizations to fundraise with technology. We’ve seen firsthand the havoc the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking on nonprofits, whose services are more crucial than ever and essential for serving communities.

We’ve pulled together the following tips for your nonprofit to continue fundraising and stewarding donors successfully:

As the landscape changes day-to-day, time is of the essence. Let’s get started.

Nonprofits should hold digital events to continue fundraising during COVID-19.

Take Events to The InternetMake your next nonprofit event digital to continue fundraising during COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has mandated that social distancing become a fact of life for the time being. This means that many nonprofits are scrambling to find solutions for fundraising events that can no longer go on as planned.

With many events being canceled or indefinitely postponed, nonprofit leaders risk losing the funds raised from cornerstone events. If you can, avoid canceling your event and instead host it on the internet.

With this crisis speeding up creativity in the field, virtual events are becoming more accessible than ever before. From online peer-to-peer fundraising software to tech supporting full online conferences, there are tools that your nonprofit can use to still hold that essential yearly fundraiser. Virtual events allow your nonprofit to fundraise almost exactly as planned.

When planning such a large exchange of content through digital means, keep in mind the basic tenets of nonprofit website accessibility and mobile-friendliness. Make sure that your digital event page loads quickly, is attractive, and is designed so users can easily interact with it.

These aspects will all help to ensure that your event is accessible and enjoyable. Check out this DNL OmniMedia guide to website accessibility for an in-depth look at these concepts.

Revisit your fundraising goals in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Outline Emergency Preparedness Fundraising GoalsChange your fundraising goals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In years past, your nonprofit has likely had clear fundraising goals. Maybe those included growing your annual fundraising revenue by a given percentage, or reaching a collective giving target amount; you’ve always known what your fundraising goals were under normal conditions.

The conditions you’re currently fundraising under are far from normal, however. Re-evaluate your goals in light of the current uncertain climate and consider what would truly help during this time.

This could mean pivoting all funds raised toward a specific portion of your mission— such as meals for the elderly if you’re a food pantry or personal protective equipment if you’re a public health organization. If you’re struggling with this idea, remember that you can work with a nonprofit consulting firm if you need to make major strategy adjustments.

From there, consider how you’ll measure success and the digital tools you can use to reach those goals and confirm the outcomes. You’ll want to get as specific as possible when outlining this strategy, while also understanding that your goals may evolve as the crisis does.

Revisit your tech stack before continuing to fundraise during COVID-19.

Revisit Your Tech StackMake sure your tech stack is prepared for digital fundraising during COVID-19.

You’re going to be relying on technology more than ever, so next up is making sure your tech is up to par.

Check in on the key technology you’ll rely on to engage donors during this time. This includes:

  • Your website. Ensure your website clearly communicates your nonprofit’s mission and crisis response and is secure for visitors engaging with it. Further, ensure it’s optimized for mobile devices, so all supporters can easily access it.
  • Your social networks. Social networks are an easy way to communicate with supporters in real-time. Make sure your nonprofit has a strong social presence as well as a plan to use the networks to stay connected, such as incorporating live streaming.
  • Your digital giving tool. Supporters can’t give through in-person means during this time. Make sure your digital giving page is secure and easily accessible for all supporters and modern payment methods.
  • Your CRM. Your CRM is your most comprehensive database of donor interactions, and ideally, you’ll want to integrate it with your other software to ensure no information falls through the cracks.

Your nonprofit will be relying on these tech tools to engage with supporters during this time, so taking extra time to optimize these tools now will be valuable later on.

Understand your audience when trying to fundraise during COVID-19.

Understand Your Audience and Their Current LimitationsUnderstand that not everyone will be able to donate during COVID-19.

During any normal fundraising campaign, your nonprofit conducts research into your audience and their giving and communications preferences. This allows you to optimize communications, identify how donors prefer to give, and target solicitations using the delivery mechanisms most likely to generate results.

That is especially crucial right now. While you shouldn’t stop asking for gifts, it’s important to understand that in this economy, not every one of your supporters will be able to give right now or at least, not as much as they might have before.

Examine the data in your CRM and reach out to supporters most likely to make a gift. This might include event attendees, volunteers, or those that give regularly through your year-end giving campaign. Ask these supporters about whether they’re able and willing to give right now, understanding that the answer might be no. If so, simply use this as an opportunity to check in with your constituents!

Audience targeting is important for staying in touch with your supporters in general and keeping them engaged, something that’s essential for future fundraising once things stabilize. Engaging supporters during the COVID-19 pandemic with communications and fundraising asks tailored to their desired level of interaction is a great way to start.

Stay connected with your nonprofit's staff members during the COVID-19 crisis.

Stay Connected with Your Team

Team connectivity is essential during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s difficult to fundraise if your staff and volunteers aren’t feeling strong, connected, and aren’t truly working together to further your cause. Just as you need to check in with supporters, keep avenues of communication open with your team as well.

You’re probably working from home or preparing for the transition to working from home. While email and messaging services are great ways to keep up the conversation, consider incorporating a video conference platform in your communications strategy as well.

Speaking face-to-face is a powerful tool for connection, especially when people are feeling more disconnected than ever. Regular check-ins ensure everyone in your organization is working toward your goals together.

Lastly, remember that these check-ins don’t have to be explicitly work-related. Something as simple as “getting together for lunch” virtually or emulating “water cooler meetings” digitally can go a long way.

Use multi-channel communications to stay in touch with supporters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communicate Digitally with SupportersUse a multi-channel strategy to communicate with supporters during COVID-19.

Modern nonprofit leaders know that a multi-channel fundraising strategy is a keystone best practice when it comes to communicating with supporters in 2020.

That’s especially important now, during the COVID-19 pandemic. With social distancing becoming the new normal, people are speaking in-person less than ever before and there’s even some apprehension when it comes to sending direct mailings. Digital tools are really your best method to reach supporters, so you have to make the most of them.

Of course, this includes email, newsletters, social media. However, consider taking these digital communications a step further by using a social media aggregator— like Walls.io or Tint— and even incorporating video conferencing platforms. Your supporters will appreciate the fresh approach to connectivity during a time when so many other organizations are also going digital with their communications.

Stay in touch after you've solicited a gift during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stay In Touch After Gift ConversationsCommunications with supporters is crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 has affected nearly every aspect of people’s lives— from their health to their jobs, to their social lives. Your supporters are without a doubt feeling the pressure of the crisis.

After your initial outreach, whether a supporter has given or has opted out of it, for now, aim to stay in touch. Your donors will appreciate you simply asking them how they are faring during this unprecedented moment, during a time when we all could use a check-in.

Supporters that opt-out of giving will still be building a relationship with your organization and this relationship could translate to gifts down the line. And, supporters that did give will realize that your organization cares about them beyond their ability to donate.

As this article makes clear, donor retention is an essential aspect of nonprofit growth. Staying in touch post-gift solicitation is one key way to increase donor retention beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

Learn from the COVID-19 crisis to improve your operations in the long run.

Learn From Your EffortsLearn from the COVID-19 pandemic to improve operations long after it ends.

It’s important to understand the effects of COVID-19 in the context of the greater fundraising landscape.

What you’re seeing right now— the quick transition to fully-digital methods— is indicative of larger trends in the world of nonprofit fundraising. Digital methods are becoming more and more pronounced, and you could consider this time as a test-run for future innovation.

Collect data on your efforts right now, paying particular attention to what worked and what didn’t. Aim to learn from this time of transition as these methods are likely going to become more prominent going forward.


Society is facing unprecedented challenges in the wake of COVID-19. Whether medical or economic, the current landscape is unlike anything we have experienced before. It’s no time for nonprofits to fade into the background, however. Organizations like yours are especially essential during uncertain times, propping up society during its biggest challenges.

Use the above tips to revisit your nonprofit’s pandemic response strategy— whether examining your fundraising philosophy as a whole, adding a few tools to your fundraising arsenal, or simply narrowing down a starting point for the transition to digital methods.

Contact TeamDNL today to improve your digital operations during and weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

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