A Case for Fundraising Activities and Staff


The Case for Maintaining Fundraising Activities and Staff during the Coronavirus Emergency: 8 Ideas for You Right Now

As organizations grapple with the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, some nonprofits are under pressure from leadership to curtail fundraising activities, reduce staff hours or even furlough development staff.  Here are some points to raise with your organization's leadership that make a strong case for why and which development activities should/can continue, albeit in novel ways adapted to the current environment, and why development staff are essential members of the staff, integral to the continuity of the organization’s operations. 

  1. Maintain your presence–other nonprofits, with whom you share donors, are not stopping their fundraising.  To stop now puts your organization at risk of being shut out of the conversation and losing your space in the noisy marketplace.

  2. Relationship-based strategies are more important than ever.  Transactional relationships with donors only go so far, especially when times are tough.  If you have previously operated using this strategy, now is the time to transition to a more relationship-based approach.  Fundraisers who have well-established relationships are more valuable staff members than those who don’t, as those relationships are hard to replace.  Staff turnover is expensive and risks loss of important institutional memory.

  3. Strategic Planning is especially important now.  You can use your time and show your value by re-imagining your organization’s fundraising plan.  Your annual campaign has been disrupted, your major fundraising event has been postponed or canceled.  Coming up with creative alternatives to keeping the development process moving forward is an excellent use of your capacity and a great way to show your worth.

  4. Stewardship is essential. This is the perfect time to check in on your donors, inquire as to their well-being, update them on how your organization is coping, and thank them again for their support.  People are generally more available for contact than they have ever been, and personal outreach is especially appreciated when people are isolated. Pro tips: Just because you’re not asking, doesn’t mean you’re not communicating. Calls/handwritten notes are especially valued now.

  5. Legacy giving this is an optimal time to be discussing legacy giving with your most loyal donors.  Your time, often in short supply because of the pressures to raise current dollars, is now more available to engage donors in conversations about ultimate gifts, often the most impactful to your organization’s growth and wellbeing longterm.  Don’t be afraid of talking to donors about estate planning during the pandemic: their other advisors (legal, financial, etc.) are reaching out to them to discuss these topics and long-term planning is already on their minds. 

  6. Targeted communications are critical. There is more noise than ever, and how you strategically connect with your donors through messaging has never been more important to the success of your fundraising. Be direct, keep content concise and pertinent to the targeted audience.
  7. Grant-writing & grant research, especially for and about private foundations, is a worthwhile use of your time.  Private foundations are required to make distributions regardless of market conditions, so why not to your organization?

  8. Database development and maintenance often falls lower on the Development Office’s priority list. An impactful project that you can undertake at this time is to improve your database – update contact information, record important prospect/donor interactions, and segment your data for better targeted communication and other development moves.