Many organizations that are directly responding to elevated community needs are seeing an influx of donors during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes (but isn’t limited to) hospitals and health providers, food banks, organizations working on equitable technology access for students, and organizations addressing domestic violence and homelessness.
Responding to donors during this chaotic time can be challenging—but bringing them into your community will be critical.
In 2016 and 2017, many organizations saw a post-election surge of new donors. We can draw similarities between the ’16 and ’17 giving surge and the current climate, but there are also marked differences:
During this crisis, individual donors are considering shifting their giving priorities to meet immediate needs of community members. In a recent BBB Giving Alliance Survey, close to half of respondents indicated that they plan to support a nonprofit during this time, and a third want to give more than usual.
Organizations that are seeing increased donor interest will need a plan to retain these new supporters over the short and long term. Below, we outlined a series of strategies (starting with basic advice and moving to more advanced recommendations) to guide you along the way.
If a new donor gives to your organization to support COVID-19 response efforts, they know enough about your organization to understand you are making an immediate impact, but they might not know much more.
Under normal circumstances, a physical packet might include an annual report, a sticker or other piece of swag, a list of upcoming events, and maybe a short survey about why they chose to give. Right now, your welcome packet may be entirely digital, and that’s okay.
Use these conversations to express gratitude, answer any questions about the organization’s work, and ask a few specific questions of the donor, such as how they learned about the organization and what motivated them to give.
Our world looks much different than it did eight weeks ago. How can you adjust your engagement strategies to account for these changes?
Don’t wait to ask them for a second gift—if they remain in a position to continue to give, you want to capture the funding.
As donors opt in to a deeper relationship, it will be important for your staff to:
While these strategies will help increase donor retention, it is important for organizational leadership to set expectations with the board. Many of these first-time donors will not renew their gifts next year even with increased engagement efforts. Even organizations with strong retention of long-term donors will see their retention rate decrease next year if an influx of first-time donors shifts the typical donor make up this year.
Some organizations may have the staff power to expand donor retention and engagement strategies during this time, and others may only have the capacity to tackle the basics.
As you work to find the most appropriate and impactful ways to engage prospects digitally in the near term, consider how you can recognize the donors who came to you by the tens, hundreds, and thousands when this crisis has ended. How can you honor those who helped you serve others?
We will continue to monitor the rapidly changing environment, and we’ll share updates and new strategies as the situation evolves. In the meantime, visit our COVID-19 resource page and don’t hesitate to email us with questions, success stories, or your own experiences navigating this crisis.
You can reach us at Sarah.Anderson@campbellcompany.com and Caitlin.Bristow@campbellcompany.com. We would love to hear from you.
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