Over a year and a half has passed since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, and needless to say, a lot has changed in that time. Even the vaccine’s growing availability, social distancing, mask regulations, remote work, and other safety measures remain facts of life.

As a nonprofit fundraising professional, you’ve likely seen your nonprofit’s fundraising strategy change drastically in the pandemic era as well. In the past, you may have relied on in-person events or one-on-one meetings with donors to power many of your fundraising efforts throughout the year. Now, virtual and hybrid events, as well as partially or fully remote operations, are probably the new normal for your organization.

You may find yourself struggling to keep supporters engaged or to maintain fundraising momentum amid the ongoing uncertainty and ever-changing landscape of the pandemic era. If that’s the case, your organization needs a jumpstart to boost your fundraising efforts in new, timely ways. Here are five tips to help you raise more for your mission:

  1. Be transparent with your supporters.
  2. Embrace hybrid events.
  3. Don’t neglect your ongoing fundraising activities.
  4. Get creative.
  5. Keep supporter relationships at the forefront.

If you’re planning for the upcoming year, you shouldn’t reuse the same old fundraising strategies you’ve used in the past. Give your fundraising plan new life by incorporating innovative new ideas and strategies. You’ll capture your supporters’ attention more effectively by offering them something new or unexpected. Let’s dive in!

1. Be transparent with your supporters.

At this point in the pandemic, organizations from every sector are struggling to keep their doors open. Your nonprofit may be facing funding challenges. When communicating about your fundraising needs with supporters, describe your funding situation truthfully.

Don’t be alarmist, but also don’t sugarcoat the situation. Your supporters will appreciate your honesty and forthrightness, which can lead to greater supporter loyalty.

This sense of transparency should translate to all aspects of your fundraising efforts. For example, let supporters know exactly how their donations will be used. Tell them that their contributions will help fund your after-school program for kids or purchase necessary supplies for your women’s shelter.

You should also continue to be mindful that supporters who may have contributed ongoing support to your mission in the past may not be able to sustain that level of support right now. Instead of just communicating about your fundraising campaigns, share other involvement opportunities, such as volunteer experiences and advocacy opportunities.

Rather than asking for financial support, you can ask your supporter base to contribute feedback on different aspects of your organization, such as your outreach strategies or volunteer opportunities. This shows supporters that your relationship with them is a two-way street and that you value their insight far beyond transactional donations.

2. Embrace hybrid events.

Your supporters likely have varying comfort levels when it comes to attending in-person activities. Some may be willing to attend a fundraising event in person, while others might still be most comfortable engaging from home.

Hybrid events are the perfect way to appeal to all of your supporters by allowing them to participate at their own comfort level. With this type of event, you can offer both in-person and virtual components.

For instance, let’s say you’re planning for your annual fundraising auction. Instead of just offering your typical in-person experience, you can allow simultaneous bidding to take place online so remote attendees can also participate.

To streamline your hybrid event planning process, be sure to investigate your options for powerful event management tools. Double the Donation’s guide to event management solutions offers plenty of top options for software tools that can help you plan, promote, and manage your hybrid events. Look for a solution that supports essential event tasks from beginning to end and tracks important event metrics, all in one system.

3. Don’t neglect your ongoing fundraising activities.

Amid the continuing challenges presented by the pandemic, it’s important to recommit to your organization’s ongoing fundraising tasks. You may be tempted to reduce your fundraising pursuits to channel your energy into one fundraising stream or another. But a diversified fundraising strategy is the strongest way to raise more for your organization in a sustainable way.

Continue pursuing your foundational fundraising activities such as:

Prospect research

Although prospect research is often completed at the start of a major fundraising campaign, it’s helpful to conduct this research on an ongoing basis. This allows your organization to continuously identify new prospective major donors and start building relationships with them. Plus, you can gain valuable audience insights that can be used in any fundraising campaign, not just your major ones.

If you need a helping hand with this process, Donorly’s prospect research guide explains how a prospect research consultant can offer support by helping you identify and steward prospective major donors. A consultant can provide expert advice and tips, allowing your team to keep its focus on other crucial fundraising tasks.

Annual campaigns or events

Your supporters look forward to your annual campaigns and events, such as your annual giving day or peer-to-peer fundraising 5K. It’s important to continue hosting these opportunities, even if you have to modify them to be hybrid or fully virtual events.

This shows supporters that your organization is resilient and still dedicated to its community.

Your organization can help provide a sense of normalcy and means of connection during difficult times. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your audience members for their support, just as you do every year, as there are plenty of people looking to support causes that mean a lot to them. That said, make sure to do so with an added layer of care and awareness of different circumstances.

Both your prospect research efforts and annual campaigns and events give your organization a strong fundraising foundation from which to build any major or new campaigns.

4. Get creative.

It’s important to shore up your ongoing fundraising efforts, but at the same time, your supporters are interested in seeing something new. You can capture their interest and attention with an innovative or unexpected fundraising approach.

You might incorporate fundraising ideas such as:

  • Launching a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer fundraising challenge.
  • Hosting a creative virtual event, such as an online concert or comedy show.
  • Adding a new marketing channel to your multi-channel strategy, such as TikTok, Google ads, or local TV ads.
  • Opening a new fundraising stream, such as forming new corporate partnerships or hosting a virtual auction.

You don’t have to completely overhaul your fundraising strategy. In fact, as described in the last section, we advise you to stay consistent as much as possible. But by incorporating one or two new ideas that you haven’t tried before, you can keep your fundraising efforts fresh and give supporters a new way to connect with you.

Make sure to adjust your staff training as necessary, to keep up with changing trends and ensure your team is ready to launch innovative fundraising ideas and techniques.

5. Keep supporter relationships at the forefront.

The relationships between nonprofit organizations and their supporters have always been incredibly important, and not just from a fundraising perspective. Your supporters keep your nonprofit mission going through any uncertain times by contributing volunteer hours, advocacy support, and other reinforcements.

Show your appreciation through ongoing stewardship activities such as:

  • Getting to know your supporters. Use their preferred names in your communications with them. Also, use your supporter database to track your interactions with them. This allows you to reference supporters’ specific involvement history in your correspondence. For instance, you can thank them for their recent $25 donation or contributions at your last volunteer workday.
  • Launching supporter appreciation initiatives. Plan specific campaigns or events to express appreciation for supporters. For instance, you should send thorough emails after supporters donate, to thank them for their contributions and explain how you will use the funds. Then, be sure to keep donors in the loop and share impact updates later on. Also, you can plan a virtual appreciation event to spotlight top donors and thank them for their support.
  • Asking for feedback. Show your supporters how much you appreciate and value their involvement in your community by asking them for feedback. You can include a supporter feedback survey in your email newsletter or post it on your social media pages. Ask supporters about their thoughts on your fundraising campaigns, marketing efforts, and events. This makes supporters feel like vital partners in achieving your mission.

Remember, if you need additional guidance or help building your ongoing supporter stewardship strategy, you might want to consider hiring a fundraising consultant. A consultant can review your organization’s current strategy, identify your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, and create a game plan to help you connect with supporters more effectively moving forward.

Whether you choose to work with a consultant or your internal fundraising team, supporter stewardship is a vital component of your pandemic-era fundraising strategy. Make sure you approach supporter stewardship with a concrete action plan so supporters consistently feel appreciated as integral partners in your organization’s success.

The lessons nonprofits have learned since the start of the pandemic are bound to stick around for years to come. While some lessons are new, such as how to plan and host hybrid events, others are refreshers, like the importance of prioritizing supporter relationships. Above all, it’s important to stay flexible and pivot your fundraising approach as necessary to meet pandemic-era challenges. Good luck!

About the Author

Sandra Davis

Founder and President Sandra Davis leads Donorly with 30 years of fundraising experience and leadership. Sandra has consulted on numerous capital campaigns, led strategic planning and feasibility study efforts, and managed board development and recruitment efforts, planned giving, special events, and annual giving programs. Under her leadership, Donorly has grown to support the fundraising efforts of over 75 clients to date.

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