If we’ve learned anything during the pandemic and similar past crisis fundraising, it’s that relationships matter. And forming those relationships requires thought-out strategies and a will to succeed with engaging your donors, especially when you can’t interact face-to-face. With the added challenges of widespread health concerns and social distancing guidelines over this past year and a half, fundraising professionals have had to rethink how they engage with supporters.

Even when we fully transition out of the current socially distanced landscape, understanding how to engage with remote donors will benefit your team considerably, especially if a large portion of your donors are scattered across the country (or across the globe!). The extra attention you provide will empower you to connect with them on a deeper level and foster memorable experiences that minimize the distance.

No matter who your nonprofit serves, there are plenty of ways to connect with remote donors and help them see the value of investing in your mission. We’ll dive into three common opportunities in which nonprofits have found success:

  1. Provide plenty of giving opportunities.
  2. Ramp up communications.
  3. Host virtual events to promote a sense of community.

Because of ongoing cancellations of traditional events and in-person meetings, nonprofit development professionals everywhere are continuing to invest their energy into effective donor management more than ever before. One of the best tools for doing this is your CRM, so it may be time to reevaluate your current system. According to Salsa’s guide to fundraising CRMs, your CRM should be a central hub for all the information you have on your donors, empowering you to anticipate and meet their needs during this challenging time.

Taking a truly donor-centric approach to your management is the only surefire way to solidify donor commitment to your organization when you can’t meet face-to-face. The three opportunities we’ll discuss will help you take this donor-focused approach and set you off to a great start. Ready to overcome the distance and strengthen your donor relationships? Let’s dive in.

1. Provide plenty of giving opportunities.

Not everyone prefers to give in the same ways. Enabling a range of giving options maximizes the likelihood that donors will stay involved and continue supporting your work. Plus, doing so conveys that you’re conscious that they may want to support your cause in other ways. The easiest place to start is by optimizing your online donation page.

Online Donation Page

Your online donation form is the foundation of your digital fundraising strategy. In an increasingly technological world, this is where donors naturally go when they want to contribute to your organization. You’ll drive donors here across your big fundraising campaigns and marketing pushes in addition to regular day-to-day gifts.

Ensure your online donation page is easily accessible and conversion-optimized with a few easy-to-implement best practices:

  • Minimize distractions. Given that donor engagement is at its peak when donating, you’ll naturally want to emphasize the cause. However, the last thing you want to do is take users’ attention away from completing the task at hand. Limit the number of images to one banner image and reduce unnecessary text on your page.
  • Set suggested giving amounts. These give users a frame of reference. They use these to determine how much others are giving, and therefore how much they should give. Plus, this may inspire them to level up their donations if they see one of the options is slightly more than they were planning to give.
  • Matching gifts. Chances are, you’ve heard of matching gifts and how they can multiply your donors’ impact. These gifts can increase the likelihood that someone will donate and even increase how much they’re willing to give. All you’ll need to do is select a matching gift provider and embed a matching gift search tool on your website. From there, your donors can look up their employers to see if they’re eligible for donation matching.
  • Frame the impact. Let your potential donors how much the donation means to the organization and where the money will be spent. “$100 feeds a food-insecure family of five for 2 weeks.” The simple act of framing your appeal has been found to increase donation frequency and amount.

Heading:

With all of the changes you’re making, the focus should be on removing barriers to completing the form. That means collect only the data you absolutely need – don’t ask for information you don’t need right now. There will be time later to follow up and collect other data. The easier you make it for supporters to complete a donation quickly, the more likely they are to do it.

When you’re satisfied with the design of your donation page, direct users to it with well-placed giving CTAs across the rest of your site and marketing materials. Once you get your donors to your page, your design will help increase the likelihood that they’ll complete their gift.

Non-Financial Options

Sometimes the best fundraising strategies for nonprofits don’t deal with asking for funds. Non-financial options allow donors to give in new ways, especially if they’re dealing with financial constraints or want to further their engagement with your organization beyond the donation page.

Here are some options you can offer:

  • Volunteering. You know how important volunteers are to your organization. They help you pull off amazing events, keep your facility organized, and recruit new supporters. Make sure you’re advertising volunteer opportunities (both in-person and virtual!) and providing adequate training opportunities. Volunteers also appreciate it when coordinators take the time to match them with tasks that fit their interests. And don’t forget to educate your volunteers about volunteer grants they can get from their employers to help out your nonprofit even more.
  • Marketing the organization on social media. As social media has become a big part of our lives, many individuals have gained a large following on their personal profiles. Use your nonprofit CRM to identify who in your database is most active on social media. Then you can reach out to these individuals and ask them to promote your cause on their personal profiles through posts and live videos.
  • Signing up for your newsletter. Your newsletter is likely full of information about various project updates, volunteering opportunities, fundraising pushes, and upcoming events. But your newsletter isn’t doing you any good if no one is reading it! Encourage your donors to sign up for your newsletter to show their support without spending a dime. You can also incentivize them to forward the newsletter to friends and family by offering branded merch or social media shoutouts for a certain amount of shares, helping you to increase your virtual reach.

No matter how your donors are able to give, remember that gratitude is key for encouraging them to continue engaging with your organization. Sometimes it’s easy for nonprofits to overlook the efforts of those who contribute in non-financial ways or who have only a little to give. But a genuine thank you can go a long way in helping you retain support, no matter what that support looks like. Make sure to have a clear strategy for thanking each of your donors, whether it’s through a thank-you video or a handwritten note!

2. Ramp up communications.

One of the greatest risks nonprofits face when operating remotely is a lack of communication. You can’t expect your supporters to express their support if they don’t receive regular updates from your organization or aren’t marketed to in a way that speaks to them. Not to mention, not staying in contact during tough times can come across as insensitive to your donors who have given their hard-earned money to support your work.

When connecting with donors remotely, you’ll need to ramp up communications beyond increasing the frequency of your outreach. Think carefully about the messages that matter most right now and which should wait for another time. A few strategies you should bear in mind when communicating with remote supporters include:

  • Check in with major donors. Especially right now, some donors are facing financial hardship, business setbacks, or illness within their families. Regularly check in with your committed donors to see how they’re doing, not about their gift. Who knows? Someone who once funded your work may be in need of your services right now, depending on what your nonprofit focuses on. This small gesture can go a long way in communicating that your organization genuinely cares about them.
  • Adhere to communication preferences. Some donors might prefer emails, while others might prefer direct mail outreach or phone calls. Sticking to those preferences allows you to maximize the chance that a donor will see your marketing materials. Not adhering to those preferences runs the risk of your message never being seen. Even worse, it could come across as impersonal or insensitive that you’re not considering their preferences.
  • Demonstrate impact. Keep your donors up-to-date on what you’re doing right now to move your mission forward. A great way to do this is through your blog or email newsletter. Share the stories of the people whose lives you’re having a positive effect on, and tie that impact back to the support your donors provide. This will demonstrate to your donors why your organization needs their continued support.

No donor wants to feel like an ATM for your organization. Well-thought-out communication that anticipates your donors’ needs and preferences shows them that you value them, so it’s well worth the effort to get it right.

3. Host virtual events to promote a sense of community.

Virtual events are a great way to stay connected when in-person touchpoints aren’t feasible. For a virtual event, you’ll need a strong event landing page on your website that includes all the necessary information your donors need to participate, a registration form, a live streaming platform, and a great event idea. From here, you’ll also need some solid promotional materials, so check out Getting Attention’s article on creating a nonprofit marketing plan for tips on how to plan out your marketing and what channels to use for your events.

Of course, to maximize attendance, you’ll need to select virtual events that peak your donors’ interests. Here are a few different ideas to help get your creativity rolling and may suit your audience:

  • Webinar: A webinar is an event during which a speaker or group of speakers delivers a presentation to your audience. Try hosting a webinar with a panel of your board members or beneficiaries to educate your donors on your cause and the impact you’re making with their help.
  • Virtual Auction: A virtual auction is a great way to fundraise for your cause. Connect with business owners in your community to collect donated items and then host a live stream auction. Make sure to tease the auction items before as part of your marketing plan so that your supporters come excited to bid!
  • Online Concert: Chances are your donors are missing live music right about now. Recruit a local band or performer to donate a live-streamed performance your donors can enjoy from the comfort of their couches. Require a small registration fee and auction off a VIP virtual meet-and-greet with the band members to pull in donations for your cause. And don’t forget to enable chatting during your live stream so your donors can request songs.
  • Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Day: Set your donors up with individual fundraising pages they can share with their family and friends on a designated fundraising day. Kick the day off with a live stream in the morning and gamify the event by providing updates on your fundraising goal throughout the day on social media. Meet virtually at the end of the day to celebrate your success and thank your donors for their participation.

Whatever online event you choose, remember to take the time to debrief with your team after an event like the ones discussed above. Though you might be tempted to take a day off after an especially big event, you should discuss what went well and what you could improve on next time. This will help make your event planning process go smoother in the future, and you’ll thank yourself later!


Doubling down on donor engagement, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, will help you retain support for the long haul. As you expand your giving opportunities, increase communications, and offer fun online events, you’ll ultimately become an organization known for offering an enriching donor experience. Good luck!

About the Author

Craig Grella

Craig Grella is a Content Marketer at Salsa Labs, the premier software for growth-focused nonprofits that combines CRM and engagement software with embedded best practices, machine learning, and world-class education and support. In his role, he serves thousands of nonprofits and advocacy organizations across the U.S.

Craig focuses on digital strategy using email marketing, online advertising campaigns, SMS campaigns, CRM management, reporting/analytics for KPIs, and more. He’s also the founder of Think Big Campaigns, a full-service consulting firm that specializes in political consulting, digital organizing, and issue advocacy.

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