Many organizations are asking the same question: Given the current climate, is it an appropriate time to ask for donations? And if so, how do I do it?  

While these organizations are correct to ask the question, the answer is always that donations and resources are still needed at this timeTo plan your strategy, you first need to ask yourself the climate of your donor base and understand what you are asking for. Prioritize what is needed first for your organization and start there. Do you need major gifts? Food to serve your most vulnerable? Medical masks for your staff? Or maybe you need silent auction items for the next campaign. Whatever that need is, begin by considering these guidelines:  

Get personal 

  • How do you truly connect with everyoneSegment your donors into groups and use unique communication strategies. Some may prefer all digital communication, while some would respond better to a handwritten letter. Some may be a strong advocate already for your organization, while for others this is the first time hearing from you. It is important to have your donor feel you are talking directly to them. 
  • Be clear on the project these funds will go towardsWhile unrestricted funding is great for organizations, we find that more money is raised when there are specific goals and projects in mind.
  • Phone calls are more personal than an email. Consider organizing your Board of Directors and volunteer base to make solicitation, informative, or thank you calls. This will help build the bonds in your network, which will lead to greater engagement down the line.
  • Show your audience why you need donations. Create a video or develop communication that speaks to the heart of your organization. Has COVID-19 affected you? Show them how! Let donors and sponsors see your empty classrooms, empty food pantries, or crowded crisis assistant lines. 

Keep up engagement 

  • When planning your campaign, think through the touchpoints that each potential donor will receive. Is there an appeal in every communication?  Consider sprinkling in other organization updates and engagement opportunities in the in-between. The goal is to keep your organization top of mind for that donor, so when they can give, you are the first on their list
  • Show your potential donors that they are valuable to your organization. A note from your CEO/Founder/President can go a long way in making your potential donors feel they are a part of something.
  • Consider a long-term campaign like a piggy bank challenge where you ask donors to make a small recurring donation (like $10per month for X number of months. These small amounts will keep donations rolling in all the time, but donors won’t feel as large of a financial burden. 

Use incentives 

  • Remind donors that donations are 100% tax-deductible!
  • If you have extra merch, swag, or prizes laying around, try a campaign where if a donor reaches a certain level of giving they receive a gift. 
  • If your organization puts on any sort of production, plan a show and use all the tickets as incentives for donors and sponsors.
  • Offer the option for delayed payment for sponsors and major gifts.
  • Offer donors recognition. “Anyone who makes a donation to this fund will receive recognition in our next event/or on website” 

Get creative 

  • When I said “show” your potential donors why you need their support, I literally meant to show them. Film your donation campaign video at the location of your impact or maybe recruit folks you serve regularly to make 10-second videos of them thanking donors. Whatever you do, utilize the fact that you are not constrained to a gala venue. 
  • Use text messages and emails to gain audience attention. The more creative, the better! Ask yourself, If I am sitting at home and receive this communication, would it capture my attention enough to engage?
  • Recognize that the world’s current climate calls for innovation! The same strategies you used in 2019 may not work the same for 2020, and that is okay.

I challenge you to think outside the box and push your organization past where you thought you could go. The donors are out there, waiting to be drawn into something bigger than themselves. Yes, the world’s current climate is different, but you will not know what is possible until you try.

To start getting inspired, head here for examples of successful donation campaigns. 

Kelsey Woodworth is the Content Marketing Manager for GiveSmart and an Auburn University graduate. Her finger is on the pulse daily for innovations in fundraising, community building, donor relations, and event trends. Kelsey lives in New York City.
Kelsey Woodworth
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