Successful COVID-19 Fundraising: The Home Version

By now nearly all fundraisers are WFH (working from home). We all want to do our part to flatten the curve of COVID-19, but self-isolating is just one way. Many people are seeking out opportunities to be helpful, especially with in-person volunteering being out of the question, and fundraisers are no different. 

As fundraisers, though, we already have a way to help: doing our jobs. Some of you may be worried about layoffs, and that is a valid concern. Despite the not-for-profit sector’s role in supporting vulnerable populations even more during tough times, our organisations are not immune from staff cuts in order to stave off financial losses. The best way to avert that situation is to continue making yourself valuable to your organisation, particularly by bringing in much needed revenue. 

At Wisely we have collected information suggesting that some organisations have stopped fundraising, waiting to see what happens. But we’re also hearing that most organisations are continuing to fundraise, and those that are retooling their message and strategy for the COVID-19 crisis are having significant success. See some great examples here, here, here and here.

This makes sense, because research has shown that even when the economy is in a period of slow growth, fundraising tends to dip as well (largely at the major gift level), but it recovers more quickly than the economy. And when appeals are directly related to vulnerable people during a tough economic period, results go UP. In other words, we HIGHLY recommend that you use your time at home to KEEP FUNDRAISING, not only stewarding and cultivating our donors, but asking them to donate. While you may need to adjust your expectations and targets, getting to 85% of your 2020 targets by continuing to fundraise will surely be better than 50% of your targets by pausing activity for weeks and months.  

Here are a few tips for how to continue fundraising successfully while at home:


Don’t Axe that Event, Eugene

Perhaps you’ve had to postpone your events, but DO NOT cancel them! Announce a new date later this year, or, better yet, move them online and have a virtual event soon! Here’s how:



  • Shift your events people to other fundraising efforts, like calling people to cultivate them.  Or getting on the front line and collecting stories of impact that can be shared with donors. Or make direct asks to larger event donors. 
  • If you already cancelled your event, have your events team run a phone campaign asking those would-be attendees to donate the value of their ticket to your COVID-19 campaign, and do the same with the event’s major donors and sponsors. Give them clear anecdotes about the impact you’re having and how their support will help even more now. 
  • Now that you have a plan B, create a plan C and D. If you don’t need those backup plans, perfect. But you have them in your back pocket if you do. 
  • Move people online and to social media – increase your social media, email and online activity, send out surveys, contests, content generation, live Q&A’s and invite the participation of your supports and collect their ideas and contact information


Thank you, thank you, thank you

Use this opportunity to bring your stewardship to the next level:

Photo by Howard Riminton on Unsplash
  • Public health experts are giving daily updates – you should too. Send out daily emails, social media posts or live video casts via Youtube or Facebook about what your organisation is focusing on, the impact you’re having and what kind of help is needed.
  • You have more time! Pick up the phone (or better yet Facetime) and thank people for their support and update them on your COVID-19 activity and impact. Then thank them again. And again.
  • Create and mail (and email) welcome packages to your new donors. And give them a thank you call. 
  • Immediately call to give thanks for all donations, let them know exactly how you’re spending the funds (build trust for unrestricted gifts), and provide an update on how you’re fulfilling your mission at this time with real anecdotes of impact.
  • Use the time to create impact reports – share exactly how your donors have been helping fulfill your mission in the years and months prior to the crisis. Make sure it’s clear to them that you know exactly how much they’ve done for the organisation, and that they know the impact you’ve created together. Communicate that in words, numbers and images.
  • Use snail mail! People are bored at home and would LOVE mail. Be sure to tell them via email or phone that it’s coming to them and when.

Use Wisely!

In good times, Wisely helps small to medium sized organisations automate complicated data analysis, prospecting and donor prioritisation, for pennies on the dollar and in real time. In times of uncertainty, like right now, Wisely is being used to accurately predict what donors will do next, which ones are ready for asks and which ones need better stewardship, who you should cultivate in order to ask when the crisis abides…and to help your team stay active, positive and engaged with the people that make your impact possible.

The Wisely Advantage

    • Price – it’s like adding a data analyst and prospect researcher to your team for just $5 per day
    • Works remotely, no matter where you are, on your desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone
    • Takes as little as 2 days to start getting predictions of when your donors will donate next and how much they will give
    • Just a half hour of training; it’s so easy to use
    • Start with just one member of your team – minimal change management
    • Our Client Success team ensures Wisely accelerates your fundraising

Drop us a line and ask how our fundraising and data experts can help your team make the most of this downturn!


Pivot your messaging

  • Please DO NOT cancel that direct mail campaign (people are at home and would be stoked to get some mail from you!) Nor the email or social media appeals. 
  • But DO make your organisation relevant to this unique moment: you have all hands on deck, helping your patients, clients, students or vulnerable populations through this crisis and need the financial support to ensure success. 
  • Make it easy for people to be helpful by enabling them to give to something that will have immediate impact. Create a research fund related to public health or virology. Or point out that there will now be even more people that are vulnerable and needing the healthcare, food, shelter or services you are experts at providing. 
  • Have your board members create a gift matching fund to accelerate impact, and then communicate that offer to your donors. 
  • Make it urgent, but about your mission and the people you serve, NOT your organisation’s needs. 


Hey Steve! 

Call your major supporters.

  • Remind them that their partnership with your organisation is important to you. Tell them that it’s not only their financial support that matters – tell them how you’re responding to COVID-19, what you’re working on and invite their feedback. Donors want to feel like they are part of the inner circle of your organisation. Make that a reality by keeping them in the loop. 
  • Talk to them about their pledges and why it’s important to the organisation’s mission to keep those commitments. Offer to break their annual pledges into small monthly pledges if they’re nervous about the long term prospects of their finances. Get those pledge payments into your bank account. 

It is definitely a tough time to fundraise. We understand the hesitation to make asks. But it is at this very time when the missions of many not-for-profits are most crucial: many people are vulnerable and need your organisation. Continue to engage your supporters, remind them of why you exist and how, together, you have an impact. People are looking for ways to help out right – why not provide that opportunity for your donors?

Whether you’re a Wisely client or new to us, we’re here to help! Reach out to me at

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