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How Responsive Fundraising Can Help During Uncertainty

a guest blog post by McKenna Bailey, Virtuous

Economic uncertainty can be rough for nonprofits. As anyone who was trying to fundraise in late 2008 can tell you, periods of instability can impact giving and engagement. But in these times, it’s more important than ever to show that you’re committed to doing more good in the world. 

When you lead with a positive message and respond authentically to your donors’ interests, you can grow giving, despite economic fears. Here are 5 essential tips to get started.

1. Communicate Positive Impact

Do you have some good news? Now is the time to share it. In uncertain times positive communication is often in short supply. Uplift your donors by becoming a regular source of hopeful news. When you update your donors about the impact their gifts make, you keep them connected with the cause, build trust that you’ll do what you say you will and grow their good feelings about their giving. 

Your impact updates don’t need to be dramatic to be effective. A simple, heartfelt report with a single picture can engage donors as much as an awe-inspiring story. The most important thing is to help donors connect how what they gave helped make a difference. 

Impact updates should be frequent and shared across your communication channels to reach donors wherever they interact with you. You can send a story via email, write a post for your blog, post a picture on social media, and include it in a mailed thank you letter. Never leave your supporters thinking, “I wonder whatever happened with that project I gave them money for…”

2. Ask for Involvement

Money is only one way to give. There are many ways supporters can help your organization. While tightened budgets or changes in circumstances may make monetary giving impossible for some of your donors, that shouldn’t be the end of your contact with them. 

Prioritize maintaining your relationship with the donor over any individual gift. When you get a fundraising “no,” survey your supporters to learn other ways they’d like to be involved with your mission. Consider offering opportunities to:

  • Volunteer

  • Participate in peer-to-peer fundraising

  • Learn more about your mission

  • Attend an event

3. Give More Before You Ask Again

Modern donors find value in connecting with the organizations they support. They want to be seen as part of your community, not a walking checkbook. Before you ask for more money, give them more contact that isn’t directly about fundraising. Send an extra thank you note. Give them regular progress updates, report on your triumphs and challenges and educate them about the issues you’re tackling. 

Sharing stories and connecting isn’t busywork between fundraising asks, it deepens your donor relationships and provides donors with something they value. This builds loyalty, and when they’re ready to give, their hearts will already be with you. 

4. Stay Flexible

Uncertain times bring new issues that require new solutions. It’s impossible to predict every new change nonprofits or their donors will confront, so it’s crucial to stay flexible. Maybe you’ll need virtual volunteer opportunities to fit into someone’s schedule (or to observe social distancing) or to replace a traditional campaign with a peer-to-peer fundraiser. Nonprofits that adapt to the times, whatever they may bring, will be more successful than those who dig in and don’t change course.

Keep the lines of communication open with your supporters. Give them regular opportunities to talk to you so that you can learn what’s really going on with them. There are many options, including:

  • Sending out a survey with the opportunity for long-form answers

  • Hosting a donor focus group

  • Making sure every communication piece you send has a contact person and a way to get in touch with them

  • Informally checking-in with your long-term donors

  • Calling each new donor to say thank you and offer to answer any questions they have about your organization

5. Be the Leader Your Donors Want

It’s natural to want to play it safe when the economy is uncertain, but this is false security. If you try to please everybody by being lukewarm and refuse to try anything new because of fear of risk, you won’t inspire generosity or strong emotion. By not taking any risks, you actually risk being left behind as other organizations adapt to the new environment. 

Your donors support you because they care about your mission. Be a bold leader in pursuit of that mission, take a stand, show your donors how you’ll get things done and lead the way in doing the good things you’ve set out to do. That’s inspirational. 

Remember...Uncertainty Doesn’t Mean Defeat!

Is it easier to fundraise during an economic boom? Sure, but that doesn’t mean you’re automatically defeated during leaner times. When you take the lead and bring a positive message to your supporters, respond to their interests and provide them with opportunities to engage on their own terms, you can grow your fundraising. 


Our next Faith Based Fundraising Academy starts May 1.

Hope you can join us! 

"Flagship's Fundraising Academy was an answer to prayer! We have needed a way to train and encourage our staff and board members in the area of fundraising, and the online sessions were extremely helpful to us all as we serve God in our ministry to children." - Janet, Child Evangelism Fellowship "Flagship Academy's courses were all relevant to what is going in within my own organization. The resource materials alone are an incredible value and are very applicable. I took the course starting in January and it was a great way to kick start the new year! Thank you to Emily and everyone who made this such a wonderful pertinent experience." - Ruth, India Transformed


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