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Dave Kirby “5 Keys to Fundraising During a Crisis”

5 Keys to Fundraising During a Crisis


During the current coronavirus crisis, we are all unsure of the fundraising landscape. Should we fundraise right now? And if we do, how do we make it effective?


Donations are the lifeblood of our ministry, but with so many people financially impacted by this crisis, does it make sense to ask them for money? How do you balance your need for funding with the needs of your donors? It’s a tricky time, but if you are like most organizations, you can’t survive forever when the donations dry up. You need money.


With that in mind, here are five words of advice for how to make your fundraising most effective during this time:


Identify who is most likely to give

While there are definitely some of your donors who have lost their income during the current crisis, not everyone has been impacted. There are many who are still financially stable, even though their lifestyle has been affected by working from home.

Look at your donor segments to determine who is most likely to continue giving right now. Donors who have only given small gifts infrequently might not be the best group to focus your energies on. Mid-level, upper mid-level, and major donors are probably the most likely to have the income and resources to make a special gift right now.

Ask your recurring donor to make a special gift on top of their regular donation to help cover your expenses during the crisis. Those with financial means enjoy being the hero, so ask them to step up on behalf of the others who cannot give right now.


Be sensitive to where people are right now

People’s lifestyles have been changed dramatically. Many are working from home. Many have kids at home as schools remain closed. Restaurants and shopping centers are closed as well. Your normal means of communication might not be as effective.

The postal service is still delivering mail, and social media is busier than ever with people staying at home looking for something to do. Use those platforms to communicate with your donors.

And look for ways to identify with them. “I know what it’s like…I’m working from home too.” Maybe include photos of your team working from home. Put yourself in the place of the donor and ask this question: “If I were them, HOW would I want you to communicate with me, and WHAT do I want to hear?”


Remind donors of the impact you are making

In a crisis like this, many people feel utterly helpless to do anything. “Stay home and wash your hands” is what they’ve heard they can do to help, but that seems like such a small thing in the middle of such a large problem.

The truth is that, in spite of the current reality,  the needs of our communities and the world haven’t stopped. Children are still hungry, the homeless are still out there, and the needs continue. Your organization can help fill your donor’s need for purpose and impact during this time.

Remind them of the good work going on because of their partnership. Make them feel a part of what your organization is doing and the lives it is impacting. Make sure they feel like they are a part of the solution. When your donor takes ownership of your impact, that’s when the magic happens.


If you’re hurting…tell them

Be honest with your donors. Most organizations don’t have the capital to last more than a few months (or less) without donor income. If your organization is facing reduction of services, layoffs, or even shutting down, tell them. Let them know they can be a hero right now on behalf of those who are served by your organization.

One word of advice though: Nobody wants to jump on a sinking ship. Always temper your reality with the positive vision of what can happen with your donor’s investment.


Pour back into your donors

With your donors facing a crisis with no definite end, there is more than a little anxiety, stress, and fear of what the future holds. Look for ways to pour back into them and their hearts.

Encourage them. Use your social media channels to offer words of hope. Send a postcard via direct mail to remind them there is hope.

Call them. Yes, every single one of them. Call them and let them know you are praying for them. Don’t ask them for money during the call, just pray for them.


BONUS TIP: Don’t be afraid to change

Crisis sharpens us. Difficulty helps us reduce the noise and focus on what really matters. These are all things we should be doing all the time, but it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and forget to do them. The current reality helps us innovate and look for solutions.

Sacred cows and “business as usual”  won’t keep you in your doors open right now. Evaluate the landscape, be willing to pivot, and take massive action. Right now, it’s your only choice.

Dave Kirby is Chief Creative Officer at Vidare Creative. He can be contacted at dave@vidarecreative.com.

One thought on “Dave Kirby “5 Keys to Fundraising During a Crisis”

  • Hey Dave! I really liked your insight. I especially liked when you said, “Call them. Yes, every single one of them.” When I ran WAYK/WAYG we regularly called all our donors to thank them and pray with them – every single one. We received great feedback from that. On the flip-side though I got a call from American Express last week – one of my credit card providers. The female caller wanted to know if my family was okay with everything surrounding COVID-19 and if there was anything they could do for me. That was so unexpected, it was a little weird.


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