Lessons learned during the pandemic will stick with fundraisers


The extreme nature of the changes to society during the pandemic challenged fundraisers to evolve our strategies – almost overnight – in ways that were and still are unimaginable. In our current environment, with social distancing restrictions, quarantines and face masks, there is one constant – there is no magic recipe for fundraising.

There are, however, many tools that can be adapted strategically by an organization to ensure fundraising success. They helped many nonprofits stay above water in 2020 and will be just as important in 2021 and beyond as vaccines roll out and things evolve into a new normal.

Traditionally, fundraising endeavors are rooted in personal, face-to-face visits for solicitation of major donors. Prior studies from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University illustrate this method bearing the greatest fruit. However, COVID-19 has limited the number of face-to-face visits. But new communication-focused and donor-centric tools have bridged that gap and will continue to serve fundraisers well in the future.

Here are a few of the tools the Steier Group believes will continue to prove important after the pandemic has subsided:

Video calls

Fundraisers have more prominently used modern technology to conduct virtual personal visits. Zoom, Facetime, Microsoft Teams, WhatsApp, GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts are among the more popular programs used for video calls. These programs allow for donors to easily join a meeting through simple shared links and mobile apps. Whereas phone calls could be used, these video meetings allow for participants to view body language and allow for a more personal feel to the fundraising ask.

While personal visits will likely return, continuing to offer video calls for those most comfortable will allow you to reach the greatest number of donors in a way that works best for them.

Electronic communications

While plenty of nonprofits used these types of tools before the pandemic, they proved vital during the current physically distant age. Platforms such as Vertical Response, Constant Contact, Mailchimp, Flocknote and others are easy to use at little to no cost for organizations and can share the needs of the organization. These programs allow for mass email campaigns and/or targeted campaigns to specific groups of donors, which can be personalized.

Email campaigns should be designed to be donor friendly and include fundraising progress, project milestones and online giving opportunities. While email campaigns are great ways to communicate organizational needs, text message campaigns through platforms like Textedly can also be utilized to communicate the organization’s needs.

According to Campaign Monitor, text message campaigns have an average open rate of 98% compared to an email open rate of 20%. Social media platforms are also a great way to share an organization’s message. And staying in touch with your supporters, even as normal life returns, will provide you a strong connection with your donors.

Digital giving platforms

Digitally giving is the most important tool an organization can adopt and proved vital during the pandemic. According to the Nonprofit Source, digital giving has been on the rise over the years and continues to grow with over 54% of donors preferring to give online donations with credit or debit cards. Coupled with electronic communications, organizations can communicate with their donors and share digital giving forms for automatic payments, recurring payments and ease of access. Digital giving also helps short-staffed organizations with minimal processing required, automated bookkeeping, automated donor acknowledgements (not to replace sending the donor a hand-written note) and capturing up-to-date contact information for future correspondence.

CRM software

An organization’s successful fundraising is dependent on the constituents served and the donors who support its mission. Organizations should have a well-established database of past donors and consumers. A CRM (customer relationship management) software helps organizations keep track of an individual or family’s contact information, donation history, correspondence with the donor, any notes from past meetings or phone calls and any other pertinent information. In most cases, CRM software can be integrated with electronic communication and digital giving tools. A well-managed CRM database is crucial for communications and relationships with donors and an organization’s constituents.

What we can learn from fundraising during the pandemic is that adapting to the world around us and the needs of donors by using the necessary tools will lead to the greatest fundraising success. There is no cookie cutter approach to fundraising – well-run nonprofits will adapt to strategically fundraise successfully.

If you have more questions about the future of fundraising or ways that the Steier Group can help, please contact me.

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