October 23, 2023 | Categories Featured, Fundraising Strategies

Keys to Fundraising During a Crisis: How to Spring Into Action

When nonprofits are faced with fundraising emergencies that relate to their mission – whether it’s a financial crisis, natural disaster, political decision, or local tragedy – they have much to consider before springing into action. What do the victims need most? How can your fundraising team speed up the strategic planning phase to act quickly? How can they overcome their intense emotions about the situation?

The courage and bravery that brought you into the fundraising world will help you overcome the fears of working through a crisis. An emergency situation is the best time to take advantage of trusted fundraising methods that can be implemented quickly and cost-effectively.

Your keys to crisis fundraising:

  • Leverage your data
  • Collect the right information
  • Embrace alternatives
  • Lean into online fundraising

Leveraging your data in a crisis situation

When you’re trying new ways to reach out to donors and connect with them, don’t forget about the small details that can make the difference between success and a miss. For example, you wouldn’t want to solicit a donor who previously mentioned having a close or personal connection to your emergency situation without referencing that conversation. Get together with your team to brainstorm the information that could be pertinent to your emergency fundraising efforts.

Try using a prospect research tool to report on your donors’ history of political giving or using your constituent relationship management system (CRM) to review notes about their interests and concerns. You can also segment your database by demographic to create lists of donors who might be affected by your emergency. If you have staff working from home, make sure you are all communicating with donors using the correct phone numbers and email addresses to ensure recognition and proper documentation.

Collecting the right information for emergencies

Your CRM is your most vital resource to help you reach supporters. If your donor data is not accurate or is missing essentials, like emergency contacts, waivers, householding information, etc., consider doing a team cleanup to prepare for a crisis situation. 

If needed, a simple phone call, postcard, or email to supporters asking to confirm their contact information can help them stay informed about your programs and services. For addresses, a CRM like DonorPerfect will allow you to integrate an automatic address updater. Also, be sure your website includes an email signup form to stay in the loop.

Embracing alternatives when necessary

With supporters concerned about a crisis, it’s unlikely they’ll be willing to hold face-to-face meetings as easily as before. However, as a fundraiser, you know that intimate conversations produce the best results. What can you do? 

Embrace alternatives like Zoom meetings, recorded video messages, and automated text messages to get the conversation going quickly yet efficiently. Lead with concern about your donor’s well-being during this time, and make it evident that you have been paying attention to their needs. Video and text message fundraising tools do allow nonprofits to create donor lists based on past giving and other criteria to make sure their outreach hits home. These methods also allow fundraisers to include a link or donation form for the next steps.

Leaning into online fundraising

In times of crisis, online fundraising helps you inspire a connection between your donors and the beneficiaries they will be helping – a connection that they can’t quite get from mailing a check or responding to a letter. That’s because online fundraising tools allow you to explain your emergency situation on a dedicated campaign page with photos, videos, and stories that invoke an emotional response to the cause. 

Even if you don’t have a website, online donation forms are one of the most powerful ways to connect with supporters during a crisis because they’re easy to link to on your emails, social media posts, and crowdfunding pages, and they’re easily customizable. By adding your nonprofit’s logo, colors, information, and photos, you are showing donors that they can trust this page with their payment information. You can even customize your form to explain what each gift amount will help you accomplish.

Your 4 main areas of crisis fundraising:

It’s crucial to understand how your fundraising methods may change in a crisis before determining how to adapt. Depending on your nonprofit’s size and fundraising model, you probably use one or several of these methods to accomplish your fundraising goals:

  1. Major giving
  2. Corporate giving
  3. Events
  4. Miscellaneous

Major gift fundraising

Nonprofit organizations that rely on major gifts, such as colleges or hospitals, typically hold face-to-face meetings to obtain funds to support their programs. These gifts often depended on fundraisers visiting donors in their homes, restaurants, and offices. In an emergency or a crisis, it may be difficult or even impossible to plan these meetings. 

Developing a plan to strengthen relationships with major donors without in-person appointments can help your organization act quickly and circumvent obstacles. For instance, segmenting your donor data can make it easier to identify opportunities and find common ground to support genuine conversations. Reinforcing your donor data with demographic information and predictive analytics can also reveal trends that make it easier to establish a major gift pipeline.

Corporate and foundation appeals

Larger nonprofits tend to use a combination of direct mail, events, corporate or foundation appeals, as well as face-to-face meetings. In a crisis situation, if you don’t have the time or resources for these undertakings, how will you foster and maintain strong enough connections to secure these funds? 

Try video messages, Zoom calls, and virtual happy hours to connect with corporations and foundations on a more personal level. Don’t be afraid to get creative – think of fun ways to break the ice and natural transitions to bring up your needs.

Fundraising events

Small to medium nonprofits rely heavily on events to bring new people into their organization and to find volunteers. For larger nonprofits, fundraising events provide an excellent opportunity to meet with supporters in person to strengthen relationships. 

But there are easier, speedier, and more cost-effective ways to engage your supporters than an all-out fundraising event with a seating chart and speakers. Think outside the box to create an event that doesn’t require as much time and effort from your supporters during a crisis situation. Thons and giving days (like Giving Tuesday) are a perfect example. The entire event can be held online, and you can even schedule your communications ahead of time.

Miscellaneous (Individual giving, sponsorships, in-kind gifts, auction item donations, etc.)

In your emergency situation, are your supporters experiencing financial difficulties that may reduce their giving capacity? Is your crisis affecting local stores, banking representatives, or other management-level donors who would typically sponsor events, provide auction items, or donate in-kind gifts?

Think of ways to team up that are less demanding or strenuous. Maybe you can inspire a community effort through word of mouth, fliers, bulletins, window displays, food drives, or a quick commercial. Equip sponsors, local businesses, and volunteers with a QR code that will lead supporters back to your online donation form. Those with the ability to help can quickly find your resources on their smartphone.

Feeling overwhelmed with tasks or pressured to communicate quickly? Not sure what to say? Download your free Crisis Fundraising Templates, available below. We’ve created readymade email and social media templates to help you sensitively communicate how donors can support your organization during this time.

Download your free Crisis Fundraising Templates

Image of DonorPerfect Content Writer, Ally Orlando
Meet the author: Ally Orlando

I’m Ally, a lifelong Pennsylvanian now living south of the Mason-Dixon Line. My main thrills are eating and sleeping, but I also enjoy music, art, film, politics, and animals. I love to learn new skills, and I’m not afraid to be a “master of none.”

As a writer, my ambition has...

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