10 ways to do smart fundraising in a pandemic

Are you doing smart pandemic fundraising? Here are some hints from the Wild Apricot Blog at 10 Tips for Direct Mail Fundraising Success in the Time of COVID-19 and Beyond.

You may notice that with the exception of #1, all of these things are things you should do all the time — not just during the pandemic. That’s the way it is. These things are must-do all the time. But even more critical right now!

  1. Adjust Your Messaging. If you aren’t at least addressing the fact that we’re all living in a very different and very strange time, you just aren’t being relevant. Talk about how the pandemic has impacted your organization. Sympathize with donors about how it impacts them!
  2. Know Your Audience. Really think about who they are, what they know and care about, and all about their giving history (if they’ve given). Meet them where they are.
  3. Share Stories, Not Statistics. Numbers numb. Stories activate. Make your case in the form of stories about what is needed and what they donor’s giving does.
  4. Place the Donor at the Centre of the Action. Donor don’t give to fund your organization. They give to make something happen. You need to make sure that’s what your fundraising is about.
  5. Check Your Ego at the Door. It’s not about how amazing your organization is. It’s about what donors help make possible.
  6. Ask for Donations — and Be Specific. Always ask for a specific amount — or more likely a few specific amounts. And do your best to make that amount relevant for the donor, that is close to what they’ve given before or what you have reason to believe they are likely to give now.
  7. Keep It Long. Longer message work better than short ones. Almost always. I know that’s weird, but it’s a very dependable truth.
  8. Don’t Forget About Your Outer Envelope. It’s the most important element of every direct mail pack. If they don’t open it, it doesn’t matter how great everything inside is. There’s not one right way, but avoid cleverness, avoid over-designing, avoid giving away what’s inside. Mystery is the most dependable envelope approach.

  9. Test, Test, Test and Test Again. It’s the only way to really know what works. BUT: If you’re mailing to lists smaller than around 20,000, don’t test! You will not get statistically significant results. In that case, you have to go on what other people have tested. That’s not perfect, but it’s far better than faulty testing. Or wild guessing.
  10. Create an Integrated Experience. Most of your donors interact with mail and the internet. When you reach them with the same message in different media, you will do better! Most of your direct mail campaigns should have related email campaigns, and probably also social media components.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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