COVID-19 changed our everyday lives in many ways. Professionally, we fundraisers were forced to alter our methods to adapt to the “new normal.”  Yes, it was challenging, but the good news is that the pandemic pushed us, both individually and as organizations, to step outside of our “fundraising comfort zone” and pursue new and innovative strategies. 

As a result, nonprofits didn’t just survive the pandemic; they thrived. Many nonprofits saw especially strong fundraising results during the pandemic. This included a higher number of new donors as well as increased giving from existing donors. It was a good reminder of just how incredible donors are.

So what now? 

As we move into a post-pandemic fundraising era, resist the urge to automatically go back to the way things were pre-COVID! Instead, take the time to carefully evaluate what worked and did not work for your donors and your nonprofit the past 18 months. What makes sense to keep and what will you never do again? Build off those successful strategies, and remember to continue to innovate and challenge the status quo. 

Thank Donors (Again)

First things, first…be sure to thank the donors who contributed to your nonprofit during the pandemic. These were challenging times for everyone, and you should make it clear just how much their loyal support meant, and how much you appreciate them. I know you already thanked them, but do it again…trust me, you can’t thank donors enough, especially those who gave this past year. Use concrete examples and storytelling to illustrate for donors what a difference they made and how incredible they are.

Reach Out to New Donors

Many nonprofits saw an influx of new donors during the pandemic. Make sure you have properly welcomed these new donors, and reached out to them to personally thank them for their support. This can be a personal email, phone call or handwritten note. Be sure to make it clear how important their donation was, and also how important their continued support will be. This is crucial to retaining these new donors who might have given on a whim, and turning them into loyal, long term supporters.

Continue Online Communications 

Did you ever think you would invite older donors to join a Zoom call? Perhaps the most surprising part was how many of these donors participated in these calls! 

Donors of all ages became more comfortable online during the pandemic, and we can all agree that is a good thing! Whether it was making a donation online, participating in an online event or joining a Zoom call with a member of your fundraising team, donors surprised many of us with their quick adaptation of technology. In fact, online giving in 2020 grew 20.7% year over year.

Let’s keep this going! We all know the power of multi-channel communication, so continue to utilize the online channel to connect with donors. Remember to use online in addition to your tried-and-true communication methods.

Use Virtual Major Gift Solicitations

Pre-pandemic, nonprofits traditionally met with major donors in person. These meetings were a key part of the major gift strategy. The meetings helped build stronger relationships, and gave major gift fundraisers the chance to update donors on the nonprofit’s work, answer questions, and ask for another donation.

Suddenly, this wasn’t possible! So major gift fundraisers started doing the unthinkable: scheduling video calls with donors. While there is arguably nothing quite like being able to thank a donor face to face, these new virtual visits were quite successful. 

In fact, a recent report from CCS Fundraising found that of those respondents whose organizations had conducted a virtual major gift solicitation, 72% reported that their virtual requests were either as successful or more successful than their typical results from in-person solicitations. 

Certainly, many of these meetings will go back to being in person. However, nonprofits have added another option to the mix that is time-efficient and saves money. For the most part, donors were comfortable with virtual meetings, and some seem to even prefer this new way of connecting. 

Rethink Your Events

One of the biggest professional concerns for fundraisers in the early days of the pandemic was canceling events. Many nonprofits previously relied upon galas and events to generate a significant amount of income and interact with top supporters.

Nonprofits had to completely rethink these donor events. Many were able to come up with creative approaches to facilitate an engaging and entertaining event that also generated income. Even better, most nonprofits were pleasantly surprised by how successful these virtual events were! Plus, nonprofits also saved a tremendous amount of money.

Going forward, nonprofits may want to consider a hybrid approach to events. Some events can likely stay virtual, others might benefit from returning to the traditional in person format. And other events may have both in person and virtual components. This will offer donors more options for engagement and likely mean even more donors participate.

In the past, nonprofits were traditionally slow to change and even slower to adapt to newer types of technology. The pandemic changed all of that. Nonprofits were forced to alter their strategies, on the fly, in order to survive. Despite the challenges, many nonprofits saw very successful fundraising results during the pandemic and picked up some new techniques and methods for communication. This innovative, donor-centered approach should continue in 2021 and beyond.