Fundraising in the Time of Coronavirus

As all of anxiously watch the spread of COVID-19 from China to the rest of the globe, we are all holding our breath on how this is going to affect donor behavior.

Fortunately, December 2019 giving was particularly strong for most organizations. However, early data suggests that first quarter trends are soft. Anytime there is uncertainty, and the virus is contributing to stock market volatility, giving declines. It’s possible a recession, which is defined by lagging indicators, is already here. While there is no need to panic, it might be wise to start doing some contingency planning.

If the virus continues to gain a foot hold in America, one of the first places nonprofit organizations are going to feel it is in their fundraising events. As big sporting events and large conferences, like SXSW, are cancelled this spring, you can expect that people are going to be hesitate to attend your galas and run/bike/walk events – even if they are not outright cancelled. Your organization may want to consider substituting in-person events with “virtual” online events.

Of course, your organization will have to communicate potential changes to your events to your donors. And while e-mail is inexpensive, the medium is particularly crowded and easy to miss. In our view, more emphasis is going to be placed in direct mail both as a communication tool and as a fundraising tool. Many organizations still rely on this tried and true channel for a large chunk of their revenue. In these uncertain times, it likely that direct mail will become an even more important tool in your fundraising arsenal.

Hopefully, we will make it through this period without any consequences to our fundraising. However, as they use to tell me when I was in The Boys Scouts, “Be Prepared.”

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