Fundraising during COVID-19

How have you adapted your fundraising during COVID-19?

As many of you know, I am the 2020 board president of the San Antonio area Association of Fundraising Professionals. My responsibility and the volunteer board are to support our non-profit and fundraising professionals by providing educational opportunities, best practices, and appropriate and timely resources throughout the year. Because of COVID-19, our local chapter quickly adapted our services to meet the needs of our members. Programs that were once face-to-face lunch-and-learns became Zoom meetings. In-person training is now virtual. Networking occurs online. We adapted our focus and services to support the non-profit's fundraising during COVID-19.

Once non-profits, board members, and fundraisers worked through the pandemic's initial shock, they changed their focus to fundraising during COVID-19. For many, this meant rescheduling or canceling face-to-face events. For others, this meant transitioning their face-to-face fundraising activities to a virtual event. Historically done in person, Donor visits changed to phone calls, Zoom calls, calls, texts, and chatting through various social media channels. Fundraising appeals changed. For many, the focus of fundraising during COVID-19 changed from raising general operating funds to crisis fundraising. Non-profits created emergency funds to avoid slashing their budgets and laying off staff and serve the needs of individuals impacted by COVID-19. Thankfully, the community, donors, and individuals responded to the demand by providing much-needed support.

As fundraising during COVID-19 continues, I wonder if it is time for non-profits to pivot and adapt their fundraising efforts again.

Is it possible that fundraising during COVID-19 has swung the pendulum so far in the opposite direction that it is not sustainable long-term? Much like many other emergencies and crises we have faced in the past, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and or wildfires, non-profits often get the most engagement from individuals and the most considerable amount of funds shortly after the event occurs. This is not to say financial support is not raised after the event for clean-up and long-term recovery, but those funds often come from different funders.  Many times, these funds come through foundations or longer-term government support.

While I believe many times, donor burn-out is an excuse donors give when they no longer feel valued, appreciated, or that their gift matters, I am concerned about donor fatigue.

Donor fatigue occurs when donors are over asked and underappreciated. It occurs when your Donor becomes overwhelmed, no longer sees the urgency in your request, and slowly withdraws from your cause.

I am not suggesting non-profits should stop fundraising during COVID-19. However, I do think it is time to reconsider who you approach for funding. I remember several consultants stating that every request should ask for COVID-19 support at the beginning of the pandemic. While this approach to fundraising during COVID-19 may have worked at the beginning of the epidemic, I no longer believe asking for COVID-19 support (in most instances) is the best way to be fundraising during COVID-19.  I think it is time to start considering how you will pivot and adapt your fundraising efforts again.

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