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Nonprofit pandemic response: Convey your value proposition even if you are not on the front line (webinar)

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on all industries, and the nonprofit sector is not immune. It’s important to have a solid nonprofit pandemic response strategy, whether you’re a small mom-and-pop charity or a larger organization, like a healthcare system.

Below are tips and best practices to communicate your organizations mission, messaging and impact during a crisis.

Nonprofit pandemic response to fundraising

How are nonprofits staying relevant?

There’s an opportunity for nonprofits to re-imagine what they are doing, how they are doing it and who they are doing it with. For example, when you look at education, the landscape is changing by the minute: kids are staying home, colleges are hosting virtual classes and the entire education community had to change their delivery system. Youth serving agencies such as the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Club have all stepped up to fill the gaps.

The most important lesson that we can learn is resiliency. Don’t stop what you are doing. Regardless of whether your service delivery has been modified, continue to communicate with your donors, cultivate them and make sure you are letting the community know why and how you are relevant. Surprisingly, the clients we see who continue with their capital campaigns have meet their goals.

It’s vital to look at your field of expertise and try to identify ways in which you can better serve that population.

Virtual events: What’s working?

We have seen many event cancellations, and for virtual events we are seeing a major decrease in participation.

However, many agencies are still able to raise the same amount of money as previous years by getting creative. Some agencies are organizing in-home events where they send out packages of food to donors to have their own small event at home, and some are hosting online raffles or auctions.

In many cases, organizations and donors have budgeted for your event already. We suggest nonprofit agencies reach out to their donors and ask if gifts are still viable and, if so, proceed accordingly.

From the webinar, 52% of callers said they are planning to hold a virtual event in 2020, while 27% said they are not. To make the best of your virtual event, we suggest you:

  • Be flexible
  • Engage your best donors and leadership team
  • Increase communication to the community
  • Recognize what makes your event unique and incorporate this into your online format
  • Consider engaging a celebrity participant

How much do you know about your donors?

Institutional foundations have been stretched to their limit, but we are seeing individual donors stepping up.

We encourage organizations to perform wealth screenings, research and utilize other kinds of tools to find out more about their donors. The better you know your donors, the better you can reach out and get them invested in your organization.

How do we make fundraising progress while we are all on home arrest?

Spend this time reviewing other donor lists and paying attention to what other organizations are doing. Try connecting with other nonprofits. Many times, the most successful organizations out there are the ones that do the most collaboration and are the most welcoming to other agencies.

Giving trends during the pandemic

At a national level, a Fidelity report‡ shows that 8 out of 10 people surveyed will continue their giving or increase it, 25% have actually donated more during the pandemic and 43% of those surveyed have given to the nonprofits they typically support with the thought that these organizations have likely been impacted by the pandemic.

During the first 12 weeks of the pandemic, $11.5 billion had been raised in global support—and that number is even higher now.

A new normal-ish

Nonprofit agencies are reporting the following:

  1. Capital campaigns are put on hold
  2. New campaigns are postponed
  3. Fundraising events are cancelled
  4. Fundraising events are rescheduled and go viral

When it comes to the decision to hold capital campaigns, we’re seeing most of those decisions driven by boards of director. We’ve also seen a lot of agencies not offering donors’ money back. We recommend at least having a conversation to explain what you are doing with the money.

Nonprofit agencies are also reporting the following experiences that influence nonprofit pandemic responses:

  1. Nonprofits addressing food insecurity receive record number of new donors
  2. Overall philanthropy increases
  3. Agencies conduct numerous conversations about their relevance in light of the pandemic

Donors are looking to support organizations that act as change agents in our current environment.

Fundraising events

When looking at your event ask:

  • Is it necessary for your organization and how does it reflect on your mission?
  • What percentage of your budget comes from these events?
  • How does it convey your mission?
  • Can you go without it this year?

Take a look to see if you have the resources to host an event and if it is worth it this year. This time could also allow for your organization to find a more efficient and effective way to raise money from individual donors.

Stay on top of your nonprofit pandemic response

The biggest takeaway here is for agencies to continue to identify new ways to serve their clients. Take the extra time we have at home to review strategic planning and consider alternatives, collaborations and mergers. Be sure to stay in close contact with your board and consider, if you haven’t already, creating a 12-month pandemic response.

We recommend you take this time to research and learn more about your existing donor base, utilize social media to tell your story, calculate the cost/loss to the community if your agency is not delivering services and revise your fundraising budget to reflect new strategies.

For more information about managing investments for your nonprofit or institution, visit UMB’s institutional investment management on umb.com.


This post is informational only and does not constitute legal or tax advice. For all the items discussed in this post, it is best to consult your own legal or tax advisor who knows your specific situation and can advise you accordingly.

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.

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When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s Web site and go to Web sites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other Web sites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.