As the COVID-19 pandemic has taken hold, it has generated a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the nonprofit fundraising world. We have received a lot of questions about how to handle digital fundraising from a wide variety of organizations.

We thought it best to house all of those questions and answers here in a simple FAQ page. If you have a question and don’t see it listed here, we welcome you to contact us so we can add it to this list.

Are we taking advantage of the situation if we ask for funds while during both a health and economic crisis?

This is a difficult question for all of us in nonprofit fundraising, but we all know that fundraising is essential right now. In previous times of nationwide crisis – like 9/11 and the Great Recession – those organizations who stopped, who waited until the situation got better, or who didn’t want to upset donors ended up worse off in the long run. Simply put: No fundraising means no revenue. No revenue means no help for those who desperately need it.

How often should my organization send out emails?

The answer depends on the size and type of organization. Nonprofits on the front lines of this crisis like food banks, hospitals and rescue missions are sending 1-2 emails per week. Many are also seeing a tremendous lift in online donations. Animal welfare groups, whose mission is not as closely tied to the coronavirus, tend to vary more. A bit more or less on either end of this spectrum is OK, but the key is to watch your email performance and make sure you’re not tiring out your constituents with asks to the point of apathy. Also, keep a close eye on your deliverability to ensure it remains solid.

What kind of emails should we be sending out?

There should be a healthy mix of appeals and cultivation. The nature of the situation makes it appropriate for emergency-type appeal messages, but these should be sprinkled in among cultivation messages that provide updates or tips, or even just check in on your constituents.

Should we be texting our constituents to ask for gifts?

If you currently have a texting program, it should continue. The text messages for appeals should align with your timing for appeals in other channels. Just like in email, it is also good to provide an occasional message that does not ask for gifts – providing value without asking for anything in return to help solidify that relationship.

Lightbox vs. homepage callout: Which is more effective?

Why not both? The straightforward answer is that lightboxes are generally more effective since they cannot be ignored or passed over as easily. We have seen a great deal of success from lightboxes asking for emergency funds. However, if you have the capacity, it could work well to have a lightbox live with more urgent messaging and a homepage callout with less urgent messaging.

Should my organization be advertising right now?

Digital advertising is a tremendous opportunity for nonprofit organizations right now. More and more people are stuck at home due to social distancing guidelines. In the absence of events – including all sports – everyone will be looking for ways to pass the time indoors. As a result, we’ve seen online media consumption and searches climbing in recent weeks. This is the perfect time to get your brand message and your mission in front of both your current donors and potential new ones.

Which digital advertising channel is best?

There’s not a single answer for the “best” online channel – it varies based on your needs, your local market share of awareness, your DMA size, etc. The best way to maintain a healthy program during this time is to focus on a singular message in multiple channels. Make sure you have up-to-date keywords and landing pages active if you have a Google Grant. From a paid media perspective, SEM tends to carry the best CPA, but it works better when it is partnered with paid Facebook and display ads. This would be a good time to use any spare funds and direct them toward paid media to emphasize the timely nature of the request for donations in this uncertain time.

How can I make up revenue from canceled events?

Event cancellations and postponements were one of the first consequences of the pandemic’s impact on nonprofits. These events provide a tremendous source of revenue for many organizations, and making it up will be difficult. We recommend a combination of investing in digital tools like advertising, personal tools like wellness calls, and virtual event tools like livestream fundraising. The goal is to maintain a strong, meaningful relationship with your mid-major donors.

Will donors support us if our programs/services are closed to the public?

Your message will change slightly, but as long as you are focused on providing services and saving lives, then, yes, the support will come. Almost everyone is on a stay-at-home order, and most are aware of the nature of closures and measures taken within businesses to keep the public safe. The story for your organization, however, does not change. Your donations still go toward life-saving care and/or resources for those whom you serve.

How do we treat new and current donors giving in response to our COVID-19 efforts?

Sincere thank-you messages are a great start. Just as your appeal messages have changed to focus on emergency efforts, your thank-you messages should include the same focus. Those who give during this time are doing more than ever before to make an impact. We also recommend sending these new donors communications throughout the upcoming weeks with news, organizational updates, and other ways they can help. These donors should also be tagged for future segmentation and messaging – there’s no telling what the near future will hold, so we should prepare by tagging these constituents now.