How to Maintain Nonprofit Donor Relations During a Crisis

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|5 min read Donor Engagement

Nonprofit and donor relationships are often tested during a crisis, which is why it’s important to evaluate your crisis management strategy. Donors are trying to determine where their dollar will help the most, and nonprofits are oftentimes just trying to stay afloat. We understand that it can be a difficult time for you and your donors, which is why we offer four ways you can strengthen donor relations during a crisis. 

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Four ideas to stay connected with donors during coronavirus

Although each crisis is unique and presents different challenges, you can use the same basic principles to maintain donor relations through most adverse situations. Open communication and mindfulness are two of the most important considerations when developing or refining your crisis management strategy. Below, we take a deep dive into the various strategies your nonprofit can employ, from messaging to sympathy to virtual events. 

1. Recruit top executives to communicate with donors during COVID-19

In times of uncertainty, we tend to look to authority figures for guidance and reassurance. If able, recruit your nonprofit’s top executives to communicate with donors during coronavirus and detail your nonprofit’s plans for moving forward. By addressing potential concerns, you can strengthen your existing relationship with donors and build trust in your nonprofit for the future.  

Be mindful when selecting your communication method. Make sure that your outreach strategy matches the gravity of the situation and that your messaging is consistent across all platforms. For example, email is perceived as a more formal medium, which can reinforce the idea that your nonprofit has an actionable, solid plan in place. 

If you plan on leveraging social media to amplify your message, think about how you want to present the information. Instead of tweeting or posting as an executive, consider writing something like this:

“Every day, we’re facing new challenges due to COVID-19. Here’s a message from
[insert executive name], our [insert executive title], on how [insert nonprofit name] plans on addressing these issues so we can continue providing key services during and after the pandemic.”


Attach your executive’s message on your nonprofit’s official letterhead as either a .jpg or PDF. This will create a balance between the informality of social media and the seriousness of the crisis response. 

Additional considerations include crafting specific messaging for major donors or investors. Due to their large contributions, major donors and investors often require additional reassurance. If possible, set up a town hall or investor call to address specific concerns and share your long term goals. This will show them that you’re not only thinking about the current crisis but that you’re also focused on how your organization will adapt beyond the current crisis. 

2. Be empathetic: Only ask for money if you need it 

Fear is a natural response to a crisis, which raises our emotional sensitivity. If your donors were recently laid off and struggling to pay for basic expenses, they may react negatively when asked to donate. This is why it is crucial for your nonprofit to navigate the fine line of being sympathetic while addressing the needs of your organization. The lack of sensitivity can make your nonprofit appear tone-deaf and ultimately damage your reputation beyond the crisis. 

To avoid this, only ask for money if your organization or beneficiaries truly need it. Are you running out of funds to keep your nonprofit afloat? Are your services directly helping the people impacted by the crisis? If you answered yes to either question, it would be appropriate for your nonprofit to ask for donations. 

Make sure to be transparent when asking for donations. What will the funds be used for? Will they be used to combat crisis-related challenges? Or, will you start a coronavirus relief fund to continue paying your employees? This will give your donors a better understanding of why you’re asking for donations, which can elicit empathy rather than a negative emotional response.  

 3. Host a virtual event

Once your nonprofit decides if it’s necessary to ask for donations, consider hosting a virtual fundraiser or event. These events make it possible for donors to feel more connected to your nonprofit and mission, despite current crises. If you’re unsure, you can always start small and scale later. Virtual events are easy to plan, execute, and repeat, allowing you to make changes until you find the perfect formula for your nonprofit.  

Here are some ideas to get you started: 

  • Host an Instagram live fundraising event 
  • Organize a virtual charity run
  • Run a donation matching drive
  • Coordinate an online auction

4. Showcase your nonprofit’s impact

Sending emails detailing your crisis management plan is important when communicating with donors, but so is offering hope and inspiration. Remind donors of all the good you’ve accomplished together, whether it’s feeding 500 hungry families or helping 50 homeless individuals get back on their feet. 

Reach out to the people who’ve benefited from your programs and see whether they’d be willing to share their experiences. Personal stories from people you’ve helped can make a long-lasting impact on your donors. Stories, photos, and videos allow donors to see the direct impact of their contributions and can ultimately strengthen your relationship beyond the crisis. 

For inspiration on how to amplify your nonprofit’s impact, browse through our list of seven nonprofits raising money for coronavirus causes.

Strengthen nonprofit donor relations during coronavirus

By incorporating these four ideas into your nonprofit’s crisis management strategy, you can preserve your donor relations during COVID-19. If your nonprofit is facing financial uncertainty, or you want to raise funds for those impacted by the coronavirus, GoFundMe Charity makes it easy to get started in a matter of minutes. With no platform fees and fully customizable campaign pages, try out GoFundMe Charity for your nonprofit’s coronavirus fundraising campaign.

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