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Coronavirus and fundraising: Digital do’s and don’ts

The current coronavirus pandemic has swept in dramatic changes across the U.S. in a short time frame. As a result, nonprofit organizations have been scrambling to adapt, particularly when it comes to fundraising.

During periods of disaster, nonprofit organizations have learned that they can turn to digital marketing channels for rapid response and communication. But one question many groups have right now is whether this is the right time to continue fundraising efforts.

For the long term, our advice is steadfast:Don’t halt your fundraising programs. But in the short term, here are a few things to consider on the digital side:



As fast as things are moving, your first instinct may be to dive right into how you can use your digital channels to reach out and ask for donations.

Our advice? Stop and think.

People are scared and uncertain about the near future, and their thoughts are focused on helping themselves. They’re worried about their health, their families, and their jobs.

You also don't want to appear opportunistic or tone deaf in your response. Look at the backlash some brands are facing for appearing to put profit over people.

For most nonprofit groups, we recommend that your communications should focus on information over fundraising unless you are an organization who is meeting an immediate need as a result of the pandemic.


As you pause, this is the time to discuss internally how COVID-19 is changing how your organization operates.

Food banks, for example, have an urgent and growing need to help people dealing with food insecurity, including many children who are out of school and not receiving meals. At the same time, they’re losing volunteers, especially corporate ones.

They must evaluate how their programs will adapt both to the changing needs and the internal challenges they’re facing. On a positive note, many are seeing increases in giving from donors who recognize the urgent need – without even directly asking.


Once you’ve determined how this pandemic is changing the way you operate, determine how helpful/relevant that is to your audience.

In the absence of a compelling urgent need, your focus should be on engaging with your donors and audiences. Provide them with timely and relevant communication to build a deeper connection.

The coronavirus is at the top of everyone’s minds, and as the situation changes, people want to know what those changes mean.

Don’t say something just to say something. Think about what information you have to share that would be relevant, and keep that information flowing.

This should also be a two-way conversation. Ask your audience what they want/need from you during this time.


Despite all the digital communication channels we have available to us today, some organizations still get stuck in a mindset of only using email to push important information out.

You have a multichannel strategy for this very reason. Post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share timely, relevant information. Send text messages to your donors. Use digital advertising to reach out to people who are staying home and using their devices more.

The point is that you have a host of digital tools at your disposal. Make use of them and the benefits each one provides.


Finally, maintaining focus is crucial. There are plenty of distractions out there right now.

As you’re determining how your organization is adapting, what information you want to communicate, how often you want to reach out, and which channels you want to use, you need to remember one thing: Stay true to your values.

People who are committed to your organization aren't going to quit caring about your core mission because of the coronavirus.

Don't get so far off of your track of messaging that you are no longer relevant to them.

Jarred Schremmer

Jarred Schremmer has worked in multichannel fundraising, communication and direct marketing for a distinguished list of health, international relief, faith-based, arts and culture, and collegiate athletic clients since 2005. His experience across multiple nonprofit communication channels adds even more depth to his strategic leadership.

As Senior Vice President, Client Partnership, at RKD Group, Jarred currently leads dynamic teams who serve an international base of nonprofit organizations. His teams have a remarkable record of success helping organizations increase media reach, multiply fundraising and marketing revenue, and grow digital and multichannel donors. Jarred, who is committed to making data-driven strategic decisions, employs sophisticated donor attribution models to increase response and strengthen donor relationships for his clients.

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