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Food banks, hospitals see increase in online donations during COVID-19

It’s been a few weeks since COVID-19 took the U.S. by storm. And as we all begin to settle in to our “new normal,” we’ve also had time to adjust our digital fundraising and messaging strategies.

We’ve published resources that discuss the best ways to reach donors, raise funds and prepare for economic distress. What we haven’t been able to discuss is results.

Until now.

With a few weeks of data under our belts, it’s time to share some positivity. Many of our food bank and hospital clients are seeing a sharp rise in donations! And although it’s due to unfortunate circumstances, spontaneous giving always deserves to be celebrated.

Let’s break down some of the amazing results our clients are seeing across their digital campaigns and the creative messaging that got them there.


For 15 of our food bank clients, online donations totaled more than $10.3 million from March 12 to March 31. During that same time period in 2019, online donations only totaled $803,453. That’s a 1,187% increase.

One word: Wow.

And the donations are still flowing in. People are seeing a need in their communities and looking for ways to fill it.

As the situation began to unfold, we updated email messaging and creative to help clients share their need with the local community. Here are just a few of the success stories we’ve seen with our clients:


Sitting in what is now considered the epicenter for the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, Food Bank for New York City has seen incredible community response.

As of March 25, their daily donation average is over $100,000. Between March 12 and March 31, the food bank has seen a 4,458% increase in online giving compared to last year during this time.



Utah Food Bank sent out a clear, concise email with urgent messaging to their entire email file as part of a larger online strategy. As of March 25, the email raised five times more than their traditional email response. Between March 12 and 31 and their total online giving has grown by 1,557% year over year.




Connecticut Food Bank deployed a similar email with updated messaging relevant to their situation. Between March 12-31, total online giving has increased by 2,923% year over year.


Brigham and Women’s Hospital is on the front lines battling COVID-19 in the New England region.

A heavy social media presence paired with two emails leveraging simple, urgent messaging has grown their online donations by almost 940% year over year.

Finding the right approach to creative-1


This is the common message across all the resources we’ve shared lately. Now is not the time to pull back on fundraising, even if your organization is seeing encouraging results like these.

Make sure you can track donors who are giving to coronavirus efforts. Many of these will likely be new donors. You’ll want to speak differently to these new donors as this situation plays out.

With social distancing recommendations now lasting through April 30 at least, your organization will likely see increased need. It’s not insensitive to reach out and communicate that need with these donors and ask again.

We’re all finding our way through fundraising during a global pandemic. Ask donors to stand with you for the long haul – you may be surprised to see how many are willing to do so.

Is fundraising insensitive during a time of crisis?

FAQ: Digital fundraising during COVID-19

How to handle emergency appeals during the coronavirus pandemic

COVID-19 Fundraising + Marketing Resources


Jenn Thompson

Jenn has decades of experience working alongside nonprofits to create integrated digital strategies that lead to multichannel growth and high-value donors. She has been with RKD since 2010, and she provides the digital plan of attack for dozens of food banks and animal shelters.

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