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Using board members to connect with disaster donors

The coronavirus pandemic has left nonprofits with many questions about their fundraising.

How do we change the messaging of our previously planned campaigns? What do we do now that our event is canceled? Where should we turn for guidance?

We’ve answered all of those in our past blogs. But in this one, we’ll answer an especially critical one for local and regional organizations like food banks, rescue missions and animal welfare groups: How can we thank disaster donors when our organization is already spread so thin?

Our answer: Board members.


You’ve worked hard to bring in donors to support your cause during this disaster. But if you don’t take the time to thank them, that effort is wasted.

According to a recent study on donor thank-you calls, retention for first-time donors increased to 41% when a thank-you phone call was made within the first 90 days of a gift.

Here’s another important fact: Once a phone call is made, the second gift size typically doubles.

While these numbers were tracked during normal giving circumstances, imagine the response you could get if you take the time to call a donor right now.

With most of the population at home practicing social distancing, that time taken to form a human connection could pay off in more ways than one.

But what if your organization is already stretched thin as you work to respond to the increased need brought on by COVID-19?


Your board members are an available resource during these times. Right now, many of them are likely among the majority, at home looking for ways they can help.

By using them, not only do you get to connect with donors, you also get your board member more involved with your mission.

You don’t have to rely on them to come up with something on their own. Create a set of talking points that not only thanks donors for their gift, but also serves as a check-in to connect and see how they’re dealing with these uncertain times. No ask is needed during these calls.

Present the talking points to your board on a Zoom call, even acting out potential scenarios to prepare them for questions that may arise.


Depending on your organization, you may not have the resources to call every single donor who gives to your cause right now. That’s OK.

Segment disaster donations into reactivated donors and new donors above a certain level – maybe $100 and above – that will work for your organization’s available resources.

If you have the ability to track wealth value, look for any donors with the potential for larger gifts. For those donors, and any mid-major donors, assign board members to reach out and schedule a virtual coffee or happy hour meeting.

In a recent poll of major donors, many expressed the desire for a call from a board member or executive touching base with them and explaining what the organization is doing in response to COVID-19.

We also recommend pulling all donors who have made a gift from a donor advised fund to ensure they are getting wellness calls, too.

Everyone is looking for human interaction right now, so the sooner you get your board started the better.

When second gifts start to come in, track the board members who called those donors and let them know immediately. Once the board members start to see that their hard work is paying off, you’ll have them coming back for more!

Lisa Rossi

Lisa has decades of experience working with animal welfare organizations. An accomplished fundraising strategist, Lisa helps our clients craft effective strategies that lead to growth and high-value donors.

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