Help for Nonprofits During COVID-19

The world needs your work now more than ever. We’re here to ensure it goes on.

  • Here to Help
  • How to Ask for Donor Support
  • What Are My Peers Doing During This Crisis?
  • Our Customer Stories
  • Turn Cancelled Events Into Opportunities
  • Social Media Tips

We’re Here to Help

We have compiled resources from our own experts and others in the industry to help you meet your organization’s goals in these sudden new circumstances. The work you do is important, and we are here to support you as you continue to create impact.

In these unprecedented times, it is important that you communicate honestly with your donors about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the work of your organization.

Your donors give financially because they believe in your mission, and this crisis hasn’t changed your mission at all.

We know these circumstances are adding complexity to your already challenging work. We’re here to help however we can.

How to Ask for Donor Support

As a nonprofit leader, we know your last few weeks have been different from anything you have ever faced. You’ve had to figure out how your entire staff can work from home and how to continue your organization’s work, all while figuring out how to maintain the financial support that makes your mission possible.

You know your donors are experiencing the same issues, so how do you ask for money in a time like this?

In these unprecedented times, it is important that you communicate honestly with your donors about how the COVID-19 crisis is impacting the work of your organization.

Your donors give financially because they believe in your mission, and this crisis hasn’t changed your mission at all. Your donors need to hear that from you.

1. Keep your donors focused on your mission and the lives they impact through their support.
Donors are less interested or convicted to support ongoing administrative or support costs, even though they are important. The current news cycle continues to leave people feeling helpless. Your mission gives them an opportunity to provide “front line” help and hope at a time when so many people need it.

2. Be honest with your donors about how the current COVID-19 crisis is impacting your work and your funding.
We have clients that are experiencing an increased demand for their services and others that are having to completely change the way they help their beneficiaries. Your donors need to know what is happening within your organization and how you are navigating these challenges.

3. Recognize the current crisis isn’t just impacting your organization, but has likely turned your donors’ worlds upside down as well.
The tone of your communications is important. Be sure to communicate the empathy you have for how your donors have also been impacted.

The work you are doing was worthy of support before this crisis, and it continues to be worthy of support during this crisis. As long as you take the appropriate tone, and communicate how donors are helping you serve the “front lines” of philanthropy, you can still effectively raise money to continue your important work.

As you think through your communications plans we also want you to see how other organizations are creatively using the iDonate platform to engage their donors in new ways.

What Are My Peers Doing During This Crisis?

We are several weeks into the crisis caused by COVID19 and many of you are just now coming up for your first breath. At this point you know exactly what your organization has been doing for marketing and fundraising, but how does that compare to other non-profits? Are your results an outlier or are you experiencing the same trends as others in the industry?

Are other organizations sending more email that usual? Less email? Is everyone talking about COVID19? Is web traffic up or down for most organizations? Are some organizations seeing an increase in gifts despite all of this?

These are valid questions, and we would like to help by sharing some research from our partners at NextAfter.

Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:

  • Email volume is up and has been since the middle of March. Most organizations are sending more email through this crisis rather than less
  • With few exceptions, web traffic is up each week compared to the same period a year ago. This is likely a result of increased email volume
  • March and April saw an increase in the volume of online gifts compared to the previous year
  • Gift volume is up, but average gift size in down for both March and April compared to 2019
  • Revenue was generally flat January through March compared to 2019 but had a sharp increase in April, up over 50% from 2019 across the non-profits in the study
  • Roughly 50% of emails include a solicitation for donations but this varies widely by sector

We recommend you take a look all of the data that NextAfter is providing at For each metric they provide, you can narrow the results down to see only the non-profits in your sector to get a better idea how your peers are performing.

If your organization is seeing drastically different results you can begin to analyze your activities compared to the activity of your peers. Learning from each other just makes sense.

Our Customer Stories

A few examples of clients using our online giving platform creatively during this time.

Customer #1
A nonprofit dedicated to the eradication of a crippling disease had planned a large advocacy event to bring together victim families, scientists, clinicians, and medical professionals to share their stories with members of the federal government and legislators. Rather than cancel this important event, they chose to convert to a virtual approach, and will conduct the event with remote online systems. The nonprofit is using iDonate’s digital event module to create “action” kits for advocates using the event ticketing functionality of our product. This allows advocates to purchase differing levels of assets to facilitate their outreach, and allows for supporting donations for the cause.

Customer #2
A large ministry will be using iDonate’s digital event module to manage a coming 24-Hour Prayer Chain for staff, donors, alumni, and supporters around the world. Their supporters and staff will sign up for time slots to pray on behalf of their ministry and all their constituents. The events system will provide tickets for time slots, allowing partners to sign up for a specific time and confirm that for both the ministry and the participant. The system will also create a visual ticker to show how many slots are filled or remaining to be filled, sending a reminder of their specific time to pray.

Customer #3
A compassionate client of iDonate serves domestic violence survivors. They had planned a major luncheon event to tell their story and raise funds for their cause and had to cancel and reimagine a way to do the event virtually. With iDonate’s Peer-to-Peer Fundraising module, they were able to create fundraising teams and communicate out to their attendees and other audiences. They have attracted over 100 donors and raised two thirds of their goal in approximately one week.

Customer #4
A large faith-based charity that serves community needs created a front-page banner on their website highlighting their carefully planned response to COVID-19. This messaging included video assets, opportunities for volunteers, and a well-designed ask for financial assistance, leading their supporters to an embedded giving form and a creative goal meter to show progress. They have received a strong response and have now raised hundreds of thousands of dollars online in this effort in less than two weeks.

Turn Cancelled Events Into Opportunities

Fundraising events can be an important source of revenue and a great way to grow a deeper connection with donors. But the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in the cancellation or postponement of fundraising events of all types. Black-tie galas, 5k races, and everything in between have been unexpectedly erased from the fundraising plans of organizations everywhere.

But this doesn’t mean you need to eliminate the revenue from those events and adjust your expense budget just yet. With some creativity, you can replace your fundraising event and still effectively raise money from your donors.

For some organizations, fundraising events are a huge part of their overall fundraising plan. The events create a great opportunity to show donors the impact of their giving, cast vision for your supporters, and build relationships.

Cancelling events doesn’t mean you have to forego any of these benefits. A little creativity and a solid plan can ensure that you still reach each of the goals you had for your event.

Virtual Events
If you had a gala planned it may still be possible to produce the event virtually. There are several platforms that provide you with the ability to stream your event in real time. While you may not be able to serve a fancy dinner, you can still put on the same show you had planned.

We have already seen one example of this and the entire program that would have happened live was streamed to an audience in their homes. This particular event was a black-tie affair, so the presenters were still dressed in tuxedos and gowns (even though they were standing in their own homes). While it may have been great to have everyone in the same room, the audience understood the situation and were happy to have something on their calendars since everything else had been cancelled.

Peer-to-Peer Campaigns
We have another client that operates a shelter and serves domestic violence survivors. Unfortunately, the need for their services began to increase as so many were sent home from work and jobs were lost. They planned a fundraising luncheon to raise funds to keep up with the demand for services. Then—on short notice—they had to cancel the event. The client quickly started a peer-to-peer campaign and invited some of their faithful supporters to help raise money so they could continue to support their community. The iDonate platform allowed them to quickly get the campaign up and running. The shelter started the campaign in mid-March, and their March 2020 online revenue is the best month in the last 12 months by far, even exceeding year-end.

Contextual Giving
This is a native feature to iDonate that allows you to better target a group of donors and increase your average gift. Any iDonate embed giving form can consume certain parameters through the URL. One of the most effective ways to increase average gift size is to use gift arrays that are appropriate for each audience.

If you are like most of our clients, fundraising emails are sent to your entire file and all lead to the same gift array. This means a non-donor is getting the same ask and same gift array as a mid or major donor. Contextual giving allows you to change the gift array to be appropriate for the audience.

For example, donors that normally give between $1 and $99 would get a gift array like $25, $50, $75, $100. Without building a separate embed or landing page, donors that usually give $250 or more would get a gift array of $250, $350, $500. Simply making the gift array more appropriate for each giving segment increases your average gift. Using this method for the remainder of the year and testing various gift amounts will help you replace the revenue lost from event cancellations.

If you have questions about the iDonate Event module and how to use it in conjunction with a virtual event, or if you need help using contextual giving, please let us know. We are here to help.

Social Media Tips

Social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have likely become important channels in your donor communications over the last several years. The COVID-19 pandemic is increasing time spent on these platforms while simultaneously cancelling donor events.

Social media gives you a unique way to reach your audience and continue to tell your story. As we continue to deal with the impact of COVID-19, your donors need to hear from your organization and be reminded that their gifts are impacting lives.

Here are some tips for how to leverage social media to engage your donors and drive traffic to your site:

Understanding the Facebook Algorithm
The first thing you need to understand about the Facebook algorithm is that it is designed to show content that other people have liked, shared, or commented on. Simply posting on Facebook doesn’t mean that all of your followers will see your post. In fact, it is probably more like 15% to 20% that will see your post originally. How users interact with your post will determine if your content will even appear in the rest of your audience’s feeds.

The next important thing to understand about the algorithm is that it is designed to keep traffic engaged on Facebook. If everything you post is a link to your website or anything else outside of Facebook, it will be more difficult to achieve significant organic reach. That doesn’t mean you can’t post a link to your website—it just means you shouldn’t exclusively post content that links to your site. A mix of content is needed.

Engaging Content
Do you know what kind of content your audience engages with the most? The answer probably isn’t the same for all of you because each audience is unique. At the same time, there are some trends that tend to be true across the Facebook and Instagram platforms.

1. Video content is engaged with at significantly higher rates than still photos.
A short video showing donors the impact of their giving can get great organic reach within your audience.

2. According to SproutSocial, 85% of video on Facebook is viewed with the sound off, so plan accordingly.
If your video doesn’t include captions, you may be missing a huge opportunity.

3. Facebook stats reveal that engagement with Facebook live videos has increased 4x in the last year.
A simple live video from your facility or from your CEO can get huge reach, partly because of the algorithm and partly because the raw video fits in nicely with the rest of users’ feeds.

4. Assume that your video will be viewed on a mobile device.
Normally video is done in a wide format, but square video is more mobile friendly and receives 35% more views, according to SproutSocial.

Video isn’t possible for every post, so you’ll want to have a content strategy that creates content that will be shared, commented on, or gets some sort of reaction from your audience. Photos with a quick caption are easily shareable. Posts that include a question can rack up comments and, therefore, increase your reach.

Your donors, and others just like them, are already on Facebook and Instagram as well as other social platforms. Social media was important before the pandemic, and it is even more important now. Your social media can continue to be a leading driver of traffic to your site during the pandemic and beyond.

Share how your nonprofit is navigating the COVID-19 crisis on social media using #iDonateOutreach.

Additional Resources

We want to be sure you have the most relevant resources at your fingertips.
Here are some of our favorites:

Every organization is affected by this global health crisis. Whatever your mission is, whether it is related to health care or not, it will be affected in some way. So how can you continue to advance your mission?'
Learn More'
Get insights into how nonprofits are responding to the coronavirus in their fundraising and marketing.'
Learn More'
Nonprofits and small businesses can apply for this government-backed loan to help keep their people employed during the pandemic. Read this for information about how it works and how to apply.'
Learn More'
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