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Smart, Strategic Communications in Times of Crisis

Financial fallout from COVID-19 is devastating some families and businesses. While some donors simply won’t be able to give now, or give at previous levels, nonprofits who rely on donor support can’t afford to stop asking. The ones who are asking in the right way are experiencing record support from previous and new donors alike.

A recent study from Fidelity Charitable found that 25 percent of donors plan to increase their donations, while 54 percent plan to maintain giving levels. They’re not planning to shift donations to other organizations, either; they still want to give to causes they’re passionate about.

Communicating often with donors—and prospective donors—is critical to helping your nonprofit get through tough times. Your outreach should meet some strategic criteria:

Be direct and specific

When non-essential businesses closed in Pennsylvania, the State College Food Bank knew it was about to become an even more critical community resource. Staff also knew that its loyal donors and other individuals in the community would be looking for ways to help. The food bank quickly communicated by email and through its newsletter 1) how financial gifts offered more flexibility in providing services and 2) which specific food items were most in-demand. Responses have far exceeded its previous appeals for support, in dollars and donors.

Be transparent

Catholic Charities of Altoona-Johnstown provides Emergency Financial Assistance to neighbors in need. Due to social distancing restrictions and shortages of disinfectants and hand sanitizers, it had to close its physical office locations. Outreach to donors explained that limited staff continue to fulfill requests via telephone and that the organization is anticipating a major surge in requests for assistance when moratoriums on utility shut-offs and evictions are lifted. Donors are responding with strong support.

Make your case

Not all nonprofits provide direct support for basic needs like food or shelter; but that doesn’t mean their missions are any less worthy of support in a crisis. As a private school, Bishop Carroll Catholic High School relies heavily on donor support. The school’s faculty is providing exceptional continuity to students through online learning, but many families have expressed concern about their inability to afford tuition for the remainder of the year and for 2020-21, due to business closures and layoffs. Immediate communication to donors about the need to increase its financial aid fund resulted in generous responses from alumni and supporters in the community.

Follow up

State College Area School District Education Foundation connects donors to their local public schools to create new opportunities for students. With many families in its district facing financial hardship, the Education Foundation dedicated an existing fund to help support families in need with utility payments, groceries, gas and other essential needs. The first solicitation was met with an overwhelming generosity, but funds were quickly depleted. By communicating how the initial funds were used, thanking donors and explaining clearly how additional funds could make an impact, the Education Foundation has raised more than $90,000 dedicating to helping local families.

Are you struggling with communicating during this crisis? Talk to an Affinity Connection account executive today and start putting together a strategy to grow your giving and donor support, and increase your nonprofit’s impact, for now and the months to come. Call us at 800-598-4050 ext 131 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.