The Ten Things Smart Fundraisers Are Doing Right Now

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When our work is most uncertain, there are three sure things we know:

Your donors still care about your organization. They still want to support you. Their ability to do that may be compromised for a while, but that doesn’t mean they care about you any less.

The mission of your organization still matters. It matters a lot to the people you serve and it should matter a lot to you.

The relationships with donors you have worked so hard to develop? They have not gone “poof” in the wind. This is a time to be sensitive, to be sure, but those relationships are every bit what they were in December

The challenge we face from the coronavirus outbreak is “not my first rodeo,” which I’ll explain below. It is part of a “triple whammy” that will preoccupy our donors for months to come. The virus, the election (whatever side of the ledger you’re on) and the economy make this one of the toughest environments I’ve ever seen.

Here are the 10 things that smart fundraisers should be doing right now:

More than ever, put yourself in your donor’s shoes. Maureen and Ed might be grateful to hear from you. Beatrice might need to be left alone for a bit. It is up to you to know which and to gauge everything you do through that lens.

If you are in the process of discussing a gift with a donor, don’t stop. Talk about the gift intention now and the gift later, if need be. “Kathy, if we were back to normal times, would this be the gift you would want to make? We can absolutely consider this your ‘present intention’ and you can decide on a time later this year or early next year to complete the gift.”

Stock up on your organization’s notecards, and stamps. If you were an elderly donor and amid the election mail and bills you received a handwritten note that said, “Bert, I was thinking of you this morning. What a shame we have no golf to watch! I’ll give you a call soon,” how would that make you feel?

Be relentless in sharing good news about your organization on your website and in occasional emails to your donors. Everyone we know is starving for some good news today and you have it to give!

Have your radar WAY up for a good reason to reach out to that major donor or prospect. What news would they be glad to hear from you?

There are hundreds of your donors right now who are thinking, “I wonder how (your organization) is doing?” Find the best way to let them know.

Even though you must put face to face visits on Pause for a while, your donors have lots of time on their hands right now and they’re looking at your website. It is a very smart thing to feature stories of donors who’ve made gifts from their Donor Advised Fund, via a Qualified Charitable Distribution from their IRA, or in a bequest intention.

More than ever, be kind. Be calm. Be steady. To your staff, to your colleagues and to your donors. Trust me when I tell you, all of them are looking at you, at your demeanor, how you comport yourself these days and it will be remembered long after this mess is over.

Plan now for a “handwritten letter campaign” to LYBUNTS and select SYBUNTS six weeks before your fiscal year end. I’ve written about it before. Monarch or executive sized paper and envelopes. Stamps. A return envelope. Volunteers to each write 10 letters. A three-day campaign. Get 1,100 letters in the mail. Be wowed by the results.

Don’t be shy about inviting gift support on your website and other communications streams. Ask your donors to help make something happen that matters to them. Their hunger to do that still burns inside.

Have a good week, my friends.


Rob Cummings has successfully led development shops through the Black Monday stock market crash of 1987, through 9/11 and through the Great Recession. If you would like to talk about how Rob can help your organization now, you can reach him at

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