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Questions around how long the current COVID-19 pandemic will last — and what the new “normal” will be going forward — have made it difficult for nonprofit leaders to make decisions. It’s critical to remain relevant and keep your donors engaged during this public crisis… But how?

In our previous post, we discussed why nonprofit organizations should continue fundraising during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here we’re going a little more in-depth and covering specific strategies your nonprofit can take to stay relevant amidst the current crisis. We’ll also share specific examples of mission-driven organizations that have continued to communicate with their follower base and seen success. 

Here is what you can do to keep your donors engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Find your mission in the COVID-19 crisis 

Now is the time to emphasize what your organization is doing to help those that are affected, check in on your volunteers and constituents, or even partner with a front-lines organization to help fight the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It helps to think: How does your case for support connect to the current situation? Is your mission delivery impacted? Are you serving vulnerable populations?

Above all, now is not the time to halt communications, even if your organization is not considered to be on the “front lines” of the pandemic. Rather, it’s the time to pivot messaging and focus on segmenting your donors (which we’ll get into below).

Adjust your case for support and communications 

The way to evaluate and adjust your case for support is to start by talking to your donors! Make phone calls. Take phone calls. Survey your donors. Make use of previous research you may have on donor audiences and your constituency. Be compassionate — how are your donors doing? Many people are processing through furloughs, job losses, and depleted 401 (k)s. Second, see if your donors know how your organization has been affected. Do they understand the nonprofits’ mission in response to a crisis? Do they know how they can help and how can you empower them to do that? Also, do different segments of your donors have different needs?

Asking these questions will help the organization effectively adjust its fundraising appeals in the context of COVID-19. Then continue with communications and stewardship messages.

No matter what, stay engaged 

The most detrimental thing your organization can do in the current situation is halt outreach completely. As a nonprofit, YOU are an authority, a source of community insight, and trusted information.

Smart segmentation

This new situation may force your organization to get creative and mobilize different groups of people in ways you didn’t think to do before. There is no better time than now to dig deep into your donor data and create strategies tailored toward specific groups. Here are our top tips for smart segmentation:

1. Target constituents who are already responsive

As far as donors go, remember there are still people who believe wholeheartedly in your cause and want to be amplifiers for your message. 

2. Prioritize active donors

If you have to decrease communication and reduce the volume of messaging, the priority in who you target should always be those donors that have been with your organization for the long-haul. Those key principle donors are always going to be the most important as far as communication and engagement go.

3. Mix up your channels

Now is the time to try new techniques and messaging via different channels. Pick up the phone more and make calls and activate some of your social media channels that have been neglected. You can also separate mail campaigns vs. online.

4. Reach out to lapsed donors

See if you have any lapsed disaster-response donors. Also, are there any outlying groups of donors you could try to reactivate? Try looking through your ‘discarded’ pile too and see if a new messaging campaign could get them re-engaged.

5. Separate by region, age group, interests, etc.

People in your organization may have more time on their hands than normal, so now is a great time to look into segmenting donors on a deeper level. Try separating by things like location, areas of interest (if applicable), and age groups to deliver even more targeted messaging that has a higher likelihood of increasing engagement.

Lean into social media 

Individuals and communities experiencing lockdown are focusing more time and attention online than ever before. Social media is currently serving as both a diversion and a news source, which means that there is no better time than now to ramp up your efforts on social media. Your organization could try Facebook Fundraising and live streaming to raise awareness of your organizations’ mission during this period.


Below are a couple of real-life examples of our nonprofit clients who continued fundraising during COVID-19 and saw success from those campaigns:

Museum of Science, Boston 

Despite being closed, Museum of Science Boston decided to continue with carrying out their yearly Pi Day campaign on March 14. What happened is they ended up surpassing their fundraising goal of $125k and raised $198k in a single day. It was their biggest and most successful Pi Day campaign to date.

The key message they made sure to broadcast to their constituents was that even though the museum was closed, they still want to be open and functioning when the pandemic and social distancing are over. This rallied their supporters in a way that exceeded their fundraising goal.

Houston SPCA

Houston SPCA recognized that animal welfare was likely to be threatened during the pandemic due to a variety of factors. Here are some things they did to stay engaged with their community:

  • Served as a trusted source of information by giving out buck slips containing information on household pets concerning COVID-19 to alleviate concern.
  • A corporate donor started providing nine cases of pet food each week. Houston SPCA teamed up with a local mattress store to help deliver this and food to a senior drop-off program.
  • Houston SPCA launched a digital campaign empathizing with financial stresses as a result of COVID-19 and inviting donors to match or exceed pet food donations.


We hope seeing some of the above examples and learning more about audience segmentation will help your organization in its effort to stay relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you aren’t sure where to start when it comes to adjusting your messaging and strategy, reach out to a Pursuant strategist and we’d be happy to brainstorm with you over the phone.

You can also sign up for our free GivingDNA University which offers 4 weeks of classes on how to become a better fundraiser! The courses are led by experts so reserve your seat soon.