Fundraising with empathy during COVID-19

Connecting with grassroots supporters is now completely online, presenting new and difficult challenges — but that doesn’t mean nonprofit fundraisers should stop reaching out. Now more than ever, charities are doing important work on the front lines and providing support to communities, and donors are looking for ways they can help your cause. The key to relationship building during COVID-19 is to come from a place of understanding. Here are some tips on how to make empathy a core part of your messaging.

  • Behind every open and every click is a human being. Recognizing that empathy matters and prioritizing it is the first step.
  • Empathy means knowing your audience isn’t homogeneous. There are people on your email list who can afford to donate right away and some who can’t. In fact, small-dollar donors have given more than $13 million through our platform to nonprofits doing COVID-19 relief work. If you’re concerned about messaging, use inclusive fundraising asks like “We know that for many, financial circumstances are very difficult right now. If you are able, please make a donation to help our communities.”
  • Think of your email list as a broad highway: There are plenty of on-ramps for people to get involved. If folks can’t donate right now, offer opportunities to volunteer remotely. If they can’t volunteer, give them a chance to get to know your organization or cause through livestreams or embedded videos.
  • Offer donors an exit ramp. We’re all figuring this out together, and that’s okay. There are people who may not want to hear from you right now, so give them a chance to opt out. You can put a small header at the top of your email giving folks the opportunity to receive fewer emails or no communications for a few weeks.
  • Empower your supporters. Just as there are folks on your list who don’t want to receive communications, there are also people who really want to donate and get involved right now! Don’t hesitate to give people the opportunity to take meaningful action during this time, whether that’s peer-to-peer fundraising, hosting a virtual volunteer event, or just donating to your cause.
  • Lift everyone up. You have an opportunity to use your email list to lift up your communities, provide relief, and create change. People are inspired by the work you are doing on the front lines, so give folks an opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves! You can even team up with other local groups or national organizations that share your issue area and fundraiser together using Tandem forms.
  • A little bit of personalization goes a long way. Using personalization tags like “first name” is great, but you can also show your donors how their specific support has helped in the past and why their support is critical now. For example, “You made a generous contribution last year, and your support has made a huge difference. If you can afford to, will you make a donation today to help us continue our work?”
  • Honesty is the best policy. Be honest about why you need support at this time. Honest email programs are making fundraising asks like “If you have the resources, please make a $10 contribution. We will put your donation right to work strengthening our community programs. Even $5 helps.”

As always we are here to support you! If you have any questions about digital fundraising, how to make empathy a core part of your program, or just need some extra guidance — please feel free to sign up for a strategy call or reach out to support@actblue.com.

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