What donors want: Striking the right balance during COVID-19

7 min read

As organizations of all sizes are forced to cancel events and in-person fundraising screeches to a halt, fundraisers and marketers are presented with far more questions than answers. Some of the questions posed by sector leaders in recent quotes collected by Imagine Canada included, "How do we overcome this unexpected funding gap, how long will it go on? Where can we cut costs? How can we engage our donors? Is now an appropriate time to make an appeal?"

We don’t have all of the answers, no one does. There is too much unpredictability. However, at GiveMagic we do have a unique view of how donors are responding to appeals since COVID-19 and I will outline three recommendations based on our data. Before doing so, know that all is not bleak for fundraisers. In fact, March was the largest fundraising month (dollars transacted) on the platform since GiveMagic’s inception. Donors are receptive and want to hear from you. 

Continue stewarding - but strike a balance. 

Now is not the time to cease communications. It may feel more difficult than ever given the need for of all outreach to be virtual - a seismic change for many organizations. There are countless digital solutions, not limited to video, that are perfect for this moment. Try to make your outreach multi-channel. Finally - strike a balance in the number of donor touchpoints. Certainly don’t let them forget about you but be wary of over communicating - especially if you are not tracking engagement on those touchpoints (are donors receptive?). Be wary of bombardment. One email too many and donors will unsubscribe or stop giving. 

Make your appeals - but do so carefully. 

Giving has not decreased post COVID-19. In fact, it has increased in a meaningful way. A recent article in The Globe and Mail validates GiveMagic data: Canadians are giving more. Many organizations have reached out to ask roughly the same question: if our organization is not healthcare related, how can we make appropriate appeals? Every organization is different. Who or what they serve is different, their raison d'etre is unique and as such, how they fit into the COVID-19 jigsaw puzzle is different. If you can connect your appeal to the current climate, do so. Many donors are asking how they can help if they are not an essential worker, and your appeal can help answer that burning question.

Every organization has a role to play and your donors want to know what it is. A few examples. The Toronto Public Library has seen a surge in online usage as members take out ebooks and audiobooks. Library branches have also stepped up to support food banks. Jack.Org has launched a mental health resource hub for youth. Action Against Hunger is supporting local health care systems in countries hit hard by COVID-19. If uncertainty persists, go back to first principles: the reason you exist and why your mission is important today and in the future. Make your appeals accordingly.

Be Personal and be human. 

Our phones are abuzz with updates every other moment from news outlets, the government and COVID-19 experts (just about everyone on the internet…). What are the implications of that? Information overload. The bright side is few are cutting through that noise with deeply personal outreach. Now is the time to do it. It is more critical than ever to come across as human and genuine.

How can we help you execute?

Make a 1:1 video using GiveMagic and speak from the heart. It does not need to be long. Those 20-30 seconds will be worth their weight in gold when that donor shares your video with their family and friends and remembers it next time you make an appeal. Feel free to reach out to me directly at justin@givemagic.co if you’d like to chat through some of the challenges your organization is facing. 

All the best to you and your family. Stay safe. 


Justin Rotman

Co-founder, GiveMagic

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