Connecting with Peers in a Crisis

Puzzle Piece

By Hannah Summers

May 7, 2020

Many nonprofits are already seeing the effects of the pandemic on their fundraising efforts. Whether or not your organization is serving on the frontlines of the crisis, these are uncharted waters for everyone. As the situation evolves, it’s becoming increasingly important to stay in touch with your industry peers and learn from others as we navigate this challenging time.

Last week, Impact invited our midlevel clients to a virtual happy hour to facilitate some of that conversation. Our participants represented a wide range of missions: delivering nourishing meals to those in need, protecting voting rights (including during social distancing orders), providing accurate and reliable news coverage, and preserving important natural wonders and historic sites.

It was a pleasure to witness folks from these diverse organizations learn from one another and make new connections. They shared some of the challenges they’ve had since the pandemic began and discussed how they’re continuing to engage their midlevel donors throughout the crisis.

Here are just a few of the hot topics that came up…

  • Donor-advised Funds (DAFs): Donors may be feeling nervous about money, but many have funds in a DAF already reserved for charity. Organizations are being more deliberate in marketing DAF gifts to their donors by highlighting the option on reply forms, pointing donors to their digital DAF widget, or including a buckslip in appeals. Creating a special appeal targeting donors who have given through a DAF in the past was also discussed.
  • Direct Mail Returns: While one organization on the frontlines is seeing an increase in contributions, others have not been able to access the mail at their office or are seeing delays in gift processing and tracking as fulfillment centers have less staff working. It’s a challenge many organizations are facing but sharing the trends you are seeing with peers helps everyone to better forecast your ultimate results. Generally, our clients shared that mail volume is decreasing compared to this time last year, but the average gift and revenue has increased for many organizations.
  • Budgeting and Reforecasting: Not having a full picture of direct mail returns makes it difficult to reforecast revenue for the year or accurately budget for next year. Some of our clients shared that they are reforecasting based on a worst-case scenario and are not projecting any growth for the coming year. Tempering expectations among organizational leadership and board members is important both to ensure realistic budgeting and encourage an all-hands-on-deck approach to fundraising.
  • Telemarketing: Several clients are still seeing great results from telemarketing efforts, even those outsourcing to telemarketing firms. With social distancing orders still in place across a majority of the country, donors are picking up the phone more and having valuable conversations. However, clients who are outsourcing calls have found that some call centers are currently closed and need to branch out to find new vendors. Connecting with your industry peers is a great first step to finding a new and qualified partner.

If you work with midlevel donors, please take a moment to share your biggest challenges and your biggest wins in the past couple of months. Or, share a question that’s on your mind. Let’s continue to learn from one another!


-By Hannah Summers

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