The Coronavirus Threat to Fundraising

Mar 12, 2020Donors, Fundraising, Fundraising Success, Leadership, Nonprofits, Overcoming Fear, Philanthropy

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How are you combating the coronavirus threat to fundraising at your organization?

Not sure if you should cancel your event or carry on as planned but with added safeguards?

Not sure about meeting with donors?

Not Everyone is Worked Up About the Coronavirus

“A table of old men were shooting the breeze next to the bocce ball courts in a Milan recreation center on Wednesday, talking, like seemingly everyone else in northern Italy, about the coronavirus outbreak that had shut down towns, closed all of Italy’s schools and claimed the lives of more than 100 people, almost all of them elderly.

The men, mostly in their 70s and 80s, joked that their wives gave them a hard time for leaving the house (“not even the coronavirus can keep this guy home”), that life’s finish line was too close to get worked up about a contagion,… ” writes Jason Horowitz of New York Times on March 4.

The outbreak is real. But not everyone is getting worked up about it.

Nonetheless, what can you do to prepare for disruptions to your fundraising efforts? How might the virus threat shake up fundraising at your organization?

We would all agree that we are to put the health of staff, event attendees, and donors over any loss or potential loss of income.

Here’s my advice to combat uncertainty and the disruptions happening now to fundraising:

#1 Have Your Board Provide Direction

Your board should consider potential financial concerns as a result of the virus spreading. Many nonprofits will see a disruption. Consider:

  • Decreased revenue from cancelled fundraising event, ticket sales, or service fees
  • Decreased giving from donors concerned about economic recession
  • Increased costs from added support to those relying on your services
  • Increased costs to accommodate employees’ productivity and safety
  • Lowered investment returns

There is a good chance you will have a loss of income from a cancelled fundraising event or drop in giving.  Have your board consider contingency plans, and keep plans under review.

#2 Have a Fundraising System in Place to Combat the Coronavirus Threat to Fundraising

Whatever happens, have a reliable fundraising system and plan in place and working for you.

With the threat of any fundraising disruption, a plan can remove many uncertainties.

For example, you have a list of top current and potential donors. You want to continue to stay in contact and focused on these donors.

Just because there is a disruption in your normal activities does not mean you stop building relationships and nurturing your donors.

When you have a plan, you know what you should be doing at all times -– coronavirus or not.

If you’ve not already, get intentional in implementing a reliable fundraising system at your organization. Grab my FREE fundraising plan TEMPLATE here.

#3 Event Fundraising is Not the only way to Secure Funds for Your Organization

In fact, event fundraising is not the way to build long-lasting relationships with donors. And that’s exactly what’s required to bring in the big gifts.

Your fundraising events may contribute significantly to your budget.

But I raised 16 million dollars for the organization I established and ran for 10 years and never offered a fundraising event.

It can be done!

In truth, it’s what you should be doing!

And now is the time to get focused on fundraising beyond event fundraising.

#4 Focus on the Donor during Coronavirus Threat to Fundraising

Obviously, during these uncertain times you are worried about donors not attending your events, cancelling meetings, or not contributing.

Seniors may be less inclined to get out of the house and meet with you or attend events.

Donors may want to wait until the stock market bounces back before making a gift.

In the meantime, whether you are working from home or still going into the office, you have options.

Focus on engaging with donors in different ways than usual.

For instance, we know that face-to-face meetings are best when asking for larger gifts.  Instead of losing opportunities, ask the donor if they:

  • are still comfortable meeting
  • would rather meet in a more private setting
  • prefer to set up a video meeting

You can still spend time getting to know your donors better – getting to know their wishes and desires.

They will appreciate your sensitivity to the current virus threat and to meeting face-to-face.

In contrast, your donors may not be concerned about the intense news and threat of the coronavirus – like the gentlemen determined to get together to shoot the breeze!


In summary, it’s imperative to focus on fundraising beyond event fundraising and have a fundraising system in place – virus threat or not.

This is not the time to shy away from fundraising efforts. You may have income loss due to cancellations and donors pulling back from giving.

It means you go about fundraising differently.

Use the time you now have to focus on implementing a proven fundraising system at your organization.

You need the contributions.

Learn to engage with donors beyond events.

Learn to secure gifts from donors without their coming to an event. This is the best kind of fundraising there is!

Course Offering!

One more thing – with the coronavirus spreading and threatening fundraising efforts, I will open my fundraising course earlier than planned.

It will help all nonprofits –certainly those threaten with loosing funds from events, fees, ticket sales, or donor giving.

I teach you how to raise money without event fundraising!

To be notified of the course offering and grab the free fundraising plan, CLICK HERE.

Nancy Rieves, Ed.D. is a fundraising coach. She provides executive and development directors with a roadmap to maximize and sustain major gift fundraising. She prepares leaders to be confident and successful in raising money. Reach her at nancy@nancyrieves.com.


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