By Kyla Winchester

Social distancing is forcing us to re-think a lot of the things we take for granted: gatherings with friends and family, grocery shopping, our daily routine. It’s challenging but sometimes it has unlikely benefits —introspection, re-evaluation, new priorities. We can re-think some of our fundraising routines as well: when, why and how have we been communicating with our donors, and what should be changed? Think of it as a temperature check on your donor communications, and use this handy list as a place to start.


Anything that you ‘set and forget’ is included here: automated thank-yous, welcome series, etc. The content is probably not out of date, precisely, but if you haven’t updated the wording yet, it may feel like a product of another era, even if it was fine only a couple months ago. Now’s your chance for an update. “We especially appreciate your gift at this time.”

Printed materials

If you have anything pre-printed, it’s probably not stale-dated, exactly. However, anything from pre-COVID-19 times—without even an “especially now” or an “in these uncertain times”—feels almost antiquated. Add a buckslip with some additional info on how your priorities evolved to best continue your mission given changing needs, to demonstrate the impact of your donors’ giving, an additional heartfelt thank-you acknowledging that finances have changed for many, or where to go for updates as the situation changes.


Like adding a buckslip, above, consider adding a call-out box to your emails and e-newsletters. Again, you have options: you can address the effect of social distancing on your mission, for example, and leave the rest of the content to be similar to a typical update. You could also include COVID-19 or its economic and social consequences in the other stories but highlight a significant priority or urgent situation and how it’s being addressed, e.g.  “requests for services have doubled social distancing began”. Or you could point to a webpage that is being used to provide updates as the situation evolves, especially if there is a need for additional support like a call for volunteers or a virtual fundraising event.


You may have added something in the last couple months—whether a single banner image or one of many in rotation. Double check it in context: does the new addition make the other things look out of date, or less significant? Should the wording be updated, the image changed? Could you add something demonstrating impact of their giving on mission delivery? And of course, is there anything that needs to be removed entirely, like an event that had to be cancelled, or phrasing that now seems too frivolous? You might have assumed these were already done or even forgotten they were there, so it’s worth a glance to check what your supporters are seeing before they donate.


It was mentioned with automations, above, but it’s worth saying twice: this is the time to really show donors you appreciate them. Giving may be up, but your supporters have options and their support is very much appreciated: tell them the mission they believe in is as worthwhile now as it was before we had ever heard the term “coronavirus”. It’s okay to get a little more personal than usual—people are looking for connection and even more than last year want to know how their gift is being spent. For example:  “I know many people’s situations have changed or are worried about it changing, so I appreciate your gift now more than ever. Our mission is as important now as it was last year, and thanks to your gift we’ll be able to continue this work during social distancing and into next year.”