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By DonorSearch

Each year the fundraising landscape changes slightly, based on new trends and the economic climate. However, no one could have predicted the unprecedented impact COVID-19 has had, not only on how nonprofits fundraise but on our everyday lives.

This is a precarious time for nonprofits. You likely have had to cancel exciting fundraising events and postpone in-person meetings to follow the CDC guidelines of social distancing and keeping at least 6 feet away from others. Donors might stop giving as much (or at all!) as unemployment rates increase, and volunteers are likely to stay at home instead of giving their time, inadvertently throwing your nonprofit’s efforts and plans into limbo. 

As the feeling of uncertainty continues to increase, this is not the time for your nonprofit to halt all processes. Instead, you’re in a unique position to spread awareness while also still working for a good cause. Don’t let your donors wonder what’s going to happen next, and instead brainstorm ways you can take your fundraising and engagements to the digital space.

Here at iATS Payments, we wrote this guide to help nonprofits navigate this new world and still fundraise while everyone is at home practicing safe social distancing. You’ll be reviewing these top tips:

  1. Optimize the online donation process
  2. Keep up meaningful communications
  3. Invest in top prospect research tool
  4. Try a social media fundraiser

It can be daunting at first to redirect your efforts and pivot to purely digital means. Just ensure your nonprofit is equipped with the top fundraising tools! Ready to get started? Let’s begin.

1. Optimize the online donation process

First and foremost, you need to ensure that you can still accept donations while we’re all in self-quarantine. With more people home, it makes sense that internet usage will likely increase. While this probably means Netflix and Zoom will be heavily utilized, you should also take this time as an opportunity to review your own current online donation tool.

Investing in dedicated online donation software is important, especially if you want to create a streamlined experience for your donors. Take a look at how donors can currently give online and make sure you have these capabilities:

  • Online donation form embedded into your website
  • Customized donation form to ensure you capture all the essential data
  • Integrated payment processor (like this one!) 

Your online donation tool should make it easy for supporters to give intuitively and securely. It’s essential now, more than ever, that you take these extra steps to provide a streamlined experience as well as keep your donors’ data safe. This way, you can be confident in all fundraising efforts going forward, both online and offline!

2. Keep up meaningful communications

As more people practice safe social distancing and the world goes into full-crisis mode, it’s crucial that you think of your donors. While this may not be the best time to send out that fundraising ask, you should still maintain meaningful communications and check-in with your supporters.

According to Qgiv, donor retention is based on active engagements that bring value to your donors. However, this doesn’t mean sending all your donors the same mass announcements. Using your communications tool, make sure to:

  • Update donors on your next actions. People are going to be curious as to how your nonprofit is reacting to COVID-19. Let them know of any event changes or if you’ve decided to give some of your funds to help the global pandemic.
  • Segment donors based on common traits and preferences. Not all of your donors want to be treated the same. Start sending personalized content based on each recipient’s unique needs. For instance, if you have many donors residing in New York City, consider sending some COVID-19 resources to help them through a difficult time.
  • Ask donors for what they need. It’s worth it to take the extra steps to inquire with each donor if they need anything from you. Maybe they need to pause a recurring donation, or they’d like to talk further on how they can contribute to your cause. All of your donors are experiencing different effects from the pandemic, so stay flexible and brainstorm additional ways they can stay involved during this time.

Keeping up communications now is crucial, especially if you don’t want to see many donors falling off the map later on. Make sure to continue meaningful engagements and develop donor relationships.

3. Invest in a top prospect research tool

If you don’t already conduct prospect research, now may be an excellent time to start. Prospect research is one of the most popular ways to get to know your donors better. You screen each of your donors for specific traits to identify those who might be high-impact donors. 

How exactly does this work? Prospect research will take a donor and pinpoint any philanthropic indicators and wealth metrics. This includes things like:

  • Philanthropic indicators: Past giving history, connection to nonprofit, etc.
  • Wealth metrics: Real-estate ownership, stock ownership, business affiliations, etc.

By looking at your donors through a philanthropic and wealth-metric lens, you get a better sense of their affinity to give (how likely they will give) and their capacity to give (how much they can give). Donors with both a high affinity to give and capacity to give are your best candidates for major donors!

With overall donor engagement likely decreasing, your major donors are one of your biggest assets in times like this. It’s a good idea to increase engagement with them since major donors are more likely to give to nonprofits they have strong and long-lasting relationships with.

While it’s possible to conduct prospect research manually, you can save yourself some time by investing in a capable prospect research tool. This way, you can automatically screen your entire donor base digitally! It’s the perfect prospect research solution with safe social distancing.

4. Try a social media fundraiser

While we all take a break from live fundraising events and in-person experiences, it’s time to brainstorm the best ways to take your best fundraising efforts to the online world. And that’s why we’re reviewing social media fundraisers. 

Social media isn’t just for your millennials and teenagers anymore; almost 72% of people today are active social media users. Leverage your social media platforms and start a peer-to-peer campaign!

Peer-to-peer campaigns (P2P) are known to raise an incredible amount of money in a very short time. This is due to the broad reach and shareability of social media platforms. All you have to do is:

  1. Set a fundraising goal and end date.
  2. Recruit a group of fundraising volunteers.
  3. Equip each volunteer with their own online P2P page where they describe their connection to their friends and family.
  4. Volunteers share their P2P page on social media with their network of friends and family.

To get volunteers even more excited and encourage them to raise more money, consider incorporating a fundraising thermometer or other gamification elements. This can motivate them and add a healthy element of competition.


Don’t worry if your nonprofit is scrambling to figure out the best way to offset the impact of COVID-19 on your fundraising efforts. Even though everyone is encouraged to stay home, you can still connect with supporters and provide some value to them with these top tips. Good luck!

Nonprofits and COVID-19: 4 Fundraising Tips