10 Things Fundraisers Can Do From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic | npENGAGE

10 Things Fundraisers Can Do From Home During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By on Mar 17, 2020


working from home during coronavirus epidemic

With the state of the world right now, your school or nonprofit has likely suspended travel. Your annual giving team may be putting off doing any outreach at the moment as well. With all of the information coming out about the novel coronavirus, people are either consumed with it or are avoiding all social media, email, etc. Many teams are realizing that an ask at this time could really be a waste of resources, and an emergency plea, unless truly needed, can be seen as opportunistic.

Read Adam’s follow-up post: 10 Things Fundraisers Can Do to Adapt During the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond

Here are ten things you can do instead of meeting with donors and asking for money during the COVID-19 pandemic:


  1. Check in with your donors and see how they are doing. I was just texting with a donor last night who is worried about leaving the house and about his husband who has some major medical issues. While we might not be able to do much, we can always let these folks, who sometimes become like family, know that we will be there for them if they need help.
  2. If you are a front-line fundraiser, work with your annual giving team. The folks working in your annual giving team are likely reeling right now as they cancel content and rework their plan for the end of the fiscal year. Once they have worked through the immediate issues, this is a great time to work with them on creating content. You have connections with the people on the ground doing the work and the people funding this work, so help to connect these folks with your team to write great content for when this has all blown over.
  3. Plan your travel for the summer and fall. While you may not want to reach out to donors at the moment as dates will likely be up in the air, it is a great time to map out the routes you will be taking. You can also create lists for the key folks to reach out to and you may even want to book flights because nearly every airline is allowing very flexible booking at the moment.
  4. Work on stewardship. This is a great time to reach out to donors and thank them for supporting your organization. Perhaps an even better project to work on is writing content on the outcomes of key work that donors have supported over the last year. Especially for millenials, but across the board, showing what their gift has helped to achieve is so important for retention. This is something that can go out after the epidemic has gotten to a less scary place.
  5. Discover new prospects. This one might be a little controversial as so many will argue that taking care of your current prospect pool is top priority and many teams also have a colleague or group of folks who work on finding new prospects. However, I have personally seen all of my largest gifts come from new prospects that I have discovered and worked with from the start. Being able to identify people who will have interest in what you are working on and the capacity to help is paramount in fundraising, and it’s also very time consuming.
  6. Read a book. Yes, we as fundraisers should be taking time to read about new developments in the field and remind ourselves of the basics. Reading a book on fundraising is a great way to spend this time while we are not traveling or soliciting gifts. You could also look into webinars and other online content.
  7. For annual giving folks, this is a great time to have a Zoom or virtual meeting and brainstorm creative ideas for outreach. We rarely have time to do this type of work and now is a great time to just let the ideas flow. You could even give your colleagues some homework and ask them to think about specific projects or issues that you are trying to overcome. We all know that giving day programs take a great deal of time and being creative is the name of the game, I would suggest getting a head start on next year or even thinking about how you will retool if you have to push it back this year.

Free white paper: How to Use a Giving Day to Strengthen Your Annual Giving Strategy

  1. Have a conversation with a mentor or mentee. While you will not likely be getting together for coffee, come up with a list of things to chat about and solicit their advice. If you’re the mentor, reach out and see how you can help.
  2. You may want to work with your communication team or your alumni relations team (for university fundraisers) to see how you can get some content online for your audience to enjoy while they are at home. Could you put a class online for free for all alumni? Maybe you could hold an online book club. Museums have been a great example for the rest of us in how to continue to engage with your audience even if they can’t visit you in person.
  3. Research your own organization or program. What is your team working on now that donors might find interesting? How is the planning for the new building going and what will the space look like, can you get blueprints? What have your researchers published in the last year? Reach out to them and see if they will send you a copy to read. This will help you be up to date when you’re back in front of donors.

This is a scary time and it’s also a time to plan for the future. No matter if you’re at a university, community center, or an arts organization, we will all be taking a hit. We can be productive from our home offices and we must be if we want to rebound quickly.

Download the free white paper: Stewarding Donors Following a Crisis


Adam developed a passion for fundraising as an undergraduate and started working in higher educational fundraising in the US right after graduating. He moved to Australia to expand his understanding of the field at Queensland University of Technology. At QUT, Adam used this experience to inform the plan for QUT’s inaugural Giving Day. This campaign far exceeded the original goal of 500 donors, actually quadrupling this original benchmark, and securing nearly $2M and 2,000 donors for vital QUT programs.

Adam now works in a major gift capacity, overseeing fundraising for Student Affairs at Illinois State University. He is also a co-chair for the development track of the CASE District V conference.

Comments (18)

  • Katherine Swank says:

    Great thoughts Adam! This is also a good time to hone one’s skill on their CRM software and its capabilities or delve into the donor predictive analytics purchased but not fully utilized. Both of these support your terrific list of actions.

  • Adam Ruble says:

    Such a good point Katherine! I am fairly new to the CRM that I’m currently using and this is a great time to delve further into what it can do.

    • JoHanna Young says:

      I think number 10, “Research your own organization and programs” is a great idea. Often I hear from out development staff that they feel out of the loop about some of the happenings on campus. What a great way to make us of this time.

  • JoAnn Strommen says:

    Some valuable points! Will share with the team.

  • Gavin Mann says:

    We’re going to take the time to really deep clean our database and reassess our prospect lists.

  • Sage says:

    This is a great list, I also agree with Katherine about how this is a wonderful time to finish taking some BB RE NXT classes for front of the house fundraisers.

  • Amy Dana says:

    Thanks! Seems like there’s never enough time for professional development but now would be the perfect time.

    • David Ntjana says:

      Hi Adam .

      We just started a new Organisation and this pandemic came between our plans . It’s looks like am running out of plans as we just started and all what we were planning can’t work for now . Can you please lead me with good ideas , because am reading here all just explain about already running organisation with donors . We don’t have yet donar .
      Please help me .

      Fundraiser .

  • George Philips says:

    Thanks Adam.These are very useful suggestions to make best use of our time during uncertain lock downs.

  • Mark Williams says:

    Aside from reaching out to donors to deepen relationships and to ask for support in a sensitive manner, basically any consolidation activities would be useful, e.g. revising strategic plans and fundraising policies and procedures, cleaning up donor details, revisiting fundraising collateral, CRM, etc. Also looking at the organisation’s narrative and key messages – especially in light of a predicted cultural shift toward causes that make the world a safer place (e.g. medical research into contagious disease and associated health services, clean energy, etc), and mental health.

  • Sharon Sandberg says:

    I have taken the opportunity to reach out to people who are still giving to see about getting an email address if we don’t have one. It’s a great way to continue our mission of going green, adds a nice touch to the donor, and adds them to our email lists (with their permission, of course).

  • Lisa Mulholland says:

    Time to communicate openly and honestly with donors and think deeply about our own abilities. Great opportunity to do some on-line learning!

  • Tony Neal says:

    Thanks Adam! I appreciate your suggestions.

  • Julie says:

    Great list! I like the one about reading. Always time to learn!

  • Michelle Thomas says:

    Yes to all, but especially planning my 2021 travels! Great idea to connect with donors along the way.

  • Kendrah Richards says:

    Checking in with donors is very important!

  • Terri Chambers says:

    Similar to the museum concept, I like the idea of gathering pictures and information about donor’s artwork that’s in the local healthcare facilities. Make a coffee-table picture book and use that as another fund raising tool/incentive!

  • Lori L Feldbauer says:

    Adam – you have some really good ideas. We are always looking for a way to connect with donors, especially in today’s “covid” environment.
    Thank you for sharing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *