Donor Engagement in Uncertain Times

This past year has been a scary ride for nonprofit organizations. Between the markets plummeting and the COVID-19 crisis becoming part of our everyday lives, there is uncertainty for how nonprofit organizations should continue to raise funds and further their missions.

If you are a nonprofit organization that depends on philanthropy from others, what does this unpredictability mean? Are you changing your strategy or simply holding on for the ride? What type of sensitivity do you need to embrace in conversations with prospective and current donors? It is prudent to put yourself in the mind of those who normally support you while understanding what their motivations may be for the next several months or beyond. 

The new ‘normal’ is offering lots of questions and not many answers. Here are a few thoughts from iWave on where we’ve been and where we’re going:


Corporate Donations

Businesses give when times are good for two reasons: they want to make a difference or they want tax relief (or both!). It’s typically a combination of the two – though one may be more heavily weighted than the other. With dramatic fluctuations within both the job market and the stock market, corporate donations may have been significantly affected. With a quick look at the S&P (or Dow Jones or NASDAQ) to see the financial toll of the last four months. This means that you need to show corporate donors constant appreciation to reiterate you are the organization that they will always support, no matter what their financial world looks like.

Major Donors
Let’s face it, your major gift donors are likely feeling the pinch in a bad market because they are more heavily invested than a typical donor. While you should be engaging with these donors regularly, in times of uncertainty you may need to tread differently.  Even if that donor is above the daily financial fluctuations, instability in the markets and fear of illness will cause insecurity which could affect any donations they typically provide. Take time now to explain your mission and how their donations are changing lives. Don’t be the last do-gooder to come knocking on their door reminding them of the good deeds you do.  Be the one who is always there.  

Give Back If You Can

Many annual donors are now worried about job stability. That fear is going to affect potential gifts going forward. At the same time, Americans are stepping up in record numbers to help where needed. Shopping for elderly people, buying gift cards to keep restaurants liquid, providing meals for children who can’t get their regular meals because schools are closed. What is your charity doing to affect change in the world? Can you create a compelling message to share how you are helping in this scary time? This will help create brand awareness while helping your constituents, donors, and community in a time of need. 


iWave believes that the most important takeaway from the recent events is maintaining relationships with all of your donors, all of the time.  No one wants a charity that hasn’t been responsive to them when donations are rolling in to all of a sudden come knocking on their door when trouble hits. Maintaining healthy relationships with all of your donors takes work, but will guarantee mission support at all times.   

Let the current conditions remind us to be consistent in building and nurturing all donors.  


About the Author: Dawn Galasso. With nearly a decade in the nonprofit technology space, Dawn specializes in providing my clients with the best and most innovative products available in the everchanging philanthropy space. Her love of all things data has had her focus on analytic technology including working for WealthEngine for many years. Dawn joined iWave at the beginning of 2020 to share the new state of the art technology that will help clients understand how to engage and leverage their database to get them faster to mission success.


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