2 min read

If the coronavirus makes travel difficult—and potentially disrupts the market—what are fundraisers to do?

The coronavirus is sucking up a lot of airtime on the news today. Your donors and fundraising staff are seeing it on a daily, even hourly, basis. Last Friday, I received an email from Harvard Business Review with this introduction:

The scope of the COVID-19 outbreak grew rather quickly this week. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the virus itself, but we do know it is exacting a toll in lives lost and on the global economy. While medical experts race to understand more about the public health impacts, we’ve been thinking about how we can help companies, managers, and others do their best to make sense of and lead employees through an uncertain situation.”

The topic made me wonder what nonprofit fundraisers should do to help lead their departments and donors through this situation, also. Below are a few ideas to get you started on your own considerations.

1. If you travel frequently, consider booking refundable fares.

You should also use this opportunity to evaluate whether there are trips you take that don’t provide the ROI your organization needs, even in normal times: are there trips you won’t take now, that maybe you shouldn’t take at all?

2. Call, email, or write your closest supporters.

In uncertain economic times, donors tend to continue supporting those to whom they are closest and who they believe need the funds the most. They then give less to their “8th favorite charity.” Act now to make sure your closest relationships are strong. This also applies to “normal times,” too: are there touch points you are making now, that you could make more consistently?

3. Give your staff the opportunity to voice if the current environment makes them feel unsafe travelling as normal.

We all have different levels of comfort with illness and germs, and a healthy work environment will take that into account as this virus spreads and the cultural response to it is still in flux.

4. Consider offering donors the opportunity to meet via video conference, rather than in person.

Donors also have varying comfort levels with germ exposure. They may appreciate avoiding being with someone who is frequently on airplanes. This is also a perfect opportunity to test if this could help build relationships in the future while limiting travel cost and time. Video calls will never be a full replacement (thankfully!) to in-person visits, but they may be a low-cost and impactful supplement.

5. Consider whether the current challenge gives your organization an opportunity to ask for more.

Given the current environment, potential donors may better connect to certain asks—say, a request to upgrade your school’s nursing equipment or to provide support for the healthcare plights of the poor.

6. Plan now for how your organization might support remote work if the need to do so arises.

Your fundraising needs won’t slow down if the Coronavirus gets worse. Can your staff work remotely if need be?


Have your own ideas or musings? Please share them in comments!

Leave a Reply

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