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Meaningful Donor-Centered Relationships in the Midst of Covid-19

Nonprofit employees are continuing to learn how to navigate the unprecedented choppy waters that have swirled around us for the past few weeks.  Everything from setting up home offices to hosting virtual board meetings and even fulfilling essential programs and services while maintaining the appropriate social distance. 

One of the questions I have been most asked since the Covid-19 calamity began is how can nonprofits maintain meaningful donor-centered relationships with those closest to the hearts of their missions – donors and volunteers?  What can nonprofits do to stay in front of their donors and volunteers when virtually all in-person donor cultivation, solicitation and stewardship activities have been put on pause? 

Most of our donors are stressed out and anxious about so many things – their health, the health of their loved ones, the health of the place of employment/business, the health of their retirement plans, etc. Couple that with the fact donors are more reachable and receptive to conversations than they have ever been simply because they are home. This combination creates the perfect opportunity for nonprofits to reach out and simply let them know you are thinking about them.  What does this look like?  Below are several simple ways to maintain donor-centered relationships and remind your donors how much you appreciate them and why they love your organization at the same time: 

  • Call them on the phone, let them know you thought about them and ask how they are doing?
  • Write a simple note – something like: This little greeting is being sent your way with warmest wishes to brighten your day.
  • Schedule a facetime or video call and spend some time catching up.  This is a great time to let them know how your organization is responding to the current crisis.
  • Schedule a virtual lunch meeting and arrange for lunch from a local restaurant to be delivered.
  • Deliver a balloon or floral bouquet, ring the bell and wave at them from the sidewalk. 

One thing is certain, donors have more time on their hands and are interested in our community returning to normal with little to no collateral damage.  Additionally, they are interested in formalizing their affairs.  While they may not want to discuss a planned gift, their interest in how to create a will is at an all time high.  Recent news reports state that online searches for how to create a will has double or even tripled in the past month. 

So, back to our original question: how do we maintaining meaningful donor-centered relationships in the midst of Covid-19?  The answer is simple – be human, thoughtful and kind – and do it now.  

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About the author

Cathy Sheffield, CAP®, CSPG, CFRE, FCEP