12 Tips for Fundraising Right Now


Last Friday, I streamed a free two-hour session reviewing Coronavirus fundraising – (mostly emails) and answering specific questions about fundraising during this crazy time.

I’d like to publicly thank Marc Pitman for gathering all the advice dispensed during those two hours and putting it in a super-helpful blog post. Read it here.

And here’s what Marc summarized:

One of the phrases Steven keeps using is encouraging us to “lean into donor generosity.” I love his constant reminder that nonprofits are needed now more than ever. Donors get that. And are currently giving to it. That giving will slow but right now is a time to be asking.

Some other nuggets he says are:

    • Your donors are amazing, and they want to help.
    • Let them decide what is relevant and important to them.
    • Crisis giving spikes, and then slows. The slowing isn’t about donor fatigue. It’s about donor inattention and about the nonprofit’s fundraising irrelevance.
    • Now is not the time to fundraise for the future. Fundraise for the crisis now.
    • Your job is to clearly state how your beneficiaries, or your organization are being impacted by this situation. And how the donor can help.
    • If your most pressing issue is a shortfall in fundraising, tell the donor.
    • Send the emergency email. Resend it to people who didn’t open it. Send it again. Send it every other day.
    • Keep asking until the data tells you to stop. NOT until your feelings tell you. When the appeals stop working, that’s the data telling you to stop.
    • There are still LOTS of older people who haven’t given because they don’t give to emails. If you can get a letter out this week, do it.
    • $25 is a low ask in an email. Average online gifts for many nonprofits is $80, $90, or even $100.
    • Don’t let your unease with asking take away from a donor the chance to make an impact.
    • Now is NOT the time to send an “update on how we’re responding to Covid-19.” That is irrelevant to donors. Share a current need that they can act on.

And one of my favorites: in crisis moments like we’re in right now, “pretty good and fast” will raise more money than “perfect and a couple days later.” Reaching donors now is far better than waiting until things have calmed down. And even better than waiting until you get the wording 100% perfect.

I stand by every one of those.

And I’ll be doing another free review this Friday – you can sign up and submit your materials here.

If you want more guidance right now, here’s a post from last week with the four main ideas that will help you the most right now.

Good luck out there! And stay tuned, we’ll be posting helpful advice every day for the foreseeable future.

COVID-19 fundraising principles


If you’re going to raise money for your beneficiaries and/or cause during the pandemic, follow these principles, and you’ll raise more money.

Note: Everything I’m about to say assumes one important thing – the current pandemic situation impacts your organization, cause, and/or beneficiaries. That could be the virus. It could be the economy. It could be travel restrictions. In other words, that there are “new or more needs” that you’re dealing with.

Here are the principles Better Fundraising is living by as we work with clients:

Speed matters. Sometime soon, several hundred thousand organizations are going to realize they’re in trouble and are going to send out e-appeals. You want to beat them to your donors’ inboxes. Don’t wait until the next vacancy in your communication schedule – cancel what’s coming next and replace it with something urgent.

Volume matters. Your donors’ attention is more fragmented than usual. That means your email open rates are going to drop by 20%. Your direct mail open rates will drop too. That means fewer people will see what you send out. And if fewer people see what you send out, you raise less money. So you need to send out more things.

Simplicity matters. You have less of your donors’ attention than you normally do. If your donor usually reads two paragraphs of your email before deciding whether to read the rest, for the next weeks, she’s only going to read one paragraph. So you have to get to the point quickly, and you have to keep it very simple.

Acute needs raise money. We’ve already seen this several times in the last five days. If your beneficiaries or organization is facing a critical need, share it with your donors. Donors LOVE acute needs.

So if your beneficiaries are short of rent money because their service industry jobs have been slashed, ask your donors to provide rent money. If you’re $1 million event was just canceled, ask donors to help erase your $1 million shortfall.

Make it clear – make it simple. Resist the urge to over-explain. Send it fast.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s a video I made with an 8-point outline for a successful e-appeal.

Good luck out there!

SPECIAL POST: Follow This Formula to Raise Money Right Now [VIDEO AVAILABLE]


If the COVID-19/Coronavirus is hurting your beneficiaries or your organization, your donors would love to help by sending in a special gift.

Here’s a formula we created to help organizations during this time of need. Follow this formula to create a simple email that works extraordinarily well:

  1. Quickly acknowledge that things aren’t normal right now
  2. Describe how the situation (COVID-19 or the economy) is hurting your cause / beneficiaries / organization
  3. Ask for a special gift to help (link to your donation page)
  4. Very short story to illustrate the need
  5. Show how the donor’s gift perfectly meets the need
  6. Show how the need from the story is not the only need
  7. Share that the funds needed are not in the budget
  8. Ask the donor to send an emergency gift right now (link to your donation page)

We’re sending this out as quickly as possible because this formula is WORKING. Every email that’s been sent out using it has been a big success.

If you’d like to watch a video of me explaining the formula in more detail, along with an example of an email that follows the formula, click here.

Resist the urge to over-explain. Keep it simple and get it in front of your donors as quickly as you can!

Then get in touch and let us know how well the formula worked for you and your organization!