Reporting Back in a Pandemic (Or after Any Disaster)


Better Fundraising has three tips to make your Reporting Back to donors resonate.

Because if your reports are timeless – if they could have been sent at any time during the past year – it means they aren’t relevant to the world the donor is living in today.

And if they aren’t relevant, they don’t need to be read.

Which trains your donor to read fewer of your communications – and you don’t want that, do you?

So here are three tips to make your Report Backs relevant to your donors:

Report back on something that happened during the pandemic.

What happened in January isn’t relevant right now.

And your messaging has to be relevant right now, or it’s mostly useless.

You want to share a story of something that happened because of the pandemic. That might mean a transition to telemedicine to care for a hurting person. It might mean emergency rent assistance for someone who lost their job.

But it can’t be the same story you would have told if the pandemic hadn’t happened.

Think of it this way: during Christmastime, you don’t see a lot of stories about Halloween. And any story you tell right now about something that happened before the pandemic is at high risk of being about Halloween while everyone else is singing Christmas carols.

A “Breathless Report from The Field” will beat “Standard E-News.”

Your donor knows that the world is upside down. So don’t give her a standard e-news report.

Don’t treat your writing like business-as-usual.

The organizations that will bond with their donors most closely are ones who make their donors feel like they are right there – getting the fresh news. Yesterday’s update from the CEO. The email that came in earlier this morning from program staff.

We’re already seeing this in action. Organizations we serve are sharing simple little updates of stories that just came in. The person who received the meds they needed – the family that was rescued.

And the donors love it! High open rates. Lots of giving in response to Reports. And even replies to the emails thanking the organizations for letting the donors know what’s going on.

Donors respond to this type of immediacy.

Donors are wondering, “what’s going on right now?” and are forgiving (even appreciative) of communications feeling like they were put together at the last minute.

Remember: donors care more about your beneficiaries and knowing what’s going on than they care about the professionalism of your communications.  

Fear is Contagious. Hope Is, Too.

Donor generosity is amazing.

Hopefully, you’ve done a great job sharing the problems facing your beneficiaries, cause, or organization. And you’ve raised a ton of money these last few weeks.

So be sure to share good news and hope, too.

Because donors want to hear some good news; they’re hoping that there are signs of people taking care of each other when there’s so much bad news on the front page.

When you do this, give the credit to your donor. Be super clear that the good news is happening because of her, and her generosity.

Because if donors are looking for some good news – and you share good news with them and give your donor the credit for causing that good news – don’t you think that increases the likelihood that she’ll like your organization a bit more?

And don’t you think that will increase the chance she’ll read your next email or letter?

And don’t you think that increases the chance that she’ll give to you during the coming slump?

And she’ll continue to be a donor once all of this is over?

I don’t “think so” – I know so.

“Our organization exists so that donors can help these girls”


I recently spent an hour talking to a founder of a nonprofit who totally gets it.

His organization provides schooling for girls in Africa.

We got to talking about fundraising (surprise, surprise) and I mentioned the principle of donor-centered fundraising.

He said the best thing any Founder has ever said to me:

“Our organization exists so that donors can help these girls.”

I just sat there and grinned widely.

Because how great is that? That one belief – that the organization exists so that donors can help – will be an incredible driver of fundraising success.

They will just skip right by all the pitfalls of talking too much about the organization itself. Of making the organization the hero.

Of relegating donors to mere “partners.”

I told him about the raw fundraising power of his belief, and how it was going to make his fundraising more effective.

He said, “Well, I knew I loved being able to provide schooling for the girls that I was able to help. I figured other people would love it too. So I’m creating a way to help more donors do that – which of course helps more girls.”

The Truth He Knew

This guy knew another powerful truth.

Most of your donors are more interested in your cause or beneficiaries – and what they can do to help – than they are interested in your organization.

In other words, he knows that his donors will enjoy sending a girl in Africa to school more than they would enjoy being a supporter of his organization.

So he’ll focus his communications on how the donor can send a girl to school in Africa instead of focusing it on his organization and how the donor can support them.

And he’ll raise more money.

How Different Would Your Communications Be?

If your nonprofit were to adopt this attitude – even if it’s just your fundraising that adopts the stance – how would your donor communications change?

Try writing your next appeal as if you were writing to donors, telling them about something they care deeply about – and offering them a chance to make a powerful change that they are going to love doing. You’ll love how well it works!