COVID: the old normal

10 fundraising specialists gathered virtually.  

We asked them: What has COVID taught you? 

Here’s what we learned: 

  1. People continue to give
  2. Personal phone calls are wildly successful
  3. Mail works
  4. Treating donors like people increases giving
  5. Organizations with good stewardship strategies continue to thrive (yes, thrive) 

So…. “there is nothing new under the sun” (Thanks King Solomon, 1011 BC) 

Let me distill this a little more…

1. Organizations who built long-term, trusted relationships with donors have their ear. 

OK, not earth shattering… but let’s take it to the next step. If you are depending on the label package, one-off auctions and gold-tournaments, you need to sit up and take notice: monthly supporters are the foundation of your organization and give you strength to walk through the hard times. 

2. Major donors are not giving major gifts. 

No surprise here. Same point as number 1 really: monthly donors are extremely important in the nuts and bolts of building a sustainable charitable agency. Major gift donors are strategic givers. It’s hard to be strategic when every news report uses the word “uncertainty” 15 times. Unless they were highly invested in Zoom and Shopify (maybe Amazon and a grocery chain), their portfolio is lagging. Companies are struggling (well, unless you are Zoom, Shopify, Amazon and grocery stores). But major donors are not going to disappear. They do not want to make large commitments in an uncertain time. That just makes sense. It would be foolish and, well, if they are very wealthy, they are not foolish. 

3. Mail is working better than ever. 

Let’s face it, mail has not dropped off of the face of the earth. And now, while many agencies are tossing and turning about actually mailing people, mailboxes are a lot more empty than they were. Less competition? A good offer will sing. But it’s not going to last. Others will figure it out. Mail isn’t going away.

4. Digital is growing.

Well—people are going online to give their gifts. Fundraising is still more successful when supported by mail and phone. Who knew? Even older people are meandering over to their computer to give – it saves a high-priced stamp, is easy to do and it gives our kind postal workers a bit of a break. People new to digital gifts are giving it a go. Organizations that have easy, intuitive systems are winning this race. If it’s too hard to get all the information in, donors will quit and move to an org that makes it easy. So make it easy. 

5. Events still work… just differently.

Make your digital engagement like an event… people are waiting for something interesting to read or watch. Draw them in!


One participate told us they created a simple ask to provide meals for adults with developmental disabilities and engaged local restaurants. They created a cool app to get the word out and to get donations. Great thinking and agile turnaround. That’s a win. 

Another arranged Zoom conversations with their international partners, made them into quick, short videos (not fancy stuff… raw) and sent them to donors. One donor gave $1000 after every video and sent $10,000 after 5 videos. Quick thinking. Agile. Simple. 

So what are we learning? 

Relevant, engaging, transparent and authentic fundraising is raising funds. 

What a minute…. That’s nothing new. 

A nod to Solomon…. 

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