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Six Strategies for Nonprofit Fundraising During Tough Times



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Nonprofits, we need you now more than ever! Read these six tips on how to continue funding your vital services and programs.

"It is among the most basic human truths: Every one of us, someday, will be brought to our knees by a diagnosis we didn't expect, a phone call we couldn't have imagined, or a loss we cannot endure. That common humanity inspires our mercy. It fortifies our compassion. It drives us to look out for the sick, the elderly, the poor, and the most vulnerable among us." Joseph Kennedy III

COVID-19 has brought all of us to our knees – medically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually. Sadly, no one is immune to the systemic impact of a global pandemic. Royal and working families alike have suffered from the devastating consequences of COVID-19.

Nonprofits not only need to continue providing food, shelter, medical care, and mental health services as always, but they will likely become the safety net for even more individuals and families who lose their jobs and loved ones during the outbreak. Nonprofit leaders, your admirable efforts to fund your organizations will be critical to helping marginalized communities survive this pandemic. The following list offers six strategies for fundraising throughout this crisis so that you can continue to lift those "brought to our knees."

1. Research federal economic relief programs.

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed on March 27 includes multiple programs for nonprofit organizations affected by the pandemic. Your organization may qualify for one or more of the following provisions under the CARES Act:

  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The CARES Act includes $349 billion in forgivable loans for nonprofit organizations and small businesses to continue paying their employees through the end of June 2020. Organizations 500 or fewer employees can apply for loans to cover payroll and associated costs. Employers that keep their staff for two months after the start of the loan can have it forgiven.
  • Expanded Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Emergency Grants. The EIDL designates $10B in loans and applies looser credit standards than non-emergency times. Nonprofits with 500 or fewer employees may receive $10,000 within three days of submitting their application to assist with payroll and operating expenses.
  • Mid-size Loan Program. For larger nonprofits with 500 to 1,000 employees, the medium-sized loan program can assist with covering payroll expenses. The program aims to help employers retain 90% of their workforce. Because the program is still in development, organizations will need to watch for updates on how to access it.
  • Charitable Giving Incentive and Section 2204: The Charitable Giving Incentive creates above-the-line deductions for contributions under $300, and Section 2204 lifts existing caps on annual contributions for taxpaying individuals and corporations who itemize. This program could be critical to minimizing the drop in individual donations, but only if donors know about it.
  • Additional provisions: Visit the Council of Nonprofits for more information about self-funded nonprofits and unemployment, the employee retention payroll tax credit, delayed payment of payroll taxes, the Economic Stabilization Fund, and other significant provisions.

2. Take your fundraising efforts online.

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Do you have an upcoming fundraiser and worry about the lost funds from canceling the in-person event? Reduce your event expenses, staff time, and logistical headaches while keeping your staff and supporters safe by transforming your fundraiser into an online event. Write a proactive narrative for guests about the impact of the fundraiser on your clients that also explains the urgency of supporting your cause. Consider creative online events, such as a flash social media fundraiser, virtual auction, or a virtual gala.

3. Focus on your donors.

Communicate to your donors that your mission is still relevant and that your clients still need your services, perhaps now more than ever. Tell stories about the impact of your services and inspire your donors to support your organization through this challenging time.

4. Find support in your local community.

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Your local community foundation and the small business association may offer funding opportunities specifically to alleviate the economic impact of COVID-19 on nonprofit organizations. Visit the National Center for Family Philanthropy's interactive map on COVID-19 response and recovery funds to learn about grant and loan programs in your town or county. For additional support, contact your public library, nonprofit resource center, or nonprofit networking group.

5. Plan for the future.

If your nonprofit is not on the frontlines of the coronavirus fight, use this time of quarantine to build future capacity. Focus on reaffirming your mission, crafting compelling messaging, writing your strategic plan, growing your social media presence, and cultivating supporters.

6. Remember why you exist

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Nonprofits that provide non-emergency services may feel forgotten or irrelevant during this time of crisis. Organizations working with schools, small businesses, colleges, etc. may have to pause their programs due to the numerous closings from shelter-in-place orders. The need that inspired your founder(s) to open your organization has not disappeared, and your stakeholder facilities will reopen in the future. Consider how you can continue pursuing your mission, even if it requires temporary program restructuring. Communicate with your donors that your organization continues to matter and plans to resume when the risk subsides.

As we struggle to navigate this uncharted territory, we encourage the idea of looking back in history for lessons on how to continue providing vital services to marginalized communities during difficult economic times. The housing crisis of 2008 taught us that significant recessions can have a tremendous impact on the revenue streams for nonprofits. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, donations by the rich fell by $31B from 2007 to 2009. Americans collectively gave less to nonprofits during the recession than they had since the 1990s. Although previous recessions had shown that hard economic times might only slightly damper fundraising efforts, the 2008 recession demonstrated that giving by the wealthiest donors could plummet in another great recession, as the one predicted from COVID-19.

Our final words of advice: you will get through this! Remember that passionate donors, nonprofit resource groups, and foundations care about your mission and want to help you continue serving your community.

Click on the pin below to have these 6 tips to help you fundraise through these difficult times.

Additional Resources
Essential Advice and Resources for Nonprofits – COVID-19, Bloomerang

COVID-19 Resources For Nonprofits, Center For Nonprofit Advancement