The question of whether or not to try and raise money in this time of a pandemic and economic uncertainty is one that does not have a simple answer. It really depends on what you are raising money for, and asking for money at the right time and in the right way is even more important now.

Some of our church and non-profit clients have had recent success with urgent appeals, raising funds to help with their response to the Covid-19 crisis or shoring up operational funds in the face of lost income. Here are a few tips for a successful urgent appeal:

  1. Clear and concise communication is essential in this time when people are inundated with information and requests to give.  Sharing why you are raising money, the financial goal, and how the funds will have an immediate impact will inspire donors.  A church we have served in the past, which is on the frontlines of the pandemic in New York City, has launched a successful urgent appeal for their food pantry and Covid19 testing site. First Church Jamaica, NY
  2. Set smaller goals and ask for specific amounts.  One appeal I helped with was to raise funds for a victory garden to address food insecurity. The fencing for the garden was $25 per linear foot, so we asked for donations in increments of $25.  That appeal resulted in over $4,000 in individual donations. Community Ecology Institute
  3. Secure matching funds first. This will show donors that the appeal has already had some success. Another urgent appeal I assisted with was to raise $5,000 to help put a housing insecure family in a home by the end of this month. We started with $2,500 from the Board members, and then challenged donors to match the funds by Giving Tuesday Now on May 5th.  We ended up raising nearly $9,000 in two weeks, and those initial gifts were especially helpful to create momentum for additional donations. Adrienne Terry Affordable Housing FundWhich also shows that asking for leadership gifts from your strongest supporters (like Board Members) is always a good idea, because the people who are most committed to your mission are the most likely to give, and give generously.
  4. Follow up is essential. One solicitation email or letter is not likely to generate a broad response. Use all your communications, including email, social media, your website and text to donate to give people multiple opportunities to respond to your appeal.  Be sure to update your potential donors on your progress!
  5. Always say thank you.  A personal thank you in a timely manner is always appreciated by donors and makes them much more likely to give next time you ask.  Don’t forget to say how their donation made a difference to your organization.

So, don’t be afraid to raise funds in this time. People are looking for ways to connect, to do something positive and respond to feelings of isolation and powerlessness with action. And we believe that people are generous by nature when we give them an opportunity, and we ask them in the right way!

Rachel Cornwell, Director
The James Company
(301) 802-8234