Coronavirus and Fundraising – Now What? – One Week Later

Coronavirus and Fundraising – Now What? – One Week Later


By David Allen, Development for Conservation


How much could possibly change in a week?


Welcome to the new world order.


I’ve been fundraising professionally for more than 30 years. I’ve been consulting for nearly 20 and full-time for more than 10.

And for the first time as a consultant, I feel like I have no answers. Or more accurately, I have answers for the world-as-we-knew-it yesterday. And I’m scrambling for answers for the world-as-we-find-it today.


So today’s post is not about answers. It’s about philosophy. It’s about filters that will help us decide how to meet each day’s challenge(s). I’m going to offer three, but I am explicitly asking that you add to this list.



Your mother needs to hear from you. Your friends need to hear from you. Your colleagues and coworkers need to hear from you. Your donors need to hear from you as well. Tell them that you’re OK. Tell them whatever remains as some semblance of normal. Tell them what’s changed. Tell them that the mission is still relevant and that your commitment to it is unwavering. Tell them that they are needed.

And remember through all of this communication that “they” are part of the “we” you are discussing. The land trust is “their” land trust. The mission is “their” mission. And the changes are their changes, too.

To the extent possible, reach out in personal ways. Call them. “Hi. It’s David at the Land Trust. I just wanted to give you a quick update on what’s going on.” Unless you’re in one of the shuttered cities, it might still be OK to meet in person for coffee. Use good judgement, to be sure, but communicate personally instead of just institutionally.



Nature matters. Getting outside has benefits. In 1918, sunshine and fresh air were considered part of the healing process for those who were sick. It’s also a mental thing. Take a walk today. Sit by a window. Encourage your colleagues, volunteers, members, and donors to do the same.

If you can figure out a way to avoid canceling field trips and nature walks, please do. You will help yourself and your community. Stagger people at the Trailhead. Demonstrate social distancing (with good humor). Wear gloves. Have soap and water handy. And clearly tell people what to expect beforehand both to help them prepare and to encourage them to come.



In the middle of the extraordinary, reach for the ordinary. In the midst of the abnormal, reach for the normal. In the middle of fear, reach for kindness. Social distancing need not be social isolation.

Go to work at the same time, even if you are working from home. Send out the newsletter on time (assuming the printer and mail house are still open for business). Same story with the appeals. Be available. Be proactive whenever possible. Do what you can to project optimism.

Everyone has experienced being sick. For a while, every day brings new challenges. Every day feels worse. And after a time, you forget what it’s like to not be sick. Feels like you’ll never be well again.

The country is sick right now. Every day is bringing new challenges. Every day feels worse. It will be easy to forget what it’s like not to be sick. We need to remember that we will return to “well” again.

Even if it’s not “normal.”


Jeff Schreifels and Richard Perry recently posted on their blog that:

There’s one truth you must anchor everything on: COVID 19 does not change the fact that your mission – your reason to exist – is important and needed. It’s very easy to lose sight of this point and get off on obsessive analysis and processing of how your “product” or offer is no comparison to this virus and the devastation it has the potential to cause.

Don’t go down this path. Instead, stop and remember why your organization exists and why, even with all of this going on now, it’s still important to support your very worthy cause.


Couldn’t have said it better.


What do YOU say? Can you add to the philosophical filters above?


Cheers, and be well!




Photo by Free-Photos from Pixabay



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  • Jennifer
    Posted at 14:02h, 18 March

    Hi David. We partner with a local bird rehab and rescue and we will be live-steaming the release of a red tailed hawk on one of our preserves this weekend. We considered advertising it but thought we shouldn’t promote a crowd, and that people might like to watch from the comfort of their homes anyway. In addition, we have a QR codes hidden in plain sight on our trails, and we will encourage folks to download our trails app to take part in our Passport program. We have noticed that downloads of our app have nearly doubled in the past week!

  • Annie
    Posted at 20:42h, 17 March

    Thanks, David. I do wonder — if we actually be facing a recession, is it reasonable to be asking people, some of whom may be struggling a lot, for donations in the normal way? Should we phrase things differently? I was not in the fundraising world in 2008, so I’m wondering how messaging was handled then, at a time of economic stress for so many.

    We are definitely emphasizing the value of time in nature during this crisis, encouraging people to use the trails, and offering activities for parents with kids home from school. We are also asking people to text or email rather than sign in at our kiosks. Good luck, everyone!

  • Patrick Koepele
    Posted at 13:27h, 17 March

    Great post – thank you!

  • Trish Livingston Aldrich
    Posted at 11:17h, 17 March

    After reading this, I changed the little blurb under my email signature to “Nature matters. Take a walk today. Watch a river flow.”
    I also did a Facebook post saying “I am working from home today. Nature matters. I will go for a walk and listen to the water flow. Perhaps I will visit a vernal pool and hear wood frogs quacking (similar to this one on the Bay State Trail in Middleton).” with a video link to…wood frogs quacking of course. And now I’m about to practice physical distancing and go for a walk. Best to all.

  • Mary
    Posted at 11:07h, 17 March

    Thank you, David! This is really helps focus my work, while everything around us spins out… I’ve moved out of land trust work and into a major gift officer position at Northland College — but the universal tenets of fundraising and donor relations don’t change, do they? Appreciate your clarity at this time!

  • Carol Abrahamzon
    Posted at 10:49h, 17 March

    Oh how I needed this today. Thank you.

  • Jill Boullion
    Posted at 09:53h, 17 March

    We are going to make an effort to provide fun and educational content on social media to keep people connected to our mission. For example, today our Lands Stewardship Director has a monitoring visit. She plans to do some video so that we can post and help people understand how their support impacts our ability to keep doing work.

  • David Lillard
    Posted at 09:05h, 17 March

    Thanks. It reminds me that each of us — I would bet, anyway — is also a supporter of other nonprofits. It’s a good time to say hello to those friends and remind them how important their work is, too.

  • Heidi Habeger
    Posted at 09:02h, 17 March

    Thanks David for offering your thoughts. That last quote is a good reminder. We’re closing on a purchase tomorrow of some wetlands and were asking our board about if/how we change up our “Good News” email announcement. We often hear that our emails give people hope or brighten their day. No doubt it will do that now more than ever.

  • Patricia Aldrich
    Posted at 08:46h, 17 March

    Thank you for this beautiful and helpful message as we make our way through this and practice resilience together.

  • Renee' Carey
    Posted at 08:36h, 17 March

    Thank you David!!!! It’s good to know we’re not in this alone. : – )

  • Creal Zearing
    Posted at 08:31h, 17 March

    Thanks for this putting such important words out into the world, David. 🙂