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  • Marty Zimmerman

Year-End Giving in the time of COVID-19: A Guide

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

While it usually feels like a joyous occasion to ask your supporters for a holiday donation, the 2020 year-end giving season feels different. Nonprofits across the country have seen significant decreases in revenue. One study found that 83% of the nonprofits surveyed experienced a reduction in revenue, with the largest reductions in earned revenue and individual donations. Some donors may be tightening their belts while dealing with economic fallout from COVID-19, while others may have changed their giving priorities. So how do we navigate year-end giving in 2020, when it feels more difficult to make the ask?

Graphic of people making donations

Tailor Messaging around the Impact of COVID-19 on Your Organization

Donors who focus their giving in the month of December and for Giving Tuesday may have a general understanding that COVID-19 has impacted your organization, but do not know the specifics. It is important to focus year-end messaging on how COVID-19 has directly impacted your organization in the short-term, and how it may impact your organization for years to come. How has your organization navigated this challenging time? Assure donors that you have adapted your programming to continue to make an impact and withstand unforeseen challenges. Use this time to explain how a donation, no matter how small, would help your organization continue to achieve its mission. For example, tailor messaging to telling donors how far a $10, $20, or $50 donation will go to impact the community your organization serves.

Take Donors on a Digital Journey

Digital communications have prevailed during COVID-19. Carefully craft your messages and by providing impactful stories of your organization’s work this year. It is important to take time to plan outreach. Too many consecutive requests may risk overwhelming donors. By planning the frequency of digital outreach, you can take donors on a journey that appeals to both logic and emotions and ends with a donation. A thoughtful, well-timed campaign shows donors that you understand that giving in the time of COVID-19 is different and that you respect their time and budgets.

Appeal to Your Major Donors Personally

Appealing to major donors happens during year-end giving whether we are in a pandemic or not. This year, many major donors, especially those that give via donor advised funds, want to increase their giving. Be candid with your major donors and share information about how COVID-19 has impacted the parts of your work they care about most. Now is a perfect opportunity to deepen your relationships with your major donors by letting them see how flexible, effective, and strategic your organization has been during the pandemic and how you plan to continue moving forward. Give donors the opportunity to reach out to you through Zoom meetings to check in and see how the organization is operating.

Year-end giving is often a critical time for nonprofits. However, time and time again nonprofits prove to be resilient and resourceful. This year, we have seen remarkable collaborations between organizations. In the spirit of collaboration, remember that nonprofit organizations throughout the community are feeling the same way you are, perhaps hesitant to make the ask because they do not know their donors’ financial situations, anxious about their meeting their revenue targets, and gearing up to operate successfully in 2021 as the pandemic continues. We hope these tips have eased nerves around year-ending giving in 2020, empowering you to make the ask so your organization can continue its tireless and dedicated work in 2021. Cheers to a prosperous and safe New Year!

Morgan Heine, Grant Writer

Morgan Heine | Grant Writer

Morgan received her Master’s degree in Public Health from the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) with a dual focus in Health Systems, Management, and Policy, and Global Health. As a public health professional, Morgan has several areas of expertise and interest and as a successful grant writer, she has secured critical funding for programs in Colorado and international nonprofits.


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