The Future of Direct Marketing: Nonprofit Fundraising Tips

This post focuses on how fundraisers can share their mission in ways that set them up for success during COVID-19 and beyond.




April 24, 2020

Nonprofit fundraising professionals have always faced the challenge of getting their organization to stand out among an abundance of other causes. With many organizations sharing similar missions, it can be difficult to find your niche fundraising strategy.

And with today’s current environment, there is a renewed need to ensure that your mission is clearly defined and reflected in your messaging.

What does this mean?

  1. Donors give when a nonprofit organization’s values align with theirs.

Having a clearly defined mission statement helps donors determine if you share similar values. It also helps to provide an understanding of where their money is going and what services their donation will support.

In times like this, you may be scaling back on your fundraising efforts, but donors that feel the most connected to the cause may still be moved to donate even without a direct ask.

  1. Sharing the mission is not just in the domain of development. It’s organization-wide.

Development must work hand-in-hand with all departments within the organization, in particular direct support, to maintain focus on your mission and the impact of your efforts on your constituents. In terms of accountability, development may be primarily responsible for communications, but everyone in your organization plays a role in how your work is perceived.

With all of this in mind, the question is: how can fundraisers share their mission in ways that set them up for success during COVID-19 and beyond?


Nonprofit Fundraising Challenges

Times are tough right now. Many donors are experiencing strained finances, and spending money on essential products and services is taking precedence over philanthropic efforts.

Two questions that a lot of fundraising professionals are asking themselves and their teams right now are likely to be: “Is it appropriate to ask for money right now?” and “Do I feel comfortable asking for money right now?” These are not easy to answer.

To ask for money in a time of crisis will always run the risk of being perceived as insensitive. Even once we return to a “new normal,” there will be along-lasting impact on donations.

Either way,if you take a deep look at your organization’s mission, structure, and financial situation, the answer may be “yes” or “no” to either question.

Once you have an answer for each, you can determine the next steps using this decision matrix that we created:



You might fall into this category if…

Your organization provides critical and/or essential services, including (but not limited to) access to food, healthcare, education, mental health, and veteran services. For you, there is no time to wait. The fundraising is needed now for these services to continue.

In this case, we recommend proceeding with sensitivity to today’s environment. Your messaging should already align with your mission, and taking it a step further and connecting it to your COVID-19 response will be helpful as well.



You might fall into this category if..

Your organization is comfortable with asking for money, but recognizes that other causes may be taking more of a priority right now.

In this case, we recommend that you do not proceed. If your organization can survive for the next few months on limited funding, then you may have some breathing room to step back, re-evaluate your plan for the year, and wait things out until the current situation changes.



You might fall into this category if..

Your organization needs money to continue providing valuable services, but you are not sure what you can be doing.

In this case, we recommend that you consider proceeding. If it feels inappropriate to ask for money directly, you might choose to engage your donors in other ways –social media challenges, online events, and more. By maintaining the connection to your cause, opportunities may develop for unprompted giving.



You might fall into this category if…

Your organization’s services fall outside any of the above categories, and there is no priority to fundraise right now.

In this case, you may follow a combination of Case #2 and Case #3, where you might spend this time working on your plan for the remainder of the year, and thinking about ways to engage your donors outside of your usual fundraising/direct ask activities.


Tips for Proceeding with Caution

  1. Be open to change.

Many organizations depend on in-person interactions with their volunteers and donors. This usually means a reliance on events as a main source of fundraising. Moving events online can be a challenge for many organizations and require additional planning.

Resources for online events:

You can also use this opportunity to leverage social media to initiate “challenges” that engage your volunteers and donors by encouraging them to get involved by sharing photos and commenting on posts. This content can be repurposed for other formats – email, direct mail, etc., giving you the opportunity to refresh some of your more outdated creative.

Showing that you are flexible and willing to adapt to new technology is key for your continued success.

  1. Allow your constituents to speak for you.

It is one thing for you to talk about your mission and who you support. It is another thing to hear directly from them.

Your website and social media pages are probably full of great testimonials about your organization from your constituents. They might be embedded into your content,featured as graphics, in videos, or other forms.

It is well-known that videos are more powerful than lines of text, but what you may not realize is that you do not have to have a large production budget to turn your testimonials into videos.

While it may certainly be ideal to film different individuals talking about how much your support means to them, this is not the only way to create a video testimonial.

A simple approach that you can use is to create a graphic or set of graphics containing your testimonials. Using a video editor, you can select a song to play in the background (YouTube has a great library of royalty free music that you can use) and then add your graphics to appear one at a time throughout the song.

Once you have a video ready, you can use it in email, direct mail, and social media.

Yes, you can use video in your direct mail.

Augmented Reality makes it possible to bring a flat piece of mail “to life” and give it a voice.

Whether you are creating a new campaign for your video or looking to get some extra mileage from a logo or an appeal letter that already mailed, Augmented Reality is a valuable tool.

Check out “Creating Augmented Reality Mailers” to learn how to easily make your fundraising appeals come alive using Augmented Reality through AReveryware.


The Bottom Line

No matter what your decision is to move forward, your outreach should always be guided by your mission.  


If you need help with any of your current and future fundraising projects, let us know.


Bonus: Fundraising Templates

Fundraising – Short-Term Direct Mail Postcard Template


Fundraising – Long-Term Direct Mail Postcard Template


Fundraising – Short-Term Letterpack Template

Outer Envelope

Image credit for nonprofit stamp: United States Postal Service (USPS)





Return Envelope



Fundraising – Long-Term Letterpack Template

Outer Envelope

Image credit for nonprofit stamp: United States Postal Service (USPS)






Return Envelope


Editor’s Note:

Some of the content in this post was inspired by a recent “Coffee Power Hour PLUS” virtual meeting with YNPN Greater Bflo. The post was written for our new series: “The Future of Direct Marketing.”

CM Food Bank of Anytown, USA is a fictional charity made up exclusively for the purpose of providing examples for this post.



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