As I See It | Missy Gale, CFRE | President & CEO

Fundraising programs altered during the pandemic should stay the course

If 2020 was the year of “pivot” for fundraising programs, then 2021 is the year of “adaptation.”

Optimism is rising as we see vaccinations for Covid-19 sweep the globe. However, experts predict it will take several more months to achieve vaccine distribution for a widespread population. We must remain careful and adhere to CDC guidelines; no one wants to continue to experience the devastating sickness and tragic loss of life from Covid-19.

Most nonprofits lost fundraising revenue last year despite arguably more ingenuity and tenacity from development professionals. Moreover, organizations learned more about their relationships with donors when most transactional fundraising activities like special events were canceled. While new and creative fundraising alternatives were quickly assembled, some had better results than others. Virtual events provided a unique way to interact with donors, but most did not reach the revenue goals of in-person events.

Relationships are key

We’ve seen the donors who have close relationships with nonprofits—especially organizations whose services are directly addressing the pandemic—make more direct gifts to help their causes. Additionally, the acquisition of new donors increased for many nonprofits who told their stories effectively, asking for gifts from an eager audience captured on social media.

So, what’s the best fundraising strategy for this year?
  1. Document a multi-year development plan. Why? An annual fundraising plan can only be measured against the year prior, resulting in only incremental growth as an outcome. However, each area of fundraising from acquisition to planned giving requires a longer-term strategy to develop an audience and donor engagement over time. Organizations that revert back to their 2019 fundraising plan will have left important lessons on the table.
  2. Test the pivot strategies you developed last year inside your fundraising plan. If your virtual event had success, build on it. (Remember, most first-time events are not huge revenue generators and success can take years to achieve.) But more importantly, reflect on the phone calls you made to check on your supporters, the stories you told about how your organization has responded to the pandemic, the authentic asks you made, and the help you received from your board members, volunteers and staff—these tactics need next step strategies to continue this critical engagement work.
  3. Look at the programmatic changes you made last year and how they were funded. Will they require new funding? Many new and adapted programs were funded through relief efforts that may not be in place in 2021. If you haven’t already, work with your team to develop strategies to sustain and grow these necessary programs.
  4. Stay the course. You did some good work in 2020 despite the overall revenue outcomes. Don’t pivot back to where you were. Instead, persevere and rise stronger for the effort you put into building your donor audience.


About the Author

As president and founder of M. Gale & Associates, Missy Gale has dedicated almost three decades to crafting unique strategies and solutions to complex fundraising projects and organizational issues, resulting in transformational fundraising success for her clients. With more than ten years at the helm of M. Gale & Associates, Missy has assisted nonprofits in North Texas and the Southwest in healthcare, arts and culture, social services, and education. Missy is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington and holds the Certified Fundraising Executive credential. She has presented at numerous international, national and regional conferences. In 2014 Missy was honored as the Outstanding Professional Fundraiser by the Association of Fundraising Professionals Fort Worth Metro chapter. She has also served as national chair of the Association of Philanthropic Counsel (APC)