Coronavirus: Advice on individual giving

Headshots of Michelle Chambers and Matt Smith

Guest Bloggers | 23 March 2020

THINK are sharing with us guidance on how to approach fundraising activities against the backdrop of the current coronavirus outbreak. In this article Michelle Chambers and Matt Smith give advice on individual giving.

The latest in our series of  blogs exploring how to keep fundraising moving during the coronavirus epidemic sees our attention turning to individual giving and legacies.  The current situation provides both challenges and opportunities for this area of fundraising and this is also an area where impacts across the supply chain will have an effect.  Here are some actions to think about:

  • Thank your supporters for standing by your side during this challenging period and if appropriate, offer advice and support for them in relation to your causal area.  Again, we have seen some good examples of communication from mental health charities giving advice on how to look after yourself.

  • Ensure you are communicating about how your charity’s operational delivery is being impacted by coronavirus – your supporters are used to receiving messaging about your daily work, so keep them informed on social media channels, and also add any relevant lift items into any upcoming direct mail appeals or newsletters.  Some good examples of this are already appearing.

  • Consider whether running an emergency appeal is right for your cause. We are now seeing a number of organisations activate urgent fundraising campaigns to mitigate losses and help fund additional services.  Giving levels appear to be remaining constant and donors are reacting positively to contact from the causes they support, so this might be a tactic for you to adopt.

  • Work with your supporter services teams to ensure the impact on supporter care is as limited as possible. If your teams are no longer able to process payments in the usual ways, direct donors to your website, JustGiving or arrange for a response form to be sent to them so that they can send a cheque or credit card donation by post. If operating hours have changed, make it clear on social media when/how your donors and supporters can get support, always reiterating how thankful you are for their continued support.|

  • Ensure your supporter services team knows what Individual Giving activities are mission critical and should therefore be prioritized e.g. Gift Aid claims, membership renewals, donation processing etc.  Work with the team to ensure sufficient staff resources are in place and if necessary consider members of the individual giving team being asked to help the supporter services team at critical points.

  • Consider working with other teams to share expenditure budgets. Events and community teams will be hit hardest, but they now may also have significant savings which could be used to bolster your campaigns or add additional elements.

  • With IoF and the Fundraising Regulator now recommending against public fundraising, consider how virtual street collections or virtual face to face fundraising could work for your cause. Short videos could be a great way to replicate the same experience of interacting with a community or street fundraiser.

  • If you have an in-house face to face team, consider what activities they can now undertake for example, they may be able to provide additional resource for supporter services teams, and ensure they feel confident in delivering them.

  • Acquisition will be hit if you are reliant on face to face, so think about how you can switch spend to digital channels and talk with your agencies about how they can help you mobilise quickly in this space. This could be an interesting period for test and learn in the digital arena.

  • Media deals are bound to be had with the cancellation of significant sporting events; some traditional direct response advertising may be worth testing. More people are now at home, so terrestrial TV audiences are likely to go up. Explore opportunities with your media partners.

  • Communicate regularly and honestly with your partners and suppliers, particularly if emergency appeals or last-minute changes to existing appeals are likely. They will be going through similar staffing and logistical issues, but will want to retain as much business and goodwill as possible, so work with your suppliers so that they can support you as much as possible.
  • With most of the entertainment and sporting industries now on pause, consider utilising a celebrity ambassador to front a short, impactful campaign for you. With anxieties high, bringing in some humour alongside the urgency could be a great way to engage audiences now glued to social media.

  • On the legacy side of your activity, consider the timing of any pledger recruitment mailings schedule over the next few weeks, as these could be deemed insensitive at the current time.  However, do think about how any pledger stewardship communications and activity can be reimagined,  so you can offer some contact to any pledgers who are self-isolating and would welcome the interaction, without it being obviously linked to their pledge.

  • Ensure you have contingency in place to handle legacy administration, even if it has to  be outsourced.  There may be a slowdown in notifications etc if staffing levels at HMRC and the Probate office are reduced, but ensuring you are on top of the progress with project of legacy income, will help your organisation's cash flow.

And finally, look after yourself and your teams. Your organisations are likely going to need you more than ever and ensuring a healthy and flexible working environment will now be essential. We are seeing teams set up working from home yoga, team lunches and post work drinks over video conferencing - try to find ways to include the elements you usually would.

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Michelle Chambers is Managing Director and Matt Smith is a Consultant at THINK Consulting Solutions



See this page for all the latest information for fundraisers about the coronavirus outbreak from the Institute of Fundraising. It will be kept updated.


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