How To Raise Money During The Pandemic

Public radio and television stations around the country have canceled spring on-air fund drives and have cut back on fundraising mailings to donors. At times like these, we don’t want to seem insensitive as everyone worries about their health, are sheltering in place, and while many have lost their jobs.

But what if I told you that you could raise larger than average gifts today?

I’ve long argued that managers should always be building strong and personal relationships with your largest donors. I would recommend that you begin calling them today. Start with the person who gave you the most money last year. Call them. Tell each person that you are calling because, as a major donor, you want to reach out and (a) find out how they are doing, and (b) to tell them of some of the extraordinary things your station is doing in service of your listeners and viewers. I think they will be impressed that you took the time to call.

You might find that some of those donors might begin asking how your organization is making up for lost revenue. That’s a perfect time to talk about your delayed fund drives etc. “Frankly,” you might say, “it’s not been easy for us although our team is working so hard. I guess it wouldn’t hurt for me to ask if you’d be able to make a special gift of $10,000 to see us through these challenging times?” Then pause. Stop talking. You might be surprised that many will say yes, or at least contribute something.

You and your development manager should figure out, in advance, what to ask for based on their recent giving history. But be sure to ask for a stretch gift. 

If they say no, you’ve lost nothing. You have at least signaled to the donor that you care enough about them to have called them in the first place.

If the donor doesn’t give you an opening to make an ask during your call, don’t worry. I’d wait another two weeks and call again. This time you can say you wanted to follow up on the earlier call—but this time you want to ask.

If the donor says no, at least you tried.

Start with your largest donor and work down your list.

Make calls every day. You are sure to be surprised by how much you raise.

I offer practical advice like this in THE PUBLIC MEDIA MANAGER’S HANDBOOK. It is designed to help the new and veteran manager navigate challenges they face everyday. Find out more information HERE.

One response to “How To Raise Money During The Pandemic”

  1. Superb advice! This is is also good advice for more routine times of business. I’m always surprised by how many leaders don’t have a good calling/visiting relationship with major donors, including foundations. The latter often are even more invested and deserve personal communication as well.


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