5 Ways to Keep Donors Engaged While Social Distancing

Two hands holding a fabric heart

Fundraising and donor relations are all about connection. Social distancing guidelines may make it difficult for you to meet with donors in person, hold your annual gala, or host other live fundraising events, but it doesn’t reduce your donors’ desire to connect with you. Engaging your community of supporters virtually is essential to preserving your relationships with them at this crucial moment. Here are five ways to keep donors interested and inspired during COVID-19:


During a crisis, people are often more inspired to give. Being transparent with supporters about the challenges your institution is facing and how their donation will help during this difficult time can further increase their drive to lend a hand and make them feel confident about your stewardship of their donations. Newsletters, mailings, emails, landing pages, social media updates, and TV and radio spots can all help you keep your community informed.


Reach out to big donors personally to see how they’re doing. Even if they aren’t experiencing major health or financial challenges during this crisis, they’re likely experiencing some sort of negative effects, from disruptions to their usual schedule to being unable to spend time with family. Listening to their concerns, sharing your own stories about the situation’s impact on the lives of your students and faculty, and reassuring them about your institution’s current and future plans can help strengthen the bonds you’ve developed with your donors.


Historically, organizations that pull back on messaging during a recession take years to recover from their losses, while organizations that continue to engage their donors with messages of need and impact emerge stronger and healthier. Keeping your name out there shows that you aren’t shrinking from this crisis. It also gives you an opportunity to highlight affordability, job placement rates, and other aspects of your institution that make it something donors are proud to be associated with and to support.


People are stepping up big-time all over the country to help neighbors who are struggling, and your community is no different. Find and share inspirational stories from current students, alumni, and donors that give people hope for the future and make them feel proud to be part of your community. This can also involve highlighting work your institution does that’s relevant to this crisis, such as doing research related to public health or providing stellar mental health resources to students.


Take the most successful parts of your live events and make them virtual. In the past, fundraisers like an annual giving day might have featured some in-person events to get donors excited. Now those events can take place on Zoom calls or via social media. Online auctions and other virtual activities can create opportunities for supporters to engage and donate safely, and a call that you’ve facilitated between a donor and a scholarship recipient can take the place of a celebratory luncheon.

Whatever you do, make sure you don’t disappear on your donors. In times like these, being present in donors’ lives and showing them the value of their philanthropy is more important than ever.

At Lightstream, we work with universities and colleges across the nation, so we understand the fundraising challenges your advancement team is facing. From designing ads, mailings, and landing pages to interviewing community members and writing pieces about their experiences, we can offer the tools, resources, and creative solutions you need to maintain and strengthen the donor relationships you’ve worked so hard to build – at a price that leaves you with maximum return for your budget.

Contact us to learn how we can help you keep donors engaged, and giving, during COVID-19.