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Fundraising in the time of Coronavirus

Fundraising in the time of the coronavirus

To date, (20th March 2020) the coronavirus COVID-19 is affecting 183 countries and territories around the world and 1 international conveyance (the Diamond Princess cruise ship harboured in Yokohama, Japan). See https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries

This blog is about fundraising not about keeping safe. It was prompted by the plight of a charity of which I’m a trustee where all income has ceased because the activities it runs even though they are mainly outdoors are now banned by the overarching federation.

Has a significant chunk of your income suddenly disappeared be it to do with trading, income from events or other sources affected by this disease? Perhaps you run a nursery and parents self-isolating don’t need childcare? Perhaps you run a charitable sporting activity and your governing body has forbidden you to run it?

So, what can you do?

Budgets – start by looking at your finances. How much if any is the Corvid 19 virus crisis going to take out of your budget for the remainder of this year and possibly next year depending upon the date of your financial year? Which particular lines of income are affected? Do you have reserves that will allow you to carry on operating properly  for some time whilst you try and take some steps to replace some of the income you are going to lose?

And this will give you a time to think about and test putting in some initiatives before you need to cut.  So which initiatives?

Events – these may need to be cancelled or indeed events where you have sponsored places are being cancelled.

Is there any possibility that you can approach the people that may have already booked or pledged to ask them to collect those pledges anyway in the light of the needs of the beneficiaries? If you have digital connections with your donors, asking may be low in cost and effective.

Face to face services – You may provide services that are ordinarily delivered face-to-face – the giving of advice for example. Is it possible for you to arrange for this advice to be given digitally?  An application such as Zoom which allows video and voice communication between two or more parties could be used between your advice worker your translator and the client providing all three have a suitable Internet connection and a suitable device – in our view at least a laptop but some people can manage on a mobile phone.

This may also be possible where you earn money from the provision of such services because you can charge just as much for the advice you give when it’s given digitally as you can when it’s given face-to-face. For example the NCT is moving antenatal classes online.

Staff and volunteers may need to work from home or take sick days. Sick people should stay out of the office rather than come in and risk infecting colleagues. Not only will this protect people from coronavirus, but it will also protect them from many other illnesses as well. This will require infrastructure. As we say on our other blog about the technical aspects of this if you have this arranged already, you may be able to extend it to your whole organisation. If you are starting from scratch you may have a bigger problem but it certainly is something you have to try and do

Governance –  make sure that your trustee meetings and your subcommittees of your trustee board can meet virtually an NOT not face-to-face. Again, this will be easy to arrange if you already have some of these facilities but it may be more difficult if you’re starting from scratch. You may be able to borrow facilities – for example local universities often have very good broadband connections and video suites? Some hotels who are short of customers sometimes have similar facilities and may be willing to let you use them at a reduced cost.

Existing Donors – the people that give to your organisation may think more of your organisation given the current crisis. Are you able to tell stories describe how you are helping your beneficiaries cope with the current circumstances?  Are you, for example providing services to those who are made newly homeless by virtue of also losing their jobs as they are in tied employment of some description?  Do you work with the elderly and are helping those elders cope with self-isolation? Let people know what you’re doing and see what this does to your donation rates

Isolated donors?  Are your donors likely to be isolated? If so, they may welcome a call more so at this time than at others. Please do not hide and ask for funds in a query about welfare. If one turns into the other so be it but this should not be your initial motivation. But do take the opportunity to update them about what you are doing in the world especially if it may be of benefit to your donors as beneficiaries

Legacies – If you do it sensitively this may be a time to remind people about gifts after death as set out in their Wills. Again, if you can tell stories that show your relevance to the current difficulties – perhaps you are providing help for the self-isolated – this may encourage new pledges.

Corporate Funding – are you dependent in some way on money from private sector organisations and seeing those organisations affected by having no customers and hence being unable to support you?  This is a difficult one as it may that thinking about charity may be your supporting corporate’s last thing to think about. But then you may be able to turn this into a positive – is there any way in which you can help them in their current circumstances, or involve their staff in voluntary activities as they have nothing to do as part of an ordinary paid work for the time being.


 For example,in a stark warning of how the spread of covid-19 is wrecking company finances reported in the Economist, Burberry said sales at its retail stores had fallen between 40% and 50% year-on-year over the past six weeks. The British fashion retailer warned that sales in the final few weeks of March could fall by as much as 70-80%. So if they are your corporate donor how might you engage staff and directors?

Trusts and foundations – the money that this type of organisation give are generally made from income. It is a very special organisation of this type but is giving away capital and winding down its funds. So having a stock market that is performing badly because companies are losing all their customers may mean trusts and foundations see a marked fall in income. So do review your major trust and foundation awards if any to see if any of them are at risk for this reason. On the other hand there are some parts of the economy that will benefit from this crisis, for example those organisations providing digital and Internet services so if your foundations have their roots in such sectors it is possible you may be able to ask them for further emergency funds rather than plan for their awards to be reduced or terminated

Statutory funds and contract funds – it is unlikely that contracts for service provided by government will be affected by this crisis in the short term. But you know your sector and you know how sensitive they might be to the current crisis. If you are going to lose contract income then this needs to be planned for as carefully as possible so such services are wound down before they cease with as little damage to your beneficiaries as possible. If you are one of the few organisations that still benefits from grant funds again it is worth checking with your grant liaison as to whether the award you be made is affected by the current crisis.

Finally, is there any other way in which you can turn this crisis into an opportunity so that you come out of the end of it stronger and better?

We look forward to hearing from you to see whether we can help whether you have any stories to tell us about how you are coping with the current crisis

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