Should I be fundraising right now?

This is the #1 question that we’ve been asked here at CanadaHelps over the last couple of weeks – and it makes sense. Given that people are losing work and the economy is so uncertain, how can we now be asking for money?  Should we really be fundraising right now?

Many of the organizations that are posing this question are directly responding to COVID-19.  To you, we respond with a resounding YES!

Although we saw an immediate and large drop in online donations when the initial reality of COVID-19 hit Canada, we have since been humbled by the generosity of Canadians in this challenging time.  All over the country, Canadians are responding in a big way and giving directly to COVID-19 relief efforts to support frontline organizations and our most vulnerable populations.

As we are all largely isolated from our communities and might be feeling a little bit helpless in the face of the scale of the crisis, supporting organizations that are responding and are close to our heart is a way that we all can make a difference. Canada needs your service right now and Canadians want to help. Make the ask!

For those of you that are not directly responding to COVID-19, we say yes – but it’s sensitive.

And you know that. The fact that so many are asking this question shows that you know that.  You’re asking, “How can I be asking for my arts or environmental organization when there are food banks and shelters out there that need support in order to feed and care for our most vulnerable in this challenging time?”

First things first, the whole sector is being impacted.  Events that represented a large portion of your revenues are now cancelled.  The way you deliver your service has to be transformed in order to accommodate distancing and to keep people safe.  You had scheduled capital campaigns or big projects that you still have a fundraising need for.

So, what to do?

Here are a few questions to help guide you:

  • What does my current relationship look like with my constituents?
  • How often do we communicate with them? (eg. Monthly? Quarterly? Annually? Never?)
  • What do we communicate? (eg. What’s in our newsletter?)
  • How urgent is our need?

If you have an established regular cadence through which you keep in close communication with your donors, then they will know about the event you are cancelling, how your service will need to transform, or about your upcoming campaign. In this case, if you are in need, it might make sense for you to make that ask.

If you haven’t communicated with your donors much in the last year, it might not be the right time to make a hard ask. The urgency of your need could help to guide your decision either way.

Though imperfect, a useful analogy might be to think about a personal relationship you have with a friend.  If you haven’t spoken with that friend in a year, would it be appropriate for you to now reach out in a time of need? Probably not. If you keep in close contact with that friend and they know all about your life and your plans, would it be more appropriate?  Probably.

After some reflection, make the decision to either make your ask in a way that is authentic to your organization or to hold off for now. If it doesn’t feel right, take that as a prompt for you to start a more engaged and active relationship with your constituents.  Set-up a regular cadence.

Regardless of your choice, you need to keep communicating.

Here are some ideas for how you can communicate if it isn’t the right time to make a fundraising ask:

  • Give an Update: Let your community know how your organization is doing and how you are adapting in light of the situation.
  • Check-In: Reach out to your community to let them know you are there for them and share how you might be of service.
  • Thank: It is during these times that we realize how much we depend on our community. Thank yours for their ongoing crucial support.
  • Provide Value: Share educational resources or entertaining content that your community can engage with and enjoy.

If you’re sending any of the above emails, even if the email is not an ask, there should be a donate button in the header or footer of your email.  When a supporter clicks through to your website to engage with the content you’re providing, you should have an obvious donate button in the main navigation throughout your website. So, even if you’re not directly making an ask, it’s still an opportunity for donations to come in. At the same time, you’ll start building a better relationship with your community.

So, what are you waiting for? Reach out to us at if we can help in any way!

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