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Fox Advice

Fundraising During COVID-19

Foundation and Corporate Funding

  • Reach out to institutional funders immediately to explore options. In these extenuating circumstances, many grantors are lifting restrictions on program and project grants to instead allow grantees to use funds toward operations. Grantors are also working with organizations to identify alternative ways of delivering on grant-related outcomes (e.g., virtual services instead of in-person services) and may be open to extending grant periods in some instances. Connect with program officers to let them know about the organization’s situation—funders are welcoming and expecting these calls.


  • Apply for emergency funding. Increasingly, foundations are announcing special grant opportunities to provide organizations with funds to meet critical needs—whether to address COVID-19 directly or to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the organization (or both). Be on the lookout for these announcements and plan to connect with a program officer prior to applying.


  • Explore corporate workplace giving campaigns. Most companies have employee workplace giving campaigns facilitated through platforms such as YourCause, Benevity, Truist, and others. In light of the current situation, reach out to corporate funders to explore opportunities for special targeted workplace giving campaigns, in which employees may designate gifts to your organization, or a short list of organizations that include your nonprofit.

  • Intensify institutional fundraising cultivation. Many foundations and corporations have already determined the collective amount of dollars they will be granting for the year, and budgets are set. This number is most often determined by assets/earnings of the previous fiscal year, which means it will take at least a year for funders’ budgets to catch up to the economy. Renewal grants are likely safe for the time being. Cultivate existing institutional funders to maintain strong relationships in the short term to ensure future opportunities in the long term.


Individual Giving

  • Pause on soliciting major gifts, but stay connected with donors. With the economic fallout accompanying COVID-19, many individuals are experiencing significant losses. Give major donors the time they need to figure out their unique financial situations, but keep scheduled meetings or calls on the calendar if possible as an opportunity for stewardship.

  • Lean into Donor Advised Funds. DAFs have a demonstrated track record of coming through for nonprofits during economic downturns, and play a crucial role as a philanthropic capital reserve. These funds are deeply rooted in the community and are akin to having thousands of local foundations available to support emergency needs. Reach out to the Minneapolis Foundation, St. Paul and Minnesota Community Foundations, and other DAF-holders to refresh your organizational profile.

  • Give your constituents an opportunity to help. By now, most organizations have already sent email communications to their members, patrons, donors, partners, and other constituents alerting them to the organization’s plan for addressing and mitigating COVID-19 impacts. While economic uncertainty is ever-present, many organizations are experiencing success in attracting small donations ($100 or less) from individuals who want to help. Send a targeted email appeal that is brief, to the point, and from the heart. Don’t forget to include a donation link.