Fundraising and coronavirus – update #2

Last month, we wrote our first blog post to try to take stock of the coronavirus crisis for anyone involved in the world of fundraising, politics and social change, and offer some assistance and ideas. Here’s our second offering.

These ideas and types of assistance will change as the situation develops, but please get in touch with us at if there is anything we can help you with that we have not set out in these posts. We’d really like to help if we can.

The crisis continues to bring its challenges both at home and at work, but we’ve been seeing some glimpses of light during the darkness, including some very strong results across all our fundraising campaigns – not just those related to coronavirus.

Here are a few thoughts and observations from the last couple of weeks.

Make emergency appeals genuine

Quite a few charities are sending coronavirus appeals out at the moment, and in a situation like this where donors are receiving similar messages from many charities, relevance is key.

Usually, a financial crisis at your charity would be enough to enable you to produce a shortfall appeal, in which you ask people to help you make up for lost funds. In a marketplace saturated with charities making the same appeal though, this approach may not be enough.

If you’re looking to produce an emergency appeal at the moment, it will be strongest if you can show a direct impact that coronavirus is having on your beneficiaries, and how any funds will help you address that impact. It could well be possible to show this for quite a wide range of causes – from disability to pet welfare charities.

If you aren’t able to show this, don’t try to manufacture a link between coronavirus and your beneficiaries – it will look opportunistic and manipulative, and supporters will spot this from a mile off. Instead, focus on the impact that coronavirus is having on your income streams and how this affects the impact you’re able to bring to your beneficiaries.

Again, if in reality your charity isn’t too severely affected by the crisis at the moment, don’t run an emergency appeal.  Your need should be genuine – and if it isn’t, wait until you do have this need. Your supporters will be there for you.

Be considered, but be decisive

For all those charities that have launched emergency appeals in recent weeks, there are many others who’ve been discussing launching them but have not got round to it yet.

There is an understandable sense of caution on behalf of many not-for-profit boards at the moment to ensure they think through the situation carefully before taking action. But this needs to be balanced with the need to make decisive and timely decisions, as one of the critical factors in any emergency appeal is the speed with which you react as a charity – the quicker the better.

Being considered is good. But procrastination is not, particularly when your charity’s income is at stake and the opportunity to raise money may pass. Review the situation regularly, be agile in your thinking and make timely, clear decisions on activities.

Be brave

Aside from the issue of hesitation there is also the need to be brave and take calculated risks in fundraising. At the moment we’re seeing fundraisers being very keen to continue their fundraising programmes, and even to enhance them in response to the coronavirus crisis, but experiencing delays and cutbacks to fundraising budgets when boards (understandably) want to review investment levels and have a tendency to limit spending to only ‘essential’ campaigns.

As we say, this caution is understandable, especially with big, higher risk investment projects in a landscape that’s constantly changing. But it’s less useful when assessing which activities should be classed as ‘essential’.

The issue with this is that it’s the fundraisers who are best placed to decide what the essential campaigns are. And, from our perspective, these essential campaigns include things such as legacy appeals – not just cash appeals.

Campaigns to generate longer-term income (like legacy appeals and cash-to-DD conversion appeals) are often those that are most vulnerable to having their budget cut at times like this, and yet they are arguably the most important ones to keep at a time of financial crisis for a charity. This is for several reasons, including:

  • They generate long term income, which is what the charity most needs to help it build its resilience and maintain its services over time.
  • In times of crisis, supporters will be particularly keen to help the causes they care about to survive – so this you have an audience that is willing and ready to help if asked.
  • Supporters will be wanting to find the most effective ways to help the causes they care about – and these longer-term appeals are among the most effective ways, so now is the time to make these requests.

Other activities that fundraisers may deem to be essential are some recruitment campaigns – as some recruitment of new supporters needs to continue in order to keep your funding levels at the same level – let alone growing.  Charities may need to be nimbler and use more lateral thinking in developing their recruitment activities during this crisis, but this is what fundraisers are paid for.  So, boards should give them the trust – and the investment – to do their jobs and decide which calculated risks are worth taking.

I would add that the situation we are in (of uncertainty and changing circumstances) is likely to be our new normal for a while. There’s not going to be a moment in the next few weeks where everything suddenly returns to normal and it feels completely safe to resume the previous programmes we had – so we have to adapt to the current situation and live with it, by continuing to invest in fundraising.

Results we’ve been getting

The final part of my case for being bold and getting on with fundraising is this – results have been holding up and people have been continuing to donate generously.

In fact, results haven’t just been holding up – at ChangeStar we’ve seen some brilliant results this year. Every appeal we have developed so far this year has beaten its target – across causes and whether related to coronavirus or not.

Some have smashed their targets – for example we’ve broken one client’s income record for the 4th appeal running, getting more than 3x the target income and counting!


We must of course continue to be considered and careful in our planning. But we need to also be decisive and agile in our decision making – review things regularly then make clear decisions. We also need to be bold in continuing to invest in fundraising – from long-term income generators like legacy appeals through to recruitment activity.

Perhaps we need to turn around our assumptions about what coronavirus means for fundraising – it is a time when people care particularly deeply about a range of courses and want to help them. So, make sure you get out there and give them the opportunity to help your cause in the most effective ways.

The obligatory call to action!

We’ve been helping a number of charities and good causes to make the best out of fundraising during this time, and we’re finding there are some ways of sequencing and presenting certain appeals that work really well.

If you’d like to chat through how we could help you get the most from your fundraising at this unusual time – from developing creative for appeals through to strategic advice – it would be great to hear from you.  Email our director Richard on or call us on 01273 964018.