Donor Relations, Strategic Planning

We find ourselves at an important pivot moment in an unprecedented time. Most organizations have implemented initial plans to immediately address the pandemic—establishing funds to support healthcare workers or displaced students; moving programs, performances and education online; reaching out by phone or video to key stakeholders and donors. But as we settle into what could be an extended period away from our in-person meetings, our galas, our graduations and our events, how do you continue to keep our donors strategically engaged? It is time to pivot from short-term crisis communication to strategic engagement for long-term success.


  • Keep your mission up front.
  • Stay on your message.


  • What impact are you having to address COVID-19?
  • How are you continuing to have an impact outside of COVID-19?

Never has sharing your mission and impact been more important.

A review of our previous experiences provides a framework to inform current strategies for engagement and outreach. Philanthropy is remarkably resilient. Those organizations that took the long view, remaining focused on the mission and engaged in philanthropy, saw the biggest returns on investment. In fact, after the 2008 crash, advancement shops that invested in donor relations professionals were up 19% in total fundraising, while those who invested only in frontline fundraisers were down 9%. Our engaged donors will step in to fill the critical needs and invest in the organizations where they feel connected and remain at the top of their list of philanthropic priorities.

Total Giving 1978-2018

The world needs its great organizations now more than ever. Strategic engagement during these uncertain times will position your organization for future success. As you continue to reach out to your constituencies, always convey your mission and impact. Provide choices to engage, including a call to action—making a contribution to a relief fund, sending messages of support, wearing a ribbon in honor of others. New and innovative engagement strategies will go a long way to bringing your donors even closer. Video is the most effective communication channel. Digital or social media outreach is even more relevant now. Sharing how your organization is responding to the pandemic and focusing on the mission can keep your donors close and ready to invest as the economy recovers. The following Engagement and Outreach Checklist summarizes ideas to incorporate into your individual engagement strategies.

Engagement and Outreach Checklist

  • Deliver consistent message.
  • Communicate how your organization is supporting COVID-19 relief efforts and/or having an impact outside of COVID-19.
  • Engage constituents using digital outreach.
  • Include a call to action when possible.
  • Reinforce your commitment to your community.
  • Offer donors a choice to support and engage when possible.

For additional ideas and examples on engaging your donors, check out our complementary webinar, Strategic Donor Engagement in the Short-Term for Long-Term Success. Our organizations will emerge from these challenging times stronger than before and ready to succeed and serve our communities. Be well and be safe.

At BWF, we are ready to serve as thought partners to advance the mission of your organization in periods of sustained growth or economic uncertainty. Thoughtful decisions, especially in these challenging times, are essential to meeting key organizational objectives and philanthropic goals. To learn more about the BWF approach, please email