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With the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the verge of becoming a pandemic (edit, as of March 11 The coronavirus outbreak has now been labelled a pandemic by the World Health Organisation), the world is watching on in fear as businesses close and local and wider communities consider self-isolation.

For charities, this is a particularly worrying time.

As we approach the end of the financial year, many are in the throes of organising their last fundraising push of the year. This may include the EOFY tax appeal, or perhaps a major event such as the annual gala ball.

Whatever initiatives are in place, it’s likely you’re now at the place where it’s far from ‘business as usual’.

Regardless of your charity mission, just like the rest of the country, donors are currently watching the news and entering survival mode. Particularly those who are self-employed or who live week to week. This understandably means cutting back on luxury spending such as donations.

How charity leaders respond to the emerging crisis will impact income and operations into the future. Here are some tips from SupporterHub on how to address the COVID-19 crisis as a charity leader.

Major event cancellation

If you make the decision to cancel or postpone a major event (or are enforced by the government to do so), you must address this with ticketholders, suppliers, pro-bono supporters and sponsors.

But the cancellation of a physical event doesn’t mean the event can’t happen completely. Look at ways you can utilise developments in technology to still engage the audience. This could involve running a digital raffle or charity auction rather than in person with event attendees and the broader supporter group. Moving initiatives online with existing resources will ensure the charity is still making money through this period. Get creative with the technology at your fingertips. We’re fortunate to have the digital capacity to reach people in their own homes with some out-of-the-box thinking.

If you decide to cancel community events, use the opportunity for a flash 24-hour online fundraiser instead. Those funds are still necessary and there’s no harm in letting supporters know this.


You must stay in regular contact with donors through this time, outside of your scheduled appeals.

This isn’t an opportunity to ask for support, but more to keep donors up to date with operations and fundraising efforts via social media and regular emails. Existing donors still have a vested interest in how their donations are being used including whether projects are still going ahead and what coronavirus means for general operations.

This communication gives you the chance to control the conversation and keep the lines of communication open. Everyone is waiting and wondering, so getting on the front foot and letting donors and supporters know what they can expect from you during this potentially turbulent time will build confidence in your organisation.

Don’t assume people aren’t giving

While it’s a logical conclusion that donations may fall lower down the list of priorities, don’t work on this assumption. Even though some events or appeals may have to be scaled back or postponed, it’s still just as important that you continue to ask for support strategically. Now is the time to remind donors why their support is so critical. Whether coronavirus impacts operations directly or not, the end of the financial year is one of the most popular time for donors to give a gift and shouldn’t be overlooked, as long as it’s relevant.

Highlight the impact of an economic downturn

There is no immediate solution for the spread of COVID-19 and if changes to the economy will impact your service, let your supporters know how that will impact your wider mission. It’s important to find the line between careful planning and avoiding unnecessary fear or panic.

Focus on retention

You may see a decline in donations over the next few weeks or months and it’s less likely that charitable givers are currently seeking out new opportunities for funding. Focus this time on retention and engagement with your existing database so that once the crisis subsides, relationships with your supporters are stronger than ever.

Review internal systems

One thing we know to be certain is that this emerging crisis will pass. Use this time to review internal systems and software making sure that your donor database, marketing communication systems and financial systems are all efficient and can be upscaled to sustain your charity’s growth.

For staff

If a work-from-home scenario is viable, implement as soon as possible. The more you can cut down on travel to minimise health risks, the better for your charity. Staff can still engage with donors over the phone or electronically to minimise the risk of exposure. Cloud-based systems such as SupporterHub allow remote access for all staff so they can do their job just as well as they can in the office. Make sure laptops are updated with all relevant programs and off-site internet access is arranged.

SupporterHub provides a multifunctional donor database and fundraising system that can be accessed anywhere in the world with a stable internet connection. To help charities through this period of uncertainty, we’ve currently offering extended trial periods to help charities throughout this period. We encourage charity leaders to use this upcoming time of uncertainty to become better prepared for the future from a technology and fundraising perspective. To find out more about a FREE SupporterHub trial, contact us today.