In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, “hometown” nonprofit fundraising has been significantly curtailed. The smaller, local nonprofits are striving to adapt to the new fundraising environment of face-masks and 6-ft socially distancing. Thus , as a slight change in focus, I thought it important to provide a 4 part blog series on nonprofit fundraising from a donor-focused perspective.

Hence, this blog is the first of a four-part series on donor-focused fundraising in the midst of COVID-19. Step 1 of fundraising is identification, so we are going to focus here on important aspects of identifying donors.

Format & Grounding

You have to think differently about fundraising in the midst of COVID-19! Fundraising is business development after all. It is the gas in the car for your nonprofit organization.

The four steps of fundraising begins with identification. We must be able to prospect, qualify, and segment data about our potential donors.

Your most helpful tool in accomplishing this is your technology database. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet or one of the advanced client relationship management (CRM) tools on the market today. Your client relationship management tool will help you identify, track, and communicate with these potential donors more than anything you could do on your own.

Current Situation

Of course, COVID-19 has presented some unique challenges to fundraising. The three major fundraising challenges arising during COVID-19 have included …

  1. Social distancing: we have not had access to donors through many of the normal avenues because of guidelines to stay 6-feet apart.
  2. Economic worries: many have lost jobs, and others have held back from giving because of the uncertainty of the future.
  3. Redirection of donations: many who have means to give have redirected their donations to health causes or to victims of COVID-19.

Traditional vs. Donor-focused Fundraising

I challenge you to think differently about fundraising.

The traditional approach involves a nonprofit sharing their mission—this is who we help. It naturally follows that nonprofits share the obstacles they face in meeting their mission and the needs they have to overcome those obstacles. This approach seems to place a nonprofit in direct competition with other nonprofits as they compete for donor dollars. This approach leaves many uncomfortable with even asking for funding because of the negative aspects of competition and the thought of taking away from other nonprofits.

Donor-focused fundraising changes everything. It begins with the understanding that you are fulfilling a donor need. People have a need to give, help others, and want to make a real impact. Recognize that many will fulfill those needs by giving to your organization. Donors give for their reasons (not yours!), and something about your mission speaks to the donor’s heart. That is why they give. They align with the mission of your organization.

A Quick Look at Donor Motivations

Embedded in one of my previous blogs is the Appreciative Donor Educative Process that helps us think about donors and their motivations.

We start with a Discovery Process that asks the question: Why Do You as a Donor Give? There are three ways to think about this process of discovering why the donor gives.

Passions & Causes: Each donor has his own passions and causes, and there is more than likely a story that is a root for their passion to give to your cause. You should see if your donors will share those stories with you.

Gifts for Giving: We all have gifts for giving that include our time, talent, treasures, and trust. Some will be more readily able to give from one of these gifts than others. It is important to welcome them all.

Joy & Meaning: Joy and meaning are important to donors. If you can make giving joyful, fun, and meaningful for them to give, it will be a win for everyone.

Where Passions & Causes, Gifts for Giving, and Joy & Meaning overlap is the sweet spot for giving. This is the heart of their story… the donor’s “sweet spot” and reason for giving. This is where your vision and mission connect with their passions and meaning.

Creative Ideas for Donor Identification

We all want to gather more friends, fans, and followers and ultimately we hope they become $ funders, too!! Listed below are 5 creative ways to do so even in a time of coronavirus:

Leverage social media (the trust of your friends) to ask for their friends, fans, and followers if they are familiar with your nonprofit. Ask others to like you on Facebook. Ask them to invite their friends to like your organization as well.

Identify those with a small-dollar impact. These may be retirees on fixed pensions, for example, whose income was not impacted by COVID-19. Or, maybe they can make a QCD (Qualified Charitable Distribution) from their IRA without impacting their lifestyle. They are important givers to any organization. Make them feel appreciated for their gifts.

Reach out via social media (again leveraging the trust of friends of your followers) to give their specific talents to your organization. You might have needs that they will gladly fill with more time on their hands during social isolation.

Identify new prospects through events that are fun and socially engaging. If you have famous friends and followers of your organization, ask them to pitch in and help with a fundraising event. During COVID-19, it might be as simple as a short video message giving praise to your organization or challenging others to give.|

Identify groups of prospective donors that congregate in sweet spots for ideal prospects. For example, if your group raises funds to help children, you might identify new friends from followers of other children’s groups. Find those groups on social media and join their conversation.

So remember to continue to use your CRM tool to input your new friends, fans, and followers to help you identify those who aspire to give, those who have the ability to give, and those who have access to donors. Eventually, they may also be funders ! And, continue to think differently and creatively about those potential groups who are in the sweet spot for your organization!

As a supplemental note, be sure to check out and subscribe to our YouTube Channel for videos for more helpful tips and information.

Let’s Do Some Good!


Up Next:The Life Skill of Being a Philanthropist


©2020 Aspire to Give®. All Rights Reserved. Greg Doepke is a Chartered Advisor in Philanthropy® and a Certified Financial Planner®. Greg serves on the Board of Directors for the International Association for Advisors in Philanthropy and as the Philanthropist in Residence at Auburn University’s Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies. As the founder of Aspire to Give® Greg educates and equips individuals, families, business owners, and foundations with both traditional and leading-edge philanthropic tools and techniques for smart, meaningful, and impactful giving. You can contact Greg at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Disclosure: Greg Doepke is the founder and principal of Aspire to Give®, a social enterprise that donates 100% of profits to charity.
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