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Fundraising in a Crisis: 4 Key Insights

Fundraising in a Crisis: 4 Key Insights

Chapter Leadership Brief 12.1.23

By Pazit Levitan, EdD, CFRE

Fundraising in a crisis differs from typical fundraising because the circumstances and challenges necessitate unique, and more urgent, approaches and considerations. Whether the crisis is a war, a humanitarian emergency, a global pandemic or a natural disaster, we need to respond quickly, leading with confidence, inner strength and flexibility. Here are four key insights guiding me as I engage in emergency fundraising:

1. Plan Less, Do More
​I am not suggesting to ignore the planning phase, but I am recommending to plan differently and to focus on implementation. The fundraising approach should be project-based with a sense of urgency. There is a pressing need to expedite the fundraising process. To do that, it is most expedient to apply fundraising methods that are already familiar and would be suitable for more rapid fulfillment. For example, crowdfunding campaigns or approaching loyal donors, asking for emergency support (or both!) are quick, reliable strategies. Additionally, shortening the approval process is beneficial. Time is of the essence, so it becomes crucial to run your plan by your strategic partners, roll up your sleeves, and maneuver from planning into action. If you are initiating an emergency fundraising campaign, don’t forget to kick-start it with a matching gift that would double or triple the impact.

2. Fundraising for a Specific Remedy
Fundraising with a specific goal is not a new concept. We all know that donors would like to understand where their money goes and how it positively impacts people’s lives. Donors want to know that their contributions directly benefit those affected by the crisis.

When fundraising during a crisis, transparency is especially key. Communication should be frequent, brief, and clear. Ongoing progress reports will be useful in keeping your donors engaged and motivated to follow the campaign. Finally, if you can communicate that 100% of the funding will serve its purpose directly and immediately, it demonstrates the urgency and the high priority of the initiative.

After the emergency fundraising campaign comes to fruition, it is time to share the outcome and thank the donors. Posting a short, authentic video testimonial made by people who benefitted from the emergency fund can make supporters feel good about their charitable gift. People appreciate having the opportunity to aid quickly and effectively, helping those who are struggling for survival.

3. An Extra Dose of Compassion
A crisis puts people on edge. Strong emotions like anger, frustration, helplessness, and worry may arise. As a professional fundraiser, do your best to put politics aside and practice communicating in a compassionate manner. Listening without judgment is a good practice. Compassionate communication creates a comforting, safe space for people to express emotions and be vulnerable. Being a compassionate listener is also about modeling tolerance and respect. This is your time to shine as a leader who cares about the community, appreciates multiple perspectives, and promotes inclusiveness.

4. Rediscover Self-Care
In times of crisis, it is tempting to stay glued to the news, social media, and text messages for minute-by-minute updates. However, try to limit screen time and make sure to take care of yourself. In such high-stress times, personal care helps develop resilience as you continue to advance your organizational mission. Self-care activities such as a walk in the park, exercising, listening to music, meditating, connecting with your loved ones, reading, or taking a hot bath can relax your body and nourish your soul. When you quiet the mind, and integrate movement, nature and positive human connection to your daily routine, you will be more grounded and balanced. Please make sure to take care of your physical and mental health each and every day, especially during stressful times.

In summary, fundraising during a crisis is both a challenge and an opportunity. As nonprofit leaders, we are in a fortunate position to help others. Adapting the fundraising strategy to the unique demands of the community and practicing compassionate communications can make a significant difference in the outcome.

Pazit Levitan, EdD CFRE is a highly seasoned nonprofit executive with deep and wide experience in the field. She serves on the board of AFP-NY and is a proud member of the Mentorship Committee. Her doctoral dissertation (Columbia University, 2022) explores how women become influential leaders on nonprofit boards. Pazit is launching her boutique advisory for nonprofit leaders, where she will inspire success through strategic counsel with proven, practical tactics and a personal approach.

Please feel free to email her at


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