The rise of the COVID-19 donor

We have a new white paper available called Retaining the COVID-19 Donor. Drawing on the scientific literature and what we know about disaster donors, our goal is to set out a game plan for keeping the new donors coming into organizations during this global pandemic. Here’s the beginning of the white paper; the rest is available for download here. Hope it’s helpful!


From the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the United States in early March 2020, nonprofits debated how to react with their fundraising. Traditional event and face-to-face fundraising were clearly out. But what to do
with direct response fundraising? Advice ranged from hoard cash (which was espoused by Harvard Business School even as it hired for its own development department) to stay the course to the counterintuitive invest while you can. We
here at Moore were firm in this last camp, citing digital, DRTV, PSA, and mail opportunities for larger, more attentive audiences with less competition.

The data are in. By and large, donations are up for those organizations who stayed in direct response channels. Caging results from Aegis Processing Solutions, a Moore company, show increases in mail revenues in April and May
2020 after a relatively flat beginning to 2020:

Results from other caging facilities have shown similar results. And this is not exclusive to mail. Almost 70% of nonprofits saw an increase in online fundraising
with an overall increase in email revenues of 27% from March to April. May’s GivingTuesdayNow produced comparable results to the November Giving Tuesday. Giving from donor-advised funds jumped, both year-over-year and month-over-month in March and April.

In short, donors responded to a global pandemic with generosity, working to help the organizations that are on the front lines, helping those affected, and working to be there for people after COVID-19 is a memory. More donors are coming into organizations and giving more. Unlike previous disasters, every single American has been impacted in some way, with the disease altering how we learn, work, live, and interact with each other. And, of course, some individuals were impacted to a far greater extent.

The organizations who pivoted, launching innovative approaches and messaging, came out better because of it. And the organizations that empathized with their donors and with their beneficiaries also benefited.

Because of this, many new donors during the time are donors who are giving because of this crisis. The good news is that after a disaster, some of these donors will stay and become long-term donors to your organization.

The bad news is that many will not. Donors who give in response to a disaster generally leave organizations at a higher rate than an average donor. In 2017, about 30% of U.S. households gave to help with one of the natural disasters that year. In 2018, only 5% continued that support.

The white paper aims to help you make the most of the donors who’ve joined you during COVID-19 to help you accomplish your mission and be resilient to whatever comes next.

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