How COVID-19 Has Made Me a Better Fundraiser

By Jessica Harrington, The Harrington Agency

Because there’s no precedent for what we’re living through right now, every decision, strategy, and tactic is unique to this time supporter base. This has allowed me to take more risks – creatively and strategically. Some are paying off with increased revenue, response, and engagement.

Of course, some of my new approaches are not working. COVID-19 has taught me to accept both success and failure. But failing is just part of the cycle of testing and experimenting. Not failing means I’m not trying enough new ideas. Even during the pandemic, one thing is certain: not everything will be successful.

During a time when uncertainty is part of the new normal, my writing has become more authentic and transparent. We’re all craving assurances right now. Being completely candid about how coronavirus is impacting the organization – and what supporters can do to help – is one way I can share small moments of certainty in an uncertain world.

I’m more human in my tone and voice. Yes, direct response fundraising is always written to be conversational and easy-to-read, but I find myself being more open and honest, sharing sneak peeks into the signer’s world – much like we’re all scanning celebrity living rooms on YouTube.

Like all of us, my routine, work-life balance, and mental health are all in turmoil. Even though I’m surrounded (and sometimes smothered) by family, I’m still lonely and missing my parents, siblings, friends, and coworkers. At the same time, I feel profoundly connected to a larger community – all of us who are still sheltering-in-place, practicing social distancing, wearing masks and gloves in order to protect our healthcare workers and slow the spread of the virus.

While this deep-seated need for community shouldn’t be surprising to me, the pandemic has shone a bright light on how important belonging truly is. As a result, I view every fundraising decision through the lens of community. Does this bring people together? Does it connect people to a larger goal? Will it create a shared experience among the constituency?

A lot of experts are predicting that the majority of the country could have post-traumatic stress because of the pandemic. I’m hoping that my new approaches lead to PTSG (post-traumatic stress growth).