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  • Jacqueline Watty

Fundraising in a Pandemic: Connecting without contact

With 15 years of fundraising experience in both professional and volunteer capacities, I’ve been through many challenging times and perhaps I even felt like I had already seen it all. But like many people, the worldwide pandemic caught me off-guard. When you can’t leave your house, how can you connect with new and existing donors to continue vital philanthropic funding? A shift in thinking, new creative solutions, and taking a few steps outside your comfort zone might just strengthen existing relationships and build new connections this year.

Here are some ideas to get started:

Provide an Experience

Invite your guests to curated, virtual events that deepen their connection to your cause or your staff. Be deliberate about who is invited and ensure guests appreciate the topic and will add to the conversation – and include a moderator to help drive conversation. The group could be a dozen or more, or it could be just one guest who would love this level of access to your organization. Be sure to follow up with anyone who didn’t respond to share updates and valuable articles pertaining to the topic. The best part is that guests can really get a sense of your organization without travelling to visit in person – opening up a broader field of contacts from across the country or around the world.

Be Memorable

Create personalized videos using BombBomb embedded content to thank, engage, and inspire current donors, and make an impression on new prospects by providing a more authentic invitation to meet. These videos can be recorded anytime and do not require editing or a team of IT professionals to execute them. They are simple and easy to use – right from your desktop.

Think big and invite partners to collaborate on your big ideas. You might initiate a partnership with an organization outside of science and outreach – maybe a book publisher, media company, or youth organization. Perhaps there a broad social issue, connected to but beyond your usual scope of activity, where you can be the catalyst to create something new. An example, dear to my heart, is connecting Perimeter’s Emmy Noether Initiatives to Kids Can Press to support a children’s book about mathematician Emmy Noether (read more online here). These partnerships involve some element of risk, but the rewards can be tremendous as you see something new created and can share your role in that development with current and future donors.

Provide virtual tours of your organization to engage an audience that is staying at home. Tours can be informal and spontaneous (while still polished and professional) or they can be more formal and recorded in collaboration with your Communications team.

Stay active on your social media. Consider not only what your organization is doing as a whole, but what your own professional network is doing (LinkedIN, Twitter). Share others’ content in a meaningful way - don’t just hit re-share but take a few moments to express why that content is meaningful to you and your connections. People crave content that connects with them and goes beyond the usual headlines.

Demonstrate Value

Share real-time examples of your donors’ impact. Create content that is shareable and easily digested by a wide audience (especially in the sciences) so your prospects and donors can engage their children, families, and other contacts. This keeps your organization top of mind and directly connects their philanthropy to your organization’s impact. It is a softer approach and can be time-consuming, but your results that share meaningful impact won’t be easily forgotten.

Leverage the Expertise of Colleagues and Allies

Avoid increasing your isolation - utilize your contacts, experts, and the creative minds of your colleagues and supporters to build new opportunities to connect. Hold open meetings to put ideas on a whiteboard and see what sticks (I’m a big fan of mind-maps). Dive into the difficult conversations with courage and ask for help when needed.


Stay active with pointed and purposeful attempts to contact your prospects, donors and volunteers. Mass communications will certainly keep people ‘warm’ from a distance with little effort, but for more meaningful messaging, consider which sender in your organization is best, what time messages should be sent, and what content is most relevant. Be authentic and engaging in your emails or sharing of materials.

Try a new approach with postal mail. In an increasingly digital world, especially now with ‘contactless’ everything, a nice thank you card or ‘thinking of you’ note can go a long way. Even before the pandemic, personal mail was becoming scarce which makes this older communications tool new again. (The receiving party can isolate mail for several days if they are worried about possible transmission.)

Ready to take a new look through your toolbox? You can find ways to re-purpose the jewels that already work so well for you, and can make new connections and new opportunities, even while isolated. Reinvent, reimagine, take on something big and see where it can take you – but most importantly, keep moving forward. There are donors who are keen to learn more about you and support your efforts. With these creative strategies, hopefully you will make a connection!

About the Author:

Jacqueline Watty is a creative and experienced fundraiser and community volunteer. She is currently Senior Relationship Manager in Perimeter Institute’s Advancement department where she is thrilled to work with a fantastic team and connect with prospects, donors, scientists, and communications and outreach team members. Jacqueline is also the President of the Board of Directors for The Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo & Stratford Perth, the co-chair of School Council at her son’s school, former Chair of the Board for a local preschool, and an alumna of Leadership Waterloo Region – all of which have broadened her exposure to non-profit organizations and community initiatives across multiple sectors.


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