It’s important to treat your supporters with empathy and offer ways to take action beyond donating. We wrote these tips in the wake of COVID-19, and find they apply to other crises that make fundraising difficult to navigate. Here are our best practices for keeping empathy a part of your core message during challenging times:

  • Behind every open and every click is a human being. Recognizing that empathy matters and prioritizing it is the first step.
  • Empathy means knowing your audience isn’t homogeneous. There are people on your email list who can afford to donate right away and some who can’t. Make inclusive fundraising asks like “We know that for many, financial circumstances are very difficult right now. If you have the resources, please make a donation to my campaign. Your donation will help us take our movement online so we can win in November.”
  • Think of your email list as a broad highway: There are plenty of on-ramps for people to get involved. If folks can’t donate right now, give them an opportunity to volunteer remotely. If they can’t volunteer, give them a chance to get to know your candidate through livestream or video. The possibilities are endless!
  • Offer donors an exit ramp. We’re all figuring this out together, and that’s okay. There are people who may not want to hear from you right now, so give them a chance to take a break. You can put a small header at the top of your email giving folks the opportunity to receive fewer emails or no communications for a few weeks.
  • Empower your supporters. Just as there are folks on your list who don’t want to receive communications, there are also people who really want to donate and get involved right now! Don’t hesitate to give people the opportunity to take meaningful action during this time, whether that’s peer-to-peer fundraising, hosting a virtual volunteer event, or making calls.
  • Lift everyone up. Now’s a great time to think about ways you can help your communities. ActBlue has a Tandem Fundraising feature you can use to create a page where donors can easily split a donation between nonprofit organizations who are on the front lines.
  • A little bit of personalization goes a long way. Using personalization tags like “first name” is great, but you can also show your donors how their specific support has helped in the past and why their support is critical now. For example, “You were one of the first contributors when we launched our campaign, and your support has made a huge difference. If you can afford to, will you make a donation today to help take our message to voters?”
  • Honesty is the best policy. Be honest about why you need support at this time. Honest email programs are making fundraising asks like “If you are able, please make a $10 contribution. We will put your donation right to work hiring more organizers, talking to more voters, and spreading the message online. Even $5 helps.”

As always we are here to support you! If you have any questions about small-dollar donors, how to make empathy a core part of your fundraising program, or just need some extra guidance — please feel free to sign up for a strategy call or reach out to

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