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Coronavirus and Charities : What the world needs now…less punditry, more practical ideas


We acknowledge that this is an extremely difficult time for Australian charities and nonprofits. You have access to a wealth of information about what could happen. So – as providers of solutions, we wanted to share some ideas for what to do. 

Issue 1: As the pandemic takes its hold on Australia, there will be increased uncertainty over consumer confidence, and thus propensity to donate.  

Solution: No one has the right crystal ball to show what will happen to giving levels. So stop looking… instead turn to this article from 2009 by Mal Warwick for Stanford University. In it he discusses what the effect of the GFC was on the US. It shares an important meta message that you may find a useful mantra. “Cut with a scalpel not with an axe.”

A Marlin Tip: If you don’t really know who Mal Warwick is, then make sure you dedicate some time to identifying who some of the most experienced and trusted fundraising practitioners are globally. At Marlin we have a mantra that “It is OK to stand on the shoulders of giants.” Using other people’s past experiences to enhance your present and future is good practice and Mal Warwick has written books just to help us all do that. 

Issue 2 : Your volunteers and staff members are being encouraged or forced to avoid face to face contact. 

Solution: Adversity is the mother of creativity. Now is the time to digitise your service delivery operations and processes. If you want to offer support – consider a web application such as this.  Find a digital partner to help you develop a ‘minimum viable product’ during this time of need, and help build the case for why this should become business as usual beyond 2020. 

Issue 3: You want to develop donor-centric communications, so are wondering whether to mention the coronavirus in your upcoming fundraising.

Solution: Yes mention it in your upcoming activities – tax appeals, community fundraising, you name it. But it needs to be handled without suppressing response. We suggest taking the time to encourage your supporters to feel valued. Remind them of the good that their donations have achieved in the past, and what their gift will do again. Specifically mention that the need of your beneficiaries / your cause, does not diminish because of the coronavirus. 

Issue 4: Your physical community events have been cancelled. 

Solution: Marlin works closely with one furry-friend loving charity for whom this is a very real downer. But they’re not letting that stop them from the important job of fundraising. Our digital team is busily helping them switch their physical event into a virtual one. Don’t hesitate – do it. 

A Marlin Tip Off: Many great community fundraising ideas stem from watching what people are already doing for charity. We shall be releasing materials to help you suggest a social-distancing friendly fundraiser in the coming week. Make sure you’re following us on Facebook and LinkedIn to be in the loop. 

Issue 5:  You’re speculating that corporate giving will fall off, and you may be screwed. 

Solution: Consider whether you are already imagining a break up before you need to. Instead of worrying about your next partner, look at the ones you already have. Identify what their pain points are in this time, and see how you can as a partner – relieve them.

For example: Most teams aren’t used to remote working. They won’t realise they need to call, not email. They may not know how to create team bonding experiences over video calls. So – can your charity provide stories, images and resources that would help with that? 

A Marlin Tip: Remember that in difficult times, your relationships are proof of agency, compassion, and the best of human kindness. Now is a fantastic time to dial up donor care – show partners their impact and your gratitude. A strong grid-layout has enabled Caritas Australia to populate an Impact Report in a cost-effective way, and ensure that supporters are pulled towards important stories and messages of thanks.  Let us know if you want us to show you how to structure your Impact Report.

Issue 6: You have a deficit in your regular giving recruits because face to face agencies are pulling fundraisers from street and door to door campaigns. 

Solution: Sadly, it is improbable that those agencies will be able to “make up” the volume when Coronavirus is calm again. So you will feel a pinch later in the year and every year from now on. OK sorry, that was punditry. We feel your pain. 

We are busily working with one international charity to develop a testing matrix for a new way to attract values-based supporters. Our hope is to use a small budget to test in June, with the intent to drill down to the best performers so that…. Economical forecasts willing… they can recruit larger volumes in the latter half of 2020. 

A Marlin Tip off: We will have capacity for up to three more charities to undertake minimum viable research tests of acquisition messaging in June. Let us know if you want to be involved.

If you need help during this uncertain situation with your fundraising activities to your service delivery programs, we’re all ears and ideas.


Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash