Fundraising in a Crisis
Near, Dear, and Clear

How can we keep our donors connected to our organizations in this unstable environment?

Key Takeaways

When it became clear that I would not be allowed to travel anymore for work, I fell back on a maxim I heard somewhere early in my fundraising career. Its rhyme scheme of “Near, Dear, and Clear” make it an easy and convenient aid to memory.

  • Near – contactless does not have to mean no contact
  • Dear – gratitude and concern
  • Clear – presenting the needs of the institution with clarity


Hi there, I’m Jessica Cloud, and I am your Fundraising Success Coach with Humanitru. Today, we’re going to be talking about something everyone can use some pointers on, and that’s fundraising in a crisis.

Okay, let’s talk about fundraising in a crisis. Now, it’s important to remember that a crisis does not have to mean a disaster or catastrophe. A crises is merely when your operation cannot go about its business normally. So, anytime your organization can’t operate normally. That’s a crisis.

So, while we’ve been in the pandemic for quite some time, and we’ve all found ways to adapt, we are in no way operating normally. I don’t know any organization operating normally right now.

Now, I’ve been through any number of different crises in my career in fundraising from tornadoes to PR disasters to any number of things, and Covid is just the next iteration, but probably the most broad scale.

So, I fall back on some advice that I heard very early in my career, and it has sustained me well in my relationship with my donors. And, that’s during any crisis, you need to think about three things. You need to understand how to keep your donors near, dear, and clear.

Now, what do I mean by those three things? Well, first, you need to be in contact. There are some anecdotal and data evidence out there right now that donors are not hearing from their organization.

So, some organizations have even taken a step back from fundraising or even contacting their donors. Your donors need to hear from you. They need to know what you’re doing in the crisis. They need to know that you’re still thinking about them, and I need to know that your mission continues. So, be in contact whatever way you need to do that.

Do you need to use Zoom? Do you need to get on a good old-fashioned phone call? Do you need to be sending mailers? What is it that you need to do to reach out to your donors, even in this virtual, socially distanced environment?

Secondly, dear…you need to be expressing gratitude for those donors for what they have been able to give you in terms of dollars, service, generosity, well wishes. Whatever they are providing you, you need to express your gratitude for it. You need to let them know that they are still a vital part of your mission and your organization. And again, whatever methods available to do that.

Are you sending out postcards? Are you writing your thank you notes? Are you reaching out when a donor takes a big bump in a gift, so all of those things. So, avail yourself of both old-school technology as well as high technology to achieve that. So, you want to make sure that you’re in contact with those donors and that you have those expressions of affection and gratitude that are in there.

Now, lastly, and this is the crucial point, you need to be clear. So, clarity is really important. And, what that means in the crisis is that you are very simply expressing the organization’s mission and how it continues despite the disruption of how your organization is functioning during this crisis.

So, for instance, the institution that I work for…all of our classes as well as all of our events, orientation, graduation, etcetera all move to online. And, we were very lucky because we had a long tradition a 20-year plus history of distance learning as an option at our school of low residency education.

So, we built upon that, and our mission continues. So, it’s been highly adaptive because we’re not used to having a hundred percent everything online, but we were very clear from the beginning with Covid that our top priority was the safety and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff.

And, that our mission would continue and that we would move everything online so everyone could be as safe as possible. So, we took that which was our president’s message, and we communicated that out to our donors while making sure that they understood that they were still a crucial part of our success and that we were very grateful for the support that they had given us in the past and in the present.

So, I know whenever things get disrupted, it’s really easy to get distracted and overwhelmed, but I found that because these three things rhyme, and they really cover all of the points that you need to hit.

You’ve got to be in contact. You’ve got to express that gratitude and let people know that you care about them as people and you care about their support for your institution or organization. And, third, and perhaps most importantly, you need to have a clear and concise vision for how your organization is moving forward despite the disruption.

So, those are my three tips, and I hope that you will be able to implement this, and I find that just thinking through near, dear, clear and what am I doing on those areas with my donors at all levels, how is that expressing itself from major donors to mid-level donors to my annual fund donors.

Once I think through that, it helps me center myself and get a little moment of calm in the storm.

About Jessica Cloud

With over 20 years of fundraising experience, Jessica has worked for the Starr King School for the Ministry, The University of Southern Mississippi Foundation, The University of South Carolina, RuffaloCODY, and the Libertarian National Committee. As a consultant, Jessica provides her fundraising services to nonprofits and higher education organizations. You can find her at Real Deal Fundraising.

Jessica Cloud, CFRE, MA
Fundraising Success Coach