Increase Communications: Email Template

Responses to COVID-19


These are unprecedented and confusing times. In the past week nonprofit leadership and advisors have given recommendations to show empathy, increase communications, leverage technology, and stride forward with fundraising plans. A wonderful post about principles for fundraising during the time of the Coronavirus by CCS is linked here. The best quote from a current client was this: “purposeful, concrete work feels productive and rewarding to me during this time! I’m excited to stay engaged.” With that, below is a recommendation how to communicate with your donors and partners.


Donor Motivations:

Psychology says that people feel good about being able to help and / or take action when they feel out of control or fearful. As a nonprofit your role is not only to provide services to your beneficiaries, there is a symbiotic relationship with your donors as well. Donors want to feel that their philanthropic missions are fulfilled through your organization. They want to feel inspired, connected and helpful. Ultimately, they want to feel part of a larger community for good. You can meet their desires by keeping them informed and connected to you with updates and actionables.


What to do: Communicate with intention

Consider two tracks of messaging:

  1. Top partners: Personalized phone calls (texts and emails are good too, phone is best right now; set a goal of reaching out to your top 25-50 most important supporters)
  2. Community at Large: Informational messaging via mass mail, podcasts, webinars, Facebook Live and other social media posts)

Below is an outline for emails. It can guide phone calls as well. I would recommend sending emails once a week to all funders and partners to keep your organization at the forefront and inviting your audience to consider how they can help. Crisis can be a time to build deeper, more meaningful relationships that will outlast this moment in time. Below is an outline and sample language to customize and deliver. Be personal when possible and be specific. Remember to provide the why… maybe even “start with the why.” Your why is your mission.

Image result for email communications infographic image

Sample Email Framework:

Greeting: Address your donors with something that unifies your community.

Opening statement: Show empathy and encouragement of health and well-being, and then write about your organization’s impact and importance.

Current state of your organization:

  • Share key actions you are taking to protect your beneficiaries and staff.
  • Update your audience about how (if) you are delivering program during this time of change.
  • Include an unexpected benefit or piece of inspiring news that has popped up as a result of the new circumstance  – this is where you DELIGHT your donor. (Bonus if you can secure a sponsor or funder to celebrate as your hero and as a facilitator of peace during chaos.)
  • Consider including resources and references (like the links shared below to inspire hope).

Call to Action:

  • Encourage self-care / provide a tip.
  • Invite your community to engage as a volunteer now or in the future.
  • Demonstrate your organization’s strengths by providing a way your audience can embody your program.
  • Increase social presence with their “third-party endorsement” via social media – it’s a great time to rally the troops to elevate your work.

Closing: Ask all to consider giving during this time of uncertainty – this does NOT replace individual, major gift solicitations, but it does open up the wider audience to considering giving. Try language like this: “Some have asked us how they can help. We have established __ in order to respond.”


Here’s an example to play with:

Dear Friends,

In these unprecedented times, it is important to take care of ourselves and others mentally and physically without losing sight of the fact that there are still real, critical services to deliver to our autistic youth across.

As the Executive Director of XYZ I want you to know that I am fully present, healthy and here to serve you — our students, families, partners and donors. I’ll plan to email you regularly with updates on ZYZ and inspiration, from my heart to yours.

Updates: To protect our students, families and staff, we closed our doors Monday and have taken our program online. Because not every family is technologically equipped to handle online lessons, we have invested in sending every child home with an iPad that is connected to our VPN. Now our kids have full access to WiFi, lesson plans and our virtual community!

Inspiration: Here are a few things you can do – from home, of course – to continue Championing XYZ:

    • Take care of yourself. We deeply care about you and our students. Here’s a good link from Psychology Today sharing some strategies for equanimity.
    • Sign up to volunteer with us (from home!): While we are all limiting our social engagements, there are still ways you can help remotely! We are gathering a list of people who are interested in offering time and talent, please reply directly to this email if you’re interested.
    • DIY: Take what you know about best practice in your program delivery and provide a short exercise that anyone can do at home. For example, share examples of how to talk to youth about these times of change. 
    • Tell your story! Now is a great time to use social media to share your personal story of why you’re supporting XYZ! Either in a video, picture, or just words, answer this question: Why do you support MISSION? @YOURHANDLE on LinkedIn, Twitter, Insta or Facebook.

Finally, many have asked how they can help. Please consider making or increasing your giving to XYZ. We are still $75K short of our annual fund and we do anticipate extra costs and less funding as a result of the COVID19 outbreak. Many of our donors are facing financial uncertainty. We anticipate a drop in funding for our critical program to impact change. Please consider donating much needed funds to help us through these times.

We can not do our work without you. You are our village; together we are creating a bright future for autistic youth in our community!

In health and unity,



Final Thought: Spark Joy!

What if – amidst this stress, chaos and uncertainty – your organization could delight your donors with tips, humor, resources, activities, joyful images, music and the like? Try to pepper in true care and concern as well as things that spark joy for the sake of our entire global community. Below is a list of inspiring virtual activities to draw from if you’re lacking creative thinking power.

Thanks to Santa Barbara Human Rights Watch Committee for these recommendations.

  • Watch opera!For those of you who love opera, each night for the duration of the Met’s closure, starting Monday, March 16, the Met will stream encore presentations from the award-winning Live in HD series of cinema transmissions on the company website for free. Learn more HERE.
  • Advice from Dr. Bitton, Executive Director, Brigham and Women’s Hospital: Eat in! Take-out and restaurant meals are much riskier than making food at home given the links between the people who prepare the food, transport the food, and you.  Take a page from my sister, Clare: BAKE! If you have kids, try a gingerbread house. Creative, fun and delicious! Here’s a RECIPE to try out.
  • Sunshine and fresh air helped a century ago! Seriously, a combination of fresh air and sunlight seems to have prevented deaths amongst 1918 flu patients. So when the sun comes out again (hooray for the current rainy days here!), do take a walk (alone  ), enjoy the garden (with wildlife), and get a bit of immune-boosting exercise! Check out the related article HERE
  • Enjoy being stuck at home. There are 12 famous museums offering virtual tours you can take from your couch: the British Museum, Guggenheim Museum, Washington, D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, Musée d’Orsay, Seoul’s National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Uffizi Gallery in Florence, São Paulo’s MASP, and Mexico City’s National Museum of Anthropology. Read all about it and connect HERE.
  • Go for a virtual walk in distant places. Google Arts & Culture has a collection of virtual walk-throughs for dozens of international museums, from Paris to New Delhi. Click HERE to start your journey

Galleria degli Uffizi in Florence, Italy