You Can Raise More Money During the Pandemic

Hands holding tree resting on pile of coinsEmergency Appeal Template Suitable for All Organizations

Of the 20 or so organizations that my husband and I support financially, only a few have sent an emergency pandemic-related letter or email asking for help.  Each one of these groups is vital in its own way, so where are you?!  Now is not the time to stop asking.

You don’t need to have a health-care related mission to succeed in fundraising during this time of pandemic, shut-down, and fear.  Detailed below is a template for an e-mail or direct mail piece which can produce significant revenue for your organization right now.  It was developed and tested by Steven Sheen and Jim Shapiro of the Better Fundraising Co.

Steven Screen says, “Most organizations are doing better than normal with their e-appeals….  Direct mail has been performing spectacularly, and major donor call-completion rates are off the charts.  It has all led to a record-breaking March and April.”

For example, Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center, with a mission to connect people living in cities to nature and each other, used this template in an e-mail and raised more than $57,000.  

Included in the template below are examples tailored from the Urban Ecology Center email, with assistance and kudos to Jen Hense, Development Director, UEC.

Potential donors are wondering how they can help.  Let them know you need them.  Follow the template below.

Submitted by AFP Member, Jean Gurney, CFRE
Contact Jean


Emergency Appeal Template

  1. State that the message is urgent. Get straight to the point.  “It’s not in my nature to send out urgent emails but these uncertain times lead to difficult conversations.”
  2. Describe how the situation is hurting your beneficiaries/cause/org. “Closing the Urban Ecology Center because of the coronavirus caused us to lose essential revenue vital for sustaining our organization.” 
  3. Ask for a special gift to help. “Please consider a special gift of $50.” NOTE: Most donors are not going to read past here, so you’ve already done everything you need to do to get a gift from a lot of people.
  4. Add a very short story to illustrate need.   “The trails and green spaces around the UEC branches provide people much-needed respite, fresh air, and exercise, while social distancing.  Recently I overheard an adult remark to her family, ‘This place is magic!  And we need this so badly right now for the kids and ourselves.’”
  5. Show how a gift perfectly fits the need you described aboveNO “please partner with us” language. “Your gift will help keep these gems that we have created together open for all in the community to enjoy.”
  6. The need is bigger than one. “Now senior staff are planning how to keep our volunteer park caretakers engaged and how to organize kids’ summer camps – all while maintaining safe distances.”
  7. Not in your budget. “These closures and lost revenues are not something that UEC could prepare for.  Your generous support will help us weather the storm.”
  8. Send an emergency gift now. “Please act now.  Your gift will help the trails and green spaces around the UEC remain open.  You can keep people safely connected by giving today.”


  • Clickable BUTTON top and bottom:  "My special gift.”
  • Subject line: Coronavirus Consequence: Emergency Funds Needed
  • Length: 300 words or much less / Grade level: 8th at worst; better 4th-6th.
  • Send repeatedly: Not everyone is convinced the first time.