How Fundraisers Can Manage Their Emotions During Covid-19

As a peer-to-peer fundraiser, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the enormity of Covid-19.

Not only are you dealing with the daunting task of remaking your campaigns and programs on the fly, you’re also juggling a number of massive challenges.

In addition to your professional role, you’re also caring for (and in some cases, teaching) children and extended family, worrying about staying safe, and grappling with the myriad emotions that come with living during a pandemic.

You’re also having to process the impact of this pandemic on your donors and the people who your nonprofit supports.

As you speak with donors, you’re likely hearing stories about how they’ve lost income and are struggling with the loss of family or close friends.

It’s emotionally draining, to put it mildly.

But there are ways to process your complex emotions and put your work in the right context during this challenging time.

We recently had a chance to connect with donor-relations expert Rachel Muir to get her advice on how peer-to-peer fundraisers can cope with the emotional challenges of working during Covid-19.

Here’s what she had to say:


Q: For many fundraisers, the Covid-19 crisis has led to major disruptions. What are some of the ways in which fundraisers are having to adapt right now?

Frankly, fundraising has never been harder.

Fundraising takes a truckload of guts, even on a good day.

Add in a global pandemic we weren’t prepared for and the constant worry of your own health and that of your family, not to mention economic uncertainty, and you have a recipe for massive overwhelm.

It’s easy to get engulfed.  Many fundraisers have the additional headwinds of board members, executive directors or CEO’s who are new or don’t understand fundraising and feel anxious that “now is not the time to fundraise”.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

So, on top of the personal weight of this crisis, many fundraisers are fighting for their nonprofit’s professional survival.

That’s a lot to manage!  The most important thing for fundraisers to do is stay calm and keep fundraising. Here’s a mantra from Adam Clevenger that I love: “My mission didn’t stop, why should my fundraising?”

The silver lining is this crisis is giving you the chance to connect with your donors like you never have before and deepen your donor relationships.

It’s as simple as picking up the phone.  Your donors are home.  They may be wondering how you are doing.  They may want to help.  The one thing we know for sure is we’re all feeling disconnected right now.   This crisis is your chance to make a connection with your donors that they’ll never forget.

Smart fundraisers are adapting to this crisis by taking care of themselves and staying nimble.  They know they have to be bold and creative to get their message across.  They aren’t hesitating to communicate with their donors and connect with them.

Many fundraisers are doing personal outreach to donors — not necessarily to make an ask but to reach out and provide support and advice. In some cases, those conversations can be emotionally draining — especially if their donors are experiencing economic or personal hardships.


Q: What are some challenges that fundraisers face in having these conversations?

I advise fundraisers to call and check on their donors because they have an opportunity to connect with them and be there for them like they never have before.

Building relationships is not optional in fundraising, it’s the very definition of what fundraising is.  If being vulnerable with people feels like too much, identify the most appropriate person on your team who embraces connecting with donors on a personal level.

Know when you make these calls many donors will offer to help so you need to be prepared to share your needs with them.  I’d have a couple of different ways to give ready to offer and one nonmonetary way they can help.  Share whichever is the best match for them.

Yes, it is possible that someone you talk to may have a personal or professional hardship.  They may have a loved one who is sick or that they are grieving. They may express regret that they can’t help now.

In a crisis we take care of each other. Your donors are part of your family. Getting to be with someone at a time when human connection is lost is a gift. Just knowing that people care for you, are thinking of you and are grateful to have you as part of their family is a good feeling.


Q: What are some things that fundraisers can do to help them manage the emotional stress that comes with their jobs right now?

It’s normal to feel exhausted, drained or unproductive.  Be kind to yourself.  Practice self-forgiveness and accept that these are extraordinary times.  You don’t have to come out of this fluent in a new language or having home-schooled super geniuses.

You have a job that gives people to opportunity to make the world a better place.  Not everyone is so noble!  We will get through this.


Q: What types of self-care do you think is especially important right now?

Focus on what you have to be thankful for and celebrate your wins, however small.  The more you speak to yourself in a positive way the more positive you’ll feel.

This is an ongoing traumatic event.  Self-isolation is exhausting.  As my friend told me recently, “some days chickens, some days feathers.”

Be gracious and compassionate with yourself and others. We’re in survival mode. You don’t have to excel at everything right now. Remind yourself that you are going to be ok and this too will pass.


Q: Any other advice you’d offer to fundraisers for navigating this crisis?

As Rahm Emanuel, Obama’s former chief of staff, said, “Never allow a good crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do the things you once thought were impossible.”

You have a big mission.  It demands more of you today than it probably ever has.  You are not here to play small.  Don’t let other people’s fears stop you from serving your mission.


Rachel Muir, CFRE is a recovering Executive Director, fundraising expert, and town crier for donor love who leads online workshops for fundraisers, learn more about her at