It’s been a great debate in collegiate development offices across the country: in the aftermath (current math?) of coronavirus, should we shut down our annual day of giving? The virus has brought the world to its knees, displacing staff and students from campuses, workers from workplaces, and money from wallets. This question lingered throughout the month of March in my shop.

Our day of giving, only in our second year, was ahead of the game. We’d been meeting since October and prior to our school’s spring break I had worked with our admin and fundraisers to build an exciting, aggressive social media strategy. We were also planning to implement new email marketing techniques to reach athletics alumni in a new and personal way. But after spring break, coronavirus hit and everything shuttered. As other notable nearby universities shuttered their days of giving, I assumed that we would soon cancel postpone ours.

Candidly, there were a lot of different opinions and levels of comfort in going through with a giving day or making any kind of ask right now. Jobless claims have reached 16 million and there were 6.6 million unemployment claims field this week. There are more Americans out of work right now than in any point ever. Certainly, there’s a risk to being aggressive with any communications right now. Nobody wants to do what Ole Miss did at the beginning of this weird time.

That’s why we softened our ask on our day of giving. In fact, within athletics we didn’t ask for anything at all. Here’s an online fundraising strategy during coronavirus:

5-Step Strategy: Digital Fundraising During Coronavirus (Day of Giving)

  1. Speak From The Heart Early
    We opened our day by asking key influencers (AD and coaches) to answer questions specific to them. What are school means to them. What their players have meant. Genuine, user-generated, from the heart. No CTA, no ask. If anything, you build brand equity (long term, past a day of giving) and show school pride.
  2. Bring Your Community With You
    So many communities large and small are feeling this. We built in a couple community elements to help bring people with us. After all, without community support, we don’t have much of an athletics experience. Our AD made a donation to the local United Way Coronavirus Fund. We also made 3 social posts promoting local restaurant partners who need all the help they can get right now.
  3. Make Your Ask, Or Don’t
    As a group, we weren’t comfortable making our usual solicitations just for athletics. But our school did set up an emergency fund that will greatly benefit students. In a way, putting a specific, timely cause behind it allowed for more aggressive asking. For athletics, we didn’t make a single ask. We spoke from the heart, and later in the day educated followers on how they can help. CTA of “learn more” or “learn how.”

    Screen Shot 2020-04-10 at 9.09.17 AM

  4. Copywriting Is Key
    Gift, give, donate, donation, match, fund. None of our athletics communication mentioned any of these words. Not once. Later on this site, I’ll have more about what’s most underrated about social media right now: copywriting. I did a lot of copywriting and editing at a search marketing firm and 2 ad agencies and I think strong writing is totally underrated as it relates to impact on social media. Our team did a nice job writing and making an appropriate appeal without really asking for anything at all. That’s online sales.
  5. Read The Tea Leaves For Aggressiveness, Levity
    Really anytime you’re running social media, it’s easy to get a feel for sentiment. Our university personnel did a great job of gaining the thoughts of key people and stakeholders to even go through with the day of giving. Nationally, the decision to go on with a giving day was split down the middle. See this graph from my dear, dear, intelligent, trusted friend at ed tech company EAB

Screen Shot 2020-04-10 at 9.05.42 AM

As the response online was positive if not surpassing expectations, you can figure out how to adjust your messaging. Can you become more aggressive? Can you add a little levity or comedy to the situation? If you had content you held back due to concern – it may be time to run with it if the crowd is feeling you.


I mean, everyone does. I don’t really hurt due to not having sports, but I keep momentarily thinking, “Go to ESPN and check the box scores for today.” And then I realize that’s not a thing right now. Everyone is coping differently. I hope you’re all well.




This made my WhatsApp thread with my close buddies, and I love it. I love Dre. I love Seuss. I love this video.

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