Responding to COVID-19

Earlier this week, we provided the first of what will be ongoing guidance to the clients we serve. We feel that portions of that would be a blessing to other organizations, so we’re sharing those here on the blog. We hope it provides a helpful sense of perspective as we stand together during this unusual time.

– Steve Woodworth

In our 30 years, Masterworks has navigated some major national and world events. The year we were founded, the Berlin wall came down. Since then… The Gulf War. The internet and globalization. 9/11. Wars and famine. Economic booms and downturns. What has happened with the Coronavirus pandemic over these last few weeks has been unique in how rapidly it has changed the way we live and work. I, like you, am watching the situation unfold and am responding to the barrage of news as it comes in.

Masterworks has a unique vantage point on this situation because of the more than 50 ministries we serve and the work we do across causes and channels. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve, I’ve asked my team to help me give you an outlook on what we are seeing.

First, we have encouraging signs coming from our digital efforts. We have seen no dropoff in performance. In fact, we’ve seen great early results from clients who have pivoted to COVID-19 messaging in their digital efforts. In some cases, we’re seeing 3X typical performance. More on that below. 


Ten years ago we’d have had to wait a month or more to measure performance. Because we track digital performance every day in real-time, we have a good sense of how the virus situation is affecting people’s generosity from day to day.  We have not seen an appreciable drop in response so far for any client. We see that as a very encouraging sign that at least general and mid-level donors are not pulling back on their giving. 

Don’t be afraid to engage with your people regularly during this situation digitally. As more people are staying at home, their engagement online will likely increase.  We think this is the right time to stay connected with people, provide them timely information, and give them opportunities to partner in helping those impacted by Coronavirus, which is nearly everyone you minister to.


There is no doubt that people still expect to be asked to give.  If you have a direct mail acquisition effort that is about to drop, resist any temptation to cancel future direct mail acquisition plans. If, however, you are told you must make adjustments, continue to reactivate your lapsed donors and follow through with your co-op lists…basically, focus on your best performing lists. Donor acquisition is longer-term investment play. It’s important to continue that focus.

In digital acquisition, as always, be ready to adapt strategies rapidly based upon response and rising or falling costs. You might consider proactively refreshing creative to keep relevance high to the current situation. We have worked with partners to develop specific ad creative to clarify the need that Coronavirus has created.  These offers have been particularly effective. In one case, after making changes to acknowledge the need, we are seeing 3X our typical results. In another case, 2X. And these are ministries where COVID-19 is simply in messaging, not a direct offer. This represents a huge opportunity for ministries right now. 

Facebook pricing has been unusually volatile, so we recommend leveraging platforms that are more stable in terms of pricing, including display and native advertising.  If you move fast and respond quickly, you’ll be able to continue acquiring new donors during this challenging situation.


Our advice is to acknowledge the reality of COVID-19 and the impact on your organization, but stay the course. Any fundraising you don’t do in this season is guaranteed zero revenue — a lost opportunity that you can never get back. As you engage with your donors, allow them to be change agents in this time of uncertainty. Remind them how their giving is helping, that they are making an impact and changing the world. Don’t be afraid to share with them increased needs related to Coronavirus and the changes it’s bringing to your ministry. 

This is also the time to keep up with best practices, whether it’s timely Thank Yous, clean data, or focusing on your best offers.  A final thought is to consider how your sustainer program can play a role in helping your organization in this moment — whether through inviting them into increased participation or inviting the file to a new level of partnership.

Direct Mail and the US Postal Service

We have vendors across the country. All have partners they can call on should the need arise for additional support. We’re staying in close contact to ensure production capacity and fast turnaround. We are also in contact with the USPS and are aware that this could be where problems may ultimately occur. If one or more USPS facilities are impacted and shut down, it’s possible that some mail will halt for a time. We will be watching this closely, along with the logistics experts at our vendors. But at this time, there is nothing to report.

One Last Thought

I’ll leave you with a passage that struck me with new meaning in light of this week. 

God is our refuge and strength,
     a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
     though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea…

Psalm 46:1-2

My home is in view of the majestic Olympic Mountain range — some of the most beautiful peaks in the world. I take great comfort in knowing that if that mountain range were to come crashing into the sea tomorrow, God is with us.  

Standing with you,

Steve Woodworth