Caring for Donors During the COVID-19 Crisis
COVID-19 has changed many things, including how The Salvation Army is able to interact with its most loyal donors. This spring, the Indiana Division’s development team came up with a special way to stay connected to donors in central Indiana.
The idea sprouted from phone calls that staff were making to check in on donors quarantined at home. Many of these donors fell into high-risk categories, unable to see family and participate in the active, social lifestyles they normally enjoyed. The phone calls were welcome, but the team felt it could do more.
Jo Ann Remender, Director of Development for the Indiana Division, was inspired by the “Hope is Greater than Fear” theme used nationally as part of The Salvation Army’s COVID-19 disaster response. She ordered small bags and t-shirts with the logo and worked with the development staff to pack care packages for donors in the metro Indianapolis area. The bags were filled with items like devotionals, photos of The Salvation Army serving across Indiana, chocolate chip cookies, coffee, and prayer request cards.
“We called our donors to ask if we could stop by and make a social, safe visit from the yard,” Jo Ann explained. “We took the EDS canteen on days it was not being used and drove a little caravan of cars behind it.” Honking horns and waving signs, the “Caring Canteen Caravan” visited donors in quiet neighborhoods and retirement communities across the city. Elated donors and their neighbors waved back from their porches and balconies as the bags were delivered and well wishes were exchanged.
For many, this was the first glimpse of the outside world they had seen in weeks. When the team pulled up to the home of Bill and Liz Murphy, long-time supporters of The Salvation Army, the visit was especially welcome. The two had just recovered from COVID-19 and were thankful for both the company and the prayers.
At another stop, a neighbor heard the honking and cheers and came outside to see what was happening. “This gal shared with us she was widowed and had recently been robbed,” recalled Jo Ann. “We happened to have a couple extra bags and Kristen Bourke from the Planned Giving Team took one to her porch. As we drove away, she was wiping away tears as she looked at all the items in the bag. She waved at us as we drove by and said thank you. It’s the little things in life that can really touch a heart and let them know somebody cares.”
Another member of the Planned Giving team, Christi Thieme, visited donors at a senior living facility in the city of Carmel. Residents had not been able to leave the property for weeks and were excited to have visitors, even if they could only wave from their balcony or from behind the front desk. For Salvation Army staff like Christi, being able to say thank you in person was a special treat. “It was a lot of fun to do because it allowed us to be social after several weeks of limited contact,” she shared. “We got to enjoy warm fuzzies seeing how much our donors appreciated being thought of.”
“These visits helped to deepen our relationships with our donors, because we cared about them as people, as our friends,” added Jo Ann. Her office is now filled with thank you notes and letters of gratitude, even as the team plans its next round of visits. In the midst of a pandemic, this special ministry is just one more way The Salvation Army can share that hope truly is greater than fear.
Learn more about how The Salvation Army is helping Hoosiers in need during the COVID-19 pandemic by visiting SalvationArmyIndiana.org/coronavirus.