The growing COVID-19 (also called the coronavirus) outbreak is creating a lot of fear and anxiety among donors, staff, clients, volunteers and boards. We are all uncertain about what to expect.
The unprecedented public health measures and volatile financial markets will require nonprofit organizations of all sizes to be strategic, innovative and patient in their fundraising efforts.
Seasoned professionals who remember the turmoil after 9/11 and during the 2008 Great Recession will tell you HOW you handle communications with key audiences will determine WHAT happens when life returns to normal.
Communicate with your audience that you are taking every precaution possible to protect your patrons, donors and staff. Change your campaign messaging – let them know that now more than ever you need their support now and in the future. Be flexible with scheduled activities and consider focusing on thanking your donors during this time.
So take a deep breath, set up that virtual meeting with your team – and get planning!
I know for many organizations, a gala, a walk/run event or a conference might be a main source of revenue for the year. With health officials recommending social distancing and limiting large gatherings, here are some ideas to keep your event going in a different way:
· Focus on mission-based activities. If you have to cancel the event altogether, ask attendees to make it a contribution to cover cancellation costs.
· Consider having a “virtual gala” - offer a chance for ticket holders to dress up, order food and post pictures with your gala hashtag.
· Switch your auctions to fully online. There is software out there that can make this a reality.
· Work with your caterer to find unique ways to use the purchased food. See if your caterer can switch it up to creating platters from the food for smaller “gala” events in your homes.
· If you can’t, donate the food to another organization or local school that can feed those in need.
· If you have a walk/run event coming up, have your entrants run their own distance and post their time and photos of their run with your hashtag. You can ship them their medal for completion. Encourage teams to hold virtual fundraisers.
· You can turn your conference into a virtual one – The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) ICON is going to an all virtual event. This is the standard I’m seeing for major spring conferences.
Everyone is nervous about their investments. Be prepared for donors to delay decisions or delay their commitments. This is the time to have good conversations with these donors and extend pledge commitments as needed. Be understanding, keep them informed and let them know that you value them! Phone calls and personal handwritten notes are always appreciated by the recipients. Take heart that just as many committed donors will make that gift as planned.
If you need to switch to a more virtual way of doing business, here are some helpful tools/recourse that are free or low-cost to consider.
Go to Meetings
Need to share files as you work remotely? Try Google Drive or One Drive. For virtual presentations, there is Facebook, You Tube and Vimeo. If you need to connect with donors, clients or others for input, use a survey tool or site to create online forms. Here are several good ones to try.
Once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, be sure to focus on having these plans and strategies in place so you don’t have all your fundraising eggs in one basket. Knowing your donors means you can keep connected in other, virtual ways, as needed. Don’t forget to check on your elderly or immuno-compromised neighbors, call and ask and drop off supplies.
There is no doubt that this is an incredibly disruptive moment in time with unprecedented complications at work, school and home. I like to remind myself that “this too shall pass”. The nonprofit community is strong and we will continue to support each other.
Michelle Crim, CFRE
Dynamic Development Strategies can help. We offer coaching and fundraising services for our nonprofit clients. We specialize in startup and smaller nonprofits because we understand your challenges. Please contact us for more information.