30 million+ Americans are out of work. GDP has dropped like a Red Bull Flugtag built by 1st graders (if you don’t get the reference – it’s awful – here, check this out). People are worried about their jobs, their partner’s jobs, everyone’s health, teaching kids, you name it. What they are not thinking much about is donating.
Sure, some nonprofits are doing ok – many of the same organizations who did ok during the Great Recession. But even then, those organizations have new costs like PPE that were not in their budgets when they were passed in Q4 2019. For everyone else, it’s a scramble to figure out how to reach donors, change up events, go virtual, and make themselves relevant in this “new normal.”
There are lots of functional pieces out there offering suggestions on new approaches to fundraising, and I’ll let you Google them if you want. I believe that any competent development professional or Executive Director already knows the options. Now it’s about implementation.
We all have. Fundraisers are adaptive, creative, and fearless about failure – we don’t let a few “nos” stop us.
Our biggest challenge is not losing our way while we try and adapt to the change. So here are my four tips as you navigate the COVID landscape of fundraising:
Remember why you exist – nothing could be more critical. Sure, you can pivot into something that is COVID related that you never did before, but how does it meet your mission? Your donors were there before COVID. They’ll be there during COVID as best they can, and they’ll be there after, but not if you lose sight of who you are in the process. As a leader in your organization, it’s your responsibility to avoid the creep and stay true to your mission, values, and long-term vision.
It’s a cardinal sin of fundraising. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. No matter how much money it is, if you can’t build a garden on the roof of your building, or send volunteers to a far off local to assist, you need to be honest with the donor and tell them what you CAN do instead. If that doesn’t work for them, it happens. But don’t allow a feeling of desperation for funds lead to programs that fail because you should have said no in the first place.
Humanize Your Story
We are a visual species. A good picture goes a long way to convey your story – as does a connection to the person within it. More than ever, we need to humanize the work we do and put those benefiting from your work front and center. Stock photos and a lack of personalized stories are a quick way to get even the most engaged donor to move on. If you want to connect your supporters to your mission, you need to show them what their support could be doing. Often staff push back, not wanting to “ask too much” of those they serve. If they don’t want to help, they are going to say no. But for many, this is their way of paying the help they received forward, and we owe them the respect of allowing them to choose how and if they want to help.
Our national attention is laser-focused on the effects of COVID. So without allowing mission creep to adjust your focus, you need to show how your work is relevant today. Nonprofits are a fantastic sector – we self-selecting viability as organizations need to prove their value to remain in operation. If your organization is of value to the community, help them remember that by showing your relevance. Donors, if they agree, will respond.
Need an outside perspective to bounce ideas off of? Maybe have someone look at your plans, programs, and/or systems to audit them for you? Contact us today, and we can discuss ways we can help you navigate these confusing waters.