Written by Alicia M. Lifrak, CFRE
Executive Vice President
While this current crisis is unquestionably unprecedented, we want to let you know that we are here to help you in any way that we can. Your mission is too important to too many people to not take this opportunity to strategically focus your efforts to ensure minimal disruption.
In similar times of crisis (natural disasters, 9/11 and periods of severe economic downturn), we have assisted our nonprofit partners to make sure that they come out stronger on the other side. We have also seen the impact of what halting your fundraising efforts entirely can do to an organization. Even during these most stressful times, we must find a way to persevere. Here are some tips that we can offer as you move through the coming weeks and months.
- Stay the Course. To the best of your ability, keep your fundraising programs intact. Circumstances may require that you adjust your strategies or channels, but now is not the time to disappear. Organizations that pulled back and stopped soliciting after 9/11 and the 2008 recession took years to recover from their losses (some are still trying to recover), while organizations that continued to solicit their donors with messages of need and impact emerged stronger and healthier.
- Stewardship. Acquiring new donors may be difficult during this time as individuals wait out a time of uncertainty before making a major gift decision, but this creates the perfect opportunity to be omnipresent with your existing donors and make sure that they know the impact of their gift. Positive storytelling, digital programming and impact reports are all great ways to let those who love you best know that you still appreciate all that they have done.
- Stay Connected. Most people are stuck at home right now and there is a lot of stress as people are feeling disconnected (from sports and culture and day to day contact with their friends and family). Find communication platforms that allow your donors to find a sense of community by bringing them together with your efforts. Your donors will recall this later when all the dust is settling, and their appreciation for you “being there” with them will be significant.
- Make the Message Relevant. It is particularly important in your efforts that you continue to communicate your ongoing need and articulate how these events are impacting your organization both in the short-term and the long-term. But you also need to be sensitive and empathetic to their concerns and challenges, and those of the community around you. Make sure that any messages (or asks) coming from your organization in the weeks and months ahead are taking the broader sense of fear and uncertainty (that is challenging us all) into account.
- Be Prepared. Have contingency plans in place for your organization beyond just fundraising and marketing efforts. How will prolonged school closures, entertainment shutdowns and other economic factors impact your organization? And more importantly, how can you help? Be the voice of consistency and paint the picture of the better days ahead.
As Mr. Rogers so famously said in an interview, his mother would tell him “always look for the helpers” when a catastrophe occurred. “There will always be helpers,” he said, citing medical workers and others who come into a troubled situation. “Because if you look for the helpers, you will know there’s hope.” You and your organization have always been the helpers in your community. They need you now more than ever.