We don’t always plan for emergencies.
Of course, that’s what an emergency is – something important, but not normal. So how can you plan for emergency fundraising?
If your organization finds itself struggling with the impact of coronavirus – whether in increased expenses and/or increased need for your services – you need to be able to communicate that emergency need quickly.
As I write this, some countries around the world hope they’re past the worst of this pandemic. They acted quickly, and now they can see the benefit of that action.
Others, like the U.S., will need to struggle through a far longer fight. Delay equals death.
The lesson, of course, is that planning for the unplannable is both necessary and smart. You don’t need to predict the future exactly. But you do need to think through how you will react in an emergency that affects your mission, your donors, and your staff.
It’s not too late now to think about this. Even if you haven’t planned, you still have time to act. Call your donors. Pay attention to donor care. And if you have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, ask for help.
But planning gives you the agility to react quickly. Do the best you can right now. But begin thinking about organizing your needs now for next time.
Keep your data in order
This shouldn’t have to be said, but I’m going to keep saying it, because too often, it’s an after-thought.
Will it take you days to clean up and export the data you need to send an emergency fundraising appeal? That’s not good. If you keep up on data hygiene, and if you use a system that works as it should, it should take you minutes, not days or even weeks.
Clean data is an everyday necessity. Flossing your teeth is kind of a pain, right? But unless you want to lose your teeth or look forward to painful dental experiences, you do it. Even when you’re tired.
Same thing here. And in the same way, a little bit of effort, done every day, will keep things in your database healthy.
And if the problem is the system you use to manage your data, now is always a good time to think about finding a system that works for you. If everyone on your fundraising staff can’t understand how to input, clean and export data, then it’s too complex. We’ve come eons since the first systems were designed. Demand intuitive.
Develop a good relationship now with a printer and/or mailing house
If you need them suddenly, they will be more likely to jump to work for you if you’re already a current client. And they can be very helpful when you need something fast.
(I’ll write more about mail and how a good mailing house can be one of your best friends soon.)
Collect stories now and always
So, you need to send an emergency fundraising appeal. Time’s wasting. But if you need to search out stories and images that will tell the story, you’ll fall behind.
Like good data care, story collection (both words and images) should be an everyday task. Develop great relationships with the people in your organization who oversee your programming. Ask to come along to see the mission in action. Get them used to coming to you whenever they have something interesting to share. You do this by encouraging them to talk. And yes, that might mean you are ready to listen when program staff just needs to vent. Sometimes there’s hidden gold in there.
Copy and design
If you or someone on your staff writes your copy and designs your fundraising pieces, excellent! Make sure they are always in the loop – so they can jump on something urgent immediately.
If they do your copywriting, but the results aren’t what you need, then train now to be better later. There are numerous courses online. And some great books. And if you want free, start with SOFII.org and especially Jerry Huntsinger’s tutorials. Add Lisa Sargent’s thank you letter clinic and you have a solid start.
The other alternative, of course, is to hire someone who already has the skills. In this case, as with your mailing house, having a relationship helps. I love copywriting for great organizations. But if I don’t know you and your need is urgent, I can’t ask current clients to wait while I preference you. At the very least, call early. The more time you can give, the better the result.
Your finance department matters, too
Chances are, if a situation like the current pandemic happens, you will be hearing from your finance department. “We need more money!” they’ll say, in a panic.
Better you have a chance to see this coming. Work to make this a good relationship.
Also: if you’re asked to raise more money, be clear that raising money costs money. You can’t do an emergency fundraising appeal without more in your expense budget. Start planting that idea now, throughout the organization. Fundraisers are not magic money machines.
Plan now to succeed later
Like the countries who jumped into action at the first hint of this virus, what you do now will determine how well you do later.
And thinking about all that you need to organize will also help you in the “regular times”.