Chances are, you’re reading this at home.
With the coronavirus raging through the world, the best defense we have is social distancing. It’s hard. For some, it’s dangerously hard. But it’s what we have.
That means a great number of people find themselves at home – without a job, or unsure of their job. So the instinct for our nonprofits may be to just stop. Send people home, hope for the best and wait.
Please don’t stop.
Your work matters
First, and most important, because your work matters. Whether you’re on the social service front lines or part of an arts organization, your work still matters.
And if you find yourself with more time on your hands, this might be a good time to think deeply about why it matters. But don’t just think. Write it down. Capture the essential why of your mission. It can be easy to assume that people outside your staff understand it as well as you do. But they don’t. So now is a good time to review and refine how you explain why your work matters so much.
Second, do not stop communicating. If your first instinct is to go quiet – to assume people won’t be interested in your work right now – ignore your instinct. Fundraising during a pandemic is critical. Donors want to help!
If your work matters, then the people who have cared about it will continue to care. You will more likely than not be choosing to communicate digitally. I will continue to urge you not to overlook the power of mail. But if you’re working from home, and don’t have a trusted mail house partner, getting mail out will be difficult.
But keep communicating. But remember, it’s not all about you. It’s about the people you help. Or the animals. Or the art you offer. Talk to your supporters and others who have been interested about what’s going on and what you plan.
Make it real communication – that is, back and forth. Ask questions. Make it easy to answer. Let people know how to get in touch. Don’t just say you care about them, mean it.
Keep asking for help
Yes, an unimaginable number of people will find themselves without jobs. The rest may be wondering what their financial future looks like. The reports are just mind-boggling, I know.
But remember that you don’t get to decide for your supporters when they want to give. Don’t assume. In uncertain times, many people feel the need to do something that will help. Giving offers a sense of control. It feels good.
1. If you are directly affected by the pandemic
Then you should make a strong case for emergency support. Don’t hesitate to ask your best donors because they already gave this year. And keep in mind, you’re not asking for yourself. You’re asking for your cause. So ask boldly. But with sensitivity. You can say both, “If you’re in a position to give now” and “The need is urgent!”
But talk about the real need – and it’s not (just) your budget shortfall. It’s about what you can’t accomplish now without additional support. Keep it mission-focused!
2. If you are not directly affected
If your organization isn’t immediately affected by the virus, you can still ask for help. How has the global situation changed your organization’s situation? Have you had to cancel performances? Close a school or eliminate after-school activities? It’s ok to talk about unexpected shortfalls in income – but keep it connected to what that means to your audience or beneficiaries.
Your budget is your problem; your mission is what interests your supporters.
Resources I have found useful now
There is a flood of good information out there right now about how to handle an emergency. So much it can feel overwhelming.
But I want to share a few articles, podcasts or videos that I have found particularly useful right now.
Download this useful guide from Steven Screen and Jeff Brooks. (It’s free!) They will encourage you not to act from fear. And how you can turn this situation into a fundraising advantage for your cause.
Listen to this podcast about digital fundraising. Right now, fundraising online will be the easiest way to continue your program. But don’t stop with email communications. This podcast will give you great advice for using Facebook to your advantage.
Watch this video from Steven Screen. He’ll outline for you exactly what you need to do to create an effective emergency email appeal. Step by step, what to include. I promise you’ll be using this!
Watch here as my friend Pamela Grow speaks with Beth Kanter.
Looking for templates? Mark Phillips has you covered here.
It’s always about values – your donor’s values and yours. But understanding that is so important now. Read this insightful piece from Clay Buck here.
Finally, nothing is more critical to your long-term fundraising success than taking good care of your donors. Lucky for you, my friends Lisa Sargent, Denisa Casement and Sandi Collette have you covered. Read this on SOFII.
Still not persuaded it’s time to act? Read this from Grant Oliphant of the Heinz Endowments. And please read this from my friend Vu Le. It’s time to act. Lives depend on us!