If you’re like me, chances are every other email in your inbox has something referencing coronavirus. You can’t ignore it, avoid it or wish it away.
So… what is your organization going to do?
The inimitable thought leader, Seth Godin, recently had this to say:
That’s pretty much all that’s on offer.
What will you do next?
The first gives us visceral satisfaction and emotional release, and it almost always leads to bad outcomes.
Responding is smarter. It requires each of us to think hard about the action and emotion we seek to create after something is put on our desk.
And the third? Initiating is ever easier and leveraged than ever before, which, surprisingly, also makes it more difficult to move up on our agenda.
In normal times, it’s easy to get into a rhythm of simply responding. Someone else setting the agenda.
When things are uncertain, it’s easy to react.
But now, right now, is the single best time to initiate. We’re in for a slog, but there will be an end to it.
Make things better by making better things.
Taking this advice to heart, I’d like to share a couple of examples of organizations who have initiated some inventive strategies to stay connected to their supporters in these challenging times. Usually I would share these in my “Don’ts vs. Do’s” feature. But both of these are big ‘Do’s,’ so I want to highlight what’s brilliant about them. You can ‘sincerely flatter’ them through imitation — and a bit of your own innovation.
Ready to be inspired?
OMG, What Will We Do About Our Upcoming Event?
My daughter’s former public school (grades 6 – 12) quickly turned their live fundraising event, silent auction and raffle into a clever – and fun — virtual telethon-style event. The strategy was IMPRESSIVE in that it offered multiple ways to participate – all without leaving the safety of your own home. Let me remind you: This strategy was accomplished by a public school! You don’t have to be a huge nonprofit to do something amazing to connect with supporters in these unprecedented times.
Promotions for the virtual event included two emails spaced two days apart (Wednesday and Friday) for the Saturday event. There was a follow-up email at 3:00 p.m. Saturday letting people know the streaming portion of the event was now live. The timing of the silent auction, streaming festivities, fund a need and raffle drawing were all sequenced so folks could participate live or merely bid, purchase a raffle ticket or make an online donation. And they used YouTube for live streaming.
Great stuff — from promotion to execution!
First Email Subject Line:
Support Gateway this Saturday at our “Virtual Disco!”
It’s a direct headline that makes it crystal clear what this is about. Plus the term ‘Virtual Disco’ arouses curiosity — making the reader want to click to open and learn more.
First Email Preview Pane:
We’re making Gateway history this Saturday… and we need your support! Every spring we hold the Great Gateway Gathering
I like the use of ‘making history’ — because, who doesn’t want a chance to do this? I would prefer “your support is needed” in lieu of “we need your support.” And “Every spring it’s YOU who make the Gateway Gathering GREAT!” But that’s picking nits.
What’s good about this email?
What isn’t good about it?! I particularly appreciate:
- Fun graphics at the top.
- Reminder that $70,000 is at stake – so they can’t afford canceling the event entirely because it “would be a tremendous blow to teachers and students.” Nice, mission-centered language.
- Reminder they “dream big.” Great message for a school that models encouraging students to do the same.
- User friendly formatting with brief sentences and paragraphs, contrasting color, appropriate use of boldface to call out important message elements.
- User-friendly ways to participate – with bold buttons.
- Reminder this was going to be a fun time – from the comfort of home.
Second Email Subject Line
Gateway’s telethon is live in 24 hours!
Second Email Preview Pane
Tune in tomorrow to support Gateway!
The urgency created here is likely to get this opened. Plus it aroused my curiosity as to how they were going to pull this off. Remember: I no longer have a kid at this school. I still opened the email.
Note: At the bottom of this email there was also specific contact information about who to email at the school if you had questions.
What’s good about this follow-up email?
- Good reminder the event is happening.
- Opportunity to reach new folks who didn’t see/open the first email.
- Clarifies urgency – this is happening soon!
- Groovy graphics at top and throughout.
- Use of contrasting color (I would have used something darker, as reverse out type is challenging for some to read in the gold boxes).
- Auction package teasers to arouse curiosity.
- Links to two different raffles create user-friendly engagement mechanisms.
- Fun highlights to create anticipation.
Online Silent Auction
You can see they held the auction in two phases. Early items closed at 9:00 p.m. Friday night. A whole new group of items went up online Saturday at 3:00 p.m. (at the same time live streaming began). It’s a great way to assure engagement by a broader group, including those who may have missed the first email. Or who might be busy one day, but free the next.
Virtual Streaming on YouTube
I just love this element. Would-be participants can set a reminder (notice little bell-ringer button lower right) to let them know when the live streaming begins. And “a few germs can’t stop the groove” is a fun and upbeat message – just what’s needed in these challenging times!
I couldn’t help myself when I received the reminder email the event was ‘live;’ had to tune in (which is exactly what you want, right?). Here are a few live shots. The first one shows Sharon Olken, Executive Director (right), with Chanda Lockhart, Director of Development and Outreach (left), auctioning off items. Behind the scenes running the YouTube channel, chats and videos was Danielle Smith, Communications Manager.
They also encouraged folks to use the chat function to send them questions, which they promised to read on-air. Nice participatory element.
The screenshot below shows a clever element enabling viewers to donate $25; then vote which teacher they’d like to sing live Karaoke. Depending on how much they raised, they promised the winning teacher would sing up to three different songs (BTW: “Mr. Rodgers” in this case is a real teacher). The director of development also announced she’d sing too — if they raised enough money (they did). Fun!
And this really blew me away. They changed clothes just to keep things fun! The screenshot below shows them announcing names of donors who’ve contributed thus far to their ‘Fund-a-Need.’
Finally, to continue keeping things fun – and LIVE – Marianne Fives, Senior Development Manager (left) came on stage with Danielle Ciccarelli, Executive Assistant (right), to do a live cooking demonstration. In keeping with their “70’s Theme” they began with a no-bake Jello/Cool Whip/canned pineapple dessert. Yum! Plus, since the entire reason this event is virtual is coronavirus (duh), they assiduously washed their hands and wiped down the mike before passing it along. Good role modeling!
They promised live chat, and they delivered. So much good will, as you can see from the screenshot of the chat box below.
BTW: Once you were listening/watching the broadcast they gave you a phone number you could call to talk with the presenters live. So they had chat and phone as ways to virtually connect.
As you can tell, I really admire everything about this innovative strategy (hence, so many screenshots shared with you). So much fun — and such a success (even some students were joining in and donating!). And, yes, they actually exceeded their $70K fundraising goal. I wonder if they’ll ever go back to the in-person event! Kudos to the entire Gateway team and family of supporters for taking a page from Seth Godin’s book to “make things better by making better things!”
Okay. Let’s take a look at another organization’s innovative strategy.
While You Have Lemons, Make Lemonade
As cities, states and countries are starting to lock down and restrict public gatherings, churches, synagogues and mosques are left scrambling with how to connect with, and bring much-needed solace to. their congregations. Last week I received this ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ announcement from a local synagogue.
Zooming together in services tonight!
Using the online meeting platform Zoom as a verb is clever, and communicates instantly what this is all about. Plus I love the use of the word ‘together.’ Togetherness is something folks are longing for as they begin to fear communing face-to-face – and yet still long to connect.
I like just about everything in this email. Take a read, and then I’ll let you know my thoughts.
The email is appropriate for its audience, and does its intended job of reaching out to folks and reassuring them their congregation is there for them – even if they can’t physically open the gathering space.
- Begins with a relevant quote from scripture.
- Opens by reassuring folks they’ll be doing their best, creatively, to stay connected.
- Explains how the evening’s virtual service will work.
- Let’s folks know they can still ‘hang out’ before and after and connect with their fellow congregants one-to-one (albeit online).
- Encourages folks to sing along at home (something that might otherwise feel stupid, but here people are given ‘permission’ to do something likely to make them feel joyful.
- Meets folks’ needs to pray for specific people by offering the option of sharing the names of loved ones in need of healing and/or remembrance via ‘chat.’
- Closes with a constituent-centered message of peace, joy and good health.
Last but not least, it includes a ‘donate’ button at the bottom. During the times we’re in, it’s good to remind your supporters you’re in this together. And their philanthropy today will mean your continued ability to be there for folks when they need you most – today and tomorrow.
This May Take a While.
Remember, you’ve got a community relying on you to lead them forward.
Now is not a time to sit back.
Even if you can’t virtually reschedule your event, there are still things you can do to further your mission and assure you’re there for those who need you.
Be a Genuine ‘Good Guy.’
Crisis = Opportunity
Find the silver lining here, and use this time to connect more meaningfully with your constituencies than ever before. Looking outward, take care to extend a little extra love and fun (with some fundraising thrown in, of course) to your supporters. Looking inward, you can also use this time to improve systems, policies and procedures you’ve had on the back burner. For example, you could:
- Get up to speed with trending nonprofit social media platforms.
- Investigate donor databases, CRMs, crowd-funding and P2P platforms, monthly giving options, email service providers and other solutions to problems that may have been holding you back.
- Explore other technology, such as YouTube and other live streaming options, virtual meeting and project management software and other team collaboration tools.
- Learn how to thank your donors with video.
- Put your long-delayed donor love and loyalty plan in writing.
- Develop gift acceptance policies.
Be Honest about What’s Going On
Don’t wring your hands internally; then put on a good face externally. Be consistent. Be real. Take folks into your confidence, and tell them precisely what your worries are right now. People will appreciate your transparency and honesty. It’s exactly what people are looking for right now!
Remember: the people who love you want to help.
Keep calm and carry on.
Please feel free to share your own innovative strategies with me. I’d love to hear what you’re doing in these abnormal times. Use the comments section below, or hit reply and let me know.
Image by Sumanley xulx from Pixabay.