Now more than ever you must, must, must invest in your fundraising efforts.
Rather than spending time worrying – panicking? – why not turn your mind towards positive things? Like creative ways to invite others to help keep your mission afloat?
In my post earlier this week, I shared some ingenious ideas implemented by other nonprofits — all so you can resourcefully borrow their ideas. I will keep sharing, because that’s how we learn. And… that’s what Clairification School is for, right? [If you’re not yet enrolled, there’s no better time than the present!]
It’s a blank slate now when it comes to fundraising. Yes, use tried-and-true principles of donor-centered fundraising. But don’t be tone deaf to the unprecedented times we are in.
Coronavirus is all folks are thinking about right now. Even while they try not to think about it.
Stay relevant, or prepare to be ignored.
You can help people!
Here’s the deal.
I’ve never in my lifetime heard so many people asking: “what can I do to be of service?”
Charities have the opportunity to answer this question.
Living in a pandemic sucks, but you’d be remiss if you didn’t avail yourself of this opportunity to (1) keep your mission, and those who rely on you, afloat, and (2) help would-be helpers feel helpful!
I’ve been amazed at the outpouring of community support being witnessed all around me. Neighbors helping neighbors. Nonprofits helping their supporters. And… vice-versa.
Don’t for one minute feel shy about asking folks to give during this crisis.
It is a crisis, and folks are most generous exactly during times like these. Of course, not everyone will be in the position to be able to help. Don’t use that as a rationale to not offer a giving opportunity to those who can give. This is something that will bring them joy.
Never Forget: Helping Makes People Feel Good!
Lest you doubt people want to help, check out these sentiments expressed by individual donors in a recent New York Times article, ‘I Don’t Feel Helpless’: Giving Strangers Coronavirus Aid with a Click.
“When I’m able to help others in need, it’s also therapeutic for me. I don’t feel helpless just sitting here watching people in need.”
“All we got is each other.”
“There’s nothing I can do about this thing besides keeping my family inside the house for the next two weeks…. you got to not think about the crappy part of everything for a bit and think about — there’s not going to be good coming out of it, but we can do good.”
Don’t think you should concentrate only on major gift fundraising right now either. Of course, you’ll want to reach out to your wealthy, loyal supporters who may be able to provide some significant additional support. But specific, manageable requests will be particularly well received during these times.
“The need is concrete — to pay a bill. You feel like you can even make a difference if it’s a finite amount that needs to be raised, as opposed to the important work that other nonprofits are doing fighting poverty on a larger scale.”
Coronavirus Crisis Fundraising Ideas You Can Steal
TWITTER FUNDRAISING APPEAL
This is something any nonprofit can do. I found this timely tweet from CEAP particularly effective. The text is succinct and to the point. And “So… all of that weekend panic-buying” (we had 90-minute lines in San Francisco just to get to the check-out on Monday this week!) is relatable for everyone reading this.
And for those who don’t like to read, the graphic below (which accompanied the tweet) tells the story instantly. Did you know engagement is 200% higher for tweets with image links? Plus the graphic can be used on other social media platforms, email appeals, their website, and even as a printed piece to mail to those for whom they don’t have emails. Nice job!
PEER-TO-PEER (P2P) FUNDRAISING
If you’re set up to do P2P fundraising, either via your website, Facebook, Twitter or even email, now’s a great time to encourage your influencers to spread the word. Here’s one example.
INNOVATE SOCIAL FUNDRAISING = PHILANTHROPY IN ACTION
Talk about necessity being the mother of invention! This person didn’t wait for a nonprofit to take the initiative and reach out with an organized P2P or crowdfunding campaign. She took it upon herself to promote her brilliant idea for donating to nonprofits she cares about. As she shares it, others in her network are agreeing to do the same. I’ll bet there’s a way you can re-purpose this sentiment to use for an appeal appropriately targeted to your audiences.
VIRTUAL HAPPY HOUR
Here’s an idea you can use for staff, board, donors or just about any constituency. It’s a recognition of the times we’re living in (empathy is important!), and a way to stay connected virtually. Time to take care of yourself and each other! While this comes from the CEO of a for-profit marketing company, the idea is applicable to nonprofits as well.
Here’s what CEO Walton has to say:
The trick is not to force the connections, but rather give permission to be creative and see where employees take it. What it comes down to is connections. In times of uncertainty, we want to know we’re not alone.
“It’s something that humans crave. I mean, it’s that fundamental.“
The employees are in the process of trying to make virtual Karaoke happen!
If you haven’t yet seen the brilliant marketing campaign from Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, you’re in for a treat. Hop on over to Twitter right now! This strategy was a dynamic way to stay in touch not only with their current constituents, but to exponentially broaden their base of fans. In fact, as I’m writing this post I see that Vogue Magazine has published an article: These Penguins Took a Field Trip Around the Aquarium, and I Will Never Be the Same. Good Morning America picked it up as well: Waddle these penguins do during the shutdown? You can’t buy publicity like this! Other aquariums are now emulating this strategy – but Shedd was first. And they continue to add new tweets with new videos and images. For St. Patrick’s Day they did something that brought a smile to my face.
This is the type of thing any nonprofit can do – whether you work with cute animals or not. For example, when I was director of development at the San Francisco Food Bank we regularly dressed up weird-looking vegetables (perfect ones go to the stores; gnarly ones are perfectly delicious too) and posted them on Facebook. I don’t have a photo from back in the day on hand, but I did this in my own home the other day (I call it ‘Odalisque in the time of Coronavirus.’ Her name is ‘Parsnippity’).
What Will You Innovate Today?
There’s an old adage, commonly believed to be a curse, ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Whatever you call the times we’re living in, they’re certainly critical and fraught with insecurity.
Business as usual just won’t cut it.
So it’s time to call a spade a spade. Our foundations may be shaken, but they can still be saved. With grit, determination, empathy, compassion and good old ingenuity.
Whatever innovative ideas you come up with to keep your organization viable right now, hold fast to these principles:
1. Don’t pretend things are normal.
That fundraising copy you’d already prepared to send out in April just may not sit right with folks today.
2. Be honest with your supporters.
Believe it or not, they’re likely worried about your situation too.
3. Don’t abandon those who rely on you.
Know that it’s not just your clients and staff who need you now; your volunteers and donors need you too!
4. Ask for the urgent help you need.
Make it easy for folks to support you by putting a ‘Covid-19’ response message front and center on your website; send folks via link to a special landing page you’ve created just for this occasion. Also send this message every way you can think of: email; social media; mail; text; phone call. Use the media at your disposal wisely and well.
5. Stay as upbeat as possible.
Remember, people are worried. It’s not just you. While supporters want to help, they also need help. A reassuring word can go a long way. Let people know you’re there for them, and look forward to continuing to be there for them for a long, long time.
6. Thank, thank, thank.
Thank people for everything and anything you can think of. For past support, today’s support and tomorrow’s support. For spreading the word, advocating on your behalf and simply keeping you in their thoughts and prayers. For simply being good and caring people. And while you’re at it, thank yourself too!
We will get through this together.
Thank you for all you do to create a better, more just and more compassionate community.
In my next article, I will share a simple, timely fundraising appeal that adheres to all of the principles outlined above. Stay tuned!
Top image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay.
Can you provide some language/script that you might use in a phonecall to a major donor/sponsor?
Heather, my best resource on “Anatomy of a Major Gift Ask” is here: https://clairification.com/anatomy-major-gift-ask-cheat-sheet/
Other than that, be direct. People are already clear there’s likely an emerging, urgent need. Tell them the facts. This is your ‘story of the day.’ Tell them how you hope to address the challenge. Tell them how they can help!