If you feel too busy to contemplate adding one more task to your plate right now, you’re not alone. A pandemic is no vacation!
Not to worry. I’m here to help.
But first, in case you haven’t yet heard, the folks at GivingTuesday.org are organizing an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. I believe it began as more a rallying cry than a fundraising call to action, as you can see from the GivingTuesdayNow landing page and press release with suggestions you can share with your constituents, as appropriate (e.g., (1) Support healthcare workers by donating supplies, advocating for them, and staying home; (2) Combat loneliness by reaching out to a neighbor, relative, seniors or, veterans, and (3) Join a local mutual aid network and come together to help neighbors in need).
Lately, you may have seen a rash of articles and webinars designed to help you launch a #GivingTuesdayNow campaign. I shared some of these in last week’s Clairity Click-it, so if you want to turn this into ‘#GivingTuesday in May’ (the next ‘regular’ GivingTuesday is December 1, 2020), don’t let me stop you. It may work.
However… I’ve got another idea for you. Because a single day of fundraising during a period where crisis (flashing lights!) is permeating people’s every thought doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. I hope, if your organization and/or those who depend on you are at risk, you’re asking for urgent support on more or less a weekly basis. So please don’t interpret this article as a caution against asking for money right now. I absolutely want you to ask!
Just not necessarily on May 5th.
Of course, I’ve never been a fan of using the ‘Hallmark’ opportunity as an impetus for fundraising. It’s a bit generic, and everyone and their dog is fundraising on this day. If you want to stand out, I’d advise doing something different.
I’ve long been an advocate of turning the tables on #GivingTuesday and using the “giving” part of the day to give gratitude to donors rather than add yet one more ask to an already crowded solicitation schedule.
Gratitude Can Be Enormously Effective
What about using May 5th as an opportunity to thank your supporters and give back to them? Depending on your mission, something as simple as a thank you video may suffice. There are other token gifts you might offer as well. Consider:
- Invitation to a virtual, free event (e.g., live interview with interesting VIPs; town hall conference call; Zoom Q&A; performance; behind-the-scenes with not visitors, etc.);
- ‘How to’ video based on your area of expertise (e.g., how to save the environment while sheltering in place; how to make a face mask with your kids; how to entertain the families in your neighborhood; how to safely volunteer);
- Recipe for sheltering in place from a staff member, artist or other VIP;
- Recommendations for reading, listening and viewing (on topics related to your mission);
- Heartwarming video clip (like this and this);
- Inspiring poetry or quotation;
- Funny meme, or
- Just about anything that lightens the mood and makes folks feel good!
Set the Stage to Pre-Suade Folks to Give
There’s actual method to this madness. It’s a psychological principle coined by Robert Cialdini called pre-suasion. And it ramps down any risks folks may associate with giving, by proving to them there’s true value in what you offer.
Sure, your peeps love you and are inclined to give to you anyway – so long as you ASK – but it doesn’t hurt to grease the wheels a bit so they’re inclined to give a bit more. After that, your ask will have more power.
Here’s my online dating secret as a metaphor (this is a bit of TMI, but indulge me): When my husband of 25 years passed away suddenly in 2010, I knew I wanted to be in another relationship. So, after a year passed, I began online dating. When I finally got to the “let’s meet for coffee” stage, I always brought a gift. I love to bake, so it was home-made cookies. I always got a second date! One might say I pre-suaded these dates to like me. (Ironically my second husband, to whom I’ve been married now for six years, doesn’t like sweets. He didn’t let on, but he brought the treats to his mother –which may have sealed the deal).
Don’t Let Perfect Be the Enemy of Good
If you’re starting to panic about being ready for #GivingTuesdayNow, don’t sweat it. As long as you already have a steady stream of fundraising appeals planned you’re good. There’s no reason to go nuts setting up #GivingTuesdayNow landing pages, press releases, social media messages and so forth.
If you don’t have a larger crisis fundraising plan in place yet, panic about that! Seriously, as Jeff Brooks of Future Fundraising Now puts it: “Be fearful when others are bold, and bold when others are fearful” (Brooks is paraphrasing billionaire investor Warren Buffet, simply substituting Buffet’s “greedy” with “bold.”). If you’re not bold with fundraising now, then when? You don’t want to miss your opportunity. ‘Bold’ however doesn’t mean reactive or unplanned.
You don’t have to chase every shiny object. Be bold with innovation too. Do something different. That’s how you’ll stand out and show people you’re as special as they thought you were.
Make People Feel Good
People will remember you, and appreciate you, for this. Respected American author, poet, dancer, actress, singer and civil rights spokesperson, Maya Angelou, knows a thing or two about what makes people tick.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
― Maya Angelou
If you want gifts, give them. If you don’t, others will step in. The path to donor loyalty is through gratitude and giving. And loyal donors will sustain you, through good times and bad.
Asking is, of course, a form of giving too. Because you offer people an opportunity to feel good. By now you no doubt know about the MRI studies showing folks get a shot of ‘warm glow’ dopamine when they merely contemplate giving. So never feel shy about asking. Just pick your asking opportunities with intelligence.
Asking on the same day everyone else is asking isn’t necessarily the smartest strategy.
Some days are meant for just saying: “You know what? YOU MATTER.”
I’m just saying.
Personally, I don’t think you must participate in this initiative by leading with a monetary ask. Because I think you should already be asking for money on a regular basis (weekly), and shouldn’t be waiting for one particular day. Rather, I would suggest you use the opportunity to build your constituent relationships and “give” something to your supporters – just as I suggest for regular Giving Tuesday.
Give something intangible, yet heartfelt. Maybe it’s a virtual “gift” such as an interview with a thought leader in your space, a mini talent show by your staff, an inspirational poem, a recipe with a ‘how to’ cooking video, and so forth.
Use the opportunity to (1) remind folks of the impact of this pandemic on your organization, and (2) thank them for the outpouring of generosity you’ve been receiving, and (3) reassure them that, with their support, you’ll still be here post-pandemic.
Remember: it’s important to be upbeat while sharing your story. No one wants to believe their money is going down the drain. Reassure folks you’re doing everything in your power to adapt, stay strong and weather this storm. You’re committed to weathering this storm, just as they’re committed to you and your mission. You’re confident, with your donors’ support, you WILL weather this storm!
So… take a moment to tell folks how truly grateful you are.
Image: Photo I took of a sculpture discovered on my pandemic perambulation.