Did you ever wonder if there is a foolproof way to communicate with donors? Actually, there is! And it’s not about process. It’s about another ‘p’ word. Can you guess? I’ll give you a hint. It relates to the secret business your nonprofit is in. You may think you’re in (arts, healthcare, human services, environment,…Details
The times we’re in are extraordinary, and ‘business as usual’ isn’t. Having strong coping skills today are truly important. As is being more thoughtful and strategic than usual, because you can’t rely on the ‘normal’ playbook.
I recently happened on a thoughtful article I want to share from the University of Colorado, Something for Everyone: 25 Tips to Get Through Your Day. I’ve selected what I believe are the Top Ten Tips for nonprofits.
Use these tips to help you make the most of this time into which we’ve been thrust. See if you find anything that speaks to you. Apply to both your personal and professional life to the extent you can. I’m quoting from the author in the highlighted segments, and following with a number of targeted fundraising and donor communication strategies you may want to consider.Details
In whatever times we’re in, that’s what folks don’t have enough of. That’s what folks crave.
That’s what explained Nike’s daring move in 2018 to put forward a polarizing marketing campaign featuring the face of American football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, most famously known for taking a knee during the singing of The Star-Spangled Banner.
In Why did Nike do what they did? Mark Schaefer of Grow, and author of several digital marketing books, explains why this was a brilliant idea. Despite the fact it generated controversy, including protesters burning shoes in the streets, Schaefer notes Nike’s move aligns with research highlighted in his book, Marketing Rebellion. The book explores how to connect with customers and build a brand in a world without loyalty.
The message of the book applies to folks in the social benefit sector as well.Details
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.Details
I confess. I’m a sucker for a quiz. I love to test myself, and compare my answers with others. We all need a little distraction to keep our minds off the news right now, right? Some of us more than others.
So I want to share some quizzes, exercises, and assessments that may help you discover some important truths about the most interesting person on earth. YOU!
The way you cope during stressful times has a lot to do with your unique personality traits. Do you consider yourself self-aware? Do you know why you may be feeling particularly panicky right now? Or inexplicably calm and at peace? Do you know what makes you feel creative and purposeful? Even joyful?
Every night at 7:00 p.m. my neighborhood goes outside and stands on the street, sidewalk or balconies to make a little ‘music.’ The other night this kid took a spatula to the iron balcony and managed to make a lovely racket! The hospital staff around the corner and up the hill has let us know via social media that they hear us and appreciate us. It feels like a beautiful way to cope, if even for just a few minutes each day. All it took was one neighbor to organize it, and… voila! I am grateful to that neighbor.
What are you doing to cope? How are you adapting, personally and professionally, to our ‘new abnormal?’
Are you living your life in the best way possible for you to make a contribution that feels authentic, productive and true to you?
Now is a terrific time for some good old-fashioned introspection.
Everyone brings their own gifts to the situation at hand. There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ personality. Now’s a time to get in touch with, and appreciate, what you bring to the table.
Maybe you can help someone else – a friend, family member, neighbor or even a donor – overcome some of their own weaknesses right now. And maybe they can help you as well. Yin-yang. Give-take. Mutual support. Empathy and understanding.
Are you game?
I’ve got four fun things for you to try!
Even if you don’t love doing exercises and taking quizzes as much as I do, you may find one or more of these interesting. None of them take a lot of your time. And it’s even more fun if you do it together (with friends, family, co-workers); then compare and discuss results!Details
I’ve already written encouraging you to ask supporters for help. Right NOW. This is a time people are actively looking for ways to make a difference. IMHO it’s almost criminal not to offer would-be philanthropists an opportunity to be a hero. And your mission doesn’t have to be engaged in what’s commonly considered a ‘frontline response’ or ‘essential.’ In other words, you don’t have to be directly engaged in COVID-19 prevention, mitigation or treatment.
Your mission matters! It mattered yesterday, right? That hasn’t changed. People still want to save the environment… rescue puppies… increase child literacy… listen to music… preserve architecture… help kids go to college.
Don’t go dark on folks when they most need to hear from you. Whatever your cause, your constituents deserve to hear from you about how this pandemic is affecting you and all those who rely on you. If you really don’t need donor support right now (perhaps thanks to a large endowment or huge ‘rainy day’ reserve), then… fine. Don’t send a fundraising appeal. I’m guessing, however, for most of you reading this article YOU DO NEED CONTRIBUTIONS to keep you afloat.
Since you need income now, your best communication bet for other than major donors is online. [With major donors you can set up a virtual visit or simply pick up the phone and talk to them.] For everyone else, digital is your best bet. Snail mail is too slow for crisis fundraising, plus some folks won’t have stamps at home or won’t want to go out to the mailbox right now. So… let’s take a look at how to put together a successful online crisis appeal.
UPDATE: My friend, direct mail guru Eric Waasdorp, tells me she’s actually been having good success with snail mail these days. Print shops and mail houses are apparently considered ‘essential businesses’ and are able to get you on their schedule faster than usual. Plus the post office can use the business. I stand corrected! Just remember there will still be folks out of stamps, so be sure to include your website donation page link in case they want to give online.]Details
You may feel talking about mortality right now is a big ‘no-no.’
You’d be wrong.
I know some of you will argue with me. I’ve already seen one fundraising guru (who I generally admire greatly) say this is the only type of fundraising they’d not recommend right now. They called it ‘creepy.’
I understand the impulse to avoid this subject.
Especially now. Because it may feel insensitive. A bit like ambulance chasing.
Yet that’s not what legacy philanthropy is about. Not today. Not ever.
What’s Different in an Era of Pandemic?
Honestly, nothing. At least in this particular area of fundraising. Other stuff must be postponed or canceled, sure.
- You may have to put your events on hold.
- You may have to put planned spring and summer appeals on hold (assuming they were targeted for particular programs that don’t seem relevant or urgent at this point in time.)
- You may have to put targeted legacy giving mailings on hold.
You don’t have to stop promoting meaningful legacy giving.
Because right now we’re all questioning the meaning of life. And our individual lives in particular. What can we do, as individuals, to make a difference? Not just today, but for tomorrow? What will our legacy be?
Whether we live or die, we’re all thinking about what life will be like on this planet moving forward. Yes, we’re in a pandemic. It’s scary and uncomfortable as all get out. Yet, let’s face it. People are seldom comfortable confronting the notion of their own death. Nevertheless death is as natural as birth. It’s inevitable, sooner or later, for everyone. Of course, we all hope for later.
Promoting legacy giving is not about actively seeking out folks on the verge of death and asking them to sign their estate over to you. That would, indeed, be crass. Again, legacy giving programs are not ambulance chasing! And, anyway, most of your supporters are not sick. Most will survive. Yet…Details
Balance. That should be your ‘today mantra.’
I’m talking about balancing self-love with donor-love.
You can’t help others unless you first take care of yourself.
This is really a truism you should carry with you throughout your life. But it’s never been truer than the times in which we’re currently living.
At the bottom of this article, I’m going to offer you some ‘don’t panic’ self-care strategies.
Since, however, you primarily look to me for fundraising advice, let’s begin with some specific strategies to try right NOW.
FIRST: Take Care of Your Donors
Connect, Connect, Connect – with Everyone!
Talk to your donors about how they’re doing. It’s always been good practice to stay in touch with your supporters. In fact, the numero uno reason donors stop giving is due to your poor communication with them. So use this time as your reason to – finally — get your donor love and loyalty plan off your back burner!
Take this opportunity to connect with folks with sensitivity and empathy. Show you care about them. As people, not just donors. Let them know you’ve no idea how this pandemic may be affecting them, personally and professionally. Listen and empathize with what they tell you. Depending on what your organization does, you may even be able to help them. At least put out an offer of help, and a listening ear, should they need you in the coming weeks and months. Then – as appropriate — share with them the situation for your organization and those who rely on your programs and services.
NEXT: Take Care of Your Mission with Specific Strategies to Try Right NowDetails
Last week I shared a number of real-life examples from innovative nonprofits taking creative steps to connect meaningfully to their supporters during these trying times. While staying connected, some organizations are succeeding in stepping up both their marketing and fundraising communications to the next level.
I promised today I’d share an example of a straight-up email appeal. Actually, it’s more than an appeal.
Because every communication you have with folks today must be more than business as usual.
It’s got to be empathic.
Let’s face it. All folks are thinking about today is coronavirus. If you ignore this fact, you’ll come across as out of touch and even insensitive. So begin every communication with some acknowledgement of what people are going through. Not just you. Them.
Check in with people and ask them how they’re doing. This is actually always a good way to begin. We do it more in our personal lives (oddly, particularly with strangers). You ask the clerk at the counter “How’s it going?” You leave the store saying “Have a nice day.” In fact, one of the hallmarks of a culture of philanthropy is you’ll find staff always asking each other “How can I help you today?” [See “Fundraising Bright Spots”]
Silver lining of this pandemic? Rediscover the power of empathy. Take this opportunity to connect the dots between the problem you lay out and the solution with which the donor can be helpful. This is solid, basic fundraising – the way it should always be practiced but too often is not. Use this opportunity to be better.
It’s got to be innovative.
Remember, this is not ‘business as usual.’ Already every nonprofit and their dog are sending out messages related to this crisis. What will get your messages to stand out? Lots of things come to mind, including great subject headlines, compelling images and graphics, engaging stories and an authentic tone. All the basics apply.
Practice solid fundraising, of course, but try to add in a little bit of something extra. Novelty. Fun. Inspiration. Prayer. Social action. Whatever is best suited to your particular brand and community.
Silver lining of this pandemic? Many of your familiar, tired strategies were probably due for a change anyway. This is an opportunity to reject the status quo, develop new skills and consider fresh initiatives that may, ultimately, serve you far better than the ones you’ve been using.
TIME TO SHARE AN EMAIL EXAMPLE: APPEAL PLUSDetails
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!Details