You’re in crisis. You need contributions now, just to stay afloat. Surely your donors understand and won’t mind if you tell them to just send money. Now! While they may understand on some level, no one likes to be scolded. Not even in a crisis situation. Yet most nonprofits make a practice of regularly admonishing supporters…Details
During a crisis is no time to be passive. Build a list of audiences, prioritize contacts among those lists, and develop a step-by-step written PLAN to reach out. With updates, engagement opportunities, little gifts of content folks can use, and opportunities to contribute and make a demonstrable difference.
Sharing is caring too. Do you have a plan in place to regularly share what you’re up to, and offer opportunities for donors to engage? Are you communicating with donors as if they’re a part of your family or favorite group of friends? If not so much, what are you waiting for?
Establish templates with talking points in advance of your communications; then let the reaching out begin. First determine your purpose.
- Do you want to say thank you?
- Do you want to simply check in to see how your donor is doing, and whether they have any questions about your organization’s status and work right now?
- Do you want to ask them to volunteer their time?
- Do you want to ask for a philanthropic gift?
- Do you want them to complete a survey?
Figure this out first, because the more you know where you’re going the more likely you are to get there! If you’re light on staff right now, ask your volunteers and influencers for help.
These communication templates can be used for phone (or other online) conversations and emails. Got that? Conversations! Merriam Webster describes a conversation as “oral exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas.” In other words, you want to prompt two-way participation on some level. This is not about you delivering a monologue or formal dissertation. Think of your communication as you raising an issue for discussion. You want to pique your donor’s interest and ask open-ended questions that invite their engagement.
Start with your top priority donors who have the highest likelihood of making an additional gift to get you through this crisis. I suggestDetails
What’s the point of a fundraising appeal letter?
That’s obvious, right? To raise money!
But, wait a minute.
I always ask the question “why?” until I finally get to the end – where no more ‘why’ questions need to be asked — and uncover the true purpose behind anything I’m doing.
So… why are you endeavoring to raise money?
Because your organization needs contributed income.
Why does your organization need contributed income?
Because you don’t generate enough earned income to enact your mission.
Why don’t you generate enough earned income?
Because you make your services available for free or low cost to those who otherwise couldn’t afford them.
Why can’t folks afford what you offer without subsidy?
Because they’re … elderly on fixed incomes… vulnerable children… newly arrived immigrants… low-income single parents… families living below poverty level… veterans… unemployed… homeless… devastated by a natural emergency or illness… saddled by debt… or otherwise at-risk, marginalized, overlooked or being in need of a break.
Why else do you need community support?
Because the upfront cost is greater than the market will bear, but worth it for the ultimate community good of… a cure for a terminal disease… relief from devastating pain… ending injustice… saving the environment… preventing violence, abuse, addiction, suicide… restoring faith and inspiration to those whose lives would otherwise lack meaning, fulfillment and hope.
Aha! Now that you’ve answered all these important “why” questions you know the point of your fundraising appeal letter or email. Right?
It’s to get people to understand the benefit of their gift; what will happen absent their generosity.
It’s more than ridding themselves of the dollar they had burning in their pocket.
But wait another minute.
Can you dig still deeper?
Why do you want people to understand the outcome they can create?
For at least the past five years I’ve been actively encouraging nonprofits of all stripes to begin or ramp up their monthly giving program. It made sense then. It makes even more sense now.
You need a dependable source of income in order to be able to plan for the future.
If that sounds good to you, please continue reading. I’m going to share some best practices and examples to help you somewhat magically raise more dollars from individuals, both today and tomorrow.
Once donors sign on as monthly givers they tend to stick with you.
So huge, in fact, you’re missing a gigantic boat if you don’t currently promote monthly giving as a key fundraising strategy. In other words, you’re leaving boatloads of cash on the table. If you could use a boatload of cash right now, never fear. All you need to do is…Details
Could you be getting it all wrong when it comes to the what, who, where, why, how and when of your nonprofit’s communications and fundraising as this pandemic plays out?
Especially if you’re leading from opinion above knowledge. You know, going with your gut when it comes to what your donors want or need from you right now. Otherwise known as guessing.
That’s never a good idea for someone whose job is to facilitate philanthropy. Because a lot is known about how much joy it brings people to demonstrate their ‘love of humanity’ through philanthropic acts. Your gut telling you donors don’t want to be invited to become heroes? P’shaw.
Now, thanks to the folks at Blue Frog Fundraising, more is known about how donors feel about giving in response to the current pandemic. In the recently revealed Coronavirus Research Findings: What do donors think now? they focus on what donors have told them about how their approach to giving has changed. Or hasn’t.
These philanthropy trends are important to understand, so I’ve selected the most salient among their key findings (highlighted in the break-out boxes) and have grouped them according to the traditional journalist’s rubric of what, who, where, why, how and when.
I’m going to explain what your nonprofit should do to show donors you do, in fact, understand where they’re coming from.
Before taking any marketing message or fundraising appeal off your plate, and before adding anything new, always make sure to ask yourself these six important questions! They will help you assess almost any situation, plus focus your efforts and aid you in telling more relevant, compelling stories.
Let’s get started…Details
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
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’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
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
It’s not too late to use these tips to help with your year-end fundraising.
This new “Do’s vs. Don’ts” feature is popular, so I thought I’d share another one that seems like a good ‘teaching opportunity.’ It’s a twofer, as I’ll discuss both the appeal and the donation landing page to which it takes folks — should they be inspired to click through.
Please note: Sometimes I can’t omit the name of the charity in the examples I use. Please know I’m coming from a place of love, and don’t mean to shame anyone. As with almost anything you can think of, there’s good AND bad in the examples I share. We learn both from mistakes and stellar efforts. Our own, and others. Kudos to all who put things out there and make an effort. The only way you learn is by trying. Believe me, I’ve sent out some real clunkers in my time as a development director! If I ever use you as an example, and you disagree or want to clarify, feel free to contact me directly.
Okay. Let’s move on.
We’re going to evaluate every element methodically.
I’ll ask you some questions.
- Would you open that email?
- If yes, why?
- If no, why?
- What looks good about it?
- What looks not so good?
- Would it inspire you to give?
- If so, why?
- If not, why not?
First, I’d like you to think about your answers and jot them down.
Second, I’ll tell you what I think.