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?
Is there a best way to raise money?
That question is really at the heart of what most nonprofits want to know.
And recently I was reminded of this when asked a question for a Virtual Summit for Nonprofit Changemakers in which I’m participating in the early Fall. [There will be a ton of useful content presented in this online conference – by 20 of well-respected experts over two days – so please check it out.]
Here’s what I was asked:
What is the best advice you can give to a fundraiser… and does it hold true in times of crisis?
I thought about this long and hard. Because I’ve lots and lots of advice!
But… my best advice? Hmmn…
And then it came to me.
I recalled a favorite quote.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend fifty-five minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.”
— Albert Einstein
That’s the advice!
You see, one can’t really pick a best fundraising strategy without first fully describing the reason money is not already flowing in. In other words…
You must identify and define your problem before attempting to solve it.
The time you spend doing so will be well spent. And when it comes to fundraising, worth its weight in gold.
I like to go through an iterative process of asking why, why, why, why…. until I’ve exhausted every question. It looks something like this: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
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
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
The major gift journey is a synergistic one. You see, it’s both your journey and your donor’s journey.
If you want to follow along the most direct pathway to sustainable philanthropy, you’ll want to consider the two-fold nature of the expeditious endeavor known as major gift fundraising. Or, as I prefer to call it, passionate philanthropy.
First understand it’s not just about the money. It’s every bit as much about the experience.
If you make the experience a joyful one for your prospect, they’ll become your donor. If you continue to make the experience joyful for your donor, they’ll continue as your donor.
Strive to become your donor’s favorite philanthropic journey guide, and they’ll come back to you time and again to find meaning, purpose and happiness.
Major gift fundraisers, essentially, are in the happiness delivery business.
I cover this (1) business, and the (2) donor journey toward joy, in great detail in my online course, Winning Major Gift Fundraising Strategies. Please sign up for it, or get on the waiting list if the course is currently full. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the 6 steps you must take to build and sustain a winning major gifts program.