We are all scrambling.
The situation with COVID-19 changes day-by-day and hour-by-hour. Hopefully by now, nonprofits have taken steps to allow all but absolutely essential personnel to work from home. Fundraising, while essential, is a function that can be done from a home office. The big question is:
How can we keep our donors connected to our organizations in this unstable environment?
When it became clear that I would not be allowed to travel anymore for work, I fell back on a maxim I heard somewhere early in my fundraising career. It rhymes so that’s convenient and an aid to memory.
In any circumstances where rapid change is taking place, we must take great pains to keep our donors near, dear, and clear. What does that mean as a guide to practical action and how can we all undertake those functions while protecting ourselves and our donors from coronavirus?
Let’s take each part of the maxim in turn:
Near: Be in Contact!
You will need to leverage all forms of media at various levels to keep in touch with your donors.
First, for your major donors, set up as many one-on-one Zoom meetings as you can reasonably handle each week to check in with them and make sure their families are doing okay right now. Take it week-by-week so it will not be overwhelming but striving for 6-8 substantial phone calls or Zoom meetings with major donors per fundraiser seems appropriate.
Secondly, utilize digital means of connection as much as possible. The president of the institution I work for is doing a series of Facebook live discussions this week at the same time every day. Send email updates or text your constituents. Don’t bombard them with info but if you have meaningful information to report, do so on all available channels. If you have Facebook groups, use those to communicate too. Encourage your supporters to share info so it gets in more Newsfeeds and inboxes.
Third, for your mid-level donors or major donors that you cannot check in with immediately, don’t forget about good old mail and phone. You can do a quick check-in calling campaign one day per week and write some hand-written notes. (Of course, please be careful with your mail protocols for hygiene. Use self-adhesive stamps and tape if possible. Barring that, seal or affix with a sponge. And wash your hands well before handling mail to be sent out.)
Dear: Express Gratitude
Your messaging needs to let donors know that you care about them as people. It’s not just about expressing our usual level of stewardship and gratitude. This is thanking them for believing enough in your organization’s mission to hang in there in this time of great change and uncertainty.
Express gratitude not only as a staff member but express gratitude on behalf of those your organization serves. Let them know that because of them, your mission continues and will continue after COVID-19.
Clear: Have Clarity, Openness, and Honesty
Make sure your organization is crystal clear on its priorities. The first of which should be the health, safety, and welfare of those they serve and those who work for the institution. Repeat this often to your constituents.
However, do not shy away from honestly telling donors how this crisis is affecting your organizational needs and its finances. Your major donors and board members especially deserve the candid talk about what is needed, what might be needed, and why.
Did you find the framework of near, dear and clear helpful in thinking about how you are keeping donors connected these days? What other strategies have you tried in the last couple of weeks that keep donors near, dear, and clear? Tell me below in the comments!
Again, I hope this was helpful to you. If it was, please leave me a comment below.
Also, if you found this very helpful, I hope you’ll subscribe. By doing so, you’ll get my FUNdraising Friday emails every Friday with pick-me-ups, helpful articles, and cool freebies. Humor and a commitment to continual learning will no-doubt help us all through this crisis.
Take care and be well,
PS - If you are feeling stressed and anxious and burnt out due to coronavirus, you're not alone. Because so many are facing unprecedented challenges and pressure right now, I'm hosting a free webinar on the topic of Self Care for Non-Profit Professionals. It will take place April 1st. Register today as there are only 100 spots!
Jessica Cloud, CFRE
I've been called the Tasmanian Devil of fundraising and I'm here to talk shop with you.