Fundraising During Times of Calamity was written by Louis Fawcett, President of National Association of Nonprofit Organizations & Executives. Here’s what Louis has to share with fundraising professionals who meet their financials goals regardless of unexpected obstacles.
In the middle of the Great Recession, I was in charge of raising more than $1 million for a children’s home in Ethiopia. Our effort to help orphans in Africa started in 2007 and spanned through 2010 which included the earthquake in Haiti (further drawing attention away from helping children in Ethiopia). Despite the worldwide calamities which distracted most people, we were able to raise money and help more kids throughout these difficult times. We built the children’s home in Ethiopia to care for more than 200 orphans. So how did we do it?
Yes, we are living through historic times as the coronavirus spreads. You may be tempted to retreat into self-absorption and not reach out to donors. You may be tempted just to focus on staying safe and not bothering anyone. Some might say, “how can I ask donors for money during these scary times?!”
While March 2020 may not be a good time to ask for major gifts, it is a fantastic time to stay in touch with your supporters! Don’t treat supporters like ATM machines, treat them like people with real needs and real concerns. Maybe one of your donors needs help picking up medications or running an errand. Maybe they just need to talk to someone positive and encouraging. Use this time to connect, not pull away.
Here are the six things can do in the short term to stay in touch with your donors and raise more money over long term:
1. Organize your donor lists. If you don’t already have your major donors listed in portfolios, now is the time to organize your donor lists. Typically, 40-50 top donors will be placed into the portfolio of the CEO or Executive Director. 125 donors would be placed in the portfolio of the Director of Development or full-time major gift officer. Each donor needs to be seen in person at least two times annually (not including events and other communications). Now is a wonderful time to devise individual plans of care for each of your major donors.
2. Write personal notes. This is a perfect time to let contributors know you are thinking about and care about them. A three or four line personal note goes a long way. Something like this: “Jan, we are so thankful for your generosity and leadership. Because of you, our community has been improved and more families have been helped. While we are living through some uncertain times, I am certain that you are special to us. We are here for you.”
3. Make phone calls. Call the donors in your portfolio and see how they are doing. Ask if there is anything you can do for them. Let them know you care and are thinking about them. If they ask, update them on the progress your organization is making in impacting the community.
4. Send small gifts. Birthdays, anniversaries and “just because” gifts are delightful, regardless of what happens with the spread of the corona virus. Send small gifts of thanks to your donors such as candles, flowers, lotion or chocolate. Memorable appreciation of their friendship can lead to significant future involvement.
5. Gather stories of the heart. While impact data is important, contributors will be warmed by your ability to share stories about your organization’s impact. The little girl who smiles and laughs while riding a horse as part of her therapy. The single mom who is moving into a new home. The veteran who has renewed purpose in life because of your impact. Gather these stories and pictures now so you will be ready to share them with donors when the time is right.
6. Calendar one-on-one meetings in the future. While your contributors may not want to meet face to face this week or next week, they can put coffee or lunch on the calendar with you for April or May. Go ahead and make the calls and set the meetings. Follow up with these people prior to the meetings to confirm. Having meetings on the calendar will go a long way to future major gifts.
More than anything, exude confidence about the outlook for your organization and the world. Rely on personal communication, not email. I promise you, this storm will pass. Don’t be paralyzed by the zeitgeist of the moment, rather do the work now to sow into your donors and show them you care about them, not just their money. This will lead to deeper relationships, long term success and more lives being saved and changed.
Thank you for your work on the front lines of helping people. Keep going, stay positive and be of good cheer!
Fundraising During Times of Calamity was first posted at NANOE News
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