By Susan Ross.
With clients, we often talk about making critical decisions in real time. Every one of us is living this challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The world says STOP but some can’t, particularly those working directly with at-risk populations like seniors or cancer patients. And those who provide food and shelter face increased demand now.
Even those who could take a “pause” know it comes with huge financial risk to already tight nonprofit budgets. These real-time decisions about fundraising mailings and events could lead to service interruptions and unmet payroll in the coming months.
moss+ross has always been a virtual office environment, so we are just as available to you as ever. Call any of us if you need a thinking partner for your real-time decisions.
Here is our best advice for how to navigate:
- Trust your best donors. They love you, and worry about how the situation affects your cause. They have a story in their heads about it – connect with that story.
- Stay in touch. Your donors are more distracted than usual – get to the point. Send targeted communications, short and simple. Take steps to address your donors in ways that make these more personal and one-to-one.
- Roll with your Annual Fund. You need the revenue so don’t pull the mailings, but rewrite your message to be appropriate for these times. Every letter doesn’t need to include handwashing instructions, but it shouldn’t be tone deaf to the crisis. Explain how you are operating and why support for your operation remains critical.
- Clearly share the urgency. What unusual expenses are you incurring? Do you have temporary needs as you adapt services during this crisis? What revenues are lost because of cancellations? Don’t over explain, just be clear. Send critical messages multiple times.
- Postpone your events. You really have no choice. Analyze the financials, then share your concern by phone tree or personal emails with your Board, volunteers, sponsors, and major ticket buyers. Let them be part of the solution.
- Explore moving your auction online. If your items are already procured, your targeted guests may be willing to purchase them without the event, getting dollars in the door now when you need them. Try it with a limited number of items and see if it works.
- Don’t lose the opportunity to raise money. Ask for online donations. Survey event ticket buyers to see how many are willing to roll their purchase into a donation, or let you keep it until the event is rescheduled.
- Take care. The one place you can and should “pause” is in taking a moment to breathe and make sure everyone around you knows we are all in this together.
The nonprofit sector will get through this best if we share our knowledge. Each of our clients is on the frontlines in some way. Effective responses we have seen in the past week include:
- Links to Amazon wish lists for cleaning supplies
- Coordinated fundraising for multiple agencies
- Direct fundraising appeals based on specific health issues, needs for children, etc.
- Virtual events and tours to keep children and the rest of us educated, occupied and even entertained while home-bound
- Special collections to address food security and other immediate needs
Stay well, do what the CDC says, and call if you need us.