The last month has been a scary ride for Americans. In 2015, when the stock market plummeted about 350 points, I wrote an article similar to this. Over the last month, the Dow Jones has plummeted nearly 10,000 points or 30%. Combining this with global concerns around COVID-19, there is a lot of uncertainty for how fundraisers will react and how nonprofit organizations should continue to raise funds for their cause.
If you are a nonprofit organization that depends on philanthropy from others, what does this unpredictability mean? Does it mean changing your strategy or simply holding on for the ride while hoping for the best? What type of sensitivity do you need to embrace in conversations with prospective and current donors? It is prudent to put yourself in the mind of those who normally support you while understanding what their motivations may be for the next several months or beyond.
Here are some thoughts:
Businesses give when times are good for two reasons: they want to make a difference, or they want tax relief. Typically, it is a combination of the two though one may be more heavily weighted than the other.. You only have to look at some of the top named stocks – Facebook, Disney, and Amazon, to see the magnitude of losses taken over the last weeks. In addition, moving to a remote workforce, or worse, having to shut down (in the case of Disney) businesses could feel nearly crippled. As you can gather, this means they do not have the same spending capital as before which could present problems for your next gift ask or sponsorship request. With corporate donors, showing constant appreciation will ensure you are the organization that they will always support, no matter what their financial world is looking like.
Let’s face it, your major gift donors are likely feeling the pinch in a bad market because they are more heavily invested than a typical donor. In addition, many of your major donors are in the higher risk groups for COVID-19. While you should be engaging with these donors regularly, in times of uncertainty, you may need to tread differently. Even if that donor is above the daily financial fluctuations, instability in the markets and fear of illness will cause insecurity which could affect any donations they typically provide. This is an opportunity to check on them. Can your organization help them right now? Take time now to explain your mission and how their donations are changing lives. This is a reminder to shore up your relationships now – or more importantly – remember this during good times and always strive to improve your rapport with blue-chip donors. Don’t be the last do-gooder to come knocking on their door reminding them of the good deeds you do. Be the one who is always there.
Many annual donors are now worried about job stability. That fear is going to affect potential gifts going forward. At the same time, Americans are stepping up in record numbers to help where needed. Shopping for elderly people, buying gift cards to keep restaurants liquid, providing meals for children who can’t get their regular meals because schools are closed. What is your charity doing to affect change in the world? Can you create a compelling message to share how you are helping in this scary time?
I have heard of museums doing online tours, I think many people would support them knowing that, do you? Additionally, when we recover from this(and we will recover from this) remember this time and move more of your donors to monthly giving. I’m not saying that those donations will not go away temporarily, but they are more likely to continue to show up during times of crisis.
In my opinion, the most important takeaway from the recent events isn’t even the market or the virus. It is about how you continue to maintain relationships with all of your donors all of the time. No one wants a charity that hasn’t been responsive to them when donations are rolling into to all of a sudden come knocking on their door when trouble hits. Maintaining healthy relationships with all of your donors takes work, but will guarantee mission support at all times.
Let the current conditions remind us to be consistent in building and nurturing all donors.
About the Author: Dawn Galasso. With nearly a decade in the nonprofit technology space, Dawn specializes in providing my clients with the best and most innovative products available in the everchanging philanthropy space. Her love of all things data has had her focus on analytic technology including working for WealthEngine for many years. Dawn joined iWave at the beginning of 2020 to share the new state of the art technology that will help clients understand how to engage and leverage their database to get them faster to mission success.