On June 24th, we hosted the seventh webinar in our Nonprofit Thought Leadership Series ‘Staying on Track: How is Your Organization Adapting to Changes Due to COVID-19?’ with Paul D’Alessandro and John Corcoran of D’Alessandro Inc. This was an interactive Q&A webinar where we took questions from attendees to frame the discussion around course corrections and strategies that you and your organization can take to stay on track.

If you missed the webinar, you can watch the recording here. D’Alessandro Inc, also shared their key takeaways for continuing to raise funds for your mission during times of crisis:

 

Stay the course (for now).

The craziness in the markets may cause donors-mostly mid and major-to pause. This will no doubt cause a revenue shortfall in the short run. Assuming the markets will stabilize, you’ll want your messages to be in your donors’ inboxes and mailboxes when that moment arrives. Now is not the time to reduce your efforts. Organizations that pulled back and stopped soliciting after 9/11 and the 2008 recession took years to recover from their losses (some are still trying to recover), while
organizations that continued to solicit their donors with messages of need and impact emerged stronger and healthier.

 

Double down on stewardship.

After the 2008 financial crisis, we saw that organizations that focused on enhanced donor stewardship (i.e., more thank-you phone calls, more impact reporting, more high-quality engagement from staff, board, and volunteers, etc.), tended to recover more quickly than those that didn’t focus significantly on stewardship.

 

Don’t stop talking to your donors.

While nonstop news of coronavirus, unstable financial markets, and a contentious national election are on your donors’ TV and
Facebook feeds, they’re not the only things they care or want to hear about. Continue to remind your donors about the transformational impact they have on your cause by sharing your most relevant and compelling stories. Don’t hesitate to share the ongoing need, while continually reminding your donors that they are the lifeblood of your organization.

Acknowledge their fear.

Many of your organization’s donors, particularly those who are mid-level or major donors, have just seen a significant decline in their stock portfolios. This is an opportunity for you to come alongside these key donors and listen. Engage in relationship building that reminds them that they are more than an ATM for your needs. They are important partners, and you care about them as human beings first and donors second.

 

Review your messaging for relevance and clarity.

Continuing to talk about your mission is critical, but also be aware that there is a lot of background noise and a new lens through which your donors are now reading your messages. Don’t be tone-deaf. Be sensitive to words or phrases that take on new meanings in light of current events, such as references to things “spreading like a virus” or being “infected/infectious.” Also, rethink labeling something other than coronavirus as a “health crisis” at this time. What seemed normal and natural two weeks ago can feel terribly wrong right now.

 

Buddy up with your CFO.

Make sure your CFO has a window into the uncertainty surrounding your organization’s fundraising that lies ahead. Nobody likes surprises, least of all your CFO. Your potential warnings about revenue and expenses will allow your CFO and CEO to make choices or delay expenditures if needed.

 

Have a Plan B, Plan C, and Plan D.

No two crises play out the same way, so be flexible and be ready to pivot as needed. Communicate with your production team about commitment deadlines for paper orders and print runs, so you can make the best decision possible with as much information as possible. Make sure your teams have back-up plans in the event your mail shop or creative teams are quarantined. Be creative, stay calm, and stay focused.

 

Care for your people.

For many organizations, the most prudent thing you can do to care for your people in this situation is to share as much information as possible, as frequently as you’re able. The more people are uncertain, the worse they’ll feel. If you don’t already have a remote work policy in place, this is a key time to craft one and begin allowing anyone who can work from home to do so. Your donors and prospects don’t stop caring about your mission because there is a health scare or their 401K drops. Sure, their giving may be altered temporarily, but continuing to show the need and the impact your donors can have will ensure your mission remains funded and your donors stay engaged.

 

Q&A’s from the webinar:

Q: What opportunities are there for nonprofit and fundraisers emerging from this crisis?

A: It is time for both to innovate and adapt to the needs of the communities. This requires looking at their case statement and how it aligns with the current environment. They should also look at collaboration opportunities.

Q: How have Zoom and other platforms caused challenges with donors vs. face-to-face?

A: Zoom and other platforms have caused everyone to look at travel, meetings, contact, cultivation. We have closed six-figure gifts with zoom meetings and people have been very receptive to this especially as more people get used to it. Donors may not want to meet in person but we should still try to do so when possible. Personal relationships and friendships are important

Q: What can our board do in the coming months to support us?

A: Board members should continue to provide business guidance to get through a challenging economic environment. More importantly, they should provide names of people in the community who they think would be good prospects so that you can build up your prospect portfolio.

Q: What would you say is the major recommendation that a small consultancy group should make to their nonprofit clients during this time?

A: Stay the course and don’t pull back. Adjust to the changing winds but don’t stop because other nonprofits will step in to fill any voids that are left by your client’s absence. We tell our clients that you are either in a campaign or preparing for one. Most aren’t in campaigns but it is important that you constantly are preparing for a major fundraising initiative