No doubt the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting your nonprofit organization, possibly severely. You need revenue to cover both planned and unplanned expenses.
You may have already heard this over the last few weeks, but I’m going to repeat it.
Don’t stop fundraising
Keep up with what you’ve already planned and make adjustments as needed. Here are some suggestions to help you during this time.
Look at your fundraising plan
I really hope you have a fundraising plan for 2020. If you don’t, you should put one together, even though you’re probably overwhelmed with current needs now. At the very least, put together a plan to take you through the next few months.
For those of you who already have a plan, take a look at yours. Maybe you have a spring appeal, and you should still carry that out. Maybe you have an event planned. Is this something you can postpone or do you need that expected revenue now? You may need to conduct an emergency campaign to cover additional expenses that have incurred right now. I’ll cover these in more detail below.
Goodbye generic appeals
This is not business as usual. You must specifically mention how the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting your organization. Don’t send a generic appeal like the one Jeff Brooks mentions in this post.
If you’re already planning a spring appeal, go ahead with it. Hopefully, you haven’t pre-printed letters with no mention of the current situation. If so, you’ll need to add something to the mailing, maybe on a half sheet of paper. If your letters have already gone out, then you’ll need to reference COVID-19 in your follow-up communication.
Many organizations are launching emergency appeals. Run it like any other campaign, making it multi-channel with multiples asks. The post below lays out the components of a multichannel campaign. A couple of things I want to highlight are creating a specific donation page and trying not to send follow up appeals to people who’ve already donated to your emergency campaign.
Get specific. How can your donors help the people/community you serve? Maybe you run a tutoring program that now needs to go virtual, but some kids don’t have access to computers, so you need to raise funds to get them laptops or Chromebooks. Perhaps your food pantry is seeing a higher volume right now.
Segment your appeals as much as possible. This will help give your appeals a more personal touch.
Emphasize monthly gifts. A monthly donation may be more feasible for your donors at this time. You can also ask your monthly donors to upgrade or give an additional gift.
Don’t be afraid to be honest with your donors. If you’re anticipating a shortfall, let them know that. Keep them apprised of your goals – you need to raise $25,000 or buy 25 laptops.
Don’t treat this like the usual year-end money grab. Send nuanced appeals that specifically tell your donors how they can help.
Reach out to your major donors
Your first contact with your major donors needs to be a check-in. See how they’re doing. Then make a plan on how to proceed. These posts offer some guidelines.
Hold a virtual event
If you have an event scheduled this spring, you’ll need to figure out your best course of action. Most likely you’re counting on that projected revenue. You could postpone it, but we still might not be able to hold an in-person event three to six months from now.
Some organizations are holding virtual events or asking people to donate to what would have been your event or walkathon. If you have a walkathon or 10K planned, you could ask participants to raise money for you. This is risky because people have a lot going on in their lives and may not want to do that right now.
Seek other sources of support
The CARES act, recently passed by Congress, may offer some relief.
Your state and local government may also offer relief packages. I know in Boston, the city has put together the Boston Resiliency Fund, which is supported by individuals, foundations, and corporations.
Your current grant funders, as well as your local community foundation, may be able to help. Vu Lee of NonprofitAF (a must-read blog) is asking foundations to step up by increasing their payout rate and simplifying the application process. Both are long overdue.
Corporations could also help by providing a donation or matching funds. Large corporations that are doing a thriving business right now should do their part. I’m looking at you, Amazon, and our household is contributing to your increasing revenue. Personally, I think Amazon should give generously to communities and nonprofits, and that includes increasing the amount they give through Amazon Smile.
Fundraising in the future
Like everything else right now, we’re changing the way we do things. Whether it’s Congress coming together (sort of) to pass bipartisan legislation to me realizing doing yoga almost every day is helping me get through this time.
From now on let’s strive for better fundraising appeals. Ones that are more personal and specific. Some of us have realized the importance of planning ahead and having a plan in the first place.
My hope is people should help as much as they can – whether it’s an additional $25 or something in the millions.
Finally, give a round of applause to health care workers and anyone else out on the front lines – grocery store workers, Amazon employees, delivery people, postal workers, etc. Kudos to all of you!
Read on for more information about fundraising during the COVID-19 outbreak.