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Surviving and Even Thriving During Trying Times

Right now, because of the coronavirus pandemic and other factors, you’ve probably got anxious donors and board members on the edge.

It’s time for you and your organization to show leadership.

We’ve got some advice for you (much of this advice is exactly the same as we offered during the Great Recession of 2007-2009):

Take a deep breath – resist the urge to panic, as so many nonprofits did during the Great Recession. As we know all too well, many nonprofits that slashed their fundraising budgets and staff so they could “save” money are the ones who felt the most pain when all was said and done. It was the organizations that continued to communicate with their donors that not only maintained, but thrived.

Get your board together – Share with them the need to stay calm. Remind them of the lessons from the aforementioned recent past. When you meet with them, ask for their input. That’s a good way to keep them engaged. They’re likely going to suggest canceling campaigns and annual solicitations. Educate them as to why that is exactly what you shouldn’t be doing at this particular time. Make sure you explain to them that in trying times there is very likely an increased need to help those your mission serves.

Get in front of your donors – Don’t avoid them. Even if it’s just a telephone call or email to check in on them and how they’re doing. Do they need anything? Remember, they’re your partners, right? Show how these difficult times are impacting your work and those you serve.

Thank your donors – Take this time to express how grateful you are to your donors for their support and loyalty. A simple phone call, email or handwritten note can really go a very long way. Especially right now when many people are feeling so disengaged and anxious. A heartfelt and genuine thank you might just be what a donor needs to feel better about things in general.

Don’t just guess that your donors won’t give right now – It’s our opinion that making the assumption that donors won’t give during this crisis is misguided. You very well may have no way of knowing what the resources are of your donors. We’ve seen it before and we’re sure we’ll see it again this time—many of your largest and most loyal donors have more than enough financial resources to give to causes that communicate the need to them—even in times like these.

You’ve got to make the ask – Maybe, because of the virus, your needs are greater now than ever before. Why wouldn’t you let your supporters know about that? This is not the time to be shy or hesitant. If donors can’t give right now, they won’t. If they can and have in the past, they’ll probably do so again. Simple as that. But you’ve got to let them know the opportunity that is available to them to help, especially now.

Finally, there will be some donors, even those who do very well, who will not give during this time. They just don’t feel as confident as they normally do. And that’s ok. I can assure you though that there will be others who step up and really surprise you.

Your leadership and ability to communicate with your donors is tested at times like these. How are you stepping up to the challenge? I’d love to hear from you.

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