In my former profession in secondary education, my first boss was fond of saying, “It’s a grand life if you don’t weaken.” Whenever there was a crisis or even a rumor of one, those were his go-to words.
His outlook was perennially optimistic and it made those who worked for him optimistic, as well.
These are, I think, good words to remember, especially during these very, very challenging days, weeks and months we’ve been living through.
As far as the world of fundraising is concerned, donors are an amazingly resilient group as is philanthropy. With only a few exceptions, giving has increased every year since World War II.
What’s also very true, however, is that in times of crisis, it’s those who are the fittest that survive. Being “fit,” when it comes to fundraising, means adapting promptly to what’s going on.
Having said that, this hardly would seem like the ideal time to be launching a capital campaign, yet, we’re aware of some nonprofits who have launched multi-million and billion dollar campaigns, even as the nation fights the coronavirus pandemic.
Optimistic? You bet. That goes without saying when it comes to fundraising and philanthropy. Whether it’s the annual fund, mid-level or major donors, fundraisers see the glass as half full as they face challenges with courage and convictions.
On the few occasions I’ve seen a development professional down-in-the-mouth about the state of things, I’ve witnessed their colleagues and donors(!) offer attitude boosts that stop pessimism almost in its tracks. Bravo!
Your job right now is pretty simple really. You can’t let pessimism or negativity become self-fulfilling prophecies. Not for your cause and not for yourself.
Stay the Course
Your attitude is of paramount importance right now. Hopefully, none of the following would describe you at this time:
Burying your head in the sand
Assuming and accepting the worst is about to happen
Your cause is a good one and it’s certainly worthwhile. At this time, more than any other, you should be:
Exhibiting enthusiasm about your organization
Expressing positivity about the future
By all means, you should not stop interacting with your donors out of a fear that you might offend them. Remember, you have a good cause. Its needs aren’t going away because corona is here. Neither is the urgency for support.
Stick with What Has Always Worked
Yes, even in bad times, it’s time-tested best practices that have proven successful for years and years that will continue to prevail and prove effective.
While this may not be the best time to try something dramatic, it surely is the right time to make sure that you reconfirm and strengthen your relationships with your donors.
Now is the time to stay in even closer contact with your constituents, especially your major donors and your major donor prospects. With this in mind, your stewardship should step up and become something you stress even more than usual. If you don’t, you will be conspicuous to your audiences by your absence.
Ramp up your communications to your most loyal supporters. Make sure you sensitively address how the crisis is affecting the economic environment and how you’re sure it’s affecting them, as well.
This is especially true if you have a case that matches the interest of your targeted audience. And you should be neither defensive nor apologetic about asking. If a donor says to you that they’re not ready to give right at the moment, accept and note that. After all, they didn’t say “no, not now, not ever.”
One client told us about a strategy where their people weren’t asking for firm commitments at this time. Instead, they were asking for a “statement of intention” for what the individual would like to do when things improved.
Have you thought about how important planned giving is at this time? Flexibility in the way you ask is a good idea right now. Of course you’d rather have cash money now, but it’s better to have a planned gift now than not to ask at all and have to try to play catch-up later on.
Remember 9/11? Fundraising came to a screeching halt. Remember the Great Recession of 2007-2009? Same thing. And this was for months and years, not days and weeks.
I’m not disregarding the seriousness of what we’re going through with this virus. Not at all.
One thing we at Rescigno’s are seeing this time, however, is that there is much more fundraising activity than there was during the above two events of the relatively recent past.
Are we recovering? Not yet. Will we? For sure.
Here’s the thing: the needs of nonprofits, your nonprofit, and the audiences you serve, demand that you move forward purposefully, yet realistically, positively, but not apologetically, aggressively, but not insensitively.
If Rescigno’s can help you with any of your crisis communication needs, please let us know.