Don’t stop communicating: 10 things to do now

March 18, 2020

There’s no sugar coating it. We face a challenging situation, which is likely to get worse before it gets better. Navigating it well is vital. As you worry about the health of your family, friends and neighbors, your organization also faces an unprecedented time of uncertainty.

With new updates and information coming at us faster than we can absorb, it can be difficult to make decisions and know exactly what action to take, and when, on behalf of your organization.

Even though the situation is fluid – regular, thoughtful, purposeful communication is critical to maintaining and even strengthening relationships with your donors and prospects.

And while it’s important to reconsider all appeals that are in the pipeline to determine the best path forward, it’s just as vital that you DO NOT STOP FUNDRAISING. In past times, organizations that dialed back on fundraising out of caution or uncertainty took much longer to re-build programs on the other side of the challenge.

Here are 10 things you can do now to ensure your program moves forward with strength in this ever-changing time:

1. Ensure that you have sent an initial communication to donors about how your organization is handling the virus response and what it may mean for them.

2. Review all communications set to be sent, and those in the pipeline, including those that may be on auto-pilot. Be thorough and ensure that they are revised to strike the proper tone.

3. Create a list of bullet points about how your organization and your work is relevant in this time. Are you providing direct service to people impacted? Do you serve vulnerable populations? Are you providing essential information? Are you providing a respite from the news with art or culture? Are you helping families as kids are out of school? Continue to be proud of the work you do and share that with your donors.

4. Be ready to revise and/or re-write any fundraising appeals scheduled to be sent in the next few months. Aim to hold the copy as long as possible before printing so that it is timely. But ultimately, realize that it must still be sent.

5. Check in with your vendor partners, such as printers and letter shops to find out about their plans to continue operations during the crisis.

6. Keep your monthly donor stop-loss procedures in place, especially as employees will need to work from home and volunteers are not able to assist.

7. Make a plan for donor services calls when your staff moves to working from home. Especially with many of your donors at home themselves, you want to remain responsive.

8. Plan ahead. The economy will be deeply shaken, and people’s confidence around money and resources will be equally so. This WILL impact your fundraising results at least through the summer and quite possibly beyond. Be sure to re-forecast your fundraising revenue goals and make any revisions in tactics to shore up net revenue as much as possible and make sure the organization is ready for a new scenario.

9. Give your donors something to do. People want to feel useful in a crisis. Especially on social media and in email, you can be a connector to serving needs in the community, or perhaps to giving your donors simple ways that they can take their minds off of the worry – ways that they can then share with their own friends and family.

10. And again… DO NOT STOP fundraising, even with the stock market declines. Even though the economic outlook is bleaker than it was two months ago, you can’t possibly know what that means for your donors’ finances. In the 2008 downturn, donations overall took 12 months to drop, which is a lot of time for you to keep planning and working with donors. This does not mean that you should continue with your plans exactly as you built them back at budget time. Be smart about it, but do not stop. Organizations that pulled back significantly following previous economic challenges or natural disasters took much longer to recover on the other end. It’s your job now to protect your organization and its future.