Fundraising can be very challenging during times of economic uncertainty or natural disaster.
It may appear that donors are moving their dollars to immediate crisis needs versus making their regular annual gifts to their favorite organizations, but what we have seen is that donations to urgent causes are mostly in addition to regular giving.
While these are uncharted waters, flexibility is the key to getting through these unprecedented times and meeting both your annual and campaign needs.
You may need to make changes… and more changes… based on fluid situations.
Campaigns During Uncertain Times
The instinct might be to automatically call off or pause your campaign when economic conditions shift so abruptly. And it might be the right thing to do… but maybe not! There are a number of factors which come into play in making that decision.
Before you can successfully address fundraising for a campaign or your immediate needs in times of uncertainty, you need to get your arms around your needs for both the short and long term.
The Key Factors to Successful Fundraising when you have more than one funding need are:
- Donor Communications
Whether or not you’re in a campaign, develop talking points for staff and volunteers to share a consistent message. Donors want to hear from you about three main things.:
- How has the organization been impacted?
- What are you doing to respond to that impact?
- What do you need today?
Don’t avoid talking with your donors/stakeholders during upheavals. They want to know that you’re okay, your constituents are being served, you have a plan, and are responsive to the circumstances. This is an opportunity to let donors know they are needed more than ever. Share how the circumstances impact your organization, and what kind of help is needed.
If you’re in a campaign:
Let donors know your campaign is still needed and will happen. Now is the time to share or re-share your vision for the future. Be strategic about when and to whom you share the project information – talk about the project, not the campaign until the time is right. If you broadly announce the campaign too soon, it can overshadow your most immediate need (Annual Giving or Gap Funding).
Now is the time to make use of your Case for Support, either for the organization in general, or for your campaign. Messaging is more important than ever, and you should be making use of the document you have already created to keep your messaging consistent.
Resources: Plan, Budget, Staff and Volunteers
This is a good time to ensure your strategic plan is up to date and truly represents the goals of your organization. Your development plan should support the strategic vision and should clearly articulate not just the numbers, but also the strategies for raising the dollars.
For those in or preparing for a campaign, use this time to develop your project thoughtfully, determine all the components, the costs, and do outreach to potential high-level supporters. In most cases economic uncertainty is not a good time for conducting a feasibility study, so dropping packets may need to wait. Those already in campaign should probably continue fundraising depending on how far along they are. Campaigns that are near completion would do well to not plan for a public phase if possible.
Maybe you have an unexpected “hole” in the budget due to loss of revenue, or additional need for services. Your cash flow could be impacted by economic uncertainty. Develop a budget that is realistic, both in revenue and in expenses. Determine where the potential gaps or “stretch goals” are, and what will need to happen to meet those needs. Be sure to plan for any potential gaps between pledges and payments, especially as they relate to endowment revenues. Use benchmarks to motivate your team and your volunteers. Recognize that the funding community is also stretched and refocusing their efforts.
There can be a tendency to eliminate development staff during a crisis, but every effort should be made to retain your team members who are revenue generating. Your organization will need to be appropriately staffed to accomplish your campaign and annual giving goals. Clearly define each person’s responsibility making sure the roles of project management, strategy, implementation, and administration are identified and assigned. Consider investing in a consultant who can offer guidance and direction on coordination of annual giving and campaign strategies.
First and foremost, the board must stay engaged and informed about all your fundraising efforts and goals in order to feel comfortable that you are moving forward. Provide talking points for current organizational conditions so board and other volunteers can continue to be your ambassadors and connectors. Be sure you have enough volunteers to accomplish your goals!
Your universe of donors is like a garden. A flourishing garden is dependent upon the right weather and attention. In order to weather the storm of uncertain times, you may have to supplement your care for your donors. It’s important to remember that, like different kinds of flowers, they may respond differently to a changing landscape. Your job is to continue to engage and inform them.
If you are in a campaign:
If you decide to pause your campaign, let donors with impending campaign asks know the status of the project and that you’ll continue to communicate with them as you prepare to re-launch. Determine whether to make inclusive asks for campaign and annual giving, but make sure you know your donors. Some may prefer to be asked for everything at once. Some prefer to be asked multiple times for each need. Don’t let too much time go by without asking for a gift; you need them! When you don’t ask, you risk signaling to them that you don’t need them.
Nonprofits will do well to have confidence that the current conditions are temporary, and by taking strategic, thoughtful actions now, you will successfully come out on the other side
If you find yourself challenged by the current upheavals, Kennari Consulting can help you in a number of different ways:
- Annual Giving
- Grant Writing
- Feasibility Study
Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like more information!