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While it can feel like there is no roadmap to direct us through this period, the nonprofit world has weathered past challenges that have offered valuable lessons that continue to be relevant. These past lessons, along with trends we have seen so far during this latest crisis, can help us make good decisions and avoid reactive responses. As the weeks of quarantine have turned into months during the COVID-19 crisis, trends have emerged and developed. We hope that knowing these trends both validates your own experience and helps to illuminate a path forward for your organization.
Fundraising from the general public is more similar to 9/11 than the Great Recession of 2008.
The current giving behavior more closely resembles a “disaster” or “wartime” response rather than one resulting from an economic downturn. To this end, donors at all socio-economic levels are making gifts, and some are even contributing to the COVID-19 response by making masks and other equipment/supplies needed by first responders. Donors feel like they are making a difference and are part of the solution when they are involved and engaged at this level. After 9/11, fundraising remained strong for some time as a response to the tragedy and, like today, saw donations being made by people at all levels of capacity.
In contrast, the giving response during times of economic distress and recession can contract overall. Historically, the technical definition of recession has been two consecutive quarters of negative growth in the GDP. The Giving USA Foundation annually canvases giving in the United States and for more than 60 years has produced credible data on giving patterns by individuals, corporations, and foundations across all nonprofit sectors. In all those years, the Giving USA Foundation has only reported three years where overall giving has contracted (1987, 2008 and 2009) despite the existence of technical recessions during other years. This means that during some economic downturns – during wartime, during civil unrest, and during disasters (manmade or natural) – fundraising has marched on. It is probable that we will experience the historical technical definition of a recession in 2020, but it is not necessarily probable that we will see an overall contraction in fundraising. In fact, with the outpouring of support to date for COVID-19 causes, 2020 is likely to be another year that overall philanthropy advances in the United States.
Fundraising through the COVID-19 crisis has been strong but redirected.
While overall giving appears to be robust, donors were initially most interested in responding to the COVID-19 crisis by providing gifts to organizations that provide critical and essential needs, or to organizations that are first responders to the crisis. Some organizations have made it clear that most or all their first quarter and perhaps their second quarter giving was or will be directed in this manner. More recently, donors pivoted towards Arts and Cultural nonprofits as well as Educational institutions when the breadth of the impact on these organizations from the COVID-19 pandemic became known. Donors became concerned about the long-term viability and sustainability of the organizations they have loved and supported over many years, and many donors have now provided these institutions with some level of support through spontaneous giving. We expect this trend to continue as nonprofits struggle with lost earned income that cannot be recouped.
Emergence of the “mini-campaign” to achieve annual fundraising goals.
In a typical annual giving program, the concept of a “mini-campaign” is generally not favorable. A mini-campaign within the context of annual giving for a specific purpose can cannibalize existing annual giving and cause significant cash flow problems down the road. However, mini-campaigns under the current circumstances are different – and can be effective. Start the process by identifying what revenues you will lose through the year (such as ticket sales or program costs; anything that is dependent on people showing up). Concurrently, identify what operating expenses will increase as a result of working in a different environment. Subtract savings garnered from staff working at home or other operational savings and you will determine the gap in your annual operating budget needed to ensure you finish the fiscal or calendar year in the black. This gap may range from a few thousand dollars to a few million (generally, gaps in the $250-$500k range are not unusual).
Once you have identified the gap caused by lost revenue streams, increased expenses, and subsequent operational savings, first consider opportunities that are available to regain revenue (for example CARES Act opportunities, MCACA, Chambers of Commerce or United Ways) and apply for each opportunity available to your particular organization. Donors appreciate that organizations are trying to mitigate their gap through these opportunities before coming to them. Once these opportunities are exhausted, then fundraise towards the remaining gap.
Like all fundraising, successful fundraising to the gap begins with a winning strategy. If your organization conducted a “one and done” online appeal in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis it most likely was not successful for any number of reasons. Fundraising appeals that are very specific and targeted, recurring over the course of a few weeks with an accompanying digital strategy and a matching gift have been much more successful. Further strategies to meet the gap may include turning events that were intended to be “in person” into virtual events, major gift solicitation, and grant writing.
Individual major donors are more important than ever.
In any given year, according to the Giving USA Foundation, the percentage of gifts that come from individuals is approximately 80%, with 15% of gifts coming from foundations and 5% of gifts coming from corporations. In a downturned economy, the percentage of the pie given by individuals grows as corporate giving and foundation giving declines or stays steady. This means that it is more important than ever to seek gifts (of all sizes) from individuals. It is important to take time to identify donors that can help make up the fundraising gap and reach out to them. Begin by discussing their personal experience with COVID-19; many people want to share what they have experienced. Let the donor know what your organization is doing and how it is adapting to the ever-changing circumstances caused by the pandemic. Outline the steps the organization has taken and is taking to mitigate financial challenges caused by the crisis. Ultimately, use your judgement about the final step to take in donor calls. Your call may be a cultivation call, but if the conversation goes well and their personal circumstances warrant it, you may have the opportunity to discuss your funding gap. If support is offered, be specific; give donors tangible examples of what their support would allow the organization to accomplish. Donors can become overwhelmed when a problem feels too big. Show them how their gift will make a difference to your organization’s constituents.
You now have time to plan.
Under our normal everyday circumstances, we are pulled in many different directions and rarely have the time to strategize and plan. As you consider the current situation for your organization and how the pandemic may impact operations and fundraising going forward, use this time as a valuable planning opportunity. The organization that carefully thinks through what lays ahead, will be legions ahead of organizations that believe they will be able to pick right up where they left off before the pandemic gripped our worlds. Think about all aspects of your programming, operations and fundraising and create realistic, achievable plans for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next.
Opportunity to do things in a new way to move your mission forward.
One of the most inspiring aspects of the COVID-19 crisis is the overwhelming commitment and dedication on the part of nonprofit organizations, hospitals, educational institutions, and faith-based organizations to deliver their important missions to their constituents. From the rise of telehealth to online learning platforms and programs to Zoom rehearsals, organizations have been creative and innovative, helping to move them forward for the future.
This is, of course, the silver lining to the current crisis, and the thing many of us will remember far into the future as a turning point to delivering services in a different way to potentially far more people. As organizations have learned, the work is still important – it just must be delivered in a different way. Share these new approaches with your supporters and how you anticipate continuing to use them in the future. They will be happy (and relieved) to hear that you are still moving your mission forward.
But most importantly, if your organization is not doing these things, your organization may lag far behind others when we finally return to “normal.”
Those who learn, grow, and become more resilient will be stronger on the other side.
One of the most important lessons I learned myself during 2008 was that growing, learning, and becoming more resilient made me stronger when the economy improved in 2010. And I watched as our nonprofit clients experienced the same thing. If they were bold, persistent and compelling in communicating with their donors, and continued to move their mission forward in creative and innovative ways, they not only weathered the storm better, but were able to grow faster when the economic crisis finally passed.
While this is an historic and challenging moment in time, it is also an opportunity to find new and creative approaches and to reassess how you have been doing things. Organizations that continue to make their case and continue to communicate with those who love and support them will learn, grow, and be stronger on the other side. Keep calm, and keep moving!
The current climate is ever-changing – and it is ideal to consider smaller-scale ways to safely gather supporters or potential supporters of your organization, once we have been cleared to do so. House Parties are an effective way to gather a smaller, targeted group of guests on behalf of your organization. Successful house parties are hosted by an individual or a couple on behalf of an organization, with the host(s) covering all or most of the associated costs. Most of the time, these events take place in the host’s home, but there are times when an alternate location is used – especially under the current circumstances (we have seen them hosted in parks, country clubs, and so forth.) Invitations for house parties are sent to a very targeted and intentional guest list, determined with the goal for the evening in mind.
For purposes of this article, House Parties are smaller-scale events with a targeted guest list. (Large, ticketed events with sponsors are a separate tool, more similar to an evening fundraising event.)
House Parties in the Current Context
We are living in uncertain and ever-changing times. As gatherings become “normal” again, it will be increasingly important to consider the size of the event post-COVID19 – keep it small! There is a real possibility that we may not be able to host large gatherings in the fall (whether due to regulations or due to comfort of guests), in which case it may be ideal to hold a series of smaller house parties rather than your typical annual event. While planning, consider the best location to safely gather your guests, whether a patio, yard, large living room, or other large space. Also remember to consider other safety measures – how you will serve food and beverages (with minimal contact), how you can eliminate multiple touches of materials (such as pens and envelopes), etc. Making sure your host and your guests are comfortable in the party environment will be crucial.
Identifying Goals and Follow Up
Identifying your goals for the house party is the most important step in planning. Your goals and intended outcomes will help determine your host, your guest list, and your program. There are several reasons you might host a house party – building awareness; connecting with current or potential donors; making an ask.
For house parties to introduce your project or organization to potential donors, make sure to work with your host to identify the best way to get guests in the room. It’s also crucial to determine follow up steps for each prospect to keep them engaged; what cultivation steps are appropriate? Who will be responsible for those steps?
House parties can be a great cultivation tool for current or prospective donors. This party can be a stepping stone or a final step in the cultivation path for prospects not yet involved with the organization or current donors you may be asking for an additional or increased gift. Make sure to work with the host to identify next steps for each guest. You’ll want to identify what the ask is for, the amount, the appropriate method, and whether any guests should be primed prior to the event.
For house parties that include an ask, set your intentions in advance. What need will you share? What kind of ask will it be? If guests do not give at the event, how will you follow up with them? Regardless of what you determine to be your goals or intended outcomes, make sure they are clear to all involved. The goals shape every piece of the planning purpose, as well as the details of the evening.
What Makes a (Good) Host
The best hosts are long-term supporters who are passionate about your mission and happy to share their history with the organization. Genuine passion is a motivator and disingenuous interest is obvious.
Your host should be someone who has a connection to your target audience, is comfortable “working the room,” and is supporting the specific project or piece that you are presenting. (It is much easier, and more meaningful, to make an ask once you’ve given! If the host hasn’t given, why should their guests? Again, this includes if they have underwritten some (or all) costs of the event.) An added bonus is a host who wants to use their gift, or an additional gift, as a challenge to their guests.
It’s important to set expectations early with your host. How involved do they want to be? What specific tasks are they interested in managing? What is their preferred method of communication? Your host is helping your organization by hosting this party, and an easy way to show them your gratitude is to meet them where they want to be with respect to the party.
The Guest List
Your house party guest list is formed based on both your host and by the goals for the evening. Are you inviting cold prospects, prospects you are cultivating, current donors, community leaders, or a mix of all three? Current donors (or volunteers) can be a great tool, as they are already excited about your organization/mission/project and can share that excitement with prospects. Just be sure to find the right balance for your goals. And remember, a connection to the host will help get guests in the room.
A few tips from the field to keep in mind while planning your guest list:
• Identify the capacity of the venue – both the comfortable capacity and the max capacity (particularly observing COVID-19 restrictions).
• Not everyone may be able to attend, so make sure to invite more than your determined capacity. It is helpful to come up with a “B List” of guests. These aren’t people of less importance, but maybe have less of a connection the host and to your targeted goal. Determine the best time to invite that second group – it can’t be so late that they know they are B List! As the planner, you also want time for RSVPs and follow up before final counts are due.
Party Program Components
Your host can help identify the best format and timing to appeal to the guests in the room. Common elements that we suggest are included in a standard house party flow include: • Mingling – Have your host and any volunteers introduce staff to prospects as they arrive and get settled. The host can also use this time to share their excitement, connection, and passion on an individual, more tailored basis.
• Introduction by host – Open the program with the host sharing their connection to the cause/organization/project and reasons for their support.
• Video to introduce project and/or organization – Videos are helpful to capture details of the organization or project in a visually-appealing way.
• Present gap, solution, and current status – This piece of the program will align with the identified goals of the party. Depending on the intended outcome for the party, you might be sharing your current project and campaign; an identified piece of the campaign; a scholarship; a specific program; etc.
• Call to action – The call to action is most effective if presented by the host; however, if they are not comfortable, a captivating staff or volunteer is another great option. The call to action will be based on your goals for the event and the guests in the room. Is it an ask? A soft ask? Is it a “watch for an invitation to our follow up party?” Is it ”tell your friends?”
As we may be social distancing for awhile longer, it will be increasingly important to consider ways to safely gather when conditions allow. House Parties can be a great tool to productively (and safely) spread the word about and support your organization. And now is a great time to start planning that next opportunity!
In this challenging public health crisis, our community has been impacted in many unexpected ways. Nonprofit communications should be carefully considered to have the best results.
Donors Want to Know Three Things:
- How has your organization been impacted?
- What you are doing about it?
- How can they help?
First of all, it’s important to assess your situation. You need to be able to communicate your needs; how is the COVID-19 situation affecting your:
How are you continuing to serve your target population? How have you shifted or adapted your programming to meet critical needs? If you’re not meeting critical needs, keep blanket messaging minimal and instead focus on communicating one-on-one with your closest stakeholders. Segment and then communicate. Consider the volume of messages you’re getting right now as an individual.
Fundraising Strategy for Events
Communicate often as you progress with your plans. Evaluate other formats or postponing before cancelling. Develop a strategy for sponsors, especially for events moved online. Virtual events will need extra reminders and outreach to pierce the extra “noise” online right now.
If an event is a trigger for a regular donor to give, contact them personally and ask them to renew their commitment. If you have donors that normally make their gift at the event, reach out to them individually and ask them to renew their support. Come up with targeted or personal outreach to those donors to drive their engagement to events offered in a different format.
Fundraising Strategy for Appeals
For many organizations, this is the time their annual spring appeal is going out. Before you send your appeal, make sure your content is relevant to the now. If you are meeting critical needs, share the increased need for support based on the way you have adapted/stretched to meet new or different needs in the community.
If you are not offering programs or services right now and are not meeting critical needs, you should still communicate with your top supporters. Communicate the need for operational support so you can resume your programming once the pandemic has passed and ensure you can continue to serve the community.
Now is the time to share or re-share your vision for the future. Those who are in the planning phase should minimize outward communications and focus on project development. If you are already in the fundraising part of the campaign, talk about the project, not the campaign. Communicate directly with major donors who have already committed, and with those who have pending asks. Let them know if you’re pausing or continuing the fundraising. Continue to talk about what you’re doing and the need/impact. Develop current talking points to share. Timing may not be good for a public phase to complete your campaign. Communications should not conflict with your current operational needs. Consider how donors and volunteers are impacted. It’s a good time to ask how they’re doing.
Make sure to let the inner circle know first about any changes in the campaign. You want the board, staff, and campaign leadership to be well-informed before pushing information out to others.
Major Disruptions take two different forms – External and Internal Challenges.
External challenges include broad disruptions such as COVID-19, 9/11, 2008’s Recession. Recognize that essential needs will take the lead — and always stay calm, and keep moving. Remember that this is temporary.
Internal challenges may include a change of leadership, such as your Executive Director retiring. When leadership is changing, donors still want to know that you have a good plan for finding their replacement and that there will be no disruption in delivery of the mission. One-on-one outreach to the top tier of your donors and “friends” is critical. Consider:
– Honoring them with a special fundraising initiative
– Communicating once you have a plan for hiring or once you have found the new leader
Communicating with Internal Audiences
Keep your board, volunteers, and partners informed during challenges. Be sure you have current information on the situation that you can share with staff/board/volunteers. If they don’t feel they can communicate your situation, they will hesitate to be an ambassador. Keep it simple and up to date if the situation is fluid.
You don’t want a Cabinet member or major funder to hear you’re making a significant change in the scope or timing of your campaign from someone other than YOU, so work from the inside out as you roll out messaging.
Challenging times require a strategic and flexible communication plan. How and when you share your story can make the difference in helping your organization come safely through the storm and ready to hit the ground stronger than ever once things settle out.
Meet Elyse Bax! Elyse is a graduating senior at Calvin University, receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication next month. We are excited to share that Elyse recently began a career as a Special Events Coordinator at an area nonprofit!
Three Lessons I Learned During My Internship with Kennari Consulting
When I found the internship with Kennari Consulting on Handshake, I had no idea the impact it would have on my career. Having spent a couple of years working in the alumni and development office at my university and in other development offices around town, I entered my internship with some development knowledge. However, like they say: you don’t know what you don’t know. My time at Kennari was a constant stream of learning the ins and outs of the development field in general and, more specifically, in Grand Rapids. However, the biggest lessons that I took away from my time at Kennari were not practical skills. Instead they were lessons that have changed my personal philosophy on fundraising and work.
- Fundraising changes lives.
While this may seem obvious, as someone who often gets lost in the details of any given project, this lesson was an important one for me to remember as I did my work. During my time at Kennari, I got to bear witness to the success of the new Grand Rapids Promise Zone; a project that I was not personally involved in but was privileged enough to witness a fraction of the hard work that went into it. It was projects like the Promise Zone, which will give hundreds of students across Grand Rapids the opportunity to attend college, that reminded me of the overall importance of fundraising. The missions of organizations are impossible to execute without the work of the development staff working day in and day out on securing annual giving, campaign gifts, event planning, etc. It is because the money is coming in the door that the lives each organization touches are able to be transformed.
- Relationships are everything – especially within your team.
Relationships and fundraising are two concepts that have gone hand-in-hand since the beginning of time, and throughout my time at Kennari, I definitely learned about the importance of maintaining relationships with donors. However, I would argue that the relationships you create amongst the staff (development or otherwise) of your organization alter your ability to work effectively more than anything else. It didn’t take long for me to learn that the Kennari team is tightly knit. There is a deep-rooted trust in one another that drives their ability to execute excellent work for each client. Even as a new intern I was trusted with larger, client-facing projects and given responsibility to solve problems – both on my own and collaboratively. What was even more surprising to me was that throughout my entire seven months at Kennari, I never once heard a team member speak poorly of another. It is this kind of trust in team members and community that was a true highlight of my Kennari experience.
- Mentorship is a gift.
Kennari means “teacher” in Icelandic and teaching flows through everything that Kennari does – including their internship program. Throughout the program, I had the privilege of learning from everyone on the team – whether it was from office interactions, project leadership, or shadowing. It was not uncommon for a consultant to pause in the middle of a client meeting to explain a concept to me or for a consultant to tag me in on a project simply so that I could learn how and why it was being done. Furthermore, as the time grew closer and closer for me to graduate, it was not uncommon for consultants to send me job postings – supporting me even though it would mean leaving the internship program in the middle of my second semester. As I leave Kennari and start my career in development while finishing my degree at Calvin, I don’t take the last seven months of mentorship and support for granted.
I am forever grateful to the entire team at Kennari for shaping my professional and personal skills and philosophies so significantly. I am so thankful for every single opportunity I was given this year and I am so excited to take what I have learned into the next step in my career. Thank you for everything. I can’t imagine a better organization for me to spend my senior year with.
Elyse was an invaluable asset to the Kennari team for the last two semesters! Her confidence, desire to learn, humor, and excellent communication skills will serve Elyse well in her fundraising career. We are thrilled that she is starting her career with an outstanding organization in our community and look forward to crossing paths again in the future!
To learn more about Kennari Consulting’s internship program, check out our careers page.
Even as we move through another work week in our “new normal,” it’s ok if you feel like things still really aren’t normal at all. When we are not quite sure what the future holds, it can be difficult to adjust and feel comfortable even when we establish a daily work routine. Kennari Consulting knows that this is even more true for all the organizations out there that work to improve lives and uplift communities; your concern for the people you serve is an added stressor in all of this. That is why it is important to stay connected to the people who love your mission as much as you do. Speaking about your work and how you plan to continue your impact will not only help you feel more grounded – it will help your supporters understand what you need.
There are many ways you can continue your fundraising efforts during these uncertain times, and the more you do now, the easier (and faster) you will be able to move forward once we truly do return to some level of normalcy.
1.) Keep your meetings on the calendar. Staying connected with your Board and committee members is essential for your organization’s progress. Continue the routines – take minutes, create agendas, develop action plans. This will help people realize that work can still get done right now. Even if you are in the middle of a campaign, continue holding meetings with your volunteers, if only to update them about the organization’s response to the pandemic. These are dedicated stakeholders who are invested in your organization and they will want to help find ways to keep moving forward.
2.) Set up one-on-one virtual coffee dates with your stakeholders. Mirroring what you might typically do with your supporters, albeit via technology, will help you both feel a little more connected. Start by making sure they are safe and listen to their story about how they are impacted by COVID-19. Many people now know someone who is dealing with the very real issues of the pandemic and they may want to share their feelings. Provide updates on what you are doing to keep your employees and program participants safe and ask their opinion about fundraising efforts. It’s important to acknowledge the difficult circumstances we are all in and make sure your language reflects the sensitivity of each person’s individual situations. However, it really is ok to still talk about fundraising. Share how you’re delivering on your mission in a unique way – maybe through technology or by adapting in other ways. You’re being creative and, in many ways, inspiring, to support those you serve – share those stories with your donors.
3.) Start getting more specific with what your organization needs and how your donors can help. If you are through your initial touchpoints and conversations with your supporters, it’s time to reach back out again and provide clear information. If you are meeting increased direct needs of the community because of this crisis (food delivery/distribution, health care, senior living, etc.) share how different levels of giving will support specific needs and goals. If it costs you $100 to provide 10 freezer meals to a senior, share it. If it costs $5,000 to buy needed protective gear for medical personnel, tell your donors. When donors know what their gift can do, they will be more motivated to give and support your efforts.
4.) Remember the importance of grant funding right now. New opportunities for grant funding to respond to this crisis, or provide emergency relief, are coming out every day from government and local resources. It might be difficult to stay on top of what is being released, as well as assess whether your organization is eligible or a good fit. We have compiled a summary of a few of the most relevant options for nonprofits here: COVID-19 Nonprofit Financial Resources. Kennari Consulting is happy to share what we’re learning on eligibility, whether you need us to write the grant or not. You simply need to reach out.
While we all want to feel “normal” right now, it will take some work to get there. Continuing to advance your mission and connecting with supporters will help you and your stakeholders. The work you are doing now is more important than ever. Your communities need you. There may be difficult times ahead, but you can do this. Keep calm and keep moving!
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!
As the world changes rapidly around us, we are reaching out today to provide another update and encourage you to keep moving forward. In our last communication, we likened this time to an uphill bike ride – it’s important to keep pedaling, even if at a slower pace!
At Kennari Consulting, we continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 outbreak and follow Kent County Health Department and Ottawa County Health Department guidelines (visit accesskent.com for more information). They are working with the State of Michigan and the CDC and are updating the local guidelines as state and national guidelines change. We are following the CDC’s Guidance for Businesses and Employers. As such, we moved all client and internal team meetings to video or phone. While some of us are learning how to use it, we are thankful for the technology that allows us to continue supporting our nonprofit clients in their important work.
As we work together to adjust to rapidly changing conditions, we offer you a few pieces of practical advice to make sure you keep pedaling up that hill.
TIP #1: Working remote can be daunting. Create a “work from home” plan.
A few ways to help you stay productive while working remotely include creating a dedicated work space in your home, with all your supplies; creating as much of a structured schedule as possible, making sure to include breaks for yourself; and getting creative with communication and going beyond email – chat apps and videoconferencing can help you feel more connected. Remember to communicate regularly with staff on priorities and expectations, so they have direction on how to handle this unusual situation – and provide supports and resources when needed to help staff manage this unique work environment.
TIP #2: It seems counter-intuitive right now but stay in touch with your donors.
In this time of great uncertainty, your donors do want to hear from you. They want to know what you are doing to address this crisis and how your constituents will continue to receive services– and they will also be thankful for the connection. While we are all doing the right thing by keeping to ourselves to contain this outbreak, there is no doubt that many individuals will be alone and will welcome the opportunity to hear from one of their favorite organizations. We suggest you create a list of your donors or major donors (whichever number is more manageable) and personally call each one to 1.) ask how they are doing during this difficult time, and 2.) provide a brief update on how your organization is handling the outbreak. This may not be the right time to make an ask – but also do not be surprised if donors ask how they can help.
TIP #3: Figure out how to maintain the impact of your upcoming events so you don’t lose ground.
We know that, for the near future, events cannot be conducted in person. However, there is likely a better option than simply canceling your event. There are many ways to mobilize supporters virtually, and it’s likely your major donors and sponsors are looking for ways to help organizations provide the services needed by so many in our community during this time. Put together a plan that can continue to move your mission forward.
TIP #4: Pursue those grant opportunities, even if it feels hard to plan for the future right now.
In times of need, funders step up to the plate, and we know grant opportunities are still there, though priorities will likely shift. Funders may be interested in supporting your organization’s efforts to respond to this complex situation, and these resources may be enormously helpful to you as you adapt to these new circumstances.
And finally, take a moment during the chaos of our current reality to reflect on the value of your work. Each and every one of you makes an impact, and this community needs you. We are here to help you continue your incredibly important services and programs. While no one is sure how long we will have to pedal uphill, what we do know is that, at some point, there will certainly be an end.
We take the health and safety of our clients and the people they serve very seriously. As such, we are closely monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and taking necessary precautions. We are following the advice of the Kent County Health Department and the Ottawa County Health Departments, both of whom are working closely with the CDC and the MDHHS and we are following their advisories for businesses and their employees. Visit accesskent.com for more.
Keep calm, but keep moving
That said, it is understandable that nonprofit leaders may feel especially uneasy during this time of uncertainty with regard to fundraising. Should we keep meetings with volunteers? Should we make asks? Should we hold our events? We know that you have put a lot of time and energy into planning your fundraising strategies to ensure your organization has the financial resources to deliver on your mission. We can all remember previous times of uncertainty and how those same feelings surfaced and impacted our decisions. It is a normal reaction because we are all passionate about our organizations, our staff, and those we serve.
What we know from previous national emergencies (such as 9/11) and economic downturns is that, while giving detracted, it certainly did not go away. Organizations that remain present through these times, maintain communication with their donors, and are thoughtful in how they engage donors will come out of this period stronger and more resilient. That was certainly the case for our clients that endured through the 2008 recession. So, what can you as nonprofit leaders do to ensure continued fundraising success? We have some practical advice for you as you contemplate your fundraising work over the next few months.
First, as much as possible, maintain business discipline, even if your work becomes remote. Look to your local health department for recommendations and advice. If your local conditions call for social distancing, come up with alternatives for meetings and activities currently on your calendar. For example, don’t cancel your board meetings. Instead, use a conference or video service. Share information with your clients/patrons about alternative ways to reach you if needed. To the extent it is possible, keep your organization moving forward.
Second, keep communicating. Your supporters and volunteers want to know that you have a plan. You can’t reassure them if you go dark. The first thing you should address in your virtual meetings or communications is, “how are we preparing for or responding to the challenges caused by this health issue?” The worst thing you could do is pretend it’s not happening. This issue matters to your stakeholders. Make sure you respect and help allay their fears.
Third, keep fundraising! People don’t stop giving during times of crisis, though they may shift their priorities. Your supporters need to know that their gifts are more important than ever. Keep cultivating donors, even if you do it through one-on-one phone calls instead of face-to-face meetings. Keep planning your events but develop a Plan B to take into account potential complications caused by the inability to continue your event “in person.” Start getting pieces in place now (e.g. recording videos of your Executive Director, CEO or planned keynote speakers, drafting communications, aligning other digital assets) so they are ready if you need them. If you are unable to hold an event, consider options like postponing, hosting it virtually, or sending a communication via mail instead.
And fourth, create an ROI from this gift of time, as much as we may not wish for this gift of time. You might not be as busy with day-to-day activities in the next months. This is a perfect time to do those things that get pushed aside during the craziness of everyday life:
- Write that newsletter that’s overdue.
- Update your thank you letters.
- Update and fine-tune your mailing list.
- Spend a little time updating your development plan.
- Update your website.
- Refresh your major gift program
- Encourage your board to spend time thinking about potential board candidates.
- Send your volunteers a sincere thank you.
- Evaluate your progress against your strategic plan.
- Contact your donors and donor prospects by phone or video call
During this challenging time, your job is to keep your organization moving as much as possible, even if you must shift into a different gear. It will be easier to ramp back up when the crisis has passed if you have continued making progress during this difficult time.
Think of this time as an uphill bike ride. Don’t stop peddling! Keep moving, even if at a slower pace. The organizations that keep peddling will be ready to pick up speed once we reach the crest and will be stronger on the other side.
For the past 13 years, Kennari Consulting has been helping nonprofits plan for and fund their futures through campaigns, annual giving programs, grants, program development, and more. But we know that our services, as they stand, can’t reach every nonprofit. So, we are proud to announce the launch of Fundkit, powered by Kennari Consulting, as a complement to our current services. This new video training platform allows us to share our results driven approach and effective tools with a wider audience.
Fundkit has been developed to help nonprofits of all sizes master fundraising to achieve their goals and, in turn, impact their community. Each course is made up of a series of videos that focus on a specific topic. By the end of each course members of an organization will have a deeper understanding of the topic, giving them the ability to take immediate action. Further, the videos are paired with professionally developed toolkits that include templates, guides and examples. This homework helps to bring what is taught in the course out of the abstract and into the real world.
For fundraising professionals and volunteers, Fundkit offers access to knowledge and advantages previously inaccessible for many. Small nonprofits struggling to find funding for consulting or professional development can use Fundkit to grow their internal capacity and outcomes. For larger nonprofits, Fundkit can be shared with fundraising committees, boards, and in onboarding new staff, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
“We work with a lot of nonprofits in onboarding new staff, helping committee members understand the value of a major donor program, and helping organizations build a truly successful event. The beauty of this platform is that it can be used for all of these purposes. It starts simply for beginners, but also grows into a powerful tool for seasoned professionals looking to expand their knowledge or update their tools,” said Laura Kruisenga, COO of Kennari Consulting.
Kennari is releasing Fundkit with two video series: Evening Events and Developing a Major Donor Program, with more to come in 2020. We plan to expand the offerings to include topics such as database management, monthly giving, planned giving and more. Later this year, we will begin inviting other professionals to teach about subjects they are experts in as well, expanding nonprofit knowledge and capacity in other areas that support fundraising. These courses will be vetted by Kennari staff but allow other professionals to join together as a team of industry leaders.
“With the launch of Fundkit this spring, we envision the potential to bring this platform to new teachers, new nonprofits, and to train the fundraising leaders of the future. We also recognize the incredible value in engaging others who have expertise outside that of our Kennari staff,” said Kruisenga. “Kennari means “teacher” in Icelandic, and we are honored to be able to live the meaning behind our name in a new way. We all win when knowledge is shared.”
Learn more about Fundkit at getfundkit.com.
Many nonprofits are in a place where having a table-hosted style event make sense for them as a donor acquisition tool. However, some of these nonprofits are missing out on the opportunity that comes from gathering your table hosts in a room prior to the event.
Last night I had the pleasure of attending an extremely unique table host training. A local museum was holding their “Host Happy Hour.” It was held at the museum and included drinks and very light appetizers; but the coolest thing was that I had the opportunity to hear from the Director of the Museum, walk through a new exhibit with my wine in my hand, and overall felt more connected to an organization I have known for years!
Whether your organization has done this event multiple times or this is your first, I want you to know the value of holding a kick-off of some sort for your hosts. I’ve looked at statistics from several non-profits we work with and for sure, your most engaged hosts are doing the best job at guest recruitment and giving. In fact, data showed that on average, a trained host produces about 35% more in revenue than an untrained host.
First, just like my time at the museum last night, think of your table host training as an engagement opportunity. And replacing the world ‘training’ for ‘happy hour’ doesn’t hurt!
Second, think of unique and creative ways to make your training, well, more appealing. And by unique, I still mean very budget friendly. Consider hosting it a winery or a brewery. Hold it in your organization in a unique area. Have a table host open their home. Include a mission moment. Have your Executive Director share new information that not all stakeholders know yet. Share what was raised at last year’s event and what was accomplished with those funds.
Jen Antel with West Michigan Trails & Greenways Coalition shared how valuable their host happy hour was. “We opened with everyone sharing one thing they loved about Trails. In fact, we identified our speaker for the event… he spoke so passionately about trails and was able to answer a lot of questions for the newer hosts.” She went on to say that this kick-off also allowed them to see who the struggling hosts might be so they would know who to spend extra time with.
Once you have that stellar event – because how could you not with a great Host Happy Hour? – it’s time to do follow up. Good news, tons of donations. Bad news, tons of data entry.
My best advice here: PLAN AHEAD. If you have planned ahead for intentional follow-up, you will make greater strides. After all, what good is it to gain a bunch of new donors, major donors, monthly donors, but then not follow up with them? They won’t stick around long.
Build follow up into your event planning timeline. Block out time on your calendar the day of (or day after) for phone calls and let nothing interfere. Sit in your car with your cell phone if you have to! Build a hierarchy of who will call whom ahead of time, so the plan runs more seamlessly. A phone call within 24 hours says a lot about how much you value your donors.
If you have not yet implemented a table-hosted event but feel like that would be a good fit for your organization, please reach out to us! We would love to hear from you – whether to start a new event or help you grow your event!