Over the past two months, there’s been a lot of talk about the impact the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns would have on fundraising. There’s also been a lot of handwringing about whether the economic fallout from the shutdowns would cause a sharp decline in fundraising revenue.
And while the ultimate answers to those questions remain to be seen, in this article I want to talk to you about something a little more positive. Today, I want to take a look at 3 ways your non-profit can come out of the lockdowns stronger, by using what you’ve learned to rethink some of your fundraising strategies.
#1: Streamline Your Event Schedule
Over the past 2-3 months, nearly every non-profit has had to cancel its fundraising events. For many organizations, this meant moving events online, or replacing them with giving days or crowdfunding campaigns. And while many non-profits have had a hard time replacing their event income, many others have learned that their donors are more than willing to make donations even without it being tied to an event… so long as they are asked the right way.
I believe that this is a great time to rethink your event strategy. Now, I’m not saying to stop holding events… far from it. People love events and they can be a great tool for raising money and exciting your donor base. What I am saying is that many non-profits know, deep down, that they are too reliant on events. Now is the perfect time to streamline your event program.
If you were running one big gala and five small events every year, now would be the perfect time to switch to one big gala and one small event. If you were running a dozen small events all over town, now might be the perfect time to change to one big annual gala, and no other events. If you’ve got events that you “need” to have because everyone expects them (including your board)., this is your get out of jail free card… streamline your events, and plow the time and money you are saving into individual donor cultivation.
#2: Stop Using Travel Expenses as an Excuse
The single best way for your non-profit… or any non-profit… to raise money is through individual donor cultivation. Yet far too many organizations that I talk to just aren’t focused on it. They say things like, “We only have one full-time fundraiser, and our donors are spread out all over the place, so we focus on direct mail and events. We just don’t have the resources to do donor visits.”
One thing the Coronavirus lockdowns have shown us is that you don’t need to sit down with a donor in person to cultivate them or ask them for money. Sure, face-to-face fundraising is a good thing, and it will almost certainly continue to be the most powerful way to raise money going forward. But during the shutdowns, thousands of non-profits have been finding great success with doing donor meetings over Zoom and Google Hangouts, or with simply picking up the phone to call their donors.
If your non-profit hasn’t been doing personal donor cultivation because of the expense or time required to do donor meetings in-person, now is the time to build and implement a strategy for reaching donors via phone and video conferencing. Thanks to Coronavirus, more people are comfortable with Zoom and phone conversations than ever before!
#3: Be More Personal and “Human” With Your Donors
One of the hallmarks of donor communications during the COVID-era has been more organizations getting “real” and “human” with their supporters. I’ve never seen fundraising letters or e-mails that were more donor-centered as I than the donor communications I have read over the past two months. Fundraising consultants have been telling non-profits to be donor-centered for a decade or more, and it seems that the pandemic has finally gotten the message across.
Guess what? Donor-centered communications work. Donors WANT you to be more personal and human with them. They want you to genuinely care how they are doing. They want you to check in with them MORE than you used to. They want you to see them as a valuable part of your non-profit family.
Don’t stop being personal and real with your donors once the Coronavirus pandemic passes. Use this as a chance to reset your donor communications to make them more human and more donor-centered… your donors will feel closer to your organization, and as a result will want to support you even more.