Fundraising in a Post-Pandemic Summer: 2 Pro Fundraisers Compare Notes

As nonprofits around the country consider what it means to be #OpenForGood, two of our Personal Fundraising Coaches are chatting about the trends they’re noticing as organizations ease into post-pandemic life and how they’re supporting and advising their clients in a time of transition. Both experienced and dynamic coaches, Andrea is based in Asheville, North Carolina and supports a variety of nonprofits, many in urban or densely populated areas, while Chany focuses mainly on nonprofits in rural communities from her home in Bigfork, Montana. Read their previous conversation here. 

Andrea Holthouser: As we think about this year as it relates to previous years, the number one thing I keep thinking about is that we could, theoretically, have a normal summer.  

Chany Ockert: It sounds almost too good to be true! 

Andrea: Right?! Most donors who weren’t able to travel last year will be traveling. This pause gives fundraisers more time to prepare for things that are coming up at year-end because they’re not doing as much one on one during the summer months. So, I’m encouraging my clients to follow their donors’ lead — take a vacation! And then try to work on some projects that you haven’t had a chance to think about since the pandemic began. 

Chany: That’s going to look a little bit different for rural areas this year because oftentimes, we’re receiving those visitors instead of sending them. What that means is that nonprofits working in certain areas – conservation, environmental, arts & culture — are going to be significantly busier this summer than they were last summer or the summer before. On the other hand, those who are human services- or animal-oriented might be less busy. 

Andrea: Ah, that makes sense. 

Chany: Even more so than before, we’re finding that there’s going to be such a surge of visitors to rural areas and we’re expecting that those in arts, culture, and environmental areas should all plan for increased demand of services. Suffice it to say, it’s going to look different for different cause areas. But I would agree — this is the time to take a vacation, if you can, and especially if that was your norm during down-time pre-covid. 

it would be valuable for nonprofits serving popular vacation destinations to partner with local hotels and businesses

Andrea: I love what you said a second ago about how people are thinking about vacations. Because now I’m thinking that it would be valuable for nonprofits serving popular vacation destinations to partner with local hotels and businesses. Just to say, ‘come see a performance’ or, ‘learn more about what we do.’ 

Chany: And that’s what we used to do pre-2020. Going back to that is going to be important. This is the time to re-build those relationship or build relationships with new business owners and remind them that the partnership can be a value-add to their customers. 

Andrea: To pivot slightly, are you hearing anything from your clients about what they think about in-person events? Because I’ll be the first to say it; I feel like I went from saying, “tap the brakes, everybody — calm down, the pandemic is not over” to, “oh, it could be officially over” just in the course of the past few weeks. 

Chany: That’s an interesting one. I had already been telling clients to plan events for the end of summer because by then, you’ll have enough vaccine uptake that you should be fine. And many places can do outdoor events. But the question then becomes about who attends. 

Andrea: I’ve received similar questions from clients working in urban areas when it comes to in-person events. Will donors ever look at events the same? I mean, there’s a little part of me that you know wonders if it might be valuable for us to step back and rethink events on a smaller scale. Right now, I feel much more comfortable at a small outdoor gathering in someone’s home than at a huge, indoor gala dinner. Or at a virtual event. 

Chany: Exactly! Regardless of the reason, I’m telling clients that they must still plan for virtual events, as well — they have to do both. Otherwise, they’ll miss out on those donors located in another place that they met online during the pandemic. You want to continue to retain those donors. And virtual events can be an excellent way to do that.  

Chany: But to come back to the vacation question, we’re going into a time period when a lot of people are finally able to take vacations again. They can go out to restaurants. They can do everything that they’ve wanted to do in the past. Which means that there is going to be less disposable income in this situation as opposed to during the pandemic when people were giving more because ‘distractions’ like vacations and restaurants were eliminated. 

Andrea: You’re absolutely right. And that’s why taking the summer to pull together a digital “Gratitude & Impact Resilience Report” might be really useful. You can recognize your supporters for how they stepped up for you over the past year while reminding them that the end of the pandemic is not a “back to business as usual” – that their continued support will still be necessary. 

Chany: Absolutely. Speaking of summer, do you have any fun plans for the next few months?  

Andrea: I’ve got a busy summer lined up! I’m looking at buying a house in Brevard, NC, working on some tie-dye, and confirming I can still play tennis (no flash photography permitted, ha!). What about you? 

I’m blessed to live next to Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex

Chany: That sounds like a blast! Lots of hiking on my end. I’m blessed to live next to Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. And I’m also heading to California to meet my nephew – the first grandchild in the family! 

Andrea: Sounds like it’s going to be a great summer – and we have certainly waited long enough for it! 

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