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Help! A Coronavirus Special Edition

Editor’s note: The Ask a Fundraising Coach inbox has been flooded with questions related to COVID-19 (coronavirus). Andrea and the rest of our fundraising coaches are doing their very best to answer each of your questions quickly during this time. If you have a question or concern relating to your event, your mission, recession-proofing your fundraising strategy, or anything else – we’re here to help. At Network for Good, we’ve seen the power of small nonprofits and we know we’ll get through this together! We hope this special edition of Ask a Fundraising Coach helps you realize you’re not alone.

How should messaging change for our Day of Giving scheduled for the end of the month?  Should we continue to host it?

At this time, there is too much uncertainty to effectively plan for this weekend, let alone weeks from now. My recommendation for all activities that could benefit from crowd sizes of 10 or more is to postpone for fall (or later) and announce the new date as soon as possible.

Does your Day of Giving have a strong case to move forward as scheduled?  For example, does your organization provide service to a segment of the population directly impacted by COVID-19 disruptions? This includes homeless shelters, food banks, senior services/meal delivery, or public health clinics.

If yes, proceed as scheduled and look for opportunities to partner with local media outlets to raise awareness for your mission. Recognizing the marketing effort required to pull off a record-setting giving day, are you (and best case scenario the team) prepared and equipped to manage the campaign remotely?

Start with social media. Let’s face it – we’re all at home, but as of 3:00 pm ET on Wednesday, 3/17, the majority of us are not yet under the weather. There’s a lot you can be doing to get the word out.

If you do postpone the event, use this extra time to make this the best Day of Giving in recorded history. Build a 6-week plan to engage volunteers, identify prospects for a match, and celebrate corporate sponsors/community partners.

Attention all readers: If you have an event scheduled before June 1, 2020 and can reschedule with limited impact to essential business operations – by all means, make the decision and announce it today. If your organization does not serve individuals impacted by COVID-19, I encourage you to include links to the giving pages of up to three vetted local nonprofits that do. This seemingly small gesture can bring a ripple effect of goodwill to your community, which is sorely needed right now.

Should we hold off on our scheduled spring solicitation letters scheduled for late April?

No, this is not the time to stop communicating! Proceed as scheduled. Remember, tone is everything. Open with gratitude, be transparent about how recent developments have impacted your organization, and emphasize how important every single contribution is to your work. Too busy to strike the right tone? Check out Network for Good’s simple, smart fundraising software, which includes built-in appeal and acknowledgement templates help you stay on message and in front of donors.

Our first fundraising gala is this summer. We started approaching companies the last quarter of 2019 for sponsorships and silent auction donations. The companies that expressed interest are now understandably putting things on hold and others are saying no. Should we wait until things settle down and then resume reaching out for sponsors or continue our efforts? We actually started emailing supporters two weeks ago about early bird tickets. Should we cease everything for now? If so, when should we start again?

I’ll start with the good news. There’s a 90% chance every gala you plan after this one will be much easier to execute.

Huddle with your Board to identify a new date for your event in the fall (or to play it safe, perhaps even later). I enthusiastically recommend reaching out to the venue to confirm the new date today vs tomorrow. After you’ve confirmed with the venue and board, notify all secured sponsors, prospective sponsors, and invited supporters.  Be sure each segment receives a highly personalized message. If you don’t have fundraising software, Network for Good’s has a simple group feature that is a major time saver in times like these (check it out here).

Now that you’ve set a date in the fall, dedicate one or more social media post each week to raising awareness and support for the upcoming event. In these uncertain times, we all need something to look forward to and you may be able to secure a few more sponsors in the process. Good luck!

What are your thoughts on our strategy to utilize these next two weeks to call our donors to “check in” with them as a soft touch point?

Brilliant plan!! A few items to keep in mind below.

  • Determine if you want to leave voicemails, and if so, decide if you wish to be called back at home.
  • Be authentic, ask questions, and keep track of who you contacted. Record relevant information shared on the calls (family member updates, co-workers impacted, travel plans changed).
  • Be transparent – have a few compelling stats on hand and be prepared to share information relevant to your mission area. For example:
    • “As of today, we are down 20% year over year”
    • “Due to the closure of our After School Program, we estimate $50K in lost revenue through April”
  • Share a recent high-impact human interest story specific to your organization. Try to keep it upbeat and inspirational if at all possible.

We are all in this together and everyone can appreciate a call or kind word in these uncertain times!  Keep up the GREAT work!

I’m having a Fundraiser in the first week of June. I need to compose a letter letting my Honorees know that we might have to postpone pushback the date. Can you please help me with an example? We’re a small nonprofit and can really use your help. Thank you so very much.

Recognizing the ever-changing nature of this situation, I recommend you immediately work to identify a new date in the fall or later. After you’ve confirmed a new date with the venue and your organization’s leadership – contact the Honorees by phone or email to confirm their availability. I’ve found the key to honoring honorees is to first respect their time. Hold off on any contact until a new date is identified.

Best of luck – I’m cheering you all on from home! Stay safe.

Ask a Fundraising Coach is Network for Good’s weekly advice column, where Personal Fundraising Coach Andrea Holthouser tackles your toughest challenges in the world of fundraising, nonprofit management, donor relations, and more.

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