For me, re-opening in Northern Virginia after a year of COVID lockdown feels…well, awkward. I’m vaccinated, yet going into Network for Good’s DC headquarters, walking into a packed restaurant, or sitting with other parents unmasked at my son’s lacrosse games gives me pause. It is vaguely familiar (‘oh, so this is how life used to be’) and vaguely uncomfortable (‘is this really safe?’). Whether you live in an area that had rigid COVID restrictions or fairly loose ones, this re-opening phase is likely to bring some change for you and your organization, as well as your colleagues, board members, supporters.
What we know for sure is that this new normal offers new opportunities for charities to fundraise. As you adjust to a national re-opening, consider what needs to change so you and your organization can be more effective at engaging your supporters and raising funds. We’re calling it #OpenforGood and here are some tips to thrive in these changing times.
1. Start with Yourself
Just like they instruct parents on a planes—when the mask drops, put one on yourself first. Think about what you need to be successful now and how the re-opening will affect your daily schedule. For some, they will return to the office, have in-person interaction with their co-workers, and a commute. Your new schedule could create stress and fatigue. For others, they will be adjusting to a working with some or all of their colleagues remotely. And while you have survived a year of virtual work, you may have been bootstrapping your way through it. It’s now time to think about your infrastructure (permanent, professional workspace, etc.) as you settle into this new environment.
2. Audit Your Fundraising Technology and Practices
“If you want to live your life in a creative way, as an artist, you have to not look back too much. You have to be willing to take whatever you’ve done and whoever you were and throw them away.”- Steve Jobs
Perhaps fundraising isn’t quite like being an artist, but Steve Jobs puts the new normal into perspective. Some organizations will return to their old practices, maybe adding virtual experiences as a way to check the box on being futuristic. This isn’t enough if you want to grow your fundraising and donor relationships. Donor expectations have changed. Take a minute to audit your old practices and outline what you want your new world to look like. Perhaps it is time to:
- Review your fundraising practices. What can be streamlined? What have you been wanting to do but haven’t?
- Audit your fundraising technology. Are you making things harder on yourself by using outdated technology? Perhaps it’s time to invest or upgrade your tools so you can work smarter.
- Set goals for new fundraising activities. Fundraising is like going to the gym. To stay fit, you have to exercise your fundraising muscles every day. That’s right—every day. What can you build into your daily routine to make your fundraising more proactive? There are so many success stories that you can draw from—sending personalized video thank you’s; converting monthly eNewsletters into short, simple text; weekly impact updates; building out multi-channel storytelling; and introducing Subscription GivingSM to your donors are great starting points.
As you walk through this analysis, if you get stuck, ask yourself:
- What is holding me back?
- Do I believe in myself (and my team)?
- What do I need to do to be successful?
3. Make #OpenforGood Fun
How do you approach change? With dread or excitement? Your attitude will affect how you step into this new phase and potentially your success. #OpenforGood holds incredible potential. The entire nonprofit sector is rethinking the future of fundraising and you are invited to do the same. Our donors and supporters at all giving levels have been primed for personalized, multi-channel experience. They want you to show them impact, keep them informed and entertained. Our donors don’t only care about your cause on the day they give, so take them on a journey to share the incredible stories—the highs and lows—that your organization experiences. Why not be a little like Steve Jobs and look for the fresh and the fun in this new world?
-Kimberly O’Donnell is the Vice President of Fundraising at Network for Good