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Nonprofit Fundraising and Communicating in Times of Crisis

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

For most people reading this, you likely have been forced to rethink your fundraising objectives and maybe even your nonprofit’s future amidst the onset of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

For those who have not read my blog before, I work at a “Health and Human Services” nonprofit. As a healthcare organization, we continue to take things day by day, as new information and resources are being released to us. As a healthcare organization, we have expanded in order to handle the acute needs of our community. The biggest lesson that I have learned, thus far, is how important it is to keep open lines of communication between myself, my employees, and our donors. At the very end of March, our leadership team had the foresight to launch a fundraising campaign that went viral among our supporters. This fundraising initiative was to purchase equipment and supplies that our employees would need to serve those with acute healthcare needs. My biggest takeaway from this fundraising initiative is relevance. Donors want to support an initiative that is relevant amidst a crisis situation, such as this global pandemic. When you think about your own nonprofit organization, what do you need right now? Maybe, a $1,000 dollars could help keep your staff employed, so start to think about how you can communicate the relevance of that need to your community… Of note, during this time, try to keep your fundraising goal achievable.

When you work at the executive level, your employees (whatever the number) and your donors are looking to you for guidance and leadership. I cannot stress how important it is to communicate. No matter how busy you are, no matter what crisis you are dealing with that day, do not put off communication with your organization’s stakeholders. I made it my mission to call at least five donors a day for the past three weeks, not to ask for a donation, just to ask them how they are doing amidst this crisis situation. Try to keep your finger on the pulse of your community. Every nonprofit is facing a difficult fundraising situation. If you represent a nonprofit organization that is not entirely relevant during a crisis, the donors that you consistently rely on may turn their attention elsewhere. If you represent a nonprofit organization that must grow rapidly to ensure that your community can handle this crisis, you will need to raise money to meet those needs.

How have you shifted your fundraising plan? Personally, as a healthcare agency, we took a loss due to canceling/re-imagining two special events. Luckily, our fundraising strategy is not built around events, but regardless it still contributed to us taking a hit financially. One event we were forced to cancel in its entirety, and the other event we took ‘virtual’. Do not count out your supporters or corporate partners that can help contribute to the success of a virtual event. Our fundraising plan has also shifted. Our organization now needs to raise more money than we anticipated this year. So, our board got together and we asked ourselves, how are we going to do this? Our new and improved fundraising strategy has been built around communication. Let’s start identifying, defining, and communicating our needs, as they arise! Let’s start to think about those other fundraising initiatives that we have always put on the back-burner because we always had the next event to prepare for. In the last month, I have had the opportunity to launch two fundraising initiatives to two very distinct segments of our donors. Our current donors are supporting our current needs in a big way, so we brainstormed how to bring in new donors and renew donors to help with our needs as they arise.

In summary, it is time for you to start building for your organizational future. If you have not already, start communicating with your donors. Communicate relevant messages to your donors and engage with them (call your donors!), stay relevant in all of your communication and fundraising initiatives, and shift your fundraising plan. Every organization has an opportunity, right now.

Shelby Moore - MPA, CFRE

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