How did you handle fundraising in your last global pandemic?
Author Jon Acuff recently reminded me that “this is my first global pandemic.” If you’ve been wondering how to handle fundraising for the rest of 2020 – you are not alone. No one is exactly sure how year-end fundraising will be impacted because no one has ever been here before.
But that doesn’t mean you should throw your hands up in defeat. We can figure this out.
The first question seems to be: will donors still give? The research results so far indicate yes.*
My biggest takeaway from the research: Don’t hold back on cultivating and soliciting your donors.
Here are 7 things to make your year-end fundraising successful in a global pandemic:
Don’t just ask. Make sure that fundraising ins’t the only message your donors hear from you. Be sure that you are telling them how their previous gifts have made an impact on your constituents.
Listen to your donors. Be sure that some of your communication is two-way and that you are listening to your donors. Consider personal calls to key donors. Integrate a survey into your donor communications plan.
Be transparent. Communicate honestly (and often) with your constituents about how the pandemic is impacting your nonprofit. If you had to close, tell them why and what is needed to reopen. If you adjusted services, share with them how. If you made mistakes, share what you learned and how you are improving.
Refocus on your mission. While you may have changed the way you are doing things, your mission is still the same. Communicate how you are still changing the world. Donors want to help. Your job is to show them how their financial support will help people. Tell stories that demonstrate how they will make a difference.
Look at your past success. Evaluate how you raised money last year. If you had in-person events, seek new ways to ask those donors. Find the other fundraising methods that worked and adjust as needed. You don’t have to start from scratch but you will probably have to try some new things.
You might be asking: ‘with all of the uncertainty and chaos, has my development plan become obsolete?‘
I contend no — but it is going to require some adjustment.
When I work on a development plan with a nonprofit client we follow these steps: identify where you have been, where you are and where you want to go. Then we work on the details of how to get there. So even in these days of uncertainty, those first steps would be the same. What has changed? The details of how to get you there. That’s where adjustment is needed. Here are the places to start your adjustments:
Communication methods – with the cancellation, rescheduling or redesigning of most in-person events, look at the ways you usually communicated with event participants and find new ways to share your messages with them. E-mail and social media are obvious tools right now. But don’t forget the telephone and handwritten notes. If there are volunteers who usually assist with events, ask them to help with phone calls and personal notes to engage your audiences.
Fundraising team – every development plan should include the details of “who” will be on your fundraising team. Now is the time to evaluate your plan for what tasks will need to be reassigned. This is also a time to recruit new members to your fundraising team. People want to help you change lives but you have to show them the ways to help and invite them to join you. With what is probably less in-person commitment needed, you might find additional or different people who can help that couldn’t commit in-person.
Goal adjustment – it is time for a realistic review of what you were expecting to raise in this development plan. You likely set your goals before the Coronavirus pandemic. That means those goals – dollars raised, event participation, donor renewal rate – may be beyond reach now. Take some time to adjust those numbers. By resetting to goals within reach, your team will be more motivated to work hard to reach them.
Upon completion of a development plan, I encourage clients to put it on a shelf and never look at it again (just kidding! I threw that in to see if you were paying attention). I recommend that the development plan is a dynamic organism. The plan should be updated to reflect results and adjustments. Now is the time to put the ‘dynamic’ into your development plan.
So what do you do now that your year has been turned upside down? Regroup and move forward.
Exciting news: new online class is approved for 3 points toward CFRE certification
Not all online classes are created equal – I get that. Many online classes involve watching slides and listening to a lecture. Our class is completely different. We call it discussion-style because the class is a series of video conversations between Louanne Saraga Walters and me. We walk through the steps to create a fundraising plan and include worksheets. This isn’t just watching, it’s doing.
1. Need a new development plan
If you are raising money without a plan, STOP. Well don’t stop raising money but stop trying to get it done without a plan. I’ve got the help you need. Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan will walk you through step by step to get you from where you are now to where you want to be. Feel like you are out there on your own? Creating a development plan can fix that. One of the key steps is defining your team.
2. Time to update your plan
If you have a development plan but it’s been a while since you looked at it, that’s a sign that you need to update it. A development plan should be a living, active document (printed or digital) that everyone on your fundraising team uses to know where you are going and how you are going to get there.
3. Need CFRE points Fundraising Success: The Complete Development Plan is applicable for 3.0 points in Category 1.B – Education of the CFRE International application for initial certification and/or recertification. Once you complete the online videos, we’ll send you the points tracker. If you are already certified (congrats!), use the points toward your next recertification. If you are pursuing it, use them toward your initial certification. Not sure what I’m talking about? Click her for CFRE info
But don’t take my word for it, take the class and let me know what you think. The Udemy platform allows for student/instructor interaction (that’s you and me). This is the first in a series that provides the tools you need to experience fundraising success in your nonprofit.
It happened again last week: I got turned around at the new outlet mall. My son and I were shopping for some new items at the Disney Store and we parked in our usual place near Starbucks. But I can never seem to remember which row of shops to head down. What did we do? Used the mall map and found the “YOU ARE HERE” indicator so we could map out the best route to the Disney Store. What does this have to do with a development plan? Everything!
Many nonprofits stay plenty busy with fundraising activities. Enough to do is never the problem. The problem is usually doing the right things. The place to start is by determining where you are currently. Here’s how to start: make a list of everything you are currently doing related to fundraising and development. It’s not complicated but it’s a step that many people skip.
3 Steps to Find “You Are Here”
Make a list – begin with a brain dump. List everything you do related to fundraising and development…everything. If you are part of a team, ask the rest of your team to help you. Look back at your calendar from the past year. Think back to the items on your to-do list.
Examine the results of those activities – now that you’ve made your list, write down the results. Look at the revenue and expenses for each activity. Now take that a step farther: were there other benefits? For instance, a stewardship event doesn’t show a positive net income but if it gave you an opportunity to engage your donors, be sure to list those benefits. Examine the results in terms of deeper engagement with your existing donors.
Determine what you want to keep, delete, add – based on the results, what is worth keeping? Make notes on how it can be improved. Now look at the things that didn’t raise much money and didn’t provide other benefits. Make the (sometimes painful) decision to eliminate those activities. At this step, take time to note the things that are missing from your development program.
Once you determine where you are, you’ll be better ready to decide where you want to be and how you will get there. That’s what a development plan can do for you: identify where you want to be and map out how to get there.
I’ve created a new online course with Louanne Saraga Walters of The Philanthropy Show. The discussion-style course will walk you through creating a complete development plan. It includes video instructions and valuable tools to create a development plan that will increase your fundraising results. I’m delighted to offer a discount to my blog readers. Click here for more info and to get your discount.
Pumpkin flavored lattes have arrived. The Halloween costume shops have opened. Labor Day has come and gone. What does all of that mean for fundraising? Even though it’s still 90 degrees in Florida, this is the time to get your year-end fundraising plan together. Make sure you think about more than how you are going to ask for money. Remember that the fundraising cycle includes these steps: identification, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship. For year-end giving, we tend to focus on solicitation but you can make sure you touch every step. Here’s how:
1. Identification – look back over the first 9 months of 2015. Who has been newly introduced to your organization? Look for ways to reconnect with them. Ask board members to help make these connections.
2. Cultivation – The end of the year is fast approaching but you’ve got four months left to engage your prospects in your organization’s good work. What is coming up in your organization’s activities that could be cultivation opportunities? Are there any celebrations? Do you have holiday related activities? Make sure you are inviting your prospects to see your mission first hand.
3. Solicitation – More than half of all charitable giving takes place in the last quarter of the calendar year. Remember that is you aren’t asking your donors for a gift, many other organizations will be. Make a plan to ask your supporters for a gift in the last quarter of the year. Find a way to work Giving Tuesday, December 1, into your year-end solicitation strategy.
4. Stewardship – The last quarter of the year provides many natural opportunities for saying thank you to your donors. Thanksgiving is our national holiday for this purpose. Be sure your donors know that you are thankful for them. National Philanthropy Day is November 15. This is a national event with many local celebrations including these Tampa Bay area AFP Chapters: Suncoast, Nature Coast, Polk County and Southwest Florida. In December the media will be flooded with ‘best of’ lists. Use that idea to tell your donors that they accomplished great things through your organization. Be sure that your communications are more than just asking for year-end gifts.
With four months left, you have time to wrap up 2015 in grand style. Don’t forget that the end of the year is more than asking for one more gift. It’s a chance to engage your donors in your mission.
Not every repaired donor relationship leads to a 5-figure gift but I know of at least one that did. A colleague listened to the concerns of the donor and worked within the organization to correct the problem. In an effort to reengage this donor, the fundraiser took her to lunch and was presented with a 5-figure gift. How did that happen?
Let’s look at the steps involved in repairing this relationship:
Keeping communication lines open: this can be as simple as continuing to send them stewardship reports, newsletters and other communications. Make sure that you mail often enough to keep their address current. Also, check with people throughout your organization to see who knows an unhappy donor and might be able to help you figure out why.
Listening to their concerns: many times an unhappy donor needs an opportunity to express their feelings to the organization. Listening without becoming defensive is challenging but worth the restraint. Something obviously has gone wrong. Listen with an open mind and find out where the breakdown has happened.
Admitting to mistakes and apologizing: we are not perfect nor are our organizations. Admit the mistake without throwing anyone under the proverbial bus and apologize. Determine if an apology needs to come from someone else in your organization and facilitate that if necessary.
Correcting the mistakes: this can take some time and may seem like a waste of time when there are goals to meet but don’t skip this step. In the case I heard about recently, the correction took months of coordination because it involved several parts of the organization. The development officer forged ahead – never knowing it would result in a gift – because it was the right thing to do. He knew that it was important to the donor.
The final step – and it’s really more of an ongoing process than a step – is to continue to communicate with the donor. There may never be an opportunity to ask for a gift again but you never know…for my friend, he didn’t have to ask. The donor was so pleased that the situation had been corrected that she made an additional gift without being asked.
While making chili for my family, I was struck by three things about a development plan:
Expiration dates – I was pulling the spices out of the cabinet and realized some were out of date. I appreciate the way spice manufacturers put expiration dates on the bottom of the bottles now. Sometimes I’m shocked at how old my spices are. (Note: while I’m not a gourmet chef, no one has ever died from eating my cooking). The activities in a development plan should – but unfortunately don’t – come with expiration dates. Many of the fundraising activities we do, from events to mailings, are out of date but we haven’t noticed it. Take the time to evaluate your development activities individually and as part of the whole strategy. If they no longer contribute to your program’s success, toss them out but recycle the bottle (no wait, that’s just for the spices).
Onions – I was chopping the onions and working hard not to cry. Even with my fancy Pampered Chef chopper, I still have to work very hard to not weep into my chili. How does this relate to a development plan? Glad you asked! Don’t strip what you are doing of all emotion. Starting with your case for support, make sure you keep in the things that really move people – your mission. Giving is an emotional action. Your plan should reflect that.
Never the same twice – I make my chili from several recipes including my sister’s mother-in-law’s classic recipe and the recipe that came with my Crock Pot. Each time I make it, I adjust according to what I have in the pantry and the refrigerator. Again, I’m no gourmet but sometimes it has surprising results. Once I was preparing it for friends that included a vegetarian so I left out the beef and added black beans and corn. Tonight it’s my husband’s family so I stuck to the basics. Your development plan should be just like that. Take industry best practices, good ideas from other organizations, gather the strengths of your own organization and stir.
One final similarity to chili: taste as you go. I will taste the chili as the day progresses and make adjustments as needed. Same applies to your development plan. As the year progresses, examine how things are going and make the necessary adjustments.