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Don’t dig a hole you can’t climb out of

A quick check-in. How are you doing? Hanging in there okay? We're all grappling, grabbing at straws and grieving the loss of normalcy and control. I'm cheering you on and praying you're safe and healthy.

Several nonprofits have asked if they should pause fundraising during the pandemic. The emphatic answer is "No!" You don't quit; you pivot. Radio silent is not an option.

That's because fundraising is relational. (Or it should be.) And you don't quit a relationship because times are hard. You get real. You get transparent. Instead of pulling back, you lean in - with compassion. It’s about caring.

I'll bet every one of you who has called donors (individuals and foundations) has a story that goes something like this: "Honey, I'm fine. You are so sweet for calling. I do appreciate it. But how are you doing? Are you okay?"

So unless fundraising at your organization is limited to transactions and leading with "Give me," read on dear nonprofit leader, staff or board member. Especially if you're hesitating or been told to hit the long pause button on fundraising.

WARNING: If you shut down your fundraising, if you stop engaging, stewarding - and yes, asking - you’re putting your nonprofit - the very mission you love - at serious risk of having dug a hole you can’t climb out of.

The good news - donors (especially your loyals) don’t stop believing in your mission just because the government deems your program non-essential.

Do you need to pivot and re-evaluate your message? Reschedule or cancel an event? Absolutely. I feel your struggle. But it’s not a binary choice. Canceling an event doesn’t mean you stop fundraising. Pulling an appeal doesn’t mean you go radio silent on your donors.

If you didn’t start yesterday, start today. Yes, make a plan for fundraising during a crisis. But don’t let planning stop you from acting NOW. Call, email, text, zoom - whatever - using the essentials below, wrapped in compassion and caring.

8 Crisis (and Beyond) Fundraising Essentials:

  1. People first- ask how they’re doing; check in; express genuine concern
  2. Attitude of gratitude- thank them for giving, for caring, for their friendship
  3. Eliminate surprises- your facilities are temporarily closed; you’ve switched to tele-medicine; you canceled the gala
  4. Acknowledge the situation- uncertainty of the times, disappointment of not being able to be together at the luncheon, sadness of furloughing employees
  5. Serve and offer support- extended memberships, online resources, free classes, the latest discovery, helpful advice
  6. Celebrate- it gives hope. Tell a story, share a photo or video of what a win looks like for your organization (i.e. the impact your donor made happen)
  7. End with a call to action (if it’s a phone call, make sure it’s appropriate) - an honest, heartfelt, gentle ask that shows success and keeps hope alive. Examples: If you’re in a position to make a charitable gift, your support will help families in crisis get the counseling they need, virtually now and in person when this is over. Will you please consider a gift at this time for children with learning differences so they, too, can get the best education?

The answer is simple - care, communicate, connect and use common sense.

The pandemic did not change core truths overnight: Your mission is still relevant. Your donors still care about your organization. It’s still their choice whether, when and how to give. Your clients, members, students or patients still need your services. And you still need money to make it all happen.

Don’t deprive your donors of one of the greatest sources of joy - giving. Helping others makes us feel needed and hopeful. Now is definitely not the time to retreat from our mission… or our donors.

Be your strong, beautiful, resilient selves. We need that more than ever!

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