One of my favorite alltime movies is 1963’s “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.” All star cast, hilarious movie which has provided me with 40+ years of laughs ever since I first saw it at age 6.

I thought of that movie when watching Twitter explode with new updates every 5 minutes about coronavirus, or its official name…

The world may have gone mad but that doesn’t mean nonprofits have to follow suit. In fact, in these very turbulent times, a little planning and strategizing can go a long way.

Distance Socializing

One of the current CDC recommendations for avoiding coronavirus is ‘social distancing’- keeping 6 feet away from other people and avoiding large gatherings. The goal is to do our best to not get infected.

This guideline can have a very deleterious effect on nonprofits: If an organization was going to hold a gala dinner, auction or other fundraising event, it will probably have to be cancelled.

The biggest problem with cancellation? Losing face time with donors and supporters. A chance to catch up, build relationships, share stories, connect them to your organization’s beneficiaries and of course, raise money.

So what can you do as everyone begins dealing with the reality of quarantine, working from home while the kids are home from school and many other disruptions to daily life and normal routines?

Distance socializing. Socialize with your donors from a distance.

Timely Communications Is Critical

Now’s a time for communication, stability, being friendly and social even at a distance.

ALL your stakeholders need to hear from you. Staff, Board, volunteers, donors, funders, corporate partners and beneficiaries. Now’s the time to pick up the phone, video chat via Zoom/Skype/Google Hangout, send a personal email or even a letter in the mail (make sure to add a handwritten, personal note from the CEO).

Communications with donors? Of paramount importance. Here are a few things you should be doing to keep the lines open with donors:

  • Update them on what’s going on: How you’re continuing to fulfill your mission under the current constraints. Share the challenges you’re facing, how coronavirus affects your work and programming but also show your plan to overcome those obstacles. Remind them: Poverty/homelessness/domestic abuse etc. don’t stop for a virus.
  • When communicating with donors, ask THEM if they need any assistance which your organization can provide. They are part of your broader family and just because they support you financially doesn’t mean this can’t be a two-way street.
  • Demonstrate empathy. Keep in mind the sea of red on Wall Street monitors. You may have donors who have taken a very nasty financial hit in the last week. This only adds to the overall stress. Be sympathetic to what they’re experiencing.

How should you communicate with supporters?

  • Pick up the phone! Call, check to see how they’re doing. While you have them on the line, ask for THEIR stories of how and why they became donors and supporters of your cause. This is great material which can be used later at events, in marketing and fundraising collateral.
  • If texting is your normal mode of conversation with donors, text away.
  • An email from you might be a breath of fresh air. The entire news cycle- and their Inbox- is dominated by COVID-19, so give them a break. Make them feel good. Tell them a story.
  • And hey, if you’re already sending them an email, get to know your donors better. Send them a survey. Use the data to help build and strengthen the relationship.
  • Additionally, email is a perfect platform for updates. Have a look at a great update email from Rosie’s Place in Boston.
  • Create a landing page on your website which you update as warranted. This way people know there’s one page on your site they have to visit for updates instead of always looking for new links. You should place the latest news/updates at the top of that page. Have a link to it on your homepage and distribute that link via social media. Coronavirus is all over the news. People will be searching your site for updates.
  • Have an emergency number people can call for help? Make sure to distribute it on all channels and have volunteers, supporters and followers push it out. 

Asking For Money

As far as fundraising, no one is telling you to stop. However…

In a few weeks I’ll be releasing an ebook related to email marketing and onboarding new subscribers to your enewsletter. As part of my research I have subscribed to a LOT of nonprofit newsletters. Currently I have a ridiculous amount of emails in my Inbox asking for donations because of the virus. Some nonprofits have literally pivoted and are using the virus to fundraise, even though it is not directly affecting their beneficiaries.

Don’t do that! It’s kinda icky.

When the current outbreak directly affects your constituents, let the public know. For example, Feeding America emailed to let me know that with school closings, children will be going hungry for days at a time (no school lunch for them to eat). In that case, definitely make a case for support.

Distance Makes The Heart Grow Closer

The above video from Nick Savarese, Executive Director of the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, is an EXCELLENT example of keeping everyone updated in real time. They are being transparent and upfront, willing to evolve and change funding priorities as needs arise during this time. Watch the video and learn from a pro.

Keeping the lines of communications with your donors is a year-round endeavor. In times of crisis, it is very important that they hear from you and your organization. Keep them in the loop.

We may be living in mad, mad, mad, mad times but that doesn’t mean you should stop communicating with donors. Just the opposite: Now’s the time to increase those efforts!

Be social from a distance.

Hi nonprofit pro! NOW’S the time to be engaging with your donors. Since you might not be able to in person, let’s give your digital communications and marketing a kickstart, so we can give a boost to your bottom line!