COVID-19 Resources for Nonprofits
As the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rapidly impact our communities, nonprofit organizations are facing unprecedented challenges. At a time when nonprofit services are arguably needed the most, organizations are being significantly impacted by this health crisis. That said, we’re all in this together and together we’ll get through this.
With this situation continuously evolving, we have been receiving questions and concerns from our nonprofit partners as it relates to fundraising, events, programs, etc. As we work with our partners to navigate this challenging time, we wanted to share with you our most immediate thoughts and recommendations.
In times of economic uncertainty, it can be difficult to move major gifts forward. Our best advice is to engage authentically with your donors and prospects; particularly with those closest to the organization. Lead with your genuine concern for their well-being. Take the time to connect with your donors and keep them in the loop on how your organization is responding to this health crisis. For example, we suggested that one of our partners send an email message updating prospects and donors how the organization is working to keep children and families safe during this time — e.g., preparing care packages for families and recommending that common areas be avoided.
Additionally, consider timing when making larger asks. While every day is difficult, there will be windows where things calm down and it’s appropriate to have fundraising conversations. Consider scheduling meetings for later in the year or suggest meeting virtually. Technology is a powerful asset and you can use it to your benefit. Communication is key and while now might not be the time to ask, now is not the time to be quiet.
Beyond virtual meetings and donor communication, there are many other deployable methods to engage and interaction with your supporters. For example, write an article about your organization’s relation to the current global crisis and use this as an opportunity to connect with donors, members, etc. This is a great way to create conversation and involve your community of supporters.
Similarly, many nonprofits are subject matter experts in their mission space. Think about hosting a virtual meeting or panel with leaders and experts in your industry and discuss how this crisis effects your space. A conversation like this will be attractive to your constituents. Even better, you can use this as an opportunity to fundraise by asking people to give during the virtual meeting.
For those in New York, Mayor De Blasio just announced a ban on gatherings over 500 people. For New Jersey, gatherings over 250 are banned. This means if your event is in either of these markets, you will most likely have to reschedule. We expect other metropolitan areas to follow suit as well.
Of course, if you are considering canceling or rescheduling your event, carefully weigh your options and consider the timing and financial impact on your organization. Identify what you can do to recuperate any costs from vendors and work with your legal team to review your contracts to make sure you are fully aware of your options. Keep your event leadership and sponsors well informed and involved as needed. We’re seeing a lot of flexibility within the industry so remember to communicate with your vendors – there is more than likely opportunity for compromise. If you can postpone your event to another date, that may be ideal.
If you decide to cancel or postpone, we advise doubling down on fundraising now. The mission of nonprofit organizations is to benefit society and are arguably needed the most during times of crisis or economic downturn. So, now more than ever, fundraising is critical. That said, consider other options if you cannot have your event in-person. With the advancements in video communications, the use of video conferencing technology can bring people together virtually. For example, host your event online and invite your guests to join by video. You can stream your program as planned and utilize the platform’s chat function to engage your audience. Encourage people to donate using online giving platforms such as GiveSmart or OneCause. Just because you cannot have your event in-person, it does not mean you cannot fundraise.
As it stands, rescheduling is probably the best option for most nonprofits at this time. You can carry over your tickets sales to the postponed event without having to issue refunds. Additionally, this will give you even more time to fundraise.
That said, if you have an event later in the spring or over the summer, you may be uniquely challenged when trying to fundraise. When reaching out to donors, inform them that you have a new date in place if the crisis continues later in the spring. Additionally, note that you can transfer their tickets over to that event or issue a refund. Donors hopefully will understand. We advise that you inform donors that you’ll be making the decision 30-45 days prior to the event.
If you’re in a situation where you must cancel and wait until next fiscal year to host your event, consider reaching out to donors who have already committed and ask them to keep their pledges for this year. Communicate that although the event is canceled, the need is absolutely still urgent.
With all of the above in mind, whether you continue, cancel, or postpone your event, the most important thing you can do is to make the case to potential supporters that the need is still there.
With the uncertainty in the economy being fueled by the uncertain health crisis it is unclear what the coming months will hold. Right now, prudent managers are exploring, but not yet implementing, worst case financial scenarios. Review all your contracts for the out stipulations. Also, call your vendors and ask them their opinion. They are getting calls and they will be happy to come to an agreement if necessary.
The uncertainty around COVID-19 and the economy is rapidly shifting the environment in which we work and live. In times like these we must adapt and addresses these challenges head on. Be creative and remain flexible and remember that communication is key. Use this time to engage with your donors on a deeper, more meaningful level. Create innovative approaches to your events and think strategically about your finances. Most importantly, keep pushing forward as best as you can.
Orr Group will continue to share information and recommendations as this situation evolves. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, ideas, or additional resources. We’d love to hear from you and are happy to speak individually about your specific circumstances.