Retaining Donors Amidst COVID-19
As fundraisers know well, nonprofit organizations achieve a greater return on investment when stewarding existing donors compared to cultivating new prospects. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty, retaining as many donors as possible is critical for nonprofit organizations. Recognizing that donors may be personally facing an array of challenges and life changes, maintaining sensitivity and compassion throughout your communications is key. While making a direct ask may not be appropriate or feasible in the near-term, here are 5 actions to take today to ensure your donors renew their support when the time is right.
1. Make phone calls to check in on the well-being of your major donors. Just like us, donors find themselves desiring personal connections to the “outside world,” especially from individuals representing the missions they believe in. Make it clear that your outreach is not to discuss giving, but to ensure the donor is safe and in good health. Ask the donor how you or your organization can support them during this difficult time. Use this opportunity to express gratitude and thank them – without their past support, your organization may not be able to respond to the pandemic as you are today. While the point of the call is not to discuss your organization’s daily operations, be prepared to discuss how it is adjusting to and addressing the current environment. When possible, opt for video conferencing rather than a phone call to further capture that human interaction during this time of social distancing.
2. Call your institutional funders to share how COVID-19 affects your ability to serve your mission. Ask your foundation and corporate donor contacts about how they are managing and find out what actions they are taking in response to the pandemic. This is also an opportunity for you to share with them the challenges your organization faces as it reacts to COVID-19. Many institutional funders are adjusting their grant restrictions to allow grantees to reallocate funds as needed during the pandemic or creating new funding opportunities altogether – they are invested in ensuring their grantees make it through this crisis. This unprecedented time presents the unique opportunity to re-engage past institutional funders more than ever before.
3. Deploy your CEO and lead fundraiser to personally call each Board Member. In addition to checking in on the safety and wellbeing of each Board Member, be upfront and transparent about how the pandemic is affecting your organization, especially its impact on fundraising. Increasing the frequency of communications with your Board Members will ensure your Board remains engaged and proactive. Similarly, it gives you the opportunity to lean on Board Members for their insights and expertise as you work together to navigate the new ‘normal’. This will allow for transparency and will ensure your Board Members remain invested in your mission.
4. Send increased, regular mass communications to all donors. While it may not be feasible to personally speak with each donor, regularly connecting with each of your donors in some way is critical. Continue using your typical mass communication practices, whether it’s email or direct mail, and increase the frequency. Express your concern for their wellbeing, describe how COVID-19 affects your programming, staff, and constituents, and share how your organization is reacting and adapting to the unprecedented challenges presented by the crisis. Ensure donors that your organization is doing all that you can to continue to serve your mission in a safe and sustainable way. Invite donors to contact you to connect and learn more – for donors who haven’t given or engaged in some time, this could be the call to action that re-engages them.
5. Leverage your social media presence to informally connect with donors. Remind your social media followers that they are an integral part of your community by sharing emotive and informational content. Share a personal video message from your CEO, produce content that uplifts your organization and promotes a sense of hope, and create opportunities for your followers to share your content to spread the work of your mission. Continue to interact directly with your followers when they engage with your Facebook page, Instagram posts, and tweets – again, personal interaction can mean so much during this time.
With so much uncertainty in the world, there is one thing that remains true – your donors want to hear from you. Maintaining a consistent line of communication will keep stakeholders informed of how your organization is adapting and inspired by your organization’s unwavering mission. Individuals will remember the time you took to speak on the phone or send a personalized note. The personal connections you make with your donor base today will strengthen and deepen your funding relationships and set your organization up for renewed support in the long-term.