Leveraging Communications to Maintain Donor Engagement through COVID-19
The pandemic is everywhere, all the time. It is affecting, and changing, everything. As fundraisers, we realize that included in that change, is our strategy for engaging donors and prospects.
A recent survey conducted by Fidelity Charitable to see how individuals are thinking about philanthropy amid the pandemic found that one-third of respondents feel they don’t have the information they need to understand where they can direct their support effectively. The survey also revealed that the majority of donors want to continue giving at the same level or above what they have previously given.
Interacting face-to-face, the gold standard of donor communications, is no longer a possibility in many cases. However, it is clear from the survey referenced above that donors are hungry for more information and are anxious to roll up their sleeves to help in the greatest way possible. While we remain socially distant, development professionals have found creative ways to leverage communication to build meaningful connections with supporters. The most successful fundraising executives right now are those focusing on being direct, transparent, and purposeful.
Many of the nonprofit organizations seeing the slightest fundraising dips have well established one-on-one relationships with their donors. Going beyond email, newsletters, and social media posts, they have carved out the time for important donor conversations via phone and video calls. Conversations like this will not only help you build your relationship, but also give you the opportunity to share what changes your organization has made in response to the crisis. Use these moments to grow your personal connection to the donor.
With so many nonprofits sending ecommunications right now, we are repeatedly asked how it is possible to stand out and be heard by donors. Simply put, be authentic and honest.
Share with your donors and volunteers how the organization’s revenue has been impacted as a result of the pandemic. In doing so, provide the relevant context a donor needs to fully understand the financial impact on your organization. For example, share what percentage revenue is down instead of just dollar amounts to give context to the numbers. Illustrate not only how revenue sources have been impacted, but more importantly, the implications of potential deficits. This opens the door to involve donors in the conversation of what recovery looks like at your organization and how donors can play a role in that recovery.
Meet Your Donors Where They Are
Beyond phone and email, we have seen some nonprofit organizations have success hosting virtual “Town Hall” calls and cocktail hours hosted by leadership and inviting small groups of major donors and prospects. These virtual events give leaders the opportunity to share updates, engage constituents in conversation, and express reassuring messages about the organization’s plans. For example, a hospital or nursing home on the front lines of this crisis could host a webinar featuring a panel of doctors or medical staff. Use this as an opportunity to inspire your donors to continue investing in your mission.
Be it social media, direct mail, email, webinars, or phone calls – the important message is to keep communicating with your donors. Develop interactive and engaging methods to keep them involved and immersed in your mission.
Immediately Steward New Donors
Many nonprofits acquire new donors during a time of intense and urgent need. They may have found you via a social media campaign, or a friend’s personal message, or a virtual event invitation. To retain new donors beyond this pandemic, immediate and personalized stewardship is key. At a time when people are craving connection, the sincerity of picking up the phone or sending a personalized thank you note cannot be overstated. A timely and personal thank you is likely to help you stand out among the other organizations and is a vital first step in cultivating that donor for a future gift and continued relationship.
Although it’s been said time and again, this is truly the time to reach out and connect to our donors. While virtual communications may require you to step outside of your comfort zone, it is only in strengthening our donors’ connections to our cause, our community, and our vision, that you will position your nonprofit to thrive past the crisis into recovery.