One of the things that unites us as fundraisers is our big hearts and desire to do good above all else. So, at a time when so many are suffering, and where we ourselves may also be suffering, or feel so close to it happening to us, how can we possibly fathom asking people for money for our cause? Isn’t that tone-deaf? Crude? The answer is – NO. Here’s why, and here’s how to ask:
1 – Your donors and supporters ALSO have big hearts!
What was your first instinct when this pandemic reached us? Probably “how can I help?” “What can I do?”. This is likely what your donors and supporters thought as well. Feeling hopeless at a time of crisis is terrible, so know that people are looking to you for answers. If your organization works in any space connected to the outbreak (access to water, food insecurity, education, pretty much anything) explain to your supporters why a donation to you will help in this crucial time. Mention your concern for those affected by Covid-19 early in your communication, acknowledge upfront what is happening. Cases for support are our most compelling tool and when it’s as timely and hits as close to home as this, your supporters are going to want to get involved.
If your mission isn’t connected to this crisis, you can, and should still fundraise!Your supporters care about what’s happening now, at this moment, but they also care about you being able to do the work that you do, and have been doing, perhaps for a long time. With most/all staff members working from home, email is your best bet for communication. It’s fast, nimble, and effective. Be authentic, speak from the heart, communicate often and honestly. Remember that authenticity and honesty also includes letting your donors know what’s going on in the organization. Tell them if you’ve lost revenue from a cancelled event, for example, and that you won’t be able to continue to do the critical work you do without it. Remind your donors that this pandemic is just temporary – your work is long-lasting (and that’s the way it should be!).
2 – Your donors and supporters want to feel connected
We’ve seen it via video on the streets of Spain and Italy – people connecting through music and dance to feel connected to their community. A lot of your donors, especially your monthly, mid and major donors, may have had a long relationship with your organization. In a time where we’re reaching out to those that are closest to us, why wouldn’t your donors be a part of that?
We know stewardship is important, and sometimes it’s hard to find the reason to reach out or what to say, but what better time than now? Check in on them, see how they’re doing. Maybe it’s an email or text message. It can be a bulk message that you can personalize so that it doesn’t feel like a bulk message. Thank them for supporting you through the years and that you hope they continue to support you during these times and after. This could be an email stewardship series, so that there is more to the conversation than just an ask. The focus is on the relationship first and foremost.
3 – Your donors and supporters want to feel hopeful
We all want to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We want this to end, and we want to go back to saying things like “must be a slow news day”. Don’t tune out what’s happening now, but don’t be afraid to talk about positive things, like what your organization is doing and how donations have helped make that happen. Share a video on Facebook showing how the life of a beneficiary has improved because of the impact of your donors. Making them feel like they’ve helped someone at a time we all feel we don’t know how to help will brighten their day. Send personalized “good news” emails. What content have your donors engaged with most? Research breakthroughs, recoveries, wishes granted?Share those stories with them now. Showing the smiles that are a result of their continued support is sure to put a smile on their face as well.
Finally, you may get a few complaints or concerns – don’t forget that the vast majority of your supporters are here for you and want to help. Don’t be discouraged by the naysayers – some negative comments are unavoidable. Stay the course, be proud of what you’re doing, and sincerely explain why fundraising now is more important than ever and why you’re so grateful for their continued support.