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  • Writer's pictureDanielle M. Locke

Don’t stop communicating with your donors during COVID-19

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Realign your fundraising to be donor-focused

The sign on every door in America reads “Closed”. But your donor connections should be “open for business”. Your first instinct might be to retreat and have little or no contact with donors. Now is the time to ramp up communications. Donors want to know what’s happening. Just because there is a disruption in your normal activities does not mean you stop building relationships and nurturing your donors.

“Donors want to help; they just don’t know how.”

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

This is a confusing time, filled with messages coming in all directions. The best advice I can give you is to overcommunicate with your donors. Be clear and consistent in your messaging. I have advised most of my clients to draft one transparent, clear communication and distribute that message via hard copy letter (yes snail mail), email, social media, newsletter and any other channel they have access to.

“The best advice I can give you is to overcommunicate with your donors.”

Shift from event-focused to donor-focused fundraising

More than 80% of annual giving in the U.S. comes from individual donors, though, if you’re like most nonprofits, you’re probably focusing your resources on grants and events. Check out this insightful annual report. COVID-19 has forced mass fundraiser cancellations. Think of this as a break, no caterers, no invitations, or dreaded silent auctions! Take this an opportunity to focus on your individual donors.

Build meaningful donor relationships

Obviously, what you are worried about is your donors’ continued level of support. Now is the time to build meaningful connections with individuals who care about your mission.

“Let me repeat, now it is more important than ever to focus on building and maintaining authentic donor relationships.”

Social distancing makes people hungry to connect. So, pick up the phone and call your donors. This is especially true of older donors. Remember, the conversation shouldn’t focus on your organization’s needs, but on the concerns of your donors’ during this stressful time. If the donors inquires, be transparent about the status of the organization, e.g. if the cancellation of your annual event will cause a $30K deficit, be honest about that. Those that have the ability to help, will. Here is a list of insightful donor questions.

Five easy steps to get started:

  1. Pull a list of your largest 25 current and potential individual donors. (Heck start with the top 100!) I suggest also pulling a list of your most loyal donors, regardless of giving level.

  2. Confirm these folks are on your communications list. Are you including them in your emails and mailings?

  3. Get started now and call two donors a day. If you don’t speak to them directly, leave a message of care and appreciation.

  4. Next month, write five handwritten notes per day to your donors. Let them know you’re thinking of them and hope they are doing well. Provide your phone number. Let them know you’re available to talk.

  5. Until this time of social distancing is over, call or send a note to your top donors every 30 to 60 days. Develop an overall donor communications schedule. Thank them. Give updates on the status of your programs. Above all, be authentic and transparent because soon enough you are going to need to ask for their help. (And don’t forget to share good news too!)

It’s time to take action

Now is the time to reframe your fundraising to focus on building and maintaining donor connections. Don’t shy away from fundraising efforts, but do think about them differently. You need contributions. No money, no mission. It’s a fact.

“The connections you make now with your donors will last far beyond this crisis.”

I’m here to help

I’m offering free 30-minute coaching sessions with any nonprofit. If you’re still intimidated about making those calls, unsure how to get started, or need help building on these connections to ask for a donation - give me a call! We will get through this together.

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