After speaking with our clients and colleagues in the field, we wanted to share some of the tactics nonprofits are adapting their fall and end of year development operations. For most nonprofits, a significant portion, as high as three quarters, of the fundraising dollars is received during the last quarter of the year. Many nonprofits also schedule annual galas, golf tournaments, and other celebratory activities for the beginning of fall. Given the limitations of gathering, the vulnerability of the silent generation and the baby boomers who are the most significant funders of nonprofits, and ongoing work from home guidelines, here are some ways we are helping nonprofits plan for Fall:
- Resurgence of delivery and mailed stewardship. More than ever, tailored stewardship of donors is going to be critical to let them know that your nonprofit is thinking about them, even though you can’t visit them. Consider custom videos, personalized notes, or donor-specific tokens. Here is a list of some fresh ideas for donor recognition.
- Investments in direct mail. The mail has been a lifeline for many individuals who are hesitant to go to stores or be around large groups of people. Individuals are paying more attention to what comes in the mail and so we expect that nonprofits will see larger returns on their direct mail pieces, particularly well thought out and timely ones. A great at-home project for a trusted volunteer is to help clean up your data in anticipation of large direct mail pulls. Here you’ll find tips on cleaning your database.
- Gala from home. While some individuals are looking forward to gathering in person in the coming months, there will still be many who cannot engage in person or are uncomfortable with the idea. Programming now needs to be responsive to both audiences and ensure that those at home are not missing out, and those in person feel like it was worth their time and safe. One way that be accomplished is by delivering an item that is shared among all participants, such as a food item or game piece. This way, all participants can experience and engage with your mission simultaneously.
- Virtual events. This may seem like the obvious adaptation but the successful nonprofit is not one that hosts the exact same event online. It is the nonprofit that thinks about what elements are critical and how those can be conveyed virtually. This is a tremendous opportunity to discard the ‘golden calves’ in your nonprofit that long-time Board members held on to a bit too tightly. It is also time to rethink what the core components of your work are that cannot be lost. One of our favorite examples of this is the Library Foundation of Los Angeles’ Stay Home and Read a Book Ball.
- Increased transparency of funding challenges. More than ever before, there seems to be a ubiquitous understanding that the pandemic has affected nonprofit finances. But donor exhaustion and oversubscription are real challenges that nonprofits will have to encounter. Rather than tell the same story, share actual numbers. Tell your supporters what consequences the loss of revenue has created. If you have had to lay off employees, for example, use a tactful ‘message from the Executive Director’ to share why this decision was made and how you hope to still be able to deliver on your mission.
More than anything, we hope to encourage funders, nonprofit staff, and leadership alike to be sensitive and gentle with how they respond to changes. While pandemic exhaustion and a desire to get back to ‘normal’ is strong, the blurred professional and personal lines that the quarantines created require us to move a bit slower, be a bit more thoughtful, and find kindness in all that we do. For nonprofits that are successfully able to weather 2020’s challenges, we expect that they will see a higher and more loyal level of support moving forward.
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