First in a Series: Answering Your Questions about Fundraising in a Crisis
As I sit down to write today, I have to tell you I’m worried. My son Jake lives in New York City, and it’s right now the epicenter of the COVID-19 virus. 1 in 1,000 people have the virus and in the next two weeks, unless there’s help, the city won’t be able to care for everyone.
As a parent, even though my son is 28 and has been living on his own since he graduated college, I just want to go get him and bring him back home… but I can’t. If I did, we could all put each other at risk.
It’s a real feeling of having no control, and that’s really hard for me. I like to fix things that are bad or uncomfortable, and I can’t. I’m feeling the weight of it right now.
You may be feeling worried too. You may be working from home for the first time, you may have kids at home, and you’re trying to juggle conversation with donors, doing your regular office work, and trying to keep your kids occupied. Or you may be with elderly parents or grandparents, and you’re still expected to be on work conference calls. It’s really a difficult time. I do know we’ll get through this… together. But it’s also hard. I just want to acknowledge that.
Be kind to yourself in this moment of crisis. Take care of your family, yourself and then the donors that you have a relationship with.
The other day we had a webinar on how we can respond as fundraisers in this time of crisis, and there were a ton of questions that we couldn’t get to. Richard and I would like to use the blog to answer as many of those questions that we can. Hopefully this can be helpful to you:
Question: I’m a new MGO and I haven’t established relationships yet with the major donors to the overall organization. Is it still appropriate to call during such a personal time?
Answer: Yes! What we’re hearing from Veritus Client Experience Leaders who are helping manage over 200 major gift officers around the country is this: Donors are picking up the phone, answering emails and texts, doing video conferencing by the droves. MGOs are also qualifying record numbers of donors per day. Why? Because people are at home and they welcome connection, especially from their favorite charity. So if you’re new, now is a great time to start establishing those relationships. Thank them for all they’ve done previously, and start asking great questions to get to know them. Also, be prepared to answer questions about what your organization is doing around the COVID-19 crisis and how it’s tied into your mission.
Question: Our fiscal year ends in May. Our leadership believes we should continue to hold everyone accountable to their revenue goals. Do you think this is the right approach this late in the year?
Answer: Richard and I would counsel this way: Everyone needs to continue to work their plan. If your fiscal year ends in May, it may be that you can make your revenue goals. We would advise that you immediately review the donors that were expected to give over that time period, figure out who’s still on track and who has told you they may have to pull back a bit until they see how the crisis plays out. Then report that up to leadership so they’re aware of what donors are telling you. You should also review your caseload to see what donors there are from whom you may be able to solicit another gift, even if they gave earlier in the fiscal year.
Again, if you just focus on the money you may be tempted to take wrong actions toward donors. Instead focus on working your plan, adjusting accordingly and reaching out to all your donors.
Question: Can you speak specifically to the needs of small to medium size non-profits that don’t have a lot of wealth in the area? Many of us are at risk of losing our jobs as well.
Answer: We hear you. It’s tough to be calm and assuring to donors during this time, when you also have the fear of losing your job. Our advice for you and any small or medium sized organization is to continue to communicate with your donors and tell them what your need is. It really doesn’t matter where your non-profit is located. You currently have donors that love your mission. They still care about that mission. Let your donors know YOU are thinking about them. Show them empathy but at the same time, tell them what the need is. Be honest, tell them how your mission is being affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Being in constant communication with them is all you can control and do at this moment. How they respond is out of your control.
In our subsequent blogs we’ll continue to answer your questions. We’ll try our best to give you answers.
PS — We have two special courses being offered starting April 1, helping major gift fundraisers and managers with topics related to the current crisis. Check out the course for managers/executives and the course for fundraisers. Even better, we’ve made this “pay what you can”!
Read the series:
- Questions and Answers in a Time of Crisis Part 1 (This Post)
- Questions and Answers in a Time of Crisis Part 2