Stop.Any time there’s a crisis of any kind, most non-profit leaders immediately worry that revenue will go down, especially now. We know that eventually we’ll get through the COVID-19 crisis –but right now in the middle of it, because this is such an unprecedented event, it looks bleak.
You may be worried that donors in your portfolio will stop giving. Whether you have a portfolio of mid-level, major or planned giving donors, there will definitely be some donors who can’t maintain their contributions right now; or if a donor has made a revocable gift, they may need to reduce the amount at this time.
Whether you’re a CEO, a manager or a front-line fundraiser, you could worry and get anxious, lying in your bed unable to sleep. But if you step back, you’ll realize you can’t control the current crisis. Quite frankly, that’s always the reality with major gift fundraising, in a crisis or not. Major gifts can be volatile because significant gifts are attached to people. (By the way, when I say major gift fundraising, we include mid-level, major and planned giving fundraising.)
All you can control is working your plan with your donors. Nothing else. Richard and I want to help alleviate some of the anxiety you may be feeling right now with major gifts. Here are the things you CAN control right now:

  1. Revisit your strategic plan for your portfolio — over the next 4-6 months, things will be different than you had planned. Well, that’s what plans are for… to be changed if necessary. It’s now necessary.
  2. Within your plan, review the donors from whom you had expected gifts to come in between now and September. Revise your plan if necessary, but consider those gifts to come in the 4th quarter of 2020 and revise the timing of those gifts. Then, proactively update management and leadership.
  3. Again, within the plan, re-write your strategy through September. Focus on reporting back impact, thanking and keeping donors informed on how your non-profit is reacting to the current crisis.
  4. Call donors to check in on them — We’re hearing from MGOs that donors are so appreciative that someone cares about them. I’m blown away by how many non-profits are NOT reaching out to donors. Please find out how your donors are doing.
  5. Beyond the initial check in call, stay highly in-touch with all donors in your portfolio, EVEN donors who say they can’t give right now due to the current crisis. Building trust with donors is one of your most important jobs, and “staying with” a donor during a time of crisis will give you credibility as a person and as part of the organization.
  6. Be creative – use every bit of technology that you can muster. What we’re seeing right now is that donors are highly receptive to phone and video calls. People want to connect visually. If you can’t talk to them live, consider doing a quick video of yourself with your phone, just letting them know you’re thinking of them. You can email it to them.
  7. Keep working your plan. These are dark days, but the one thing you can control is the plan you’ve laid out and revised. Keep working it. That’s all you can do. Work your plan with sincerity and empathy, yet with confidence that your donors want to engage and be part of the solution that your mission achieves.

You can’t control the COVID-19 crisis. But you can control what you do with your donors that will give them comfort, information and opportunities the donor can support. If you do that well, you’ve done all you can.
You may not see the end result you originally planned for, that you were hoping for at the beginning of the year – but I know that, over the long-term, you’ll see the results of all the hard work and loyalty you showed your donors in this time of crisis.