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  • Writer's pictureLipton Strategies

Philanthropy Insights: Navigating this Moment of Crisis

Updated: Jun 9, 2020

Nonprofits across the country and around the world are all asking the same question: How do we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and what does it mean for our fundraising efforts?

These are important questions to ask and the answers for each organization will be different. However, there are some best practices for every organization to adopt as they craft their own mission-centric strategy during this period of uncertainty.

We are sharing here the four key steps every nonprofit should take as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic

1) Pause + Reflect

First, it’s important to remember do not panic! While the current pandemic and economic concerns are out of our control, we have the ability to center ourselves and concentrate on accomplishing the core elements of our organizations’ missions.

Take a moment to forecast potential operational challenges and development revenue shortfalls for your organization and understand what they mean mean for your programming and mission delivery. Some questions to consider are:

· Will staff working remote mean certain programming will cease?

· Can we reduce certain operating costs as a result of the pandemic (eg. travel + entertainment, events, etc.)?

· Which of our revenue lines will be most affected (eg. program income, grants, individual donors, etc.)?

· Do our major donors typically gifts of stock?

Now is also the right time to check if your restricted grant deliverables will remain on track or if they will be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. If you anticipate them being delayed, is there a contingency built into the agreement? It’s important to be proactive and have honest conversations with your funders about the current circumstances and if necessary, ask for leniency with the grant timeline.

2) Demonstrate Empathy

When messaging both inside and outside of your organization make sure you demonstrate empathy. COVID-19 does not discriminate, and your donors and supporters are all affected one way or another.

Take a moment for personal check-ins with your major supporters and use this time and space to build rapport. Ask how they are doing. Offer to assist them if they need. Sometimes the perfect way to move the relationship forward is to take a step back and not make an ask but rather listen and be a helping hand. This will pay off tenfold and ensure your organization is on strong footing at the end of this crisis. Nonprofits that employed this strategy during the 2008 financial crisis typically recovered quicker from the downturn and many saw significant leaps in their fundraising efforts, particularly in major gifts, 12-18 months after the crisis.

Also make sure that any communication or fundraising appeals from the organization are timely and sensitive to the current environment. Every organization is projecting a hit to their budget this year and while you should share those concerns it’s important to also demonstrate confidence and keep communications mission-centric. Remind your supporters why they joined you in the first place and why they are an important part of your organization’s family.

3) Engage + Innovate

While demonstrating empathy to your supporters, think about ways you can continue to engage them in meaningful ways. Just because we are not able to meet with donors or hold in-person events doesn’t mean that our engagement and development efforts need to cease. Now is the perfect time to innovate and explore new ways you can engage your base, many of whom are hungry to connect with others.

One great way to keep your base engaged is through adapting your fundraiser into a virtual event. Many organizations have been successful leveraging platforms like Twitch to host virtual fundraisers. Other organizations have begun to use Zoom to host virtual briefings and get togethers for their donors, giving them the opportunity to connect with one another and remain current on the happenings of the organization.

Use this moment to explore the full potential of your existing digital platforms, and perhaps bring new systems online. These will not only help your organization whether the current crisis, but also enable long-term growth and success.

4) Download + Process

This final phase may go without saying, but when we move past this current crisis it’s critical that you take time to download and process. Use this opportunity to reflect with your staff and volunteers to consider the following four questions:

· How was our organization positioned going into this crisis?

· How did we pivot to address specific challenges in a moment of crisis?

· What are the immediate needs to address as we return to normal?

· What can we do now to be better prepared for a moment of crisis in the future?

No two organizations will share the same strategy, but these four key steps will help your organization both whether the current crisis and come out ahead in the long run. This too shall pass!

If you need help putting these steps into action, or need additional support, we are offering free 30-minute consultations to all nonprofit organizations – there’s no catch. Click here to reach out and let us know how we can be of support.

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