One of the best parts about working for The Giving Collaborative (TGC), an organization that spans the globe, is we get to check in on what’s going on in all different parts of the world. Of course, with the COVID-19 pandemic, most everyone is paying attention to issues on a global scale, wondering how the situation will play out nationally, locally, and in our own homes. Similarly, most of us are also trying to figure out how this unprecedented global health concern will impact our professional lives, specifically our ability to fundraise.
The team at TGC has been utilizing technology to ensure a constant exchange of ideas in how best to address this temporary “new normal” and have been working with many of our clients to be proactive in managing the unexpected. One theme that consistently emerges is “What can we do now to be prepared for later, when business as usual resumes?” Our response has been dependent on where each organization is in their development process, but overwhelmingly, a few concepts have surfaced and we have addressed them below.
This is probably the most important and critical element of managing the situation in which we all find ourselves. Open and transparent communication–with donors, community leaders, staff, volunteers, and those served–is vital to maintaining a level of confidence with anyone and everyone associated with the organization. Share how your organization is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly the steps you are taking to ensure the health and safety of all. This may mean the cancellation of a spring event or limited service to those you serve. Whatever changes you have made to your normal schedule or services should be addressed with a reason behind it and a plan to resume normal activities as soon as possible. For those organizations that serve a specific population, if you are able, provide alternative sources and/or resources to have the need fulfilled during this time period.
Maintain a constant and consistent line of communication utilizing today’s technology and social media platforms. History has shown that the public responds more positively when the message is delivered in a timely and upfront way. Those who are invested in our organizations are genuinely interested in how this pandemic is being handled and what it means for them. We live in a smart, concerned, and educated society and our outgoing communications should reflect our understanding of this.
Aligning with the idea of maintaining channels of communication is stewarding our donors. With the inability to make face-to-face appointments with donors and prospective donors, creativity is crucial in sustaining and developing new relationships. Use this time to reach out by phone, email, or even a personalized handwritten note, to explain to donors how your organization has been impacted and what it could mean moving forward. Communicate the importance of continued support and the vital role donors play, and will continue to play, in the success of your organization. Be sure to remind donors of the reason they support your organization and that, despite any challenges it currently faces in light of this pandemic, their support and involvement is extremely valuable, now more than ever.
You may also use this opportunity to solicit ideas from your donors to see how other groups and organizations are addressing this situation, with the possibility of adapting new strategies to your existing plan. Take this time to really engage in conversation and even brainstorm about new ideas. Utilize technology to stay connected and be creative in how you conduct daily business interactions. Face-to-face meetings can be done virtually through FaceTime, WhatsApp, or a number of other options. Similarly, group brainstorming sessions can be held via Zoom or Google Hangouts. We are all in the same position and are likely looking for human contact.
Rainy Day List
If we’re being honest, we all have a “rainy day list"–a list of things we will do when all the items on our “must-do list” have been completed. Now is a great time to start checking the boxes on that list. Maybe you need to clean up a database or do some research on grant funding? Perhaps you have a list of lapsed donors you could reach out to? Have you been thinking about what it would take to launch a capital campaign and just haven’t had the chance to consider the many aspects of conducting one successfully? Use this time to complete these tasks so that once you are able to resume your typical daily responsibilities, you have accomplished several of these goals and have a stronger foundation on which to grow your donor base/grant funding/strategic planning.
This is the perfect time to collaborate with colleagues using the technological resources we already have available. The team at The Giving Collaborative has been utilizing conference calling and webinars to stay in touch with each other, and we’ve recently expanded this to include all our clients. This is also giving us the opportunity to see where the gaps are in our ability to virtually stay in touch with each other and our clients with the goal of addressing these gaps moving forward.
We all know this current situation of social distancing is temporary. No one knows exactly how long our “business as usual” status will be interrupted, but we do know that once things get back to normal we will want to move forward and attempt to make up for lost time. The best way to do this is to not actually lose time but to maximize this unprecedented opportunity to complete tasks we’ve not prioritized, but which might result in greater productivity in the long run. Have reasonable expectations of what you can and cannot do in the coming days, and be sure to stay in touch with those involved in your organization, even if it is just to say hello. People will always remember how you handled this pandemic, whether it is in a positive or negative light. You have the ability to really shine. Be a bright spot.