Nonprofit organizations have seen budgets slashed and staff furloughed due to COVID-19. This has made it difficult to raise the funds needed to provide vital services to the community. Despite budget cuts, staff layoffs, event cancellations, and economic concerns, fundraising is possible with the following strategies:
1. Use Automated Technology
There are many fundraising tools available that automate routine tasks like email and social media scheduling, e-newsletter template creation, and website user data analytics. Though it may be tempting to invest in every fundraising tool, you need to look at the needs, budget, and manpower of your organization first.
You’re probably familiar with MailChimp, Constant Contact, GoFundMe, Buffer, Raiser’s Edge, and Hootsuite. These programs are easy to use and some are inexpensive or even free.
You can segment your donors, set up online fundraisers, and schedule social media postings and emails. These online tools can save your team time and effort, without breaking your budget. They are great ways to quickly get information to your donors and prospects.
In addition to these automated fundraising tools, WealthEngine has a host of donor scoring and campaign management software that works in conjunction with the abovementioned digital tools. This automated online fundraising technology helps you identify the most promising donors to send your message to. It also helps you create and manage donor campaigns that utilize the tools listed above.
Budget cuts due to Covid-19 have forced nonprofits to take a fresh look at the costs of the tools they are using. You may need to cancel software subscriptions that are not delivering or being used. Be careful not to cancel too many as automation is crucial for organizations with smaller staffs.
2. Use Targeted Messaging for Categorized Audiences
Despite possible income reductions facing your donors, you shouldn’t stop asking for gifts. There are donors who are willing and able to make financial contributions.
Some prospects may feel powerless due to state-mandated lockdowns and event cancellations. Many donors will see the opportunity to give, even a little amount, as a way they can make a difference.
It is recommended that you research, follow up on, and categorize your donor lists. Not everyone on your lists should get the same message as they donate different amounts, donate to varying projects, and at different frequency rates.
Once you segment donors, it is important to have tailored fundraising messaging that doesn’t include a hard ask. Remember, the current financial strain may be affecting your donors. When your donor list is segmented, it is easier to send the right message to the right people at the right time.
If you haven’t invested in a tool like WealthEngine that analyzes supporter behavior and gives them a score based on their giving capacity, you can miss finding eager and willing donors. You will also miss out on the opportunity to share your organization’s messaging.
Donor Prospect Scoring
Many nonprofits use donor segmentation to group supporters into categories. Common segmentations include the amount given, donation frequency, giving capacity, and the length of time a donor has supported the organization. Scoring helps the fundraising team narrow down which donors and prospects to pursue.
At Northern Nevada HOPES, the fundraising department assigns individuals scores based on their ability to make a major gift and whether they’ve given in the past. For example, an individual with the highest score of 1/0 means they have given in the past and that they can give at least $50,000 over five years. In this case, the “1” represents the category the prospect falls into and the “0” indicates their priority within the category.
Donor management systems like WealthEngine help nonprofits focus on donor prospects through the assignment of a score. The wealth score, a number between 1 and 100, assesses the financial health of a prospective donor. Unlike the Northern Nevada HOPES score, where the lower number is better, you’ll want to focus your efforts on donor prospects with a wealth score of at least 90.
Look-alike modeling is a form of marketing that notes common characteristics of an organizations’ most qualified donors. These common demographic characteristics can include:
- Area code
- Car type
- Life stage
- Interests and hobbies
- Family size and makeup
Once you note all these common characteristics, you can run it through a donor prospect platform like WealthEngine. This helps you find more donors that may have otherwise gone under your radar.
Follow Up with Donors
Your fundraising messaging needs to go beyond the ask. Now is a great opportunity for your nonprofit to reach out and empathize with your donors.
One organization that did this is Northern Nevada HOPES, a community health clinic. The organization realized its staff and donors were experiencing the same difficulties, making it easier for them to empathize with donors. As a result, they were able to secure large donations of “$5,000, $10,000, even $15,000.”
Northern Nevada HOPES sent out emails, handwritten notes, and made phone calls to donors and prospects with simple questions of “How are you?” “How is your family?” “Are you okay?”
This introduction opened the door to one-on-one conversations where the donors asked Northern Nevada HOPES how they were doing. That question from donors helped form the messaging on the organization’s website, email, and social media channels: ‘We are okay and our doors are open.’
Besides letting the donors and community know their clinic was fine and their doors were open, they mentioned the need for a community health clinic. This messaging went out through their email database.
Personalize Your “Thank You” With a Video
Donors want acknowledgment and appreciation for their financial gifts. You may have an automated “thank you” page, email, and phone scripts set in place. While these are fundraising must-haves, are yours engaging or personal?
Videos are powerful ways to take your “thank you” message to the next level. Videos should be short and feature your organization’s CEO, the fundraising or marketing manager, or someone who has benefitted from the nonprofit. All your representative has to do is sit in front of the camera and thank the individual for their contribution.
The best “thank you” videos are candid and appreciative, say the donor’s name, thank them for their contribution, and include a touching message.
Some “Thank You” messaging tips to consider include:
- The message resonates with donors and pulls at their heartstrings
- The message is warm and welcoming
- The message elicits gratitude
- The message acknowledges the receipt of the gift
- The message mentions where the donation is going
3. Get Creative with Online Events
Since traditional in-person fundraising events have been canceled due to COVID-19, nonprofit organizations have the opportunity to be creative with online events. Roughly two-thirds of nonprofit organizations reported they were either considering or have already held a virtual fundraising event. Below are examples of what some nonprofits have done instead of holding in-person gatherings and events:
Northern Nevada HOPES
Northern Nevada HOPES held a town hall for donors and prospective donors of their recently built Hope Springs facility. The CEO hosted the event.
A few weeks later, a virtual gala took place. The virtual gala event was a one-hour cocktail hour held over a Zoom call featuring an online, silent auction.
March of Dimes
With their signature walk canceled, March of Dimes created a March Madness bracket-style competition called March for Babies Step Up! Teams and individuals compete against each other to raise money and get virtual badges and ribbons. Through the middle of May, participants tracked their progress and completed a series of contests using a mobile app called Charity Miles.
Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCan)
PanCan turned to a virtual walk followed by an event called Virtual is the New Purple that featured virtual town halls, forums, and one-on-one conversations. Volunteers, team captains, sponsors, and stakeholders took part in the event.
St. Baldrick’s Foundation
St. Baldrick’s Foundation provides treatment and services to children with cancer. The organization wanted a fun and creative way for people to get involved and raise funds—
their solution—Virtual Head Shaving.
These virtual head-shaving events allowed people to raise funds through peer-to-peer fundraising that encouraged donor contacts to shave their heads in return. Participants filmed themselves getting their heads shaved by hosting an event on Zoom or Twitch, which allowed friends and family to watch.
With virtual events, the sky’s the limit. If any of these virtual events inspire you, be sure to check out more online events at Double the Donation. Other virtual online events nonprofits have participated in include:
- Virtual Golf Tournaments
- Online Charity Concerts
- Calendar/Cookbook Giveaway
- Virtual Dance Marathon
- Virtual Game Night
4. Safe In-Person Meetings are Still Possible
The health concerns of Covid-19 may have canceled your traditional fundraising events. You may be re-thinking all in-person meetings. However, in this time of stay-at-home orders, business shutdowns, and social distancing, in-person meetings are more important than ever.
During times of economic downturns, nonprofits who have “used the time to create stronger relationships come out ahead.” With the increased social isolation, health concerns, and economic uncertainty of your donors, they need someone to come alongside them and show empathy. Organizations that go out and listen to the needs and concerns of their donors will build closer relationships with them.
While digital communication tools are great, they cannot replace in-person meetings. It is important to have strong relationships with donors and online meetings lack the personal touches needed for relationship-building. With donor consent, appropriate safety measures in place, and the “green light” from your state health authorities, you can still have those crucial in-person meetings.
Instead of the traditional lunch or dinner at a restaurant or sitting in a nice coffee shop, you can both enjoy a boxed lunch or a coffee-to-go on a park bench or any outside space. For these meetings, it is important to wear a mask and stay at least six feet apart.
These in-person meetings will allow you to share information about your organization and provide the personal connection one cannot get online. However, the choice to meet in-person will be up to the prospective donor. If he or she is uncomfortable meeting face-to-face, there is nothing wrong with a virtual Zoom or Skype meeting.
5. Ask Your Board Members for Help
80% of nonprofit organizations have fewer than 20 board members, with the average being around 15. For many organizations, board members are chosen using a list of requirements. It is a rule for most board members to donate a certain level to the nonprofit each year.
During this challenging time of fundraising, it is a good idea to ask more from your board members if they haven’t already stepped up. The extra responsibilities for board members can take many forms. You can ask them to increase their level of giving or ask them to do more volunteer or pro-bono work for the organization.
Your board members should be willing to help in any way possible. When asking for board member support, here are some things to consider:
- Give members advance notice of your heightened expectations
- Be transparent and ask for their opinions, feedback, and suggestions
- Make sure there is consensus around the decision
- Be sensitive to the financial situation of each board member
- Be consistent in what you ask each board member
- Be open and specific about the needs of your organization
Now is a great time for creative fundraising, using technology, connecting with donors, and getting additional support from board members. Fundraising is still doable even though Covid-19 seems to have negatively impacted nonprofits’ bottom lines. A good first step is to use tools like WealthEngine to find donor prospects.
Once you know which donors to focus on, you can segment your supporters and write appropriate fundraising messaging. It is also important that you continue asking for donations, conduct socially-distant in-person meetings with prospects, and ask your board members to help with fundraising efforts.