“What if we offend people by asking for donations right now?”
“We have enough funding from our savings and/or grants to hold us over for awhile.”
“We have so much going on right now – how can we even find time to fundraise?”
“Our board thinks we shouldn’t be asking for donations right now…”
These are all direct quotes from actual conversations I’ve had with nonprofit friends and clients over the past few weeks. Make no mistake, current times are challenging. For many nonprofits, events that were expected to bring in fundraising dollars have been cancelled and internal processes have undergone drastic changes to adhere to social distancing guidelines – all while staff, volunteers, and clients are grappling with the difficulties of the “new normal”.
Understandably, many nonprofit professionals are raising the question: “Should we be fundraising right now?” To which my answer is a resounding YES! It is not your job to make financial decisions on behalf of your donors. However, it is your job to:
- Further your mission.
- Provide services to your clients.
- Communicate with your donors.
While it is true that some of your supporters may be experiencing hardships, many of them will probably want to help you. If you stop your fundraising efforts what will that mean for your organization in the long term? Will certain programs need to be scaled back? Will less revenue in 2020 impact your plans for 2021? Remember – your donors can’t help you if you don’t ask.
Tip: Right now really might not be the right time for some organizations to fundraise. That is 100% okay! However, try not to leave your donors hanging. Check in with your supporters (and volunteers), ask how they are doing, provide updates about your organization, etc. Now is also a great time for a “thank-a-thon” in lieu of fundraising.
Below I’ve compiled three great examples of nonprofit organizations in South Florida fundraising successfully amid COVID-19:
1. Education Foundation of Palm Beach County – Text-to-Give
It is no secret that Achieve is a big fan of the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County*, not to mention the major impact they have on over 122,000 students right in our backyard.
In light of COVID-19, the School District of Palm Beach County shifted to distance learning for the safety of students and staff. Unfortunately, for the thousands of kids living at or below the poverty line, access to food, school supplies, and electronic devices is limited.
In response to this unforeseen need, the Education Foundation launched a COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund that has raised over $124,000 so far.
What They Did:
- Multi-Channel Campaign: This campaign is featured on the Education Foundation website, has a unique landing page, is being promoted on various social media platforms, includes a text-to-give component, rallies community partners, and more! This is great because it opens up more opportunities for supporters to learn about the campaign (and understand why support is needed).
- Text-To-Give: In 2020 almost all of us have our smartphones easily within reach all day, every day. By offering a text-to-give option, tech savvy supporters have an even easier way to donate.
- Landing Page: For some fundraising efforts, driving supporters to a simple donation form isn’t going to cut it. By using a standalone landing page, the Education Foundation can provide information and updates for the campaign in one centralized place while leveraging a customized donation form with recommended giving tiers (see next bullet point).
- Giving Tiers: By attaching real world impact to recommended giving tiers, donors may be more inclined to give. In the case of Education Foundation’s campaign – their donation form defaults to the first recommended giving tier ($100 to provide school supply kits for 4 students in need), then jumps to the next recommended giving tier ($275 to provide an electronic device for 1 student in need), and also includes a $50 tier as well as an “other” custom amount tier.
Why It Works:
As a supporter, receiving updates on progress made so far, as well as needs still outstanding can be super impactful. I also really like the text-to-give component. Providing a variety of ways to donate allows your donors to select the method easiest for them. The easier it is to donate, the more likely they are to give!
2. Nonprofits First – Peer-to-Peer Fundraiser
I may be biased**, but I was thrilled to see Nonprofits First raise nearly $5,000 from their very first peer-to-peer fundraising campaign on #GivingTuesdayNow!
It is safe to say we have all heard the saying “two heads are better than one”. The beauty of peer-to-peer fundraising is that you aren’t limited to one audience or peer group. By working as a group you can cast a wider net and compound your impact!
What They Did It:
- Press Release: Nonprofits First set the stage for a great peer-to-peer campaign by sharing a press release across multiple social media platforms (and asking their board to share across their channels), emailing the press release article to supporters, and posting the release within each peer-to-peer Facebook fundraiser.
- 8 Facebook Fundraisers: Remember when I said two heads are better than one? While the bulk of funds raised from this campaign came from Facebook, it took 8 separate fundraisers to raise almost $3,500! By working together, Nonprofits First was able to maximize results.
- Email: Nonprofits First didn’t get hung up on only using Facebook fundraisers to garner donations. In fact, one fourth of all funds were raised through their web online donation form! It is important to make it easy for people to donate and in this instance some supporters preferred receiving an email and completing their donation on the Nonprofits First website.
- Said Thank You: One of my pet peeves as a fundraising professional and donor is when nonprofits forget to say thank you. That being said, the Nonprofits First team did an amazing job of saying thank you! I observed emails, Facebook posts, Facebook comments, Facebook messages, posts within each Facebook fundraiser, and more – all saying thank you to specific donors and/or thanking supporters as a whole.
Why It Works:
What I loved about Nonprofits First’s peer-to-peer campaign is that it was multi-channel, clearly explained why donors should give through storytelling, and said thank you (a lot).
One tactic I observed being particularly effective was individual fundraisers tagging their friends who had donated thanking them for their support. This helped to generate a lot of buzz around the fundraising goal and encouraged friend groups to come together.
3. SMART Ride – Virtual Event
Full disclosure – when I received an email invite to this virtual event by SMART Ride with the subject line “This Isn’t Your Grandmother’s Tupperware Party” I was immediately OBSESSED. So obsessed that not only did I share the event with multiple friends, I actually attended (and yes I am now the proud owner of some new Tupperware).
In a world full of competing virtual “happy hours” and “coffee chats”, this SMART Ride event featuring Dixie Longate had me practically jumping for joy telling anyone who would listen that THIS IS HOW YOU CREATE VIRTUAL NONPROFIT EVENTS PEOPLE ACTUALLY WANT TO ATTEND!
Tip: If you are currently struggling to go virtual, check out this blog to drive attendance and get more donors at your next virtual event.
What They Did:
- Collaboration: Instead of trying to create a new virtual event out of thin air, SMART Ride collaborated with the hysterical and well known drag queen Dixie Longate (she has performed over 1,000 shows in 5 countries). Dixie was kind enough to provide the entertainment and donate all Tupperware proceeds from the event to SMART Ride .
- Zoom: Some virtual events require expensive software or fancy apps attendees need to download. Alternatively, this event kept it simple with a Zoom call for up to 300 participants. I felt this worked great because most attendees already knew how to use Zoom, plus the chat feature allowed for socialization with other attendees.
Why It Works:
This virtual event was not only creative, but involved an activity people actually wanted to participate in. On a random Thursday night almost 100 people joined a Zoom party with the fabulous Dixie to laugh, buy some Tupperware (all proceeds benefited SMART Ride), donate to a great cause, and maybe enjoy an adult beverage or two (personally I sipped a glass of red wine).
In the end, I think we all walked away feeling a little bit closer as a community and a little more inspired to do good for causes we care about.
Tip: In addition to these three examples above, our partners at Qgiv have organized an awesome COIVD-19 Nonprofit Resource Library and our friends at Bloomerang have compiled COVID-19 Essential Advice and Resources for Nonprofits.
As we all navigate this global pandemic together, when communicating with donors remember
- Talk about any challenges you or your clients are facing.
- Highlight your organizations “why”.
- Show impact (and/or impact that is needed).
- Share “wins” or testimonials.
- Modify messaging as needed.
- Test-and-learn new ideas.
- Say donations will go towards COVID-19 related efforts if they won’t.
- Act like everything is “back to normal”.
- Forget to say thank you.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Now go forth and conquer fundraising my nonprofit friends!
*Achieve designed the Education Foundation of Palm Beach County website and currently provides hosting and support.
**Achieve is a Nonprofits First Affiliate and I sit on the Nonprofits First Marketing Advisory Committee.