CREATE ONE C-19 CAMPAIGN AND ADAPT EXISTING MATERIALS TO SUPPORT IT. THE THEMED CAMPAIGN IS MORE EFFECTIVE THAN MANY DISCONNECTED POSTS AND WILL SAVE YOU TIME.
STEP ONE: DEVELOP YOUR CAMPAIGN
☐Have I focused my strategy on the social media platforms where I’ll have the most impact?
Example: If you have a robust Facebook following, develop a C-19 strategy that works for that, rather than for a Twitter platform where you have a negligible presence.
☐Have I developed a mission-related theme? Pick an aspect of your mission, a message that will resonate now, and post-Covid. You can anchor both your activities and appeals around this theme.
Tip: Post one explicit funding request for each 3-4 campaign posts.
☐Have I developed an engaging #hashtag that will work now and when we re-emerge?
Example: #BGResilience – Bartram’s Garden’s hashtag theme acknowledges their current struggle while projecting a positive, post-pandemic future.
☐Are we set up to track metrics, so we’ll know what works, what doesn’t, and can adapt accordingly? Setting this up at the beginning will save time later. Establishing goals and tracking can be a great project for a media-savvy student or volunteer.
STEP TWO: USE WHAT YOU HAVE TO INCREASE IMPACT BY PLATFORM
☐Am I using time-saving tools to layout the images, graphics and videos for my campaign?
Tip: Canva is a great tool to jumpstart your assembling branded, beautiful prints for sharing. While there are pricing plans available, basic templates are free. https://www.canva.com/templates/
☐Am I maximizing presence on image-driven platforms by leveraging what I already have? Choose an aesthetic that matches your Instagram color palette, story icons and layout with your other brand communications, such as your logo, website and/or newsletter. It will help you fold fundraising and non-fundraising posts together on Instagram so your profile feed seems like one continuous piece of art, an attractive whole.
Tip: Enliven your Instagram posts with gifs and boomerangs.
☐Am I maximizing presence on text-driven platforms by leveraging what I already have? Post campaign-related articles and blogs on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Plunder your archives for graphics, pictures and videos to enliven the text.
Tip: Post testimonial messages related to your campaign accompanied by your hashtag.
☐Am I maximizing my video content with vlogs, pictures and webinars I already have? You can also add current video and images to encourage supporters to donate to your campaign.
Examples: You can share a vlog or webinar on Instagram IGTV and FacebookTV. You can share brief (<=10 seconds) videos and pictures on your Instagram and Facebook stories.
STEP THREE: MULTIPLY YOUR REACH
☐Have I tied my campaign to hashtags with similar goals and broad audiences?
Example: The Mutter Museum tags itself with the City of Philadelphia’s #PhillyFromHome hashtag. This ensures the virtual tours of their museum appear to viewers scrolling through posts mentioning the #PhillyFromHome hashtag.
☐Have I made it easy for friends and colleagues to spread the word both personally and professionally? Don’t limit campaign posts to your nonprofit’s organizational profiles. Ask your staff, board and volunteers to post/re-post campaign messages on their own individual profiles.
Tips: Schedule a video conference with your nonprofit’s staff and close supporters, (board etc.). In the meeting, explain that you’d like them to promote your campaign on their individual LinkedIn profiles. Ask for volunteer social media ambassadors.
To encourage ongoing participation, have your social media manager (or a volunteer) monitor, thank and engage with team members who share your campaign posts.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DOES THIS PRESENT?
☐This is the perfect opportunity to boost social media literacy of the entire staff, which makes it easier to enlist their help in spreading our fundraising messages in future.
☐What can I learn from this crisis that can improve our future fundraising on social media?
Examples: Build a strong, categorized, accessible, archive of interactive pictures/video makes it easier to communicate with constituents when activities are cancelled/go virtual.
Speed, volume, simplicity and urgency matter.
The sooner you ask donors, the more they can give. Philanthropic capacity and responsiveness tend to decline as a crisis wears on https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/what-happens-to-charitable-giving-when-the-economy-falters/
People are getting swamped with C-19 communications. Your open rates may be down 20% to 30% and require more frequent contact to reach your donors. Their patience may be limited, so keep your message simple. Don’t mess around. Get to the point. Urgency matters. If you can’t answer the questions, Why give to you? Why now? others can.
Retention. If you represent a nonprofit that’s not on the frontline fight against COVID-19, such as arts, cultural and environmental causes, donor retention is particularly important. Keep the donors you have. Thank them, engage them and then ask for their support.
STEP ONE: THANK INDIVIDUAL DONORS
☐ Have we thanked our major donors? And have we done so with personal, thoughtful calls in addition to snail mail thank you notes and e-mails?
Example: See VMJA blog on how your board can thank donors with one-page plan: http://vmja.com/covid-19-blog-1-engage-staff-and-supporters/
☐ Have we thanked in our unique voice? What can we do that others aren’t doing? What will make us stand out from all the other nonprofits?
Tip: Evite is offering its premium greeting cards for free (up to 750). You can tailor with your own images/message to all, or send personalized ones to individuals: https://www.evite.com/covid19
☐ Have we varied the ways we thank? You might send video thank yous to donors as a group, or individualize, such as by leaving a thank you video message to donors you can’t reach by phone.
Video Messaging Resources:
Some integrate with your database (www.causevid.com/DonorPerfect) but can cost $299/month.
Others integrate with Outlook, Trello, Google. Bonjoro, (www.bonjoro.com/ is free to $79/month.
STEP TWO: ENGAGE INDIVIDUAL DONORS
☐ Have we engaged our major donors in our plans? Have I articulated the non-financial ways they can help, such as advocacy, in-kind services, amplifying our social media messages?
Example: See VMJA blog on how to engage donors in your C-19 plan and invite them to help: http://vmja.com/c-19-blog-2-activate-your-board-deeper-dive/
☐ Have we found concrete ways to engage them in their homes? Get creative.
Examples: Mail small boxes of colored chalk to your donors, along with instructions
• Advocacy nonprofit: ask them to create sidewalk art advocacy messages in chalk, photograph their creations, then post these images on their social media.
• Zoo: Invite each family member to make draw their favorite animal on driveway or sidewalk, then send to you for posting or as part of a competition.
Resource: Staples www.Staples.com is delivering any size order of chalk for free.
☐ Have we invited donors to volunteer? Create one list of tasks they could do remotely, and another of COVID-safe volunteer opportunities. This may deepen their connection to your mission. If you’re stuck for ideas, www.VolunteerMatch.org has posted close to 750,000 virtual volunteer opportunities. You’ll find great suggestions in their article on managing virtual volunteers.
STEP THREE: ASK BY STARTING EASY
☐ Have we leveraged gifts that don’t cost them anything? Reminding them of Amazon Smile is obvious. You can also update your “wish list” of pro-bono services and in-kind donations if you’re equipped to receive them. And don’t overlook corporate matching gifts. You’ll want to collect all you can from this source before matching companies decide to suspend these programs. You may consider integrating a matching gift lookup service into your donate page, even if only for a brief period.
Resource: https://doublethedonation.com/ offers a free 14-day trial.
☐ Have we invited donors to fundraise for us? You already know about Facebook fundraisers, but if you’ve not tried crowdfunding before, this may be the time. Ask for something specific, immediate and compelling, as colleges have appealed for funds to house stranded foreign students. Here are some popular options:
• https://fundly.com is a popular fundraising platform that doesn’t charge fees.
• https://fundrazr.com/pages/nonprofits is a nonprofit. It’s free to your nonprofit when you choose to have transaction fees paid by your supporters. It integrates with Facebook and other social media.
• I’m not partial to any one fundraising software, but here’s a free starter kit with templates from Donor Perfect https://www.donorperfect.com/nonprofit-technology-blog/fundraising-software/your-nonprofit-crowdfunding-campaign-kit-with-templates/
☐ Have we asked donors to give in small increments? Many donors want to help but hesitate before making big gifts. Tell them you understand, and that you will need their help to sustain your cause in the months ahead. If appropriate, suggest they participate in your recurring gifts or monthly giving program. You may be surprised to learn that 21% of Baby Boomers participate in such programs. Here’s help if you’re not sure how to structure a recurring gift program.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DOES THIS PRESENT?
☐ Have we changed the way we engage your donors? If you’ve been meaning to vary and invigorate donor communications, this is the time. And the easy, gentle ways suggested above will show them you empathize with their situation and that you’re all on the same side.
☐ Have we fully tapped into our volunteers’ potential? We often ask volunteers to give but may neglect to ask donors to volunteer. Studies show that donors can do much more for you than give:
• Write thank-you notes
• Contribute to newsletter, email, and other designs
• Host online auctions
• Encourage them to be one of your nonprofit storytellers to engage donors
OVERARCHING PRINCIPLE: ESTABLISH “NEW NORMAL”.
Example: Board governance and engagement plan for next 3-9 months.
STEP ONE: GOVERNANCE
☐ Have I checked to see if our by-laws discuss emergency governance? Many do. If not, your state’s Nonprofit Corporate Law may contain a limited provision authorizing boards to enact emergency by-laws.
☐ Have I checked our by-laws regarding board meetings, quorums, etc.? Your governance committee chair may can do this. Consider updating if needed.
Example: If your by-laws require a minimum number of board members must be present in person, change it to include remote or digital participation.
Note: Thanks to Laura Solomon, Esq. http://laurasolomonesq.com/
☐ Should we continue to recruit/onboard new board members? If you can do it well remotely and can adapt your board orientation materials to the situation.
• BoardSource’s free orientation checklist https://boardsource.org/nonprofit-board-orientation-checklist/
• Particularly important to appoint a board mentor or buddy for incoming board members. https://boardsource.org/resources/mentor-your-way-to-board-development/
STEP TWO: BOARD DEVELOPMENT
☐ Which board materials have we not had time to develop in the past? And is there someone with the bandwidth to tackle them now? Orientation packet? Board committee member job descriptions? This is an appropriate job for a member of the governance committee, but any intelligent board member or volunteer can do the legwork to consult sources and collect samples.
• Blue Avocado has great articles, samples and a sense of humor. https://blueavocado.org/category/board-of-directors/
☐ What board resources are free that usually cost money? Pre-C-19, BoardSource restricted many resources to paid members. Some of these are now free, including its Ask the Expert feature.
STEP THREE: BOARD ENGAGEMENT
☐ Have I engaged the board in implementing our C-19 Plan?
☐ Have I included them in our C-19 Communications Plan? Identify ways board members and major donors close to you can help amplify your message.
1. Market research audience: Outline your objectives and six to nine-month plan for your news-blasts, podcasts, social media postings, webinars, etc. Clearly define who you seek to reach, what action you want them to take, brand, theme and messaging. Then facilitate a brainstorming session. Make it clear you welcome additional resources.
Example: A trustee’s company may have an under-employed videographer
2. Content contributors: Consider interviewing your board members and/or donors in your podcast and/or for social media. Those who have subject matter expertise can comment, and those who do not can discuss why they care, their concerns for your nonprofit during C-19 and hopes for the future. When interviewing, provide question in advance and ensure participants have an opportunity to review content before posting publicly.
☐ Have I included board and major donors in the discussion?
1. Salon: The age of enlightenment was known for its salons, gatherings where cultural, political, and academic thinkers exchanged exciting new ideas hosted by intellectually and socially astute ladies.
Plan carefully, chose the right board host and mix of participants and your digital salon can replicate the sparkling thought and conversation. Focus on an issue your nonprofit seeks to address and how to do so through C-19.
Make the structure clear in your invitation. You’ll start with introductions. The host will have prompt questions and moderate perhaps with staff helping with management. Be clear on when the salon will begin and end.
Afterwards, brainstorm next steps with your host. The intimacy of such meetings and mixing with interesting experts can make for satisfying board and major donor engagement.
Example: A prison reform cause could address activism options during C-19.
2. Discussion Group: For a more down-home version, plan a discussion group with meetings including a brief presentation by an interesting expert introduced and moderated by your hosting board member.
Example: Historical Society invites participants to learn about colonial era pandemics from an expert and compare to current pandemic.
WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DOES THIS PRESENT?
☐How might updating our by-laws align us more closely with our mission?
Example: Remote board meetings may decrease your nonprofit’s carbon footprint.
☐ How might crisis management strengthen our board? Going through a fire together can be a powerful bonding experience for your board. It may also show you who you can count on when the chips are down.
Asking a new board member to solicit non-donors is like teaching a kid to ride a bike by putting her on a Harley. Not a good idea. Yet that’s just about what we do in fundraising. We tell new board members, “You don’t have to ask our donors; they’re already giving! We need you to bring in fresh blood, new donors.”
Subtext: “Get strangers to give us money.”
You’re afraid it will be awkward, because your friends and associates don’t yet know/care about your nonprofit. Or that it will be uncomfortable, because they may feel you’re using them. Worse, even if they do give when you ask them this time, unless you get them involved in the interim, they probably won’t give next year. So you’ll be back where you started. Except you may feel tongue-tied with some friends, family and colleagues.
Are you squirming yet?
The Golden Ask method of fundraising does just the opposite. I begin by assigning board members to solicit those who are already giving and almost certain to say “Yes!” Sometimes I even have board members solicit each other. This is great practice, because they know they’ll be asking their partner in turn, and become proactively generous as a result. I then assign novice solicitors to ask 2-3 current donors, one after another. After several successful visits, they are thrilled with getting big gifts. These board members are convinced they’re darned good fundraisers. And you know what? They’re right!
Asking donors before you ask prospects has several additional advantages.
1. Donors are your best prospects. It’s easier to get current donors to renew, perhaps even increase, their gift than it is to get someone who’s never contributed to give for the first time. So you raise more money asking donors than you do asking prospects.
2. They deserve it. Taking time to meet with your donors tells them they’re important to you. Remember, there’s no rule saying that because Ms. X has given you $100/year for the last ten years she’s got to do it again. Don’t make the mistake of losing her by taking her for granted.
3. You’ll learn a lot. You’ll learn about your donors’ backgrounds and what drew them to your cause. They may share happy news… congratulate them! They may share bad news or challenging situations, including financial ones. Empathize. Assure them they’re valued partners, not just ATMs. Hold onto these people and you may find they become tremendous champions.
Give your board some fundraising training wheels before they have to make the more difficult asks. It doesn’t mean they won’t bring new donors into the fold later. They’ll just be much better at it when they do.
Don’t forget to book your Nonprofit Hero talk and training!