Tips for Communicating with Donors During Uncertain Times

March 12, 2020 Bo Crader

Relationships are the foundation of fundraising.

Growing authentic, long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with highly engaged supporters is proven to be the most effective and sustainable development strategy, regardless of market conditions.

Even in uncertain times you still have a fundraising goal to meet, so this is the perfect strategy.

When your focus is long-term, you are naturally cultivating and stewarding donors in ways that will benefit your organization in the short term.

Focus on Your Mission

Stay focused on communicating your mission. This is your connection with donors – that will never change.

According to the 2018 U.S. Trust Study of High-Net Worth Philanthropy, donors give because of their belief in the organization’s mission and because they believe their gift can make a difference.

When donors are connected, they will see the need and step up to support the need when they are able.

Focus on the Basics

Tracking constituent information is essential for your organization to maintain high-value relationships over long periods of time. When properly managed, your database will provide incredible insight that remains through any staff, organizational, or market changes.

Data enables relationships. Use this rich data to better connect with your donors by segmenting your database and sending more targeted messages.

Focus on Communicating with Donors

Face-to-face meetings are the preferred communication method for fundraisers, but sometimes that just isn’t possible. Don’t discount digital communications! They offer consistency and stability, which can be vital to building sustainable, long-term relationships with donors.

Use these tips to help guide your communications:

  1. Show empathy.

Be sensitive to donor’s feelings and concerns. Acknowledge the uncertainty and that their financial situation may have changed. Remind them that your organization’s mission and needs have not. Prepare your gift officers to have this conversation in addition to working this messaging into your digital communications.

  1. Continue to ask for gifts.

Generally, you are only going to receive gifts if you ask for them. So keep asking! Don’t assume people are not in a giving mode.

Do not stop communicating with your donors. Continue to execute your annual campaign plan, but be prepared to make changes. Your best supporters believe in you and will help as much as they are able.

  1. Don’t be sensational or exploitative.

Communicate with supporters to let them know how you are fulfilling your mission. If you are actively helping with a public health issue, show the impact their donations have in the community, but do not do it in an exploitative or sensational way.

  1. Try something different.

Now is a great time to get outside your comfort zone with digital marketing. Maximize your use of social media with an ambassador or social influencer program by cultivating a core group of passionate, connected supporters to spread your mission.

Plus, tap into livestream fundraising, like Facebook live, to host events and meetings. Facebook’s algorithm prioritizes live content so more people will see your live posts, which extends your organization’s reach. This is a seamless way to open an in-person event to a virtual audience. Just make sure an ask is part of your event strategy!

  1. Cultivate high-value supporters.

These supporters have the capacity to give and they believe in your mission. You could do something as simple as a personal email to “check in,” better understand their needs, and show how the organization is continuing to focus on its mission. While messaging will vary by each organization and supporter, this is a great way to continue conversations even when schedules are disrupted and meeting in person isn’t possible.  And, the data shows us that supporters who communicate through multiple channels tend to stay engaged longer and are more likely to participate in other ways.

In the comments, please share your thoughts and strategies on what has worked for your organization in uncertain times.

To help the social good community prepare for and respond to any impacts of the COVID-19 coronavirus, Blackbaud has also compiled a list of resources from across the sector that may be useful. Visit www.blackbaud.com/covid-19 for more information.

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