An Executive Update from MT, Brewer Direct’s President and CEO
My Courageous Friends,
I speak for our team at BDI when I say “thank you” for your inspiration and commitment to serve others in these uncertain and frightening days. Witnessing your resolve, faith and mettle serves as great encouragement to me personally and all our teams at the agency. Truly, we are stronger together.
Even as this COVID-19 pandemic separates us physically in the short term, it has united us at an even greater level in mission, values and courage. We must draw and amplify confidence from one another as we battle the physical, emotional and spiritual warfare brought on by this crisis.
If you’re like me, one of the great challenges you’re facing right now is the assault of information. I’m quickly learning who’s captured my email address over the last 25 years! While well intended, I’m not sure I need to get health and wellness advice from my preferred guitar string manufacturer.
That said, maintaining and driving the support-securing engine IS a mission-critical function for your organization’s health and wellbeing. Today, I’m pleased to provide an Executive Update on our partnership and collective efforts to cultivate relationships with supporters and release generosity.
With respect for the time crunch you’re facing as you lead your organization through this crisis, I’ll focus solely on what we believe you need to know right now.
As conditions change and there’s vital information to share, we’ll be in close touch. And, of course, we’re here and ready to talk or email on demand, as needed.
BDI SERVICE CAPABILITIES
BDI has taken quick and thorough steps to maintain our steadfast and uninterrupted service to you and your fundraising campaigns. Due to the outbreak, we have instituted the following parts of our business continuity plan:
Remote Work Access & Coverage:
Our entire staff is set up to work remotely. Routinely, over half of our staff accesses our systems remotely, while remaining staff are fully equipped and trained to work off-site as needed.
We also have the corporate bandwidth to continue our work without disruption and work in a fully cross-trained environment to ensure coverage of all service roles.
Server Redundancy (On-site & Cloud-Based):
BDI uses a combination of in-house and cloud-based servers to ensure we can continue service in the event of any type of threat or emergency.
Phil Stolberg, Brewer Direct’s Chief Operations Officer, recently returned from on-site visits and discussions with leadership of our vital direct marketing production partners. Today, we anticipate no delays or interruptions of service for currently in-process or upcoming direct mail or digital communications.
As of March 18, 2020, the U.S. Federal Government has reported that the USPS will continue all operations per usual: “The Postal Service shall have as its basic function the obligation to provide postal services to bind the Nation together through the personal, educational, literary, and business correspondence of the people. It shall provide prompt, reliable, and efficient services to patrons in all areas and shall render postal services to all communities.”
Immediate Fundraising Initiatives:
All currently-scheduled fundraising appeals and ministry communications will continue. However, this week, our strategy, service and agency leadership teams met and reviewed every upcoming effort and, where appropriate, will make recommendations. Your Client Services Strategist will be in contact regarding your review and approval of any changes.
We need to stay on track. In response to the widespread concern brought on by this pandemic – and despite the temptation to pull communications and appeals from the market OR go immediately into a panicked emergency funding positioning – today, we recommend maintaining our big picture fundraising strategy with attention to tone and some appropriate acknowledgement of the unprecedented recent events.
We need to be visible to our supporters and community. Add ministry updates via your communications platforms (particularly on websites, social media and via email) from known and authoritative leaders at your organization. Especially now, we need people-to-people connections, not nonprofit ministry-to-donor.
As General George S. Patton so famously said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”
We need to be human in these high-stress moments. Even as you confidently serve, be comfortable sharing your concerns and humanity during these times of crisis. In this fluid, wartime-like environment, no one is expecting you to have all the answers. As Christians, however, we can engage with audiences on another level that sees beyond this strife.
• Team BDI is in the trenches with you.
We’re on it. Unless there are new, unanticipated disruptions in major supply chains, postal service or digital platforms, we expect to produce and deploy your scheduled campaigns on time.
We’re here for you. Our Client Services Strategists and your BDI support team are all healthy, securely working remotely and available to discuss both the planned events and other upcoming ideas for generating ministry support.
We’re watching. We’re monitoring the legal, social, economic and philanthropic environment in real time to determine both risks and opportunities for our current fundraising initiatives. We’re assessing where plan amendments and pivots may be required while also considering environment-responsive appeals (greater than 60 days out). We’ll bring those recommendations to you.
• BDI Toolbox. We encourage you to check out the resources available in the Brewer Toolbox that you can access here on our website.
• Individual Consultation. With more than 30 years of mission and ministry experience, our Sr. Vice President of BDI Academy Shellie Speer is available on an individual basis to discuss crisis response and any other operational challenge you’re facing. These include volunteer programs, events, press and public communications and more. You can reach her at (719) 210-6207 or email@example.com.
• Webinar Series. With the recent travel ban, your Brewer Direct team is working on a series of digital training and education webinars that we plan to host over the summer and fall. In an interactive setting, we’ll be able to work together to apply tools, updated data, and philanthropic trend research to be responsive in the current fundraising climate. We anticipate a busy summer for all once we’re blessed to transition from crisis response to operational recovery. We’re looking forward to working together to keep funding flowing.
• BDI Institute Rescheduled. More details are forthcoming shortly, but we encourage you to save the date and plan to join us in beautiful San Diego, California on February 22 – 25, 2021.
• Prayer Support. We’re praying intently for you, your families, all involved in your ministry and our nation. Please don’t hesitate to call us if you’d like us to join you in lifting up your concerns before the Lord. It’d be our honor to do so with you.
• Stay in your community’s mindshare. While you juggle competing priorities, being in touch with your community through frequent updates and ministry insights (not just support appeals) will help keep your mission top of mind.
• Cultivate trust. In times of crisis, trust is more important than ever. Transparency, both as an organization and as servant leaders, will build and extend trust.
• Be a solution for your donor’s needs as well as your ministry’s constituents. Even as we struggle personally, our generous hearts want to be part of our hurting community’s crisis solutions. Make the connection for your donors between their (safe!) financial gifts and the practical life-changing help it provides on the front lines.
• Be prepared to pivot quickly as circumstances change. Communicate plans internally as well as externally – both good news and bad.
• Lean on your friends. You’re not alone! We need others and we need to be needed.
YES: Fearlessly make your case for support.
YES: If your ministry can and will (funding-dependent) expand and scale services to meet increased
demand, then invite supporters to participate.
YES: Link arms personally and professionally (missionally) with your donors, acknowledging the
state of affairs and focusing on what you can do together in response through partnership.
NO: Use a general state of fear as the foundation of crisis fundraising.
NO: Make your primary appeal for support (in the next 30-60 days) a case to offset an
anticipated long-term funding shortfall.
NO: Curb or cease fundraising appeals if some of your services or programs’ scope is temporarily suspended due to safety, policy, law or wise management.
Our likely economic downturn could be averted if we received a dollar donated every time someone has said “unprecedented” recently.
Indeed, we’re navigating uncharted waters. It would be impractical, misguided and even dishonest to claim that any of us knows with certainty what the impact (and resulting pain) will be for financial giving to nonprofits.
That said, you can and should expect that we’ll be studying historical crises and testing into social, economic and philanthropic trends to determine the best paths forward.
With what seemed like providential timing, I was in Ohio recently for a meeting of the Giving Institute’s board members when the Coronavirus really broke loose. A long-time colleague and mentor of mine, Rick Dunham, serves as Co-Chair of this excellent organization that also produces the annual definitive study on philanthropy in America, Giving USA. As always, Rick had some terrific historical insight that can shape our expectations now, even as the unique and developing set of circumstances play out for us all. Passionately committed to all kingdom-driven ministry, he has kindly allowed me to share his perspective here:
“With the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading across the US, tanking the stock market and sowing fear, nonprofit leaders are naturally wondering what the impact will be on giving.
• Giving tends to be recession-resistant.
It’s important to know that historically, giving in current dollars has maintained or even increased in recessionary years (see the Giving USA chart below). The one exception is the “Great Recession” from 2007-2009. So when the economy struggles, it’s not unreasonable to see that charitable organizations can weather that storm with donors who are committed to the organizations they care about most.
• What we are currently experiencing is a mitigation impact, not a causative impact.
Here’s what I mean. The fast-moving changes we are experiencing currently are the result of measures being employed that are seeking to mitigate the impact of the virus and not because the virus has spread ubiquitously.
For example, the 30-day restriction of flights from Europe is a dramatic step to try and keep the virus from spreading into America. So is the suspension of NBA games. The implication? If the mitigation steps are effective, the impact should be short-lived, including the impact on the stock market.
• Timing is everything.
If the stock market was tanking in December (think the end of 2018), we would see a direct and severe impact on year-end giving and overall giving for the year. Because the virus has hit so early in the year, it allows a period for recovery before the most important time of the year for giving… if the mitigation efforts prove successful.”
What conclusions can we draw? That is actually my point.
There are no definitive conclusions yet, but there is significant historical precedent to be and remain confident that this too shall pass. Provided that we’re committed to the vital causes we support, that we stay connected and coordinated in our efforts and that we remain faithful through the storm, we will have the best chance to survive and thrive long after the acute phase of this crisis passes.
As COVID-19 and its impact continue to evolve and develop, we remain focused on the health and safety of our employees and our communities, as well as our commitment to you, our valued partners.
We thank God for you and are in prayer for your safety and protection as you courageously serve the fragile and most vulnerable – even at risk to your own wellness.
It’s during times like these that ministries are relied upon to provide hope to a distressed world. Please know we stand beside you in renewed commitment to be of service to your life-changing work.
Let us know how we can help… and please take good care of yourselves.
Respectfully and with great affection,