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Meeting Your Donors in the Midst of Their Crisis

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From Michael “MT” Tomlinson, CEO and President, BDI

 

It’s more important than ever to show your donors just how grateful you are during this holiday season. These champions for your cause have stood by your side, steadfastly supporting you through all the ups and downs of this difficult year, and they need to know just how much they mean to your ministry.

It’s critical to pause and thank them for their heartfelt generosity. Not only because you want to continue to foster their friendship and grow the trust they’ve placed in your organization, but because you’re going to need to rely on them for months to come…

We’ve lived in the midst of the pandemic for many months now – and what we hoped would be a sprint may end up being a marathon. As genuine struggle and the extended disruption of our personal and professional lives continue without a reliable end date in sight, fatigue mounts.

All nonprofit organizations are coming to the stark realization that they can’t simply hold on for this season to pass, but instead must significantly pivot in order to thrive and survive.

Let me strongly encourage you in this: Don’t allow the stress of this crisis to erode the heart behind the relationships you have with ministry supporters.

Now is the perfect time to show your donors how much you authentically value them. After all, you are here to run this race together, as partners.

How you communicate that value is both an art and a science. I’d love to share some excellent advice on how to relationally connect with your donors today.

Stephen Boudreau is a trusted colleague with whom I’ve collaborated for more than a decade in service of many Christian ministries. As the Co-Founder of RaiseDonors, a leading fundraising technology platform, Stephen has abundant practical wisdom and data-driven insight on donor connectivity in the nonprofit sector.

 

The Value of Partnering With Your Donors

How to keep their support through the Power of Relationships

By Stephen Boudreau, Co-Founder, RaiseDonors

 

The nation is struggling. And as goes the nation, so go nonprofits too.

Many nonprofits have cancelled their key annual fundraising events or galas as they follow public health recommendations. Endeavors like capital campaigns may be up in the air. Major projects on which nonprofit teams have spent countless hours of time and resources are being delayed, or worse, abandoned. Capacity is another problem – there’s increasing need for assistance, especially for nonprofits in the health and human services sector.

All these things mean a lot of fear and uncertainty for those of us working in the nonprofit sector.

At RaiseDonors, our goal has always been to be innovative and counter-intuitive when helping our clients communicate with their donors – but it’s been downright difficult during these challenging times.

Right now, many nonprofits feel pressure to expand their online platforms, engage their volunteers, keep their staff happy, maintain their regular programming. Add to this the new challenges during a global pandemic: following new health and safety protocols and releasing up-to-date information on the state of their organization and services.

And as if that weren’t enough, they also feel the pressure to do all this while maintaining close and authentic donor relationships!

As this general anxiety presses down, nonprofits may be tempted to shortcut their donor relationships and raise funds with short-term tactics like crisis fundraising and guilt-inducing pleas. While it may create a short-lived giving bump, in the long term, it ends up distancing your organization from your most faithful supporters.

How? It’s like the well-known story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” – if every time you reach out to donors it’s with an emergency plea, they’ll soon understand it as a tactic to raise money instead of an authentic communication with them.

When they feel they’re being used, rather than feeling like a partner on your journey, they’ll shut their hearts to your messaging AND close their wallets. When your donors truly feel like a partner with your work, they’ll want to walk beside you through any crisis and support you however they can. 

That’s why I want to give you some tips on how your nonprofit can shift communication with your donors from transaction to relational. 

Don’t Stop Fundraising

Right now, your donors are understandably more worried about their lives and their families than they are about your specific organization. But they still care about you… and they need to know that you still care about them.

Like fuel in your car, the only thing keeping your organization moving is fundraising.

By fundraising, you’re showing commitment to keep the mission moving. The poor are still suffering. The sick are still hurting. The vulnerable and outcast still need a voice. The social needs of the world have not disappeared – and you are advocating for them.

Create a Sense of Community… Virtually

Now’s the time to crank the dial to 11 on your social media strategy.

Get on social media and interact with donors. Ask how they’re doing; encourage them to post photos of their home lives; post photos of YOUR lives at home and at your nonprofit to really show them how we’re all in this together! 

By using live-streaming services like Facebook Live and YouTube Live, you can host a variety of real-time community events:

  1. If you’re a faith-based organization, conduct prayer meetings with your donors.
  2.  Host video chat interviews with local experts to give news and advice to your donors. This could include finance experts, art experts or even home and garden experts. Why not provide sound advice while helping your donors feel normal again?
  3. Offer alternative ways for donors to be a part of the cause. Who says that galas, events, and runs are the only way to show support? There are several things you can do virtually to keep your donors inspired:

    • Post video content of how your team is dealing with the daily threat of coronavirus while still serving the needs of those who need your help.
    • Try hosting a Facebook Watch Party of an interview you’ve conducted with an expert in your field. This way, donors can interact with you about the interview by asking questions or leaving comments.
    • If your cause is international, try posting videos from the field showing how your international partners are dealing with the coronavirus in their area of the world.

 

I’ve appreciated and enjoyed posts from the Akron-Canton Regional Food Bank during the current crisis. Using the phrase “gettin’ after it” as a goal, their videos keep their donors updated on ways they’re doing just that each day. Check out their posts HERE.

Do What You Can

I hate everything about this coronavirus outbreak. It spreads fast. People have died from it. And we don’t know when this quarantine is going to end. But your work is important. The cause you serve is important. Do what you can with what you have. Your donors will recognize your effort – and most likely want to help you!

We’re in this together, now and in the future. Communicate with your donors with honesty and authenticity during this time, and they’ll stand with you through this crisis… and any crisis to come.

 

 

Michael J. Tomlinson, CEO and President

Michael Tomlinson, better known as “MT,” is the CEO and President of BDI. With more than 25 years of executive leadership in business development and media, MT’s expertise involves leading organizations like Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk and Dunham+Company in the ideation and execution of successful integrated marketing, broadcast and digital media, and fundraising strategies that fuel growth.

As BDI’s President, MT leads the strategic direction, ensuring that the agency is equipped with the talent, tools, and technologies to effectively serve clients long-term by reaching and cultivating loyal, heart-connected and generous financial donors.

Email MT now.

Want more? For this month’s “Need to Read” from MT on Freaky Fast Gratitude Lessons from Jimmy John’s, click here.

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