Check-Up Clinic: Donor Relations
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Donor Relations: Stewardship Tips During a Pandemic
by Gerard Tonti
The unprecedented global pandemic has changed individuals' ways of life. For professional fundraisers, these changes have brought about a lot of uncertainty and difficulty obtaining the necessary funds to keep nonprofit organizations running smoothly.
Some organizations have pressed pause on many of their fundraising activities, under the impression that continuation of raising money is a burden on their economically-pressed supporters. However, we caution you against this activity.
While you shouldn't go about fundraising as normal, you should continue with a new strategy. After all, your nonprofit needs funds to continue operating, and some supporters are still willing to contribute! For those who are unable to give or give as much as usual, we recommend focusing on stewardship.
By expanding your donor stewardship program, your organization will come out of the COVID-19 pandemic on top.
Our favorite tips to expand your donor stewardship program include the following:
- Call supporters
- Provide engagement opportunities
As you focus on your organization's next steps during the pandemic, keep a close eye on trusted COVID-19 resources so you can adjust your strategy to accommodate the opportunities these resources may bring.
Without further ado, let's dive in to learn more about expanding your organization's stewardship program during a pandemic.
Calling your supporters provides an opportunity to establish a personal connection through conversation, which goes a long way toward building and sustaining relationships.
Generally, stewardship conversations should follow the following structure:
- Ask your supporters how they're doing. Make sure this is the first topic of conversation to show your supporters that their well-being is your priority.
- Express the changes your organization has experienced. Tell supporters about how your organization is keeping staff, supporters, and constituents safe during the pandemic.
- Explain the current needs of your organization. Tell supporters what you're trying to accomplish during the pandemic.
- Tell donors how they can get involved. Invite them to get involved through contributions, reading about your mission, or simply keeping the cause in their thoughts.
- Thank your donors. Thank your supporters for their past contributions and their support (no matter what type) during these difficult times.
When you call your supporters, don't forget to take notes to store in your donor management software. The information you save in the database should include the date on which the call took place, the conversation topics covered, and the device used to communicate (mobile phone, video conferencing tools, etc.).
AFP's guide to moving forward during COVID-19 explains the necessity to engage with your community. What better way to engage than with conversation? Make plans to call your supporters and schedule them so that you're keeping in touch regularly.
Provide Engagement Opportunities
Be sure you're providing opportunities for your organization's supporters to get involved from their homes. Tell them about the classic methods of involvement, such as contributing and volunteering. When you do, be sure to explain the additional incentives and benefits associated with these contribution opportunities, such as the above-the-line tax deduction offered through the CARES Act.
However, keep in mind that some may not have the financial capacity to contribute right now, and others will be unwilling to leave their homes' safety to volunteer or help in person. This means your organization will need to come up with additional creative opportunities for supporter engagement.
Some unique examples we recommend include:
- Advocacy Campaigns: Advocacy campaigns rally your supporters to back a particular decision from the decision-makers in the community. For instance, you may work to influence your congressional or local representatives to vote for (or against) legislation directly impacting your mission. Salsa's article of nonprofit advocacy examples explains how you can achieve this through click-to-call campaigns, messaging representatives, and calling them out on social media platforms.
- Virtual Events: While you can't host in-person events due to social distancing guidelines, virtual events are a great alternative to capture the attention of your supporters. Try getting everyone together for a virtual game night, engage supporters with an online concert experience, or send your favorite recipes so that everyone can have a cooking night together. The more creative the idea, the better it will catch your supporters' eyes.
The commonality between these two ideas is that neither requires monetary contribution from your supporters. They can stay connected to your mission without feeling pressured to give.
Continuously stewarding donors during the pandemic will help build and expand upon your relationships with them. Stronger relationships will lead to additional fundraising capacity and opportunities after the pandemic ends. Good luck!