Meeting Fundraising Goals in 2020

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by Richard Heimsoth

As marketers and fundraisers, adapting to donor behavior and current economic conditions has always been a requisite for success. But never before have we been challenged to accelerate a pivot in strategy like in the wake of COVID-19. As the pandemic persists and we come to terms with the fact that it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future, our evolution has to transcend quick fixes. Consider these five imperatives to help your organization cater to the current environment and address “the new normal” in donor behavior.

Tap Into Data to Understand Dynamic Markets

While we can make broad generalizations about the nationwide impact of COVID-19, homing in on local data gives us a more nuanced and complete picture of health and economic conditions. Evaluating constituent spending, mobility and health trends at the local level can allow you to respond more nimbly to the ever-changing landscape.

View Donor Behavior Through a New Lens

Once you understand the holistic state of local markets, you can dig deeper into more specific changes in charitable giving. A city going back into lockdown may beget drastically different donor behavior than one in the early stages of re-opening. Look carefully at your constituents’ physical, mental and financial health — pre-pandemic assertions about your audience need to be revetted considerably to reflect new attitudes and motivations.

Develop and Test Messaging That Resonates

While you’re likely fatigued by the endless repetition of buzzwords like “unprecedented times,” they highlight an important reality: There’s no bulletproof roadmap for navigating a global pandemic. Testing is no longer a luxury within a mature fundraising strategy — it’s an absolute necessity for organizations large and small to embrace.

Fine-tune your messaging to skew more optimistic or empathetic based on local health outcomes. Experiment with channels that align with constituent mobility, knowing you’re reaching people at home more than ever. Test and learn quickly, particularly in the digital space, using a dynamic creative optimization process that serves personalized messaging to the right person at a local market level. Consider concentrating your testing in key markets to gain cost-efficient insights that can extend to markets with similar profiles.

Inspire Loyalty With Stand-Out Engagement

When your constituents have less discretionary income for charitable giving, meaningful interactions with your organization become more important than ever. At its core, your messaging has to be timely, sensitive to current conditions and reflective of your donors’ motivations for giving. But you should also strive to delight and connect with donors more deeply and frequently. For some, gamifying a fundraising experience is a much-needed answer to the monotony and boredom of stay-at-home orders. And for those experiencing serious emotional distress, providing a sense of hope and solidarity can go a long way in fostering enduring relationships.

Reimagine Events for Today and Tomorrow

While a transition to virtual experiences may be a public health necessity, it’s also an opportunity to invest in a trend that will undoubtedly outlast the pandemic. The reach and scale of virtual events opens new doors for your fundraising efforts, but only if you approach your strategy thoughtfully.

Simply recreating your existing events in a virtual format may be an easy fix, but the shortcuts will be apparent to your constituents. Instead, create virtual events that lean into the platform, leveraging technology, interactive content, relevant partnerships and social sharing. Use data to inform and personalize your digital events, so you can enrich the journey and capture new insights along the way. You can even use paid media to amplify your online experience and engage prospects who wouldn’t typically participate in traditional in-person events.

Like any COVID-19 fundraising, it’s all about trial and error. Be sure to capitalize on your learnings for follow-up activations and ongoing engagement, including your eventual transition back to in-person events.

While we can’t predict the future of nonprofit fundraising or pandemic trends, we can do our best to stay one step ahead of what’s next. This is a challenging and often frustrating time for organizations and constituents alike, but we can all find bright spots by focusing on innovation and opportunity.

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