As a fundraiser, you likely entered 2020 with big plans to advance your organization with fundraising. Maybe you planned to kick off your first major campaign or even dive into planned giving. However, we’re now six months into the year, and maybe some of your plans for the new year have been derailed by the pandemic.
By now, you’re familiar with the many ways COVID-19 has affected charitable donations. Whether the cancellation of in-person fundraising events, the ongoing economic downfall prompting a decrease in donations, or the increased need for nonprofit assistance, the pandemic has created a challenging landscape for nonprofits this year.
In response, many organizations paused fundraising at the outset of the crisis. Whether to contribute to the emergency response efforts or to give donors a chance to recover, many organizations avoided any major fundraising efforts for their cause. While it may have been a good idea in the first half of the year— your organization can’t abandon fundraising for the entirety of 2020. Your cause depends on it!
With that in mind, we’re going to explore five tips for choosing the right fundraising campaigns for your organization to carry you through the rest of the year.
Are you ready to successfully resume fundraising to make the most of the rest of 2020? Let’s get started.
1. Evaluate the Status of Your Current Efforts
Before choosing which fundraising tactics will fill out the rest of your 2020 efforts, it’s important to evaluate what you had planned for the year and what you have completed thus far. While some organizations may opt to fully reroute their efforts, you may be able to move forward with what you’d planned with a few slight adjustments.
Let’s consider a few examples:
- A major fundraising campaign, such as a capital campaign. Depending on how far you’ve progressed in your campaign, you may be able to continue it without disruption. For example, if you’re in a planning phase, you might choose to extend that phase to brainstorm ways to adjust your strategy for success during the crisis.
- A fundraising events-fueled strategy. Many organizations are canceling their fundraising events outright due to social distancing needs. However, virtual events technology allows you to get creative and still hold your fundraising efforts successfully.
Avoid fully abandoning your strategy for 2020. Begin by looking for ways to pivot your original plans and still reach your goals. If that’s not possible, continue reading for a few fundraising efforts that have a higher chance of success during a crisis.
2. Consider the Many Campaign Types You Could Hold
It’s understandable to feel apprehensive when it comes to resuming fundraising for 2020. After all, many signs point to a difficult fundraising season— with unemployment at a record high and supporters more distant than ever before. However, there are common types of fundraising campaigns that can be incredibly successful during our new socially-distanced reality.
With that, let’s explore a few campaign types that can be particularly successful during the challenging fundraising atmosphere presented by COVID-19:
- Pledge Campaign: Pledged donations are those that donors promise to make at a later date, such as later in the year when (hopefully) the crisis’s challenges have abated. This type of campaign involves building relationships with supporters now in order to secure those pledges.
- Matching Gifts: Matching gift programs involve employers making donations to approved nonprofits that match those made by their employees. When conducting this type of campaign, you contact supporters that have already made gifts and those still giving to see if they qualify for a matched donation.
- Grants Fundraising: Many grantmaking foundations and organizations have pledged to increase their philanthropic efforts in response to the crisis. Consider dedicating your fundraising efforts to discovering and applying for grants that could further your cause.
- Donor-Advised Funds (DAFs): DAFs are a specialized type of holding account, in which a donor deposits donations without immediately specifying a beneficiary. Often managed by large financial services firms, these donations are later directed to a nonprofit of the donor’s choice. Consider conducting a campaign to discover these funding sources, both within and outside of your existing donor base, and stewarding those that contribute.
With these fundraising efforts, you’ll be actively fundraising and furthering your cause while being mindful of the current financial landscape.
3. Consider Working with a Fundraising Consultant to Create Your New Strategy
While many have compared the fundraising challenges of COVID-19 to those presented by the Great Recession of 2008, there are a few key differences. For example, while there was an economic downturn in both situations, the fact that your nonprofit can’t interact with supporters in-person for the foreseeable future adds a new layer of complication.
Because of this, the current fundraising atmosphere is unprecedented for nonprofit organizations. That said, you may feel overwhelmed when it comes to locating a path to move forward with fundraising!
Luckily, there are nonprofit professionals that specialize in helping organizations just like yours navigate new, uncertain and challenging situations. A fundraising consultant can create a new strategy for your organization, positioning you to emerge victorious on the other side of the pandemic.
A fundraising consultant will:
- Create a strategic plan for your organization. Seeing a clear path to success is a challenge during a crisis. A fundraising consultant can help create a new strategy for your organization during COVID-19 that reaches at least some of your original goals for the year.
- Help you reroute your fundraising efforts. If you’re struggling to discover funding with many donors unable to give the same amounts they once were, a consultant can help you diversify and discover new outlets.
- Improve your donor communications during the crisis. Conversations with donors can be challenging during COVID-19, and a consultant can train your team to navigate these communications.
- Be a partner for your organization during the crisis and beyond. If you choose carefully, you may have a consulting partner who can help you improve your fundraising strategy for years to come.
To learn more about fundraising consultants and the top partners in this space, check out this Aly Sterling Philanthropy guide.
4. Gather Feedback from Your Key Stakeholders
One area where fundraising consultants can be especially valuable when choosing new fundraising campaigns to fuel your strategy for 2020 is in interviewing key stakeholders.
There are a variety of stakeholders that are invested in the efforts and success of your organization, and they can provide valuable insight into steps for moving forward. From what they think is feasible for 2020 to where they believe your efforts are best spent, their insight can help guide your strategy.
It can be challenging to interview these stakeholders on your own. After all, no one wants to deliver bad news to someone on their own team, and they may feel obligated to sugarcoat their opinions. Consider conducting these conversations as you would during a capital campaign, and bring in a fundraising consultant to do so.
You may consider asking your consultants to interview:
- Board members.
- Staff members.
- Major donors.
- Community leaders and partners.
Ensure that these stakeholders understand that while you appreciate their insight and will work to synthesize their feedback in your efforts, these interviews don’t constitute promises that you’re going to do exactly as suggested. This is a process of gathering as much information as possible to ensure you have the full picture when fundraising in 2020.
5. Revisit Your Goals and Timeline
Your organization isn’t fundraising to simply increase the amount in your bank account. Each dollar you’re bringing in corresponds to something, whether it’s keeping the lights on in your headquarters or purchasing resources to send back into your community. Your work requires the raising of a certain amount of funding within a certain time frame in order to continue operating.
With that in mind, you need to be cognizant of your fundraising goals and timeline when choosing new efforts to fill your calendar. It’s crucial that whatever you choose and whenever you choose to hold it, that you’ll raise any needed funds in time.
Here’s why this is so critical: some of the fundraising campaigns that we know can be successful during a crisis, won’t raise funds in a timely manner. For example, pledged giving campaigns that secure donations now for your year-end campaign or grant funding that can take months to secure won’t bring in any immediate donations. These fundraising efforts won’t assist your organization if you’re needing donations right away to further your cause.
On the other hand, efforts such as matching gift campaigns can bring in immediate donations if needed. So really, it all depends on your needed fundraising goal and timeline!
When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, your organization’s fundraising efforts were likely quickly derailed. However, now that we’re six months into the crisis, it’s time for your organization to resume its efforts.
The above tips will help you choose fundraising campaigns and strategies to fill your calendar for the rest of 2020 and successfully reach your goals.
About the Author:
Long before Aly Sterling founded her eponymous consulting firm, she was solving the unique yet similar problems encountered by nonprofit organizations.
Her decision to start her own business in 2007 was driven by her belief in leadership as the single most important factor in organizational success, and her determination to work with multiple causes at one time to scale societal change.
Aly’s expertise includes fundraising, strategic planning, search consultation and board leadership development for the well-positioned nonprofit. She is regularly sought for comment by trade and mainstream media, including the Chronicle of Philanthropy and U.S. News & World Report. She has contributed to publications of BoardSource and The Governance Institute, as well as the Toledo Chamber of Commerce and The Giving Institute.