Happy April! Spring is in the air, vaccines are on the way for those of us in the last tiers, and I’m feeling optimistic about the months ahead for our sector. I’m not alone, because this week, my colleague Michele Borucki, who has been thinking about what a post-COVID nonprofit sector might look like, walks us through some practical steps to take over the next few months to help us emerge strong. ~Helen
COVID-19 has changed the world in ways no one could have predicted. All industries, including and perhaps even especially philanthropy, have had to make giant shifts in the way they do business and adapt their culture to support, accommodate, and retain employees. Some of the shifts may prove temporary in a post-Covid world, but it’s pretty safe to expect that nothing will have come out of this period entirely unchanged.
While we are still nowhere near “post-Covid”, there seems to be a widening light at the end of the tunnel. In anticipation of better and brighter days, let’s discuss a few ways we can support gift officers (and our beloved research colleagues) as we move into the next phase of pandemic fundraising.
Dig into the data. Now is the perfect time to look at who is giving and at what level. Pulling reports to track new major gift donors, recent calls, and most recent gifts will allow you to prioritize which donors or prospects your fundraisers should focus on first. Once armed with the data, gift officers can work their networks and schedule stewardship and cultivation meetings with some of our newest donors.
Be proactive. This is a great time to update board bios and re-rate top major gift donors to see whether their wealth has been affected this year, and whether they’re giving somewhere else—and, if so, at what level. Let’s make sure our fundraisers are ready to go the minute they get those meetings scheduled. The research may need a quick refresh before the actual meeting happens, but at least the leg work is done.
Remember that life has changed for many of us, including donors. In the process of updating profiles, we may, sadly, come across a beloved donor or board member who has experienced the loss of family or friends to COVID-19. Make sure to flag this information for the gift officer so they can send condolences. Our donors do so much for our organizations and have been there for us during this difficult time. Let’s return that support. It’s not a jovial stewardship opportunity, but it’s something we can do to show how much we care.
Go (or stay) digital! So many of the adjustments our development shops have made over the past year have worked! We’ve engaged old and new donors, volunteers, and people within our communities by making sure we are visible on social media or local/national/industry news. As prospect researchers, we can use that engagement data to help gift officers focus and prioritize which programs have garnered the most attention. Investing in outreach that we normally wouldn’t have has put our organizations and mission in the spotlight. People have taken notice when they normally may not have known about what we do. When that big gift comes in, shout to the rooftops! Share on all your own platforms and let’s get all the re-shares, likes, hearts, and “care” reactions; it’s the recognition the donors and gift officers deserve for helping us reach our goals and enact tangible change. Your nonprofit may even see new gifts or interest come in from the visibility of these posts. In this new digital/virtual philanthropy era, never underestimate how impactful a shout-out on social media can be.
Follow the donor’s lead. The weather is finally warming up, businesses are starting to reopen for in-person patronage, and every adult in the United States may be eligible for a vaccine by May 1st. While many of us may be more than ready to get back to in-person meetings with our donors and prospects, not all of them may be ready for us. Every person has experienced their own level of trauma during the pandemic, and we will all have a different level of comfort when it comes to face-to-face socializing. Follow your donor’s lead by offering socially distant and/or masked meetings outdoors, or continue to offer a virtual or telephone meet if there is any indication they may not be ready yet.
As prospect researchers, we can dig a bit through news or social media to see how particular donors or prospects have coped with the pandemic and if they’ve aligned with CDC guidelines on social distancing. We also want to make sure they will adhere to our organizational requirements before the gift officer reaches out; our priority is to keep our development team safe and healthy.
Remember that “the new normal” is still being defined. It’s safe to say that though things are starting to look a little brighter, we are still in a global crisis. Our organizations won’t be going back to business as usual for a while, and that’s ok! We’ve adjusted to this “new normal” even if it’s not going to be our permanent situation. Domestic and international travel may still be far off for many of us, but prospect researchers and fundraisers have come up with creative solutions to keep our donors close, and we’ve set our organizations up for success.
Know you’re not alone! It’s perfectly ok to still feel a bit overwhelmed and worried about your present and future. You may still have hungry and loud babies or toddlers in the background of Zoom meetings; school children needing supervision or help while trying to learn virtually; pets demanding ear scratches at inopportune times; and so many other scenarios that would have seemed so unusual just one year ago.
There are so many scenarios that have challenged us, hardships we are working through personally and professionally, and tremendous loss we’ve all felt. We hope that you come here to the HBG blog for a sense of community, understanding, and empathy. We are all in this together and we will continue to stick together when we finally do enter that post-Covid era.
We look forward to seeing you there!