Donor Relations, Emotional Data, Messaging, Nonprofits

When you can’t shake hands: Creating Community in Crisis

By: Katie Lord

There will be many lessons that we as a sector, country, and global community will learn from the COVID-19 pandemic.  It is important that we as a nation adjust to a new normal for the foreseeable future and that our nonprofit organizations continue to survive and thrive.  Our sector is a cog in the fabric of American life that provides not only lifesaving, but also life changing services to our most vulnerable and underserved populations.  We can and must continue to provide our programs while also engaging our donors; expressing need and impact through digital, print and telecommunication channels.

Connecting with our donors through communication channels, outside of face-to-face events and one-on-one meetings, is now and will continue to be vitally important to our nonprofit organizations.  We must create, maintain and sustain lasting relationships with our donors at a social distance.  While I am not prescribing to the “sky is falling” mentality completely, it is time for us to show flexibility and adaptability in our sector.

What are the burning questions right now in our sector?  Questions that come to mind are:

  • How diversified is our fundraising when face-to-face communication with our donors is limited?

  • How are we segmenting our donors so we can connect and engage with them, to the best of our abilities, across digital and print communications?

  • How do we tell emotionally resonant stories to our donors?

These questions are a good starting place for nonprofit organizations considering revising development plans for this year and in the future.  While the answers to these questions will vary from organization to organization, here are a few suggestions to get you started.

  1. Pick up the Phone: Now is the time to dust off the digits and start dialing.  Call as a thank you, call to share an update or a story, or call to ask for opinions and feedback.  Of course, you can also dial for dollars and solicitations but think bigger picture and a deeper connection

  2. Write a Personal Note: Handwritten notes should be a part of sustainable outreach to and cultivation of donors. No just relegated to thank you notes, handwritten correspondence could include milestone gifts levels recognitions, birthdays, anniversaries, births, tributes and graduations just to name a few.

  3. Real Time Digital Updates: During challenging times it is better to over-communicate rather than under-educate.  High engagement social media channels, which can vary by organization (do you know yours?) should be updated frequently.  Not every social media channel is right for your organization and the goal is not for your organization to engage in all media; just the channels that have the farthest and deepest reach for your donors and constituents.

  4. Create Consumable Video Content: Using video to build community and tell stories will be one of the best ways to engage supporters with a view from the inside, but at a distance. A Facebook or Instagram Live Stream or Story, video message from the CEO, behind the scenes look at the programs and services you are providing, a virtual facility tour, or Face Timing a longtime supporter are just some of your options

  5. Ramp up your Direct Mail: Contrary to popular belief, direct mail is not going out of style.   At PROOF, we see direct mail as a preferred communication channel frequently and can be more effective at telling your story that you might think.  It is well worth the investment and effort to discover how direct mail fits into your marketing and communication mix to ensure you are maximizing its effectiveness and that you can track and measure ROI.

The COVID-19 pandemic brings into clear view the emerging world of nonprofit communication and how building relationships and creating engagement will continue to look from a social distance moving forward.

There is no better time to discover the right messages to use on the right donors, using the right mediums than when you are unable to communicate with your donors and constituents face-to-face.  In response, PROOF has created a program specifically to help you understand and communicate to your donors when shaking hands isn’t an option.  We call it “Inspire Generosity” and we are giving away one of these programs for FREE to one lucky nonprofit.  Click here for details and to get your nonprofit signed up.

Thought-provoking insights & advice—learn more from the experts at PROOF.