Most of you know that our offices are located in Chelsea, not far from the Flatiron building and at the center of what was, until this week, a bustling area of NYC. Sometimes we (the Faircom staff) complained about the crowds. But now we miss it. As we know you do.
This time has ramifications for everyone. But the bright spot in this collective crisis is that the response is, indeed, collective.
We love working with our clients, many of whom have missions dedicated to overcoming adversity. They exhibit humanity, empathy, entrepreneurship, love, resilience, and good old ingenuity.
So we’d like to take this opportunity first to thank you for being positive models in our communities. We are grateful for the lessons we’ve learned from you and for your humanitarian work.
Second, we’d like to offer some ideas and support as, together, we weather this storm. While this moment may seem unprecedented, it also carries echoes of other recent calamities. To name a few, the 2008 financial crisis and H1N1 virus, both of which threatened the existence of Faircom NY and many of our clients at the time. But we not only remained afloat, we grew and flourished. Those moments in many ways bred resourcefulness and innovation to steer us through troubled waters, even strengthening us for the future.
Fundraising in a Time of Crisis—Yes or No?
You may be wondering if you should be trying to raise funds and continuing to invest in fundraising. The simple answer to this question is yes. However, this comes with caveats.
Many of you are responsible for urgent programs in times like this—supporting people suffering from illness or the psychological impact of social isolation, those whose livelihoods are at stake, school children who may be missing meals and other critically needed services. Some of you might be dedicating resources to a vaccine or cure to COVID-19. Your mission is more urgent now than ever, and we encourage you to assert the critical value of your work in asking others to support you.
Actions to promote giving opportunities and engagement include:
- Soliciting a matching gift from a donor or pool of donors that can incentivize giving through COVID-19-related campaigns.
- Employing a takeover screen on your website with a concise call to action for support of COVID-19 response efforts.
- Pushing email sign-ups for COVID-19 related updates, through your website, social channels, and digital ads, and developing a dedicated stream of COVID-19 updates for this list.
- Sending out emergency emails with links to specific COVID-19 landing page.
- Activating text-to-give capacity, if available.
- Promoting monthly giving to provide ongoing, critical support to the COVID-19 response.
- Adding a buckslip to mailings in production or pre-printed acknowledgements, with concise information about your COVID-19 response efforts and how a donor can help. You can also add a perforated or detached BRC in your acknowledgements.
- Registering your organization with media outlets as a COVID-19 response agency, to be included in published lists. Likewise share a press release with media describing your role in the COVID-19 emergency response, including a link to donate and phone number.
- Creating a designated fund for COVID-19 campaigns, including a dollar target and progress reports for donors. (If designated funds are a concern, tie your response to the broader mission, stating that funds will be used at the organization’s discretion without directive from the donor.)
Of course, for others, your mission may be unrelated to the current response and urgent needs. In this case, we do not recommend utilizing this moment for fundraising. Use this moment to underscore that we are coping with this together. Find solidarity in that while sharing the value of your mission as adding resilience and joy to communities.
By keeping your connections with donors vibrant and energized, you increase the likelihood of their support during this crisis, or renewed support when they are on more solid footing. Your actions should focus on retention of donors—helping donors feel connected to you, building avenues for them to engage in non-monetary ways, and offering lower-level support options that can be easier to consider in times of trouble. Some actions include:
- Adding a buckslip to mailings in production or pre-printed acknowledgements (or altering language in acknowledge letters), offering support in these tough times and letting your donors know that you care about their well being.
- Developing a takeover screen to let website visitors know that you are still in full operation and how to reach you, particularly if the contact mechanism has changed due to remote work. Use this to also share wishes of health and safety to users and loved ones.
- Making educational, video or other shareable resources available through your website and social channels that give donors other ways to show their support to you, even if they are unable to give financially at that time.
- Organizing rounds of donor appreciation calls, during which time trained staff can thank individuals for their support and check in with them as a member of the community.
- Promoting monthly giving as a way for loyal donors to keep supporting you in this tough time, even with a smaller recurring donation.
- Setting a participation based fundraising campaign in which you ask everyone to chip in a very small amount to keep serving the populations that depend upon you.
Of course, we strongly suggest that all organizations postpone planned giving solicitations and, if possible, omit planned giving language from acknowledgements and newsletters until the crisis is over.
But Should We Brace for Losses and Decreased Investment?
Augmenting nonprofits’ anxieties are concerns about lost program revenues and the impact that will have today and in the future.
For several reasons, we are hopeful for the future of our industry:
- We’ve been through crises before, and we know that donors return to favorite causes even if giving pauses during an emergency or tough economic period.
- COVID-19’s peak impact is falling between March and August, the slowest period for fundraising, particularly in direct marketing—your own historical results likely bear that out. As our communities rebound from this, the last quarter can prove resilient and strong for nonprofits.
- Prior to COVID-19, the American economy was in a much better position than 2008. The prevailing outlook cited by professional advisors is that the market could recover quickly as the health crisis comes under control, and so we expect the contraction to be temporary.
Of course, setting and meeting annual targets is an important exercise for all organizations, but during these difficult periods, we always stress looking to the long-term value of the program. It is essential to keep your community together, and then figure out how to grow that community and your revenues in the future. In other words, balancing a focus on the short-term with the long-term value of your program—a critical feature that distinguishes Faircom NY’s strategic advice from many others in the industry.
If You Are Uncertain, Ask Us
As for us, we are here to help. In accordance with health and safety guidelines in New York, the Faircom NY team will be working remotely through April 3, 2020. During that time, we will be following regular working hours, and clients can reach their account team directly by phone or email. Prospective clients and friends can contact Corinne or Sally directly.
Our direct mail, digital, and global philanthropy teams are ready to answer questions that you may have, and to be a friendly ear in these uncertain times. We are eager to share our insight with you, and to propose a suite of services that can help you weather this storm and for all of your fundraising needs. If you wish to learn more, please visit faircomny.com and faircomglobal.com.
We wish you good health, and we wish the world a speedy return to an “enhanced” normal—incorporating the new solutions and tools that were bred by ingenuity as we respond to this challenging moment, together.
The Faircom NY Team