Impacts of coronavirus - corporate fundraising               

The huge disruption to our economy due to the continuing coronavirus situation is a paramount consideration for corporate fundraisers. As with other types of fundraising, keeping a clear head, planning, and good communications are key; and below we set out six things to help you keep your corporate partnerships on track not just for now, but for the post-pandemic future ahead.

  1. Keep abreast of partner news and look at each partner on an individual basis

    Different sectors and different companies will be affected differently by this situation. Before you do anything, ensure you are on top of your research. You should have Google alerts and social media notifications set up to alert you to partner news (if you haven’t, then be sure to do so now). Use credible news sites to read about how industry sectors are being impacted but don’t assume that every company in a given sector will be impacted in the same way. Some companies may appear to be in bad situations; but things may not be as negative as you first think, especially if their parent company is large and has good cashflow. Good research will be invaluable to understanding each individual company’s outlook.

  2. Keep communication channels open

    You should also recognize that, in the immediate term, a charity partnership is unlikely to be top of the priority list for many companies as they plan for their own business continuity. However, do try to keep channels of communication open so that you can find out quickly what is happening as the situation develops. If you haven’t already, check in on your main contact to see how they are doing, advise you understand the challenging situation, and that you and your organization are still there delivering to your beneficiaries.

  3. Look specifically at events income

    One of the hits to charity income is going to be the cancellation of fundraising events. Many corporate partnerships rely on big events to drive staff fundraising - sporting challenges, gala dinners, quiz nights etc. Many of these activities will have already been cancelled or postponed, and you will need to revisit your plans going forward. Always consider if a virtual option is possible, especially as your corporate partner may welcome an innovative online event to help bring employees together for a greater good, even if the fundraising aspect or target has understandably had to be dialled down at this time.

  4. Stay calm and think laterally

    Whilst we have to accept that this situation is out of our control, many organizations are creatively considering how to react. Sometimes opportunity arises out of adversity, and a calm consideration of options can help surface how to engage with partners in new and dynamic ways. It is likely that we will see a heightened sense of community spirit and people will want to join together (there are already numerous media stories emerging of how this is manifesting itself). Whilst many people will spend some time working remotely from co-workers, people will still want to feel a sense of connectedness. Can your charity help to channel the community spirit? What ideas can you suggest to partners that might lift morale, help people look after their wellbeing whilst working at home or keep fit and active?

  5. Work across teams and try to ensure that fundraising and marketing efforts are integrated
  6. Companies have a first priority to look after their staff; but they will also want to encourage appropriate positive action. Importantly, they will want to their staff to feel part of properly planned and clearly defined efforts to help. If your charity is assisting directly with the coronavirus effort (e.g. if your cause is around older people or those with certain health conditions) then any corporate fundraising messages should be linked to the organizational effort. It is likely that any appeals will be led by individual giving teams, so corporate teams should be talking to those teams and promoting the appeal messages to partners. This will help ensure that your partners are clear on what your charity is doing, clear on any call to action and clear on how they can respond.

  7. Be pragmatic about your new business effort

Cultivation events, some face-to-face cultivation meetings and some pitches will be postponed. This could slow down your new business drive. For cultivation events, there is little you can do. It is best to confirm cancellations quickly and inform everyone that you will identify a new date at some future point.

Discovery meetings can easily be switched to video calls without too much trouble, so this aspect of your new business effort shouldn’t be too disrupted. Similarly, some one-to-one / one-to-few cultivation activity may be deliverable on a video conferencing platform. Do ensure that before carrying out any video calls you ensure your tech platform has been stress tested. There is nothing worse than getting a meeting off to a bad start because the technology is not robust, or you don’t know how it works.

On the upside, some people who you may have had difficulty contacting may be easier to engage. You need to think about their role in the organization, but some decision makers will be more available as the result of having meetings cut from their calendar. Be sensitive but keep persevering.

Lastly, be resilient if faced with rejections. Some prospects (and even existing partners) may switch their attention to projects related to the unfolding public health situation. You need to accept this scenario but keep these supporters on your prospect list for the future. Once the situation changes, they may be interested in talking to you again, and this will be easier if you have communicated clearly and kept contact records updated on your CRM – ready for when circumstances allow for appropriate next steps.

Grahame Darnell is Associate Partner Consultant with THINK Consulting Solutions. You can meet him here.