Making sure you are planning for the next phase

Control is a marvelous thing, when you have it. When you don’t, not so much. These last few weeks of operating in lockdown, with lots of enforced changes, uncertainty and, let’s be honest, anxiety bordering on fear – fear for ourselves, our loved ones, our donors and our beneficiaries - have been all about change we didn’t want. It will continue for some time yet, but we will of course come out the other end.

The big decisions, like when we can go back to our offices, our teams, our usual pattern of social life, meeting friends and family, planning trips, remain on hold. But what isn’t on hold is what we do next for our donors, and by extension, our beneficiaries. Your charity exists because of need - a need you, as a fundraiser, raise money to help meet and ideally solve for good (dependent on cause).

That need hasn’t gone away; for many non-profits it’s likely to have intensified if the beneficiaries you serve are directly impacted by the pandemic. Even if they aren’t, your organization’s ability to weather this storm will be tested to the maximum, and your ability to deliver your mission may be at risk once things do return to the new normal as we come out the other side.

So - what to do? Focus on the things you can control. Be ready. Have a plan. Perhaps a Plan A and B (even C, depending on your likely scenarios, but don’t simply plan and not execute). In doing so you will be ready to move, and fast, once circumstances allow – getting donor dollars flowing, supporter comms out the door, and services to those who need it. Here’s what you should consider in your plan:

  • New Covid-era donors – dependent on your cause, you may have onboarded a lot of new donors at this time. These have not come to you in ‘normal’ times, and their motivation to help, and knowledge about your organization, is likely to be different to a ‘standard’ donor. Ensure you assign these donors a specific source code from the start, so you know who they are in your CRM, and can talk to them differently. When this is over, they may need tailored messaging to bring them closer to you and to make them ‘sticky’ going forward. They likely need a dedicated welcome and supporter journey for the next few months, so ensure you don’t slot them in to ‘usual’ comms.
  • Existing donor journeys – your current donors of course know you and know why they support you (a big assumption, but let’s go with it). But your usual comms to them will have been disrupted, along with their lives. Any supporter journeys you had mapped out at the start of the year need revisiting and rewriting, and it may be easier to start from scratch. Pull out the plan, revisit the content, and rewrite it – appropriate to how the world is now, to your priorities and theirs.
  • Supporter care readiness – your donors are likely still dealing with their own immediate reality, with changes to their lives that the immediate lockdown changes have brought to the economy, and certainly will be concerned about what the future will bring. Their ability to give - to meet pledges and to deliver on future events - will all be subject to review and at risk. How you deal with that is key to how your relationship with them will unfold – will it survive, thrive or unravel? Ensure your supporter care team (and if you don’t have one, then consider how you are going to create or designate a temporary one for this period) is ready to answer calls and emails with a list of FAQs. Think about what donors may call with and have a response ready, as well as a process to execute any required changes.
  • For example, if a monthly donor who has lost their job calls to cancel, can you offer them a payment holiday of three months? Maybe you can in theory, but what needs to happen on the database to put the payments on hold, and then remind you when they are due to start again? If they can’t do the holiday, and need to cancel, can you quickly send them a follow up letter which recognizes their length and $ value of support, tells them the difference they’ve made, and thanks them for all they have done? Cancelling their support will be hard, and an authentic ‘thank you, take care, and see you in better times’ will mean a lot to them as a follow up. Get your team together, work through the scenarios, write up the response, the follow-up process, and get people trained and ready. Record the interactions on the database so that you know what engagement you have had with your donors, and why you’ve had it.

The above isn’t a definitive list, but it’s an intended start – and getting started on the next phase is key, even as we deal with the end of the first one. Take control of, and own, the things you can, with your donors and beneficiaries as the key focus.

The only way is through, after all, and we will get through this. Make sure your donors have everything they need to come through it with you, so that you are able to continue to deliver your mission for the ones who ultimately drive the need: your beneficiaries.


Dawn Varley is THINK Canada's Client Development Consultant.
To meet her, click here.