PANDEMIC PLANNING: A New Reality for Fundraisers
If you are like me, you have been reading every piece of literature, social media news; talking to your colleagues; and exploring revenue recovery plans to weather a COVID-19 virus pandemic that has shaken fundraising departments around the world.
There has been advice shared by some experienced professional fundraisers who have managed fundraising plans through 9/11, SARS, Tsunami and the recession of 2008. At FCM Network, we are very fortunate to have some of those professional fundraisers in our network, who have managed programs during those difficult times. In the event you did not see any of this information, allow me to share with you information learned through my own experience and the experience of others.
The first bit of advice I will share with you, is to simply not panic. Now is not the time to cut and bail on your fundraising plans. Re-examine your plans, meet with your executive team or clients, and find a way to do those plans differently. Keep in mind, your new plans need to be easily executed, low costing, and given today’s environment probably executed in the Fall of this year towards the Spring of next calendar year.
Most fundraising departments have moved to a full “work from home” or partial staff complement. Whichever scenario is your reality, the notion of keeping staff on board without any discussions around reduced hours, or temporary layoffs at this point should be kept to a minimum. It was very difficult to retain staff prior to COVID-19, this reality has been placed on hold, and will not go away, once this time has passed and departments are back to a working reality. Most of you would agree fundraising staff work above and beyond of what is asked of them, and they are committed to the organizations they serve, so any movement in this area at this point would demonstrate a lack of responsibility to your employees, and could present you longer term problems as it relates to staff morale and re ramping up fundraising programs in the future.
Spend more time in ramping up a communication strategy to keep in touch with your community. Remaining silent is not an option. In some cases, the fundraising department is the only conduit of connection to your organization. Be the strong voice of inspiration, share good will stories of companies and individuals doing great things to help out with COVID-19. Good will communication will go a long way in your community when we have moved on from the virus.
Solicitation activity in most fundraising organizations has come to a complete halt; however, now is a great time to increase your activities in stewardship. Spend time making compassionate calls to your donor base. Check in on how your donors are coping with COVID-19, and help in any way you can to make their lives a little bit more manageable at this time. Take the opportunity to thank your donor base personally for their support over the years, and remind them of your great work in the community, as well as, extend a personal note of gratitude for their years of support to your organization. Now is the time to be grateful for their support and loyalty.
Re-examine your budget. By now most fundraising departments would have approved budgets or were well on the way to doing so. It is a good idea to take the worst case scenario, keep your fundraising plans moving forward, cut all unnecessary spending, and hold on any new hires for the moment. This will provide you with an opportunity to potentially salvage a year of uncertainty with minimal damage to the bottom line.
Finally, if your organization is like most charitable organizations, there is never enough time, or money to do all the things you want to do to improve operations. This is a great opportunity to review current policies and procedures, processes, data management or other operational matters you have always planned to work on, but never have the time to do, as you are in the midst of raising funds all year around.
Essentially, there is a lot organizations can do in the midst of a COVID-19 crisis. Now is a good time to work on those things that will make you a better fundraising organization.This time in our history shall pass, and you want to make sure you are in a position to capitalize on the upswing of a growing economy.
~ Frank Cerisano, FCM Network