Every year people seem stunned to realize that Labor Day is here. It is the end of Summer, and it is the beginning of the countdown to the end of the year. That realization frequently results in some anxiety, especially among fundraisers who realize that they have a limited amount of time left to meet their goals.
This year that anxiety level will be a lot higher than most. Many organizations have seen a precipitous drop in revenue. Many have had to cut back programing so programing revenue is below expectations, and many organizations have had to cancel and postpone their fundraising events. Now there are only 17 short weeks left in the year to make up any gaps. To complicate matters, many organizations have had to furlough or lay off staff, so the people charged with raising money have less support.
And non-fundraising staff are in the same boat, hard pressed to offer assistance. Many organizations, especially those working in the areas of social services and mental health, have seen an increased demand for services coinciding with loss of revenue and consequently, staff.
So how to make up the gap? The only way to increase your fundraising revenue is get back to the fundamentals of fundraising and ask for donations. But before you ask for a dime, have a very thorough understanding of how COVID-19 has impacted your organization – increase in demand for services, loss of program revenue, cost of changing the way you do business, impact on fundraising efforts – so you can discuss these things with your supporters.
Hopefully you’ve been keeping in touch with your donors so that they are already familiar with your situation.
Then you can start by identifying your most likely donors.
Presumably each board member has already made a financial commitment for 2020. If not, now is the time to explain why their immediate support is imperative. Board members have a fiduciary duty to look out for the financial health of the organization. If they’ve already made a commitment, ask if they’d consider an extra donation given the pandemic situation and impact on your organization. (If you have a board member who has not made a donation to your organization – unless they are a client representative – they do not belong on your board. But that’s the subject of a future blog post.)
Aside from board members, who were your top 12 donors last year? Who have been your top 20 donors over the past 3 – 5 years? Make an appointment with each one, for a phone call or a video meeting. Bring in your board chair or another board member if you can.
The purpose of the call is to have a frank discussion about the organization. Have an agenda. Explain where you are. Ask their thoughts. Ask them why they’ve supported the organization in the past and what their priorities are for the organization. Ask them who they think might be interested in helping the organization and would they be willing to make an introduction call on your behalf. Ask them how they think they could help your organization this year, and if they don’t offer to make a donation, have an amount you’d like to ask them to consider, based on their past donor history.
Don’t wait till the end of the year to do this, because everyone else is in the same boat you are – and you know the old saying, “First come, first serve.”
Don’t think people don’t have money. Plenty of people do. Throughout this pandemic the people who have suffered financially are the hourly wage employees and those on the lower end of the salaried compensation scale. Upper level management folks have not been severely impacted by furloughs and lay offs. And for the 1%, the stock market has been on a roll and there are a lot of potential donors sitting on appreciated stock.
Now, I’ve had an eye on the stock market for forty years. I don’t give stock advice because I’m frequently wrong. But I have to say that in forty years I’ve never been more confused than I am right now. We have record unemployment, businesses have been on no or low production for months. Healthcare, which is a huge sector of our economy, is in crisis. How is this not having an impact on the stock market today? When is the other shoe going to drop?
I’m deeply concerned that the fundraising landscape could drastically and rapidly shift between now and the end of the year. There may be 17 more weeks before the end of the year, but don’t wait to start asking for large gifts!