Fundraising in times of crisis is a delicate task. And, for many organizations, the need for seeking financial help has never been more urgent.

Your organization may be facing a critical situation and you need to let your stakeholders know.

Do NOT hold back from sharing your story about what’s happening now.

Bolster revenue before you cut expenses.

Remember an important axiom: When under financial stress, focus first on bolstering your revenue streams. Then, after that, you look to cut expenses.

It is definitely possible to protect and build your revenue streams – even in this environment.

But the kind of fundraising you need to do right now is not business as usual. Your regular messages and appeals will sound tone deaf if you send them out now.

It’s time for a new fundraising strategy with a new tone, and a new message.

One that will keep your doors open, capitalize on your opportunities and engage your donors.

Here’s our recommended 3- Part Fundraising Action Plan for Crisis Response:

1. Go to Your Key Major Donors and Staunch Supporters with Capacity

Create a short list of your strongest financial partners.

These people are your true partners. They deeply believe in you and your work.

They are committed to your mission and have demonstrated that commitment over and over. Clearly they would want to know what is going on and how they can help.

Here’s how to approach them:

a. Reach out in a caring and compassionate way. You have a relationship with them. You want to know how THEY are doing.

b. Then acknowledge their partnership and how much you value it.

c. Ask for permission: “I wanted to share with you how things are doing. Would you like to know the details?”

d. Be transparent. Share your status as honestly as you can.

e . Ask for the help that you really need. Tell them, frankly, what it will take to get through this.

You can say, “Is this something you’d be interested in helping with?”

Of course you can’t see these donors in person, but you certainly can set up a video call, a phone call, or communicate via email.

If you do email, it’s important to make the communications very individualized. One by one- write them personally. Let them know what is happening, and ask if they’d like to have a conversation about helping.

DO NOT ASK some major supporters unless the coast is clear:

Many fundraisers are having a lovely time simply taking the time to connect with their top donors. They are calling to see how the donors are doing (particularly the elderly ones), and if they need anything.

One of our clients wrote me and said:

I am shifting into relationship cultivation and stewardship mode!  We can use this time to LOVE on our donors.  Our Headmaster took dinner to our largest donor today.  The couple is in their late 70s. He’s doing the right thing!

Kris Kirkpatrick at the Nature Conservancy is also focusing on engagement:

I am reaching out to all my donors who are 75+ as a check in – “are you okay, do you need assistance.” Most of them are housebound (or should be) and a friendly voice may be welcome.

I’m also snail mailing our newest materials about our work – no ask, just a “look where your money has been spent.”

Engagement is a smart strategy for nurturing major donors over the long run. You can take the time now to show them that you care about them as people – not just as ATM’s.

2. Search for Emergency Funding –
“Rapid Response Funds” from Area Foundations

Many foundations are pulling together with corporate supporters to create Rapid Response Funds to help nonprofits in need.

They want to keep their local nonprofits healthy – and surviving.

It’s important for you to reach out right now, to your local community foundation – and any other long-term foundation funders. They may have resources to share now.

Also remember your donors who have DAF’s. Donor Advised Funds are recession proof. They should be near the top of your list.

3. Emergency plan for smaller gifts.

It’s time to create new strategies to appeal to your smaller donors. If you cancelled a spring fundraising event, then let’s craft a plan to make up the revenue.

There are a number of strategies you can employ here:

  • You can create a virtual or “non-event” to replace some of the revenue from your cancelled gala.
  • Plan a mega Giving Day later this year when things calm down.
  • Mount a fundraising campaign for a specific issue that is very urgent, compelling and emotional. You say to your donors: “The work that you care so much about continues. . .”

Remember this appeal is not about you, and not about your organization. It is about the work. Your impact.

It’s the way you phrase it. You are not so much asking for a gift as you are sending a reminder.  The people you serve still need services, now more than ever.

Your donor may want to take action and help someone. So you make it about the “help” and not about the gift.

And you “invite” donors to give, because your work continues on – pandemic or not.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t shrink from crisis fundraising.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to be seeking contributions right now.The time to be out there is now. Good luck, we are here to help you.