How did you learn to raise funds

Eight steps to successful fundraising in times of crisis

The fundraiser Amy Eisenstein has already overcome many crises during her 20 years of professional experience in the USA. Here she shares this knowledge.

German by Rico Stehfest

The corona virus continues to spread, the economy is suffering from it and politics is anything but in calm waters. All three of these points, each considered individually, could already be the starting point for a disaster in fundraising. And now everything at the same time! Your donors are insecure, your board of directors threatens to lose its nerve. As a fundraiser, it is now up to you to take the lead. What shall we do?

1. Keep calm and carry on!

First of all: stay calm! If you keep your cool and follow these eight steps, you will have a chance of getting through this period well with your organization while others will fall behind.

There are many examples from the 2008/2009 financial crisis in which organizations reduced their fundraising budgets and in some cases even eliminated their fundraising staff in order to “save money”. In fact, these are the ones who have suffered the most in the long run.

Other organizations, on the other hand, simply stayed on course and invested in their fundraising activities. They managed to raise as much donation as they needed and more.

So look at the lessons of recent history: backing out during an economic crisis is not the best tactic.

2. Bring your board of directors together (if necessary virtually via video chats)!

Summon your board of directors to discuss the situation together. Share your plan to keep calm and get on with your fundraising activities with everyone. If you're in the middle of a fundraising campaign, keep going! If you are about to start a campaign, do it! Carry on with your annual campaign as planned!

During the meeting, ask your board members for suggestions and ideas to keep everyone involved.

Discuss in the group how the coronavirus, a possible recession and political uncertainties could affect your organization and your mission. Will your everyday challenges increase? In difficult times it is often more important to help hungry people, to offer shelter to the homeless, to look after the sick or to look after the elderly. So how could that affect your mission?

3. Contact your donors more often!

In special situations, many tend to avoid their donors. Do the opposite! Now is the time to reach out to your donors for assistance. Make a list of the top donors and arrange to meet them as soon as possible. There are many virtual tools for this.

Inquire about how they and their families are doing. Inquire about the current professional situation. Communicate how these uncertain times affect your NGO and your projects. For example, a friend runs a soup kitchen that is expected to provide 2,000 additional meals per month in the near future.

Many donors will take the opportunity to help if given the opportunity. Make it clear what challenges you are facing and what you will need to get through it. Give your donors the opportunity to surprise you (in a positive way).

4. Cancel events but do not refund any money!

Most likely, you have already canceled your upcoming fundraising events for health and safety reasons. Certainly someone in your organization has suggested reimbursing ticket income and sponsorship money. That certainly sounds completely logical. However, when donors and sponsors are given a choice, many will leave the money to you.

So instead of just repaying your income, take the opportunity to contact your donors and let them know what is going on. Give you the chance to donate the cost of a ticket to your organization even though you canceled the event. (Finding an alternative date is not always the best solution.)

Given the situation, you can instead ask your ticket buyers to set up a recurring donation to help your organization through the turbulent twelve months ahead.

5. If you are planning a capital campaign or are in the middle of it: Stay on track!

If you have been planning a capital campaign for months (or perhaps longer), keep in mind that given the current situation, the need for your campaign may not have automatically vanished into thin air. If you are in the middle of a capital campaign: go ahead! Don't stop everything in the face of an economic crisis. There are other steps you can consider. You may want to extend the duration of your campaign or adjust your goals and plans, but giving up your campaign altogether could be a big mistake.

6. Thank your donors!

You can go very far with gratitude, especially when people are stressed. Take the time to express real, heartfelt thanks to your donors. Just drop your routine and pick up the phone. Or write a handwritten note for a donor. If possible, you can do this personally. Don't take a donor for granted!

7. Hold back with guesswork!

Just because the economy is felt to be in free fall doesn't mean you should make predictions about what your donors will or won't do, or what they may or may not give. There are people who hold stocks in cleaning supplies and medical equipment who have now made a profit in the face of Corona. And not only that, many of our most important and loyal donors have sufficient reserves to enable them to donate to important issues, even in times of financial crisis.

8. Ask for what you need!

If your needs have increased in the face of the Corona or the economic downturn, let your donors know. Don't be shy. Be open about what you need and show ways that donors can help you. You will be surprised. Some will retire, others will roll up their sleeves.

There is nothing wrong with feeling insecure in such a nervous time. The fact is that some donors will initially withdraw for an uncertain time. But you can rely on the fact that there are also donors who make themselves strong, especially in such times. In the meantime, it is likely that you will be needed in your projects more than ever. Many donors will acknowledge this and do whatever they can to support your cause. But that too depends on your type of communication and your leadership behavior. Do your best to stay on track and calm!

Text: Amy Eisenstein / German by Rico Stehfest
Photo: pixabay

Amy Eisenstein(Advanced Certified Fundraising Executive) is a fundraising consultant as well as CEO and co-founder of the American campaigning agency Capital Campaign Toolkit. She has extensive experience in the areas of event planning, funding acquisition, capital campaigns and large donations.

There are more practical tips and ideas about donations for clubs, organizations and foundations in the printed booklet. The fundraiser magazine is not available at the kiosk, only exclusively from the publisher. You can order here.