Even the most experienced fundraisers are feeling
untethered right now. That’s according to Molly Pickall, Field Philanthropy
Director at west-coast based The Trust for Public Land. Pickall recently spoke
to a group of nonprofit fundraisers about how to help their charities at a time
when asking for money feels uncomfortable.
Pickall said that although many people are
experiencing financial hardships and job disruptions because of COVID-19,
fundraisers should not assume donors no longer want to give.
“Donors will give,” Pickall says. “They’re doing
it now, but you have to ask.”
Pickall says that picking up the phone and
connecting with donors is more meaningful now than ever. She says when she picks
up the phone, she starts her donor conversations with an admission.
I’m at home. I’m feeling isolated and it’s so nice
to hear your voice.
Those simple, true words have created an opening
for truly meaningful conversations that Pickall says she doesn’t think could
happen under different circumstances.
“Ask how they are doing,” Pickall advises. “Share
how you’re doing. Be honest and be empathetic.”
Those early minutes of conversation do not need to
center around asking for money. They need to center on human connection.
Because, as Pickall says, donors’ interest in your organization hasn’t changed.
They still want to feed the hungry, educate children, help hospitals, give
second chances to homeless neighbors, provide recreational activities for
war-injured veterans, and pair shelter pets with their forever homes. Donors
don’t stop caring about their favorite cause during a hard time. They simply
need to be cared for as well.
So, how’s Pickall’s strategy working out? Pretty
dang good. She says that although some people are not in a place to give right
now, others are not struggling financially, and she has actually made
more audacious “asks” from donors and received more generous support. Also, she
found that when she told donors how much their gifts matter in the current challenging
climate, she’s had people agree to give more because they know their gift is
needed more than ever.
Kristina Klass, a consultant to nonprofits in the
northwest, joined Pickall in offering advice to fundraisers. Klass said now is
the perfect time to experiment with technology when reaching out to donors. Just
remember, you can’t do it all. So Klass says pick one new thing to try. Maybe
it’s embedding videos in emails to donors. Show them your smiling face and
share the good work your nonprofit continues to do and thank you donor. If you
can’t shake a donor’s hand in person, do it via video.
Klass provides the following tips to fundraisers
to keep in mind during COVID-19:
- Your mission didn’t stop. Why should
your fundraising? Now is not the time to stop asking for support.
- Fundraising is all about authentic
relationships, especially now.
- Call your donors.
- Take the time to evaluate your
fundraising efforts. Understand what is currently working, as well as efforts
creating a shortfall. What could you do differently?
- Be sensitive, creative, and confident!
- Let your organization’s mission (and
values) guide your appeals.
- Be specific about what you need and
focus on the long-term.
- Strengthen your nonprofit’s case for
giving (this is especially important for major gifts).
- Leverage technology.
care of yourself. Reach out and know you are not alone. When possible,
collaborate with other organizations.
While you might not tackle that list in a day,
carve out time to address each area where you’re falling short. And don’t
forget your homework, Pickall says. Dedicate time daily to connect with
After all, donors will give, but you have