Not-for-profit leaders have learned to quickly adapt this year, not by choice but out of necessity. Unlike many other industries, not-for-profit organizations rely entirely on donations and funding to maintain their mission and stay afloat. Earlier in the year, we spoke about fundraising during uncertain times, offering various tips to making your content, virtual events and communication efforts more engaging and impactful in a remote environment. Now that we are several months into this new reality, it’s critical to focus on sustaining your organization for the long-haul.
Our tips are outlined below:
Take this time to learn and plan for the future
During unexpected hardships, leaders shine. We recommend taking this time to devise both short and long-term plans for your organization. From how you’ll retain key employees and donors to securing funding opportunities, the current challenges we find ourselves addressing will be the fundamental lessons that organization leaders can look to when developing plans for the future.
Consider how your organization will maintain communication with employees, donors and the community in a primarily remote working world during the next month, three to six months and even in a year’s time. What have you been doing so far that is working? What have you found to be unsuccessful? Find ways to connect with corporations and community leaders through creative activities, such as hosting an online walk to raise money for charitable purposes (have attendees use an app to track their mileage!) or a ticketed virtual open mic night. We also encourage you to keep the lines of communication with your staff open and honest. Increased communication during this time is critical for your employees to remain aware of the organization’s efforts to sustain the mission and engage donors.
Most importantly, identifying unique ways to sustain your organization should never put your employees or donors at risk. Ensure your organization is clearly emphasizing safety precautions and social distancing.
While we cannot predict when the world will “return to normal,” it’s important to start preparing for an environment in which people across the country return to the office – even if you’ve determined that remote work can be a permanent solution for your employees. What kind of impact will this have on your not-for-profit’s mission and its role in the community? Don’t lose sight of a post-COVID-19 world – however different it may look.
Diversifying revenue during unique times is a key differentiator of a successful not-for-profit. As fundraising looks vastly different this year and in-person events are basically obsolete, the ways in which organizations retain donors and funding presents a challenge all of its own. Our advice is surprisingly simple, though: be intentional about what you’re asking for and who you’re asking. Instead of sending mass funding requests, write a personalized note to your top donors detailing what you’re doing to maintain your organization’s mission despite current challenges. You might even vary the content you provide supporters (whether via social media, email or mail) to material that does not specifically ask for donations and rather showcases your latest successes, highlights your current goals or profiles one of your key leaders.
You can also explore donor’s capacity to fund your mission through their donor advised funds, as those accounts may be doing well despite economic fluctuations. Whatever you choose to do to diversify your revenue, be creative, but also be respectful of your donor’s situations during these times.
The above steps are intended to assist you and your organization in retaining top donors, members and talented employees. Leverage any and all available tools and resources to your advantage during this time, from Zoom to FaceTime and everything in between. Make sure your employees and members are aware of the steps you’re taking to prioritize their safety and the critical mission of your organization – the time you put into this can be reciprocated in full by your valued donors and team members. What ever your long-term plans and goals are, don’t lose sight of them during these unique and challenging times.
To talk to our team about your not-for-profit’s unique situation, please contact us today.