It’s that time of year again . . . time to plan your year end fundraising campaigns. But this year, there’s a twist. We’re in the midst of a global pandemic that has already claimed nearly 180,000 U.S. lives. Many of your donors have been socially distancing at home since March while others have been putting their lives at risk every day in essential jobs. And this “new normal” seems likely to continue through the holiday season and into the new year.
So, what can you say to donors this year? How can you “look ahead” to a new year when you really don’t know what the new year will look like? There are no easy answers, but we hope these five guidelines can help you to get started to create unconventional and successful year end messages.
- Remember, there’s no perfect thing to say. Our nation has never experienced anything quite like this before. We’re all figuring it out, one day at a time. Visualize one of your donors and just start writing them a letter. It won’t be perfect, and you will need to go back and make edits, but it’s the best way to start to get something personal on paper.
- Acknowledge COVID-19. You don’t want to sound tone deaf. Acknowledge that this has been “a year like no other”; share your heartfelt wishes that your donors and their loved ones are doing well. You might even want to acknowledge that not everyone is in a position to give this year: “We know times are tough for many but if you are able to help, our students have never needed you more.”
- Don’t stretch the truth. All organizations have been impacted by COVID-19 but some have been impacted much more than others. If the response to the pandemic is NOT a big part of what you do, don’t try to force it into your messages. You can refer to ‘challenging times,’ ‘the political climate’ and even ‘revenue shortfalls’ . . . but don’t overstate the impact of the pandemic on your work. It’s important to be genuine with your donors.
- Share success stories . . . and give your donors the credit they deserve. Especially when they are surrounded by a lot of bad news, people want to be reminded that they are a part of something important. Share the good news of what you accomplished in spite of COVID-19. And, even if your work has been halted or slowed, express how your donors’ continued support will enable your organization to get back in the groove quickly in the coming months.
- Always stay true to your mission. Remember, your donors support your organization and cause because they truly believe in the work you do. Don’t be afraid to own that. Explain why your work continues to be important. Discuss shared values. Show them what’s at stake. Tell them what you are doing to ensure this crisis does not derail your important work.
Most importantly, start now. I know it’s only August . . . but November is really just around the corner. Donors are still giving generously. They will donate to organizations and causes they care about at the end of the year – it might as well be you. So, get to work on your messages for the upcoming “season of giving.” And call us at Impact if we can help.