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This one’s for the fundraisers: your tips to fundraising in a challenging climate

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:

  1. Your mission didn’t stop. Why should your fundraising? Now is not the time to stop asking for support.
  2. Fundraising is all about authentic relationships, especially now.
  3. Call your donors.
  4. 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?
  5. Be sensitive, creative, and confident!
  6. Let your organization’s mission (and values) guide your appeals.
  7. Be specific about what you need and focus on the long-term.
  8. Strengthen your nonprofit’s case for giving (this is especially important for major gifts).
  9. Leverage technology.
  10. Take 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 your donors.

After all, donors will give, but you have to ask.

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Written by Hannah Stiff

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