The current pandemic has forced many nonprofit organizations to confront major challenges, uncertainty, and financial losses with the cancellation of critical programming and planned fundraising events. Additionally, organizations are bracing for longer-term impacts as the need for financial resilience will be greater than ever before once the coronavirus recedes.
While these are unprecedented times with unprecedented challenges, we have seen this crisis serve as a catalyst for change across industries. We’ve compiled some important steps and valuable examples that demonstrate how nonprofit organizations are staying true to their missions, while creatively mitigating risk and attempting to turn losses into potential wins.
Stewarding important relationships
Communicate with empathy
While it’s true that major donors may be temporarily delaying gifts due to uncertainty, the coming days and weeks are a good time to cultivate relationships with your donor base. Connecting, showing gratitude, highlighting progress and ways they can help now, and demonstrating empathy during this time of crisis all prove that we’re in this together.
• Poverty and the Arts (POVA) wrote a blog post to explain decision-making around changes in programming, how they will continue to support their participants, and how donors can help, while acknowledging that many might not be able to do so.
Fuel new forms of advocacy
As interaction becomes increasingly virtual, offer people never-before-seen opportunities. Make them feel like insiders and offer them something remarkable about your organization and cause that they can share with their communities — virtually. With an already-devastating estimated economic impact of $4.5 billion on America’s nonprofit arts sector,* we’re seeing more organizations transform programming and philanthropy.
*Americans for the Arts ongoing survey (as reported on April 7, 2020)
• The Metropolitan Opera is offering free nightly opera streams, as well as articles and resources to expand your experience, with a tie to the importance of philanthropy.
Making your story matter
Stay firm on your goals
As pressing as the current crisis is, not losing sight of the long-term goal is key. From treating chronic disease to fighting poverty, to protecting our planet — these needs continue and require renewed effort and passion from their organizations, all while remaining contextually relevant and respectful.
• Children’s Miracle Network introduced the “Kids Can’t Wait” campaign to ensure children’s hospitals around the country have the resources they need to care for the most vulnerable kids.
• St. Baldrick’s Foundation continues to raise money for childhood cancer and immediately shifted gears to turn their regular head-shaving events into virtual fundraisers.
• With the push for frequent hand-washing to fight the spread of infectious disease, Charity Water used this as an opportunity to educate the public on the critical need for access to clean water worldwide.
Emphasize facts, science, and expertise
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on the importance of science and the opinion of experts in supporting public health and well-being. In fact, 85% of people globally say they want to hear more from scientists and less from politicians.* People are scrutinizing influencers in their lives, and re-centering their focus on trustworthy sources of information. This provides an opportunity for organizations to broadcast compelling stories rooted in research and subject matter expertise, and to create platforms for leading voices to be heard.
*Edelman Trust Barometer, March 2020
Remaking the model
Fundraising for everyone
As a result of this pandemic, appeals are coming from charities, but also from individuals and for-profit businesses that are trying desperately to remain afloat. From restaurants to bookstores and everything in between – personal appeals are on the rise. All play essential roles in our society and may garner support from people looking to help in myriad ways. With this rise in calls for support, it remains important for brands to have a presence and to demonstrate the value and impact they are providing within their communities.
• Between March 20 and 24, the number of coronavirus-related campaigns on the popular fundraising platform Go Fund Me increased by 60%, from 22,000 to 35,000. New fundraisers included requests from individuals and families to food banks seeing skyrocketing demand.
Cultivate togetherness through technology
Internet use is up 70%, social media engagement is up 61%, and Zoom has seen daily users more than quadruple.* Now is the time to find ways to creatively incorporate video conferencing, podcasts, or virtual briefings that make meetings more dynamic and create personal experiences regardless of distance. Consider how social media or other virtual platforms can serve as temporary alternatives to in-person gatherings and may also serve as entry points for a new generation of supporters.
*Edelman Trust Barometer: March 2020; MarketWatch report: April 1, 2020
• Covenant House has begun replacing their annual events with “virtual sleep outs,” where people can join the meaningful movement to fight youth homelessness completely online.
• Basset Hound Rescue of Southern California replaced their Spring Games 2020 with a virtual event composed of a talent contest, slo-mo treat toss, costume contest, and social distancing contest – all via photo and video submissions.
• #Hopefromhome was a first-of-its-kind multi-platform digital fundraising event that took place on April 7, 2020, World Health Day. It raised over $1.7M to fight the impacts of COVID-19.
As we overcome this crisis together, nonprofit organizations should be seen as serving the public interest, demonstrating socially responsible behavior, and staying the course on passionate advocacy of their cause in all times.