COVID-19 is wreaking havoc in nearly every industry with a ripple effect. The infectious disease is creating an array of problems in our world, while putting enormous financial pressure on nonprofits. These organizations rely heavily on fundraising events, and many of these events are being canceled in response to the CDC's guidelines. Additionally, corporate donations are far and few between while most companies are understandably concerned about their own financial security. In addition to a lack of financial resources, social distancing is creating a barrier between these organization and volunteers lending a hand. I have compiled a list of effective communication strategies that nonprofits should be implementing during the pandemic to stay top of mind for donors.
Don’t Be Afraid to Fundraise
With so many businesses struggling right now it can feel awkward to make a financial ask. One of the biggest questions nonprofits continue to ask is whether it’s appropriate to be fundraising right now. The simple answer is yes, it’s okay. That said, it’s extremely important that your messaging does not appear tone deaf, and that you empathize with your donors. Now more than ever, the language and tone of our communication really matters. Keep in mind that even though it seems everyone is impacted by the pandemic, there will be individuals and businesses that have the means to support you. Provide them with information on how your staff and services are being impacted during the pandemic. Don’t deny people the opportunity to help because you are afraid to ask. It’s universally understood that we are all in this together.
The global health and economic situations are constantly changing. With an influx of information being shared online every second, it’s important to be present and stay engaged. Most companies are implementing a COVID-19 landing page on their website including information on their response efforts. Additionally, right now is the time to double down on your social media presence. Sharing high quality graphics is an easy way to stand out while people are quickly scrolling through the internet. It’s also important to post updates as often as needed and not allow long periods of time to go by without sharing content with your audience. People value personal connection, especially during a time of social distancing. Lead with empathy and use simple messaging that is clear, concise and direct about your call-to-action.
With people and businesses being impacted in so many different ways, it’s crucial to be sensitive to the situations people might find themselves in today. People are worried about their health and safety, the health and safety of their loved ones and are likely worried about their financial situation. Resist the temptation to make this pandemic all about you. Donors care a lot more about your mission and the people you serve than making sure your organization is surviving. Additionally, it’s a good time to also show compassion towards your fellow nonprofits also trying to continue their good in the world. This could be as simple as sharing something positive you see on their social media channels.
Share Your Positive Stories
In today’s world, it seems like everything the media reports is bad news, and it’s coming at us all day long, through our phones, laptops and TVs. Nonprofits typically have a plethora of inspirational, heartwarming stories that they can share to stand out from the constant noise. Now more than ever, we all need to hear and read these good stories. Continue to remind your donors about the incredible impact that they have on your organization by sharing your most compelling stories. Keep in mind that these stories are often re-shared by viewers as a way of uplifting family and friends, aka more people learning about your organization! That’s a win!
Be a Resource
Use the current situation as an opportunity to also educate the community on what we can all be doing to stay safe and help others. Everyone is busy and most likely too immersed in personal things to connect the dots on how a ripple effect might cause a negative impact on your organization. It's important not to contribute to the noise with opinions, but focus on the facts and only quote medical experts from the CDC, WHO and NIH. Use your ability to connect with others and encourage your community to respond by giving them a call to action. This could be asking donors to write a senator or lawmaker or donate certain needed items to your organization. If your situation is complicated, perhaps host a webinar to provide all the necessary tools and information they might need to get involved and help.
During times of crisis, nonprofit leaders should take the opportunity to showcase inspirational leadership. Now is the time to step forward and offer your community hope and optimism. The months ahead will be challenging, but they don’t mean you have to stop. Continue to remind your employees, your donors, and your community that the mission of your organization is unwavering.