Of that, I can guarantee it. What I can’t guarantee is what life will look like.
But, what I can guarantee is that life will look and feel different than it does today. Change is almost a constant guarantee. And, admittedly, this is a moment of global change.
I tend to see the opportunity in despair or the solutions to challenges. And, as such, I tend to think about what positives could come as a result of this “Great Upheaval.”
Here are some things about how fundraising that I believe could be different after COVID 19.
Recognition that we are all interconnected. All of life is symbiotic. It ebbs and flows together. But, what we don’t see is the global perspective. We tend to focus on fundraising from a local lens. Recognition of the universality of our conditions, we will be more apt to think globally in our thought patterns and want to understand best practices from a larger interconnected view. For the first time, fundraising systems across the globe are being impacted equally across the board by the same health and economic situations. We are now turning towards peers in other countries near and far for solace, community, and learnings. Collaboration amongst fundraisers has increased globally as we all struggle with these unprecedented times.
Because we are all interconnected, a greater focus will be placed on risk assessments at a much broader level. Who thought three months ago, that this “virus” in China would ever cause the amount of havoc that it has. Was this something that was brought to your Board meeting in January? Did you about risk assessments and the what if this happened here and how would our nonprofit pivot. Moving into the future, it should become standard practice for Boards and organizational leadership to look at the more global perspective and scan for risks and potential threats.
While fundraising diversification has always been a much talked about the need, I hope that as we move out of the pandemic times, that organizations will adopt the clarion call to diversify. It is those groups who have been solely reliant on grants and foundations and special events to carry them that are now most vulnerable. Even so-called “alternate methods to philanthropy” that are quite common in other countries such as social enterprise are itself taking a “hit” during these pandemic times. Social enterprise has not only lost revenues but also jobs for the very vulnerable clients that we serve.
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Along this vein, groups will need to rethink their special event strategy. There has been a movement to pivot during these times to ensure that the endless routine of special events continues in a virtual format. However, for many virtual formats are falling flat and appear someone out of tune with these unprecedented times. The groups who want to move their events to virtual are doing so at the cost of looking out of touch with reality. Let’s face it, with 10 million unemployed in the last two weeks, people locked in their homes with their mental health declining, and rations for supplies at grocery stores, the last thing on one’s mind is grabbing a glass of wine and sitting a virtual gala. But, it is because these groups know no other fundraising strategies and so they automatically default to what they know.
Moving forward is the time that groups need to become much more sophisticated in their strategies focusing on building broad donor bases, upgrading donors, tending to donor loyalty and retention, and asking donors for gifts. This trend is evident in those groups who have made efforts to this aim. They are urgently appealing to their donors and receiving gifts. I predict a revival of the gift pyramid and a back to basics approach.
Digital techniques have, by virtual necessity, taken front and center stage. There will be a greater emphasis on the use of technology as it pertains to fundraising. Whether it is a video in mass e-appeals, text messaging to donors or even digital lead acquisition.
Greater emphasis will be placed on having clean and up-to-date data management systems. The sector for many was caught off guard. The well-intentioned but often put on the back burner of database clean up and management has led to having many groups disadvantaged. Far too many had incomplete donor contact records lacking email addresses, mobile text numbers, etc. It will behoove groups to take a good hard look at their data and ensure that it is up-to-date and as complete as possible.
While it is essential to have government “bailouts” and “loans,” we can’t always expect that. Our parents taught us to always “save for a rainy day.” And that “Rainy Day” has arrived. The concern is that many groups do not have sufficient reserves on hand to weather those rainy days. It will become imperative that the Board of Directors of organizations take a stance on fundraising to build reserves, including starting and funding endowment funds. In this case, organizations that had healthy reserves have been able to keep some form of direct client services in place and staff employed. Those that have not have had to take stringent measures, including staff and service delivery reductions and or closures.
Endowment restrictions must be relaxed. Boards of Directors must consider asking themselves the tough questions of mission vs. money. During these hard times, some Boards have been reluctant to tap into their reserves and/or endowment funds due to down market conditions. Again, what did we save these for? And, hasn’t our “rainy day” arrived where we need to ensure mission delivery. These days are a moment of perpetuity. I have seen organizations that have furloughed staff but yet have strong endowment reserves.
Perhaps the day has arrived when foundations finally see the need to release restrictions on funding programs versus the very direct operating costs that many of these organizations need. The recent move to free up restricted grants and open up monies to emergency needs will continue as foundations realize that these groups know how to provide the services best and what is needed to operate less dictating how services are provided and more so that they continue to be provided with the best infrastructure.
We must move towards a more virtual, remote, and outsourced world. For years, I have worked virtually and have found it difficult to obtain clients who would be willing to work with me in this manner. Now, we all must work together and find ways to continue our work while not being in-residence at an office. Groups will discover greater cost-efficiencies as well as productivity and effectiveness. And as more groups, lay-off their staff, outsourced, remote employees, contract persons, and consultants can provide professional services in a more cost-efficient manner.
A move towards fundraising coaching rather than consulting is evident. We, as coaches during this crisis, have provided advisory services and have helped our clients weather the storm through our years of experiences in a way that consultants have not been as nimble too. Coaching is a much more cost-efficient method for groups to take advantage of professional expertise and services. For me, my coaching has increased by 700% in the last two weeks, while more costly consultative project work has ground to a standstill. Coaches are agile enough to do both at a much lower price point to the client.
And, there, you have my projections.
I say…let’s stick these in a time capsule and open this up in one year.
What I do know is that change is inevitable, and how we use that change to our advantage is how we form and shape best practices moving into the future.
While these pandemic times seem overwhelming most days, there is a legacy of growth and opportunity for those who want to take a longer and more optimistic view.
After living through being in the epi-center of the bushfires in Australia, I can tell you; this too shall pass.
And, when it does, your organization should be ready for the “what’s next.”
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