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Fundraising During COVID-19: Adapt–Don’t Start Over

Fundraising During COVID-19: Adapt–Don’t Start Over

The novel coronavirus pandemic has changed just about every aspect of our society in some way. Even setting aside damage caused directly by the COVID-19 virus, many people are worse off now than they were before the pandemic started. For nonprofits, especially those focused on humanitarian causes, this offers both challenges and opportunities.

Many of the challenges are obvious. More unemployed people mean less disposable income to spend. While entertainment options are down thanks to pandemic-related lockdowns, so are household incomes. That puts pressure on fundraisers and their causes.

Reaching donors is more difficult as well. The post office is under the same pressure as all other service organizations, trying to keep customers happy while navigating the pandemic’s hurdles.

Of course, the job losses and general financial pressures mean more people need more help from charitable organizations, too—yet another challenge that puts a strain on nonprofits to deliver.

While challenges may be easy to spot, opportunities may not jump out right away. Altering your perspective, you will see that the pandemic’s new way of living and working has created some potential opportunities to tap into, and even grow, your donor base.

Adjust your tactics

The pandemic’s reality means that common fundraising tactics are not all applicable. In-person events, from onsite auctions to black-tie galas, are generally off-limits for a while. Printed mail campaigns are possible, yet the postal service’s challenges make them less optimal at the moment.

Online interaction, on the other hand, is exploding. Even if your donors were regular participants in your digital campaign before, there is always room to grow. Simply put, anybody who has online access (and the vast majority of your donors and potential donors do) is connecting. Whether it’s on their phones, tablets, or computers, you want to give your audience plenty of ways to connect with you—and help you—without leaving their homes.

Empower your community

Many of our clients use digital tactics in their fundraising. These are good when you start planning an all-virtual campaign. But familiar methods such as personalized email outreach or social media-backed efforts to drive patrons to online donor pages should be complementary efforts, not primary strategies.

Why? Simply put, each business and organization is trying to reach its customers, donors, and audiences via digital channels: Emails, sponsored tweets, social posts. Messages get lost in the noise.

Instead, think about ways to narrow your audience and bring focus to your cause. For instance, set up a crowd-funding page with a specific donation goal. Ideally, the platform will include social components that kick in when donors contribute, enabling them to spread the word.

Then, target your super-donors—those most active members based on both donations and online activity. (This is important: a mega-donor during the pandemic isn’t just someone who gives often or gives a lot, but also someone who responds to your digital nudges.)

Integrating email outreach and social media mentions (like a dedicated campaign hashtag) into a crowdfunding-style push can build momentum. It can also leverage your donors as evangelists.

Another idea is to use a peer-to-peer fundraising platform to engage your donors. This is where you are using your donors to reach out to their peers on your behalf—think of charity runs where you pledge money to a participant. It’s the same idea, but all online.

Among the many benefits of peer-to-peer fundraising is that it stretches your campaign dollars and helps create organic awareness for your cause. It also helps get your most ardent supporters involved and, like a dedicated crowdfunding campaign, usually has specific goals broken up into smaller dollar amounts and shared among the peers.

To assist the nonprofit, there are many helpful software providers from which to choose. One of them, CauseVox, has an excellent primer on how to set up a peer-to-peer program (https://www.causevox.com/blog/peer-to-peer-fundraising-primer/).

An alternative to a full peer-to-peer campaign is the do-it-yourself (DIY) fundraiser. If you’ve seen social media posts that link a birthday celebration and donating to a specific cause, for example, you’ve seen DIY fundraising in action. Typically, these require less organization than a full peer-to-peer campaign, and your fundraisers can work on their own schedules, as opposed to being linked to a specific campaign window.

Adapt what works

The pandemic is forcing organizations and donors to adapt, but that doesn’t mean everything has changed. Tactics that worked before social distancing can be modified to fit the new circumstances.

For example, auctions can still be used as fundraisers, with slight adaptation. Before, it was easy to add a silent auction table to a larger in-person event. With events being cut back, this is harder but not necessarily impossible. Consider setting up online auctions and then partnering with related virtual events. You can share promotional efforts and raise the profile of both the virtual event and your cause.

No event to help boost your effort? No problem! Set up a stand-alone online auction that you can promote through your channels.

There are many platforms that can help you manage the process—some even take only a percentage of what is sold, making the costs appealing.

A related idea worth exploring is online marketplaces, such as eBay, that have dedicated programs allowing sellers to give their proceeds to charity. With people spending a lot more time at home, de-cluttering is a popular pastime. Connecting the ability to turn unwanted items into donations for you could be a win-win.

It may take some staff time to research and communicate the ins and outs (including getting your organization set up to receive donations from the site), but once in place, such a program could pay dividends long after the pandemic is gone. EBay’s instructions on direct selling for a charity are here: https://www.ebay.com/help/donating-ebay-charity/default/buying-selling-ebay-benefit-nonprofit-organizations?id=4668#section2

GRC Marketplace

One of the most time-tested tactics for boosting donations is a thank-you gift. The pandemic hasn’t changed this, although it may be altering some of the chosen items. Giving donors who contribute at certain thresholds a mug, tote bag, or some other useful item remains popular. Clients using our recently launched GRCMarketPlace (www.grcmarketplace.com) have added some pandemic-appropriate items as well. We’re seeing touch tools that can be used for everything from elevator buttons to PIN pads, customized masks, and even stress balls!

Coming up with a fun, useful thank-you gift and connecting with your donors asking for a minimum donation is a proven tactic. There’s no reason it can’t be used now.

How can we help?

Fundraising is a matter of strategizing, shifting, and adapting. The pandemic hasn’t changed this—it’s simply changed some of the outcomes. We’re engaged with clients on a regular basis, coming up with new approaches that factor in their circumstances, those of their donors, and the temporary disruptions that the pandemic has created. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have about adjusting your strategies to meet your goals.

Contact us today.
sherene@grassrootcommunication.com
info@grassrootcommunication.com
540.428.7000

Virtual Meetings: A Short Primer On Making Them Better

If there is one thing we’ve all learned during 2020, it’s that virtual events do not offer the same experience as in-person ones.

In some cases, like music concerts, there is no substitute for the live, crowd-filled version. But in others, it’s possible to accomplish virtually what normally happens in-person.

Virtual meetings fall into this latter category. But getting them right takes some preparation and a bit of a different perspective. MindTools has a useful checklist for ensuring your virtual meetings are effective for everyone involved.

For organizers, picking the proper technology tops the list. Do you need to record your meeting? Will attendees need to access it via tablets and smartphones as well as computers and smart boards? Review your needs, then ensure the platform matches them.

Another key point is to have someone designated to be the meeting leader. Someone needs to be in charge, especially in a virtual environment where body language and other non-verbal cues are hard, if not impossible, to pick up.

Ground rules are another must-have. Should attendees all have their cameras on? Will there be open-discussion that requires having mute buttons off the entire time, or should attendees be on mute unless they’re speaking? Setting expectations at the outset will help attendees feel comfortable.

Depending on the group attending, you may want to have a short introduction period or roll-call involving all attendees. This works well for small, inter-organization gatherings. If you’re meeting with a few well-known colleagues, it may not be necessary.

Virtual meetings can be effective—with a little planning. Read the full MindTools post here for more details: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/running-effective-virtual-meetings.htm.

Grassroot Communication Unveils GRC Marketplace, Its New Division Specializing In Cost-Effective, Innovative, Branded Promotional Items

Grassroot Communication has expanded its offerings to include promotional products via its new GRC Marketplace online portal.

GRC Marketplace, available at www.GRCMarketplace.com, enables businesses, non-profits and associations to match the perfect promotional items with their campaigns. The new GRC Marketplace offers a million customizable products at a range of prices that can fit into every promotional budget.

“With our decades of experience helping clients create effective, multi-channel marketing campaigns, expanding into promotional products is a natural step,” said Sherene Rapoport, Grassroot’s vice president of sales and marketing. “The timing is ideal as well, as using innovative tactics such as giveaways. Creative reminders to stay in front of clients is becoming a valuable way to stand out during the current period of social distancing.”

GRC Marketplace

Customers can browse the online marketplace’s 1,000,000 products and consult with us on a simple item. In addition, Grassroot’s team will help craft the ideal campaign based on the objective, budget, and timeframe. A dedicated contact for GRC Marketplace customers, Betsy Hall, has extensive experience in the promotional products business and is ready to help all existing and future Grassroot customers.

Ready to add promotional items to your next campaign? Need branded items for your staff or customer-facing elements of your business? Visit www.GRCMarketplace.com and get started!

Spring Campaign | Bonus Ideas

We’ve laid out some steps to create a simple, straightforward spring appeal. But some organizations may want to go a few steps further. Here are two suggestions:

USE YOUR DATA. If your data analytics program is advanced enough to generate lists by donor amount, consider a variable campaign that asks past donors you’re pinging to donate the same amount. This is an easy way to set expectations and know they are in a range that is comfortable for the donor.

HAVE A THANK-YOU READY.

This isn’t really a bonus idea, but one that should be part of any campaign. Before you do your drop or hit send, have a thank-you ready to go. It should be variable, so it can be personalized, and it should be specific. Thank the donor by name, and mention the donation amount specifically. Show them you’re responsive and attentive. The thank-you message is the first step in getting the next donation.

Spring is probably your busiest time of year—and that was before the pandemic. But it doesn’t have to be too busy to set up a successful outreach campaign. If you’re looking to jump-start your spring outreach but need a little help, contact us. We’d be thrilled to work with you.

 

GrassRoot Communication specializes in the production of direct mail, print and various communications materials for associations, non-profits, businesses and government agencies. By teaming up with us, you’re adding a quarter-century of experience to your team, and gaining access to ideas and solutions for connecting with your audience in the most effective ways. We provide all the services you need for the entire production process under one roof, ensuring your project goes out without a hitch. Call us today to talk about your next project.

Changing Course Amid A Pandemic

Our original topic for this news­letter was the spring appeal.

COV­ID-19 has changed a lot, but it does not have to change everything.

Before we talk about spring ap­peals, let’s spend a few minutes addressing what’s on everyone’s mind: the novel coronavirus pan­demic. For many donor-centric organizations, this is a doubly tough time: contributions are down at the same time that many organizations, and the services they provide, are needed most.

If this sounds like your organiza­tion, then consider doubling down on the need to connect with past donors and would-be donors. Many companies and organizations are using the pandemic as a reason to appeal to customers and donors. Cutting through this will require honest, simple communications. If the people that benefit from your service are particularly impacted by the pandemic and its ramifica­tions—job losses, income reduc­tions, etc.—then lay that out.

Be direct. Be transparent. Be persis­tent.

Onto the Spring Appeal
At first glance, a spring appeal cam­paign may seem daunting—espe­cially in current circumstances. The year-end push—including what was probably your biggest annual fund­raising period—ended not long ago. You are dealing with the pandemic. You may think you don’t have time for a spring appeal.

We suggest you reconsider—and think differently.

With a few simple steps, your spring appeal can be differentiated from your other campaigns, and that can help make it successful, even during these unusual times. Here are a few ideas we have used with clients that have helped create successful spring donor outreach campaigns.

Make Your Appeal A Non-Appeal
One of the enduring themes that we stress with all donor communica­tions is to make the story about your cause and/or your members—not so much about you. If you’re going to break this rule, the spring outreach is the time to do it.

Try approaching your spring cam­paign as a donor update. Your just-completed year-end push probably talked about the goals you were striving to meet. Your spring campaign is a great time to provide a brief recap on what you—with the help of your donors, of course—ac­complished last year.

Considering the current environ­ment, highlight some of the ways you are helping your constituents during the pandemic, or some new initiatives you’re planning. You can also highlight upcoming milestones or projects in the year ahead—look­ing beyond the novel coronavirus isn’t a bad way to spread a little hope.

Grassroot Communication | Spring Donor Appeal Campaign

Think Simple
Your spring appeal campaign does not have to be grand. While it’s al­ways nice to attract new and repeat donors and higher donations, your spring appeal can be more focused.

For instance, you may want to start by filtering out donors who gave in your most recent campaign. Then perhaps add ones that have given before but not recently, or that have interacted with your organization in some way, such as opening an email or attending an event. Tailor­ing your outreach in such a way can help keep the campaign cost-effec­tive while targeting likely donors.

Another idea: be very specific in what you want. Of course, every nonprofit wants more and bigger donations. But if you articulate a simple, achievable goal, donors may be more motivated to respond.

Maybe there is a specific project in your near-term plans with a modest budget. Describe it, be clear about the funding needs, and go in for the ask. If the novel coronavirus pan­demic has created specific needs, then articulate them, put a target amount on the total you need, and reach out with a donor-specific request.

How do you get to that number? Great question. We recommend breaking your project or goal down to a key number. Let’s say you are generating funds to provide kids with backpacks full of school supplies when they can all go back. Your goal is to help 1,000 kids, and you plan to spend $30 per child on a backpack and supplies. Your total goal is $30,000, but look at it this way: you need $30 donated 1,000 times. The key number for donors to know is $30.

Hammer home in your outreach that $30 will make a difference for one child. Ask for $30 and ask again. And remind your would-be donor that for every $30 donated, a child has school supplies for the coming year.

Being this direct ensures the would-be donors know what you need—and what you want. Ones that can afford to give more than $30 prob­ably will. Ones that don’t know how much to give will lock in on the $30—which is exactly what you want.

Get Creative
Spring appeals are a great time to get creative, for several reasons. First, if you’ve followed the above advice, you will have a smaller list than a larger, year-end appeal. You’re also communicating with your would-be donors, not just asking them for money.

There are a few ways to take advantage of these steps. If you’re doing a physical mailing (and we hope you are), consider enclosing a creative giveaway—something inexpensive and appropriate for your organization that you can safely source. Or, use the spring theme and drop in a packet of seeds. Such small surprises and tokens of appre­ciation are always popular, and would provide an extra special lift during these times.

While you’re at it, think about surveying your audience to glean in­formation that will help you with future initiatives. Maybe you want to gauge their views on a particular topic or issue that has emerged in your space. Digital surveys are easiest, so don’t be afraid to include a simple link on paper that your would-be donor can use.

Saying ‘Thank You’ To Donors

Maintaining a personal, consistent connection with donors is a key part of any long-term fundraising strategy. One of the most effective but often overlooked elements: the thank-you message.

You know you want to thank every donor. But do you think about how to write the message? Or when to send it?

The folks at Eleo software have a short, to-the-point post that provides excellent guidance.

Simply put, your replies should be prompt, personal, and real. (Eleo adds “warm and fuzzy” as a fourth category, but we believe that “personal” covers this pretty well.)

Some details on what the strategy entails:

Prompt: You urge, prod, and sometimes beg donors to meet your deadlines. Maybe it’s a year-end push, or a specific campaign that will net you matching donations. Their timely responses should be met with an equally timely thank-you message.

Personal: Donors make a conscious decision to join your cause. Make them feel appreciated as individuals. Use their first name, and include any information—location, life experiences, reasons they answered your call—that you have that helps the donor feel special.

Real: People donate to causes to help people (or animals)—not to support the organization itself. It might sound like semantics, but it’s an important part of recognizing what motivates a donor. So when you respond, do so as a person, not an organization. Be conversational, not corporate. Be humorous or even vulnerable, as appropriate.

Eleo takes a deeper dive on the thank-you note’s basics. Check it out here.

Coronavirus, how we can help

We at Grassroot Communication, like everyone else, are keeping an eye on the latest news about COVID-19. We’re writing to ensure you that we will do everything we can to support your operations, even as the community adopts social-distancing and other preventative measures.

Our CSR reps are available even when they work from home. Your calls are routed to their extensions, which will ring on their cell phones if they are not in the office. Our CSR’s are monitoring their emails and checking messages routinely,  so rest assured that your project will continue to move through our production.

We are offering shipping and pick-ups to your home addresses. Everything from sending proofs to dropping off materials can be done to your personal home should you need us to.

Set up a webex meeting with us to discuss how you can be more proactive in the current environment. We expect a very crowded environment for nonprofit messaging during the U.S. election cycle this summer and fall, and the COVID-19 crisis adds even more uncertainty.

We are actively encouraging our clients to use the springtime as their primary fundraising and member outreach season. Is there anything we can do right now to offset any potential and unforeseen impacts on fundraising and outreach? Contact us to set up a call with us today.

We will continue to stay in touch as events unfold. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions or concerns.

Stay safe and healthy,

GrassRoot Communication Team

Do Not Reply? … There’s A Better Way

If you have an email account, you’ve seen messages from do-not-reply addresses. They can be useful in certain circumstances, but chances are, none of those circumstances apply to your organization.

Simply put, do-not-reply addresses are almost always a bad idea. As this HubSpot blog post points out, they discourage two-way communication and are susceptible to getting caught up in spam filters. They also can run afoul of U.S. laws governing email distribution by businesses.

There are better ways to manage the incoming email that you are likely looking to avoid by using a do-not-reply address. Among the ones we like the most: use alias addresses. These can be filled on your end to help separate responses—messages to prospects might from a “hello@yourdomain.com” address, for example, while messages to active contacts can come from a more recognizable address, such as an executive’s first name (jane@yourdomain.com).

Filters can also be used to sort through auto-response messages, such as “message delivery notification” to help you keep your list current—undeliverable addresses can be removed, for instance.

If your messages generate a number of manual responses, consider having an auto-response of your own. You should strive to answer every inquiry, but depending on volume, it may take your team a few days. That’s fine—but it could be reassuring to your audience to receive confirmation that their message has been received, and your team is on the case.

For more tips on how to manage replies without closing off communication, check out HubSpot’s tips.

Are Your Donors Fans?

Growing your donor pool is something we cover a lot here at Grassroot—whether it is identifying data patterns or crafting your messaging.

But one of the best ways to grow your donor pool is to have current donors do it for you. That means cultivating a level of loyalty that motivates your donors to spread your message. Put another way, turn them into fans—your fans!

The American Marketing Association (AMA) has an extensive post on the topic, including a deep dive into understanding why donors become fans. It’s a useful read for anybody who helps craft donor-outreach strategy.

AMA also has a simple formula for turning donors into advocates. AMA’s “Three Cs” breakdown goes like this:

1. Know your CUSTOMER. Specifically, what makes them donate to your cause?

2. Develop a COMMUNITY around your mission. Connect with your donors, and help them connect with each other, whether it is digitally (think social media hashtags) or in person (think special events).

3. CELEBRATE your donors, not your organization. Everyone likes recognition. Instead of lauding your fundraising totals, pull out specific stories that help donors connect to the cause they are supporting, and always, always recognize donors (so long as they are OK with being name-checked!).

Take a deeper dive by reading the full AMA blog post here. (https://www.amatriangle.org/blog/how-to-turn-donors-into-raving-fans/).

Why Direct Mail? Because It WORKS!

Direct mail as a marketing tactic boasted a 43% increase in customer response rates in 2016, according to the Data & Marketing Association.

How can this happen in a world where digital is dominating? One way is better targeting. By combining your digital intelligence on your customers and prospects with targeted direct-mail messages, you combine the power of data analytics with the enduring allure of print.

Direct Mail

GRC’s Grassroot targeting helps you blend your data with persuasive direct-mail messages that will resonate with your prospects. What does this mean for nonprofit communications directors? It means that your next campaign will maximize dollars spent and provide both online and offline messaging to better persuade your audience.

For your organization’s next outreach campaign, think targeted, data-driven direct mail. Think Grassroot Communication!