In April, our team fielded calls from nonprofits through our virtual office hours. Over the next several weeks, we will highlight some of the questions posed to us along with our answers. Our hope is to help your organization, as these may be questions you are pondering, too.
Q: What is the best messaging to donors now?
We. Need. Cash. is an overwhelming statement from nonprofits everywhere.
Revenue is down, expense is up. Demand is high, ratios are low. There is no new normal yet as nonprofit leaders are simply trying to navigate through the uncertainty. One nonprofit CEO said to me, “We’re just trying to survive.”
That’s not hyperbole.
A: Keep asking. Do not put your appeals on hold or make assumptions for your donors. Tie your ask to impact, not just filling a budget gap by fiscal year end.
For development directors who are desperately trying to help their organization stay afloat, the increased pressure to raise more money, and to raise it yesterday, creates a new level of stress that is above and beyond the normal frenzy. For some, the fight or flight response kicks in and there is a collective “let’s do this” mentality of banding together to rise to the occasion. For others, the response is more defeated and debilitating, and that emotion comes across to donors.
What is your organization’s posture and tone? Is it, “We got this?” Or is it, “We can’t do this?”
One of our rules of thumb is that a case for support should never ever be about a need for cash. The case for support should always be about meeting community need.
While the world has turned upside down, you must stay donor centric. Do not focus so much on the need for cash that you become organization centric in your messages. It doesn’t mean you can’t ask for more money to meet an increased need, but you must be strategic in your message.
What does this look like?
Organization-centric need for cash appeal.
In these unprecedented times, we are fighting for survival because of cuts in funding and lost program and event revenue. We are working hard to keep our doors open but need your support to fill the budget gap by June 30. We were on track to meet our fundraising goals before coronavirus measures changed everything for our organization. Will you help us fill the gap in funding because of the pandemic? Send me an email or give me a call to make your pledge. You can also pay at your convenience on our website.
Donor-centric need for cash appeal.
Your belief in our organization and the impact of our mission lifts our spirits during this unprecedented time. We won’t give up on the community that we serve, and we know that you won’t either. We are grateful to have your support and partnership as we adjust how we meet the increasing needs of our constituents while also meeting the health and safety needs of our employees and volunteers. If the timing is right for you, will you make an additional gift to help us rise to the challenge before us?
You can tell donors about needing more money to meet the increased need your mission serves, but don’t tell donors you need them to fill a budget gap. In this economy, get in line. Who doesn’t have a budget gap? Even the LA Lakers applied for an SBA PPP loan.
You can tell donors about an urgent need by tying the urgency to what’s happening in the community you serve or making the connection to the timing of your re-opening. Don’t use the date of your fiscal year end as the driver. In this moment, no one really cares about June 30. They care about how you will safely and effectively meet the needs of your constituents, today.
Article by: Kerri Laubenthal Mollard, Founder & CEO