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What you can do for your donors and others in Times of Crisis: COVID-19 Edition

By Lynne Wester

No matter where you are globally, the past few weeks have probably been a roller coaster of uncertainty, emotion, and even sometimes anxiety. As a person who travels and speaks to large audiences for a living, believe me, its not lost on me. But I’m moving on and persevering. I’m also thankful that I’ve been using technology to help me for years. So I would like to offer you some advice for your relationships with donors during this time.

  • If you haven’t already assess your emergency plan and consult with your organization's leadership. Check in on your policies and find out if and when you need to cancel your events or NOT. Sometimes normalcy in a time of uncertainty can be very comforting. This may also be the time to reduce the size of your events, as we also know that smaller more intimate events are what donors want as well. The news is all over the place and sometimes there is more hype than truth so your organization can be a great source of FACTS during uncertain times. Work with your legal team if you need to postpone or cancel events, a lot of expenses can be waived because this is a force majeure.

  • Work with your front line fundraisers as they ease into a time of less travel. This also reminds me of 2008/9 when organizations who were asking less and valuing relationships more raised more money.

  • For areas that are particularly hard hit, consider stopping active solicitations, like phone, email, and direct mail. Treat this almost like a regional disaster—like a hurricane. Imagine being quarantined in Seattle with your family and what you receive from your alma mater is a solicitation call or mail piece—how insensitive!

  • Instead, consider broadening the use of the tools you have or are considering purchasing. Like Thankview. What about a donor kindness kit? Send them a video checking in on them, sending them some love from campus or your org, something to make them smile and then maybe some or all of the following:

  • An expert statement or article on the research being done at your org or university

  • A love and fun kit for those that have to be home with kids, themed coloring book pages, activities, etc!

  • Tips on how to be productive and work from home for those who are doing it for the first time

  • Financial advice on how to weather the storm… my financial advisor recently sent me an article and checked in on me and I thought it was great customer relations building. Here is the link:

  • You could also have your President of your University send a message to parents using Thankview to reassure parents of all of the measures they are taking to keep students safe

  • Have your CEO of your healthcare system send a Thankview to the community talking about Corona Virus and what they are doing and resources available.

  • If you have a tool like ThankView—think about who else can benefit from the tool, especially your front line fundraisers. Offer it to them as a way of making individual video connections to donors asking them to Skype or Facetime now that travel is suspended.

  • Finally, this comes from the LinkedIn post of my friend and tech leader, Brent Grinna of EverTrue. I want you to consider postponing your giving day, making it more caused based or realizing that it is not the most important thing in the world to people right now. Here is the link to his whole post, but here's what I really want you to digest:

What your donors are thinking about today: 1) Taking care of aging parents 👵 2) Figuring out child care alternatives as schools are canceled 👶 3) Adjusting to their company’s new work from home policy 4) Canceling their spring break plans 🏖 5) Is this the flu or something more serious? 🤒 6) Checking 401k and 529 plan balances 📉 . . . . . 100) Alumni Giving Day
I’m (sic) know you’ve worked super hard on it. But you might want to hit pause. Or maybe adjust the Giving Day messaging and impact stories to align with student needs in the midst of classes being cancelled. Even though that isn’t what your video is about. And try to ensure your donors are doing ok before making the ask.

Finally, don’t forget that self care and your health and wellness is more important than any job you’re doing right now. Take care of yourself, check on your loved ones and don’t forget that this too shall pass. As for me, I’m in Las Vegas and headed to Los Angeles tomorrow. For me, life goes on and I hope to see you and give you a fist bump soon.




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