How do we raise money (and thrive) amid Coronavirus?

March 12, 2020

We are in for what seems like a long haul over the next season of fundraising. According the CDC, COVID-19 is here and will likely be community wide over the next few years. But, before boarding up the doors on our homes, the CDC also says that there are measures we can take to protect ourselves. More on that below. Most importantly, how do we proactively raise money this spring season amidst the challenges before us. Let’s dig into that.

Cancelling Events

You may be faced (or forced in some cases) to either postpone or cancel your upcoming event. If this is the case it is important to remember that you’re not alone (I’m speaking daily with non-profits in this situation). Venues are aware of your situation and they should be flexible in their cancellation policies. It’s important to remember that this is a widespread problem and any venue that isn’t flexible during this unique situation will pay dearly later. Keep that in mind when negotiating either a refund or a new date. After-all, you’re not the only group to be shifting dates and there’s power in numbers. In general, most companies want to work it out and build long-term relationships.

Silent Auctions – Get them online!

If you’ve never used an online platform to run your auction, now is the time. Just like with venues, you’re not the first group to need a solution. Mobile bidding software companies should be willing to work with you to transition and to do so quickly. Why is it worth the effort to do an auction online? Because overall giving will likely be impacted by disruptions in jobs. This means less disposable income for giving. With a silent auction, you’re allowing donors to get as well as give. This presents a win/win for your donors and a way to stay engaged while you build new campaigns for later in the year.

You can also run auctions periodically. Spring break is coming and if more people are staying home, think of things they might do and auction those off. Games, Amazon subscriptions, entertainment packages. These can make creative solutions and get people’s attention while we adapt to life with Corona.

Online Donations – With a purpose

Giving online may take a hit this spring as uncertainty floats through your donor base. That’s why it is vital to tell a clear story. People know that your needs do not go away. However, you need a clear and compelling story to stay top of mind. If you’re raising money for building a new wing or looking for scholarship dollars, take some time and make a story about it. Be specific. I wrote a post that shares some online and inexpensive tools to do that (from the safety of your home). These tools help you create a space for your campaign that can clearly state why you need donor support. It will help your cause rise from the noise being produced by the media and others asking for help.

Get Creative – This is an opportunity

I’ve always been impressed by people who take a situation and find a way to maximize the value. I hear stories all the time on NPR about how someone who lost their job, took the chance to start something new and have flourished. This period of time is no different. Try to look at where you can be in one year.

To that end, I’d like to suggest an exercise to help you create new ideas. The goal is to come up with ideas you would normally not think of. To start, look around your surroundings for two unrelated objects. For me I see a coffee mug and a pair of keys. Completely unrelated. Now, identify the problem you’re facing. We need to find a way to communicate with our donors that we have an online auction instead of a gala. Ok, using the coffee mug and car keys, what ideas can I think of? Get a couple more people to participate. No bad ideas and no poo poo-ing either.

What did I come up with? Well, I look forward to my filled coffee mug every single morning because it provides me a focused shot of energy. And, my car keys are vital to helping me get to my office. In addition, they have little touches of personality (a can opener, a lego piece, etc). Putting these two concepts together makes me think that I should write a one paragraph blog post to update my donors during this COVID-19 situation. I should focus on one single point that is unique and personal to the organization. Then, email it to my donors every morning at 6am when they drink their coffee. Keep this going and write down the ideas. It gets you focused on solutions rather than problems. You’ll be surprised at what you come up with.

Stay Healthy and Stay Connected

Lastly, I wanted to throw this out there because it’s important. Stay healthy. Spring is coming and the weather is getting warmer (at least here in Michigan). Don’t lock yourself in a stuffy house without interaction. It’s ok to feel the breeze on a walk or bike ride. You can socially distance yourself but don’t miss the opportunity to get a half hour walk in your day. Now is that time we’ve been waiting for to take more care in ourselves. Boosting your energy and immune system will help make a difference in how our bodies handle COVID-19 if we come in contact. Take the opportunity now that it’s in front of you and move more, choose better food options and connect with family. When this is all over, you’ll find a better self and confidence in beating a challenge.

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