This blog post was supposed to be about something else. But we are living in a very different world right now. And we need to acknowledge that and address it in communications with donors. We are all in this together, and we will get through. We’ll continue to look out for each other and do what the experts advise us to do. It will be hard, but I believe that people are strong and resilient and determined to overcome the challenges we face.

Now more than ever, it’s important to see the big picture, and to be truthful and honest with your donors. Whatever your organization’s mission, you still need revenue to operate, to fund research, to pay for journalists, to feed and shelter those in your community, etc. Your community may need your organization and the services it provides, now more than ever, and it’s okay to ask for support.

Here are a few guidelines that we recommend you follow when communicating with donors.

  1. Don’t Be Tone Deaf:  Any fundraising material that finds its way into a donor’s hands right now that doesn’t address the current health crisis will risk alienating and/or angering that donor. Acknowledge the situation at the very beginning of the communication in a way that doesn’t increase fear or anxiety. Phrases like “during these uncertain times” or “during the current health crisis” are good options.
    It is appropriate to use terms like COVID-19 or coronavirus, but understand how they may be perceived. Recent feedback suggests that “COVID-19” can be considered “too clinical” and “coronavirus” can be perceived as “more emotional.”  Know your audience and proceed accordingly.
  2. Be Honest and Sincere: It doesn’t show any failing on the part of your organization to say that your team and the services you deliver are being impacted. Everyone is being impacted. This is our common experience.
  3. Tell people how you are helping: If your organization is doing specific things to help now — feeding people, bringing important news to your community, supporting first responders, providing educational content for students, etc., call it out. As Mister Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Seeing and hearing about people being helped makes others feel better. Good deeds always matter.
  4. It’s okay to ask for a donation: Look at all the acts of kindness that are being promoted on social media and in the news. People want to do something to have a positive impact. Give your donors the opportunity to make a difference and make a donation. Those who can’t give at this time will still appreciate hearing from you and learning about what you’re doing.
  5. Avoid testing in direct mail: Given the current circumstances, you likely won’t get an accurate read. Testing in digital is still okay.
  6. Relook at direct mail control packages through the present-day lens: Some packages that have mailed successfully in the past may sound insensitive today.

If you have questions about fundraising during these times, we’re here to help.