How to keep your donors and supporters engaged during the transition from pandemic to 'new normal' - Generocity Philly

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Jun. 9, 2020 2:12 pm

How to keep your donors and supporters engaged during the transition from pandemic to ‘new normal’

"Despite all the uncertainty in the world, your supporters have not stopped believing in what you do. People are still wondering how they can help, so let them know," says columnist Krys Sipple.

"A lot of us are (at least by now) used to using Zoom for meetings but might think that you can’t do that with your donors, especially your older ones. I can guarantee that they are using some sort of video communication with their kids and grandkids," says columnist Krys Sipple.

(Photo by Nashua Volquez from Pexels)

Even as COVID-19 restrictions in our region start to open up, its going to be a long time – if ever – before things go back to anything resembling normal.

So, what can you do right now to make sure that your closest donors stay close and keep supporting the work that you do?

Here are seven ideas.

1. Tell your story

Now is the time to tell your story. Create a mini case for support that speaks to your organization’s mission and immediate needs. Despite all the uncertainty in the world, your supporters have not stopped believing in what you do. People are still wondering how they can help, so let them know clearly and concisely what you need.

2. Utilize your resources

Use your smartphone to create a short video of the work you are doing or create a slideshow of photos of past work. Do you have board members or volunteers with skills for creating compelling graphics? Ask them to turn a statistic or a client quote into a picture to be shared in a story on social media. Ask your board to share your organization’s posts with their social circle. Great stories will not only keep current supporters engaged, but they could allow you to convey your mission to people who may not have ever heard about you. When a compelling story with great visuals is shared on social media, people pay attention. Share the story to your own Facebook page, then share it to local community group pages for a larger audience reach.

3. Invest in infrastructure

Does your website or social media page need to be updated? Does your donor database need work? Do you need to update your email list? Now is the perfect time to tackle those projects. Are there volunteers you can utilize to do website or social media updates or to do data entry?

4. Check in on your supporters

I’ve heard a lot of nonprofit leaders say that they don’t want to bother people right now. But honestly, now is the perfect time to check in on your supporters. We have all been in some degree of isolation, and some of your donors and volunteers are still home alone and craving some human connection. What can you do to make their lives a bit easier right now?

Pick up the phone, check to see how they are doing, and check to see if they need anything.

A lot of us are (at least by now) used to using Zoom for meetings but might think that you can’t do that with your donors, especially your older ones. I can guarantee that they are using some sort of video communication with their kids and grandkids. Be prepared to meet them where they are most comfortable — Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google hangouts. It’s not an in-person visit, but it can come close.

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5. Saying thank you

Heartfelt gratitude goes a long way, but we can get so caught up in the day-to-day operations of our nonprofits that we don’t take the time to do more than sign a template thank you letter for each gift. Go out of your way to pick up the phone, handwrite thank you notes, and even say thank you in person when you can. Don’t take any donor for granted. This is the ideal time to get your board members involved by having them make thank you calls to donors. Create a short script for them to use to start the call and let them know that it is perfectly fine to leave a message.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask

It can be very tempting to stop asking, or to assume that people are not able to give right now. Don’t make that assumption. There are people who can and will be very generous, especially during a crisis. For many donors, giving is a key part of them feeling connected to the world around them, and it makes them feel good to know that they are helping others.

A good way to phrase an ask is to say, “if you are in a position to help others right now, here is how you can.” Those who can give, will.

If you have had to cancel an event, reach out to ticketholders and sponsors immediately to let them know. Give donors the choice between a refund or donating the cost of their ticket to benefit your organization. You’ll be surprised by how many people choose the latter.

7. Gather supporter stories

I’m currently working with a planning committee to help the Philadelphia Folksong Society pivot to an interactive virtual event for August of this year. As part of that event, the Society is actively seeking out stories from past performers, volunteers and Festival attendees. Those short videos will be integrated into the event itself, to help keep the community spirit of both the event and the organization alive.

How can you do something similar with your organization? Have your volunteers send you short videos telling why they got involved with your organization and what it means to them. You can do the same thing with board members and with major donors. It doesn’t have to be a video; stories in any format can be effective.

Everyone has a story to tell. Bring your donors and supporters even closer to your organization by getting them to tell theirs.

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