Using Digital to Cope with Crisis

Lou
Kotsinis

Crisis Management for Nonprofits

By now, the reality has set in that our lives will be disrupted significantly for the foreseeable future.  As a non-profit leader, you’ll bear an especially heavy burden as fundraising, networking and association events are postponed or canceled entirely. 

But that doesn’t mean it’s time to despair. On the contrary, thanks to digital technology, there are processes that you can deploy to keep the momentum going. The key is to remain focused on your goals and use the tools at your disposal to convey your mission and continue to drive the bottom line. In fact, if there was ever a time to rely on remote, online marketing and communications tools – it’s now. 

Here are three principles to immediately help with crisis management for nonprofits — to convey a sense of calm and to begin to navigate these uncharted waters.

1. Communicate your message clearly, frequently and across the board. 

Funders, staff and supporters want to know where you stand during these uncertain times.  Developing a clear, strong message about how you’re staying the course — but adapting to evolving circumstances — is crucial. 

Whether that’s informing your constituencies of office closings, event postponements, or specifics related to your individual organization, once you’ve developed your message, ensure that it’s distributed consistently across the following channels:

  • Your Organization’s Website
  • Hopefully, your website’s Content Management System is equipped with a pop-up notification or function that will allow you to publish your critical announcements front and center.  Typically, these can be programmed easily to appear when a user visits the site, and then to come down after a certain period of time or revisit. In truth, your message will be evolving, so you may simply consider leaving it up and changing the messaging according to circumstances. 
  • Email Newsletter
  • Email communication is crucial and allows you direct access to your key audiences.  If you’re already using a commercial email marketing platform such as MailChimp or your own CRM system, reach out to your email list as soon as possible with your organization’s plans for the next few weeks.  If not, standard email is fine – so long as you’re paying attention to individual responses and continuing to communicate clearly and consistently.
  • Social Media
  • While humanity is now social distancing itself, it’s coming together digitally.  Your social media presences have never been more important.  Whether your platform of choice is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or all of the above (or another channel not listed here), social media is where your conversations will be happening for the foreseeable future.
  •  
  • We recommend first easing your audiences into the current reality – calmly and clearly stating the preventative measures you’re taking to address the Coronavirus in your own sphere. Then, discuss the impact upon your upcoming events and initiatives and what solutions you might have in place for those. Lastly, and over time, you might start to transition your fundraising and revenue-generating initiatives to your online channels. (See below for more on this.)  

2. Embrace the Webinar and the Remote Meeting

This time around, remote meeting technology might just save our economy. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to an online meeting platform such as Zoom or GoToMeeting and get your team familiar with how to use these tools (both platforms provide accessible videos and quick tutorials). With this type of technology at our collective disposal, there is no excuse for forcing people into a crowded office (unless of course, the service you’re providing dictates an on-site presence). 

Equally as beneficial to today’s non-profit organizations are webinars. The same tools I’ve listed above (and dozens of others) offer cheap, high-quality remote webinar presentations. Although not as exciting and socially intimate as in-person events, webinars can now help you deliver some of the content you might have been considering for a presentation or talk. If you’re a non-profit association or networking group, webinars are an excellent way to fill in the content gaps that will now arise due to cancelled presentations and talks. 

3. Shift to Online Fundraising and/or Crowdfunding

The cancellation of physical fundraising activities will result in a temporary drop in revenue, but that can be mitigated — and in some cases outright negated — with a strong push towards online fundraising. 

The first step is to ensure that your giving page(s) are functioning properly, providing a quality user experience across devices and offering a clear case as to “where the money’s going.” In fact, you might use this opportunity to change your messaging to state that in lieu of events A, B, C, you are now appealing to your donor base to give online.

In order to ensure that people are getting that message, again, you’ll need to rely on your existing tools discussed above.  Weave your fundraising message into your Website pop-over, email campaigns and social media to ensure that everyone hears the message loud and clear (and of course, in a tactful way that doesn’t convey desperation).

If you’ve never before considered online crowdfunding, now’s the time. There are a host of low-cost third-party apps that you can choose from that can work in conjunction with your existing donation platform or page; conversely, you can implement these as quick stand-alone pages that don’t require coding or major design.  

You might even take crowdfunding one step further and start a campaign among a core group of supporters with the message that this campaign will help shore up much needed revenue that won’t be coming in now due to a cancelled fundraiser. Call it “the fundraiser that almost happened but then went online.”

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There’s no disputing that we are in surreal times.  And although there’s probably cause for concern – there’s no room for outright fear. The first move is to ensure that you and those around you are safe and healthy; after that, it’s time to get focused and determined to come out of this crisis in an even stronger position than you were before. 

If you put into place some of the protocols for crisis management for nonprofits discussed above, you’ve taken strong first steps to thrive in the face of uncertainty.

Wishing you health and safety. 

 

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