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:
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.”
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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