There’s Really Plenty To Do – How Nonprofits Can Be Productive During Social Isolation

The first week of wide-spread social distancing in the United States is wrapping up. By now, you are probably moving past crisis-mode and finding a routine. Your carefully crafted COVID-19 email and posts have been sent. Your employees and co-workers are finding a new rhythm working from home.

A new problem surfaces… Some of us are slammed with work trying to fulfill our obligations from home while others of us simply won’t have much to do until the country, and the world, get back to work.

Here are some ideas to help my fellow nonprofit fundraisers stay productive over the next week or longer:

Collect stories from your clients

There may never be a better time to collect long, beautiful impact stories from the people you serve. If you are like me, there never seems to be enough time for this. Work with your Development and Communication to pull a call list of clients who might have a potential story to tell. Divide up the list and get on the phone. Hearing your clients’ gratitude will be good for you right now while you are stuck at home. You’ll also generate hours of content to share with donors.

Thank you calls

Challenge your staff, your board, or yourself to call or write a personal message to every donor who gave in the last 18 months. Take time to get their feedback on your mission and programs and hear their giving story. We all prioritize our call sheet. Maybe now is the time to learn something from that infrequent or low-level donor. Collect some quotes to share on your website and social media that will inspire other donors. If your staff divides up the calls, make sure you have a good template to record the feedback and system to record the contact in your CRM. Double-check mailing addresses with donors while you are at it!

Write a long read

I’m all about the snappy tweet, the Instagram post with the clever one-liner, and keeping key email messages above the scroll. But… the whole country has time on its hands. Maybe its time to share the full story and go beyond the elevator speech. Try a serial email message for the next few weeks that shares a more complex impact story. Do some mission-oriented interviews with support staff from each department and share why they love working for the organization your donors support. Share the history of your organization in fun anecdotes and testimonials. Call it a hunch, but I bet we will see higher view/open rates for long reads.

Edit and update your website

Let’s face it: websites collect junk information like a bad thrift store. Set aside an afternoon to update and reduce your website’s content. Refresh those pictures, rewrite the copy, check all the links. Think through the navigation from a donor or client’s perspective. Review your forms for relevancy and accuracy. Visit a peer organization’s website and jot down three things you like about it.

Complete your social media calendar for the year

Let’s assume you don’t have a dedicated staff person for social media. Take time to plan your social media content for the rest of the year. Mary Martin offers simple advice on how to do this in Episode 2 of the Fullstack Educator Podcast. A well-planned social media presence should not be stressful.

Clean your data and refresh your acknowledgment templates

No database is perfect. Chances are your database is functional but not completely uniform. These next couple of weeks might be a great time to refine relationship connections, polish up salutations, unify titles, and so forth. Flesh out the blank fields in your primary prospects by adding relationships, website URLs, LinkedIn profiles, and work history. Cross-reference LinkedIn profiles and flag down some corporate match opportunities.

Refresh your acknowledgments and receipts

While you are at it, refresh your acknowledgments and receipts with new photos and new copy. Ask yourself if your receipt makes the donor feel like a hero. What in the thank you note encourages the donor to make their next gift? Does your receipt include information about planned giving? Are your hard-copy receipts in-sync with your automated email and text message receipts?

Personnel Reviews

We all avoid these, but your staff could probably use a morale boost right now. Now might be a great time to do annual reviews, especially if your feedback is encouraging. You may also be struggling to keep your staff on task. An impending performance evaluation could provide a healthy incentive to keep productivity up.

There’s really plenty to do. Be kind, but don’t let yourself or your staff slack off. Every good leader knows that employees look to them to know how to respond in difficult situations. These are emotional times. Be consistent. Be steady. Show your employees that their hard work is still needed. Show your donors that you are faithful. Show your clients that you aren’t crumbling in the face of adversity. Keep up the good works.

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