Our world has been turned upside down as we navigate responding to and containing the spread of COVID-19. Nonprofit marketing is no exception. How should nonprofit organizations adjust their marketing strategies during times of uncertainty?
I have heard the question, “Should we stop fundraising?” The short answer is No. Your services as a nonprofit are still important. The economic impact of COVID-19 means there are more people than ever in need. However, you do need to take time to look at your program, make adjustments, and pivot.
Don’t simply leave your campaigns on autopilot. The content and timing of your messaging should be reviewed and adjusted. Ensure your messaging isn’t insensitive and disconnected. Take the opportunity to add relevant content and information surrounding how your organization’s needs have changed. Add a testimonial or a story to your existing nonprofit marketing campaigns that demonstrate how your organization has been impacted or how it has been responding to the crisis.
Fine Tune Your Nonprofit Marketing Messages and Channels
In crisis situations like now, the environment is changing daily. Statistics are exponentially changing on a daily basis. Therefore, be careful how specific you are with numbers or statements in channels that have longer lead times and a longer shelf life like direct mail. You don’t want your donors or prospects to think you are disconnected to current events when they receive your direct mail piece in two to three weeks if you used a statistic that is outdated by then. However, don’t be afraid to use those statistics in ways that are relevant to your organization in more immediately conveyed channels, like digital and phone communications.
Now is not the time to test brand new offers or creative concepts. Or to test a traditional DRTV campaign. However, if your organization is in need, if you are serving more people and/or animals than normal, if you have had to change your way of doing business to support your cause, if you have seen your donations decrease, and it is impacting how you can serve—utilize additional channels you haven’t historically used, or expand your spend in them, to get those urgent messages out. With so many people sheltering at home and mail volumes down, direct mail can be a very effective marketing channel at this time. Utilize telemarketing to your current and lapsed donors. Utilize Facebook and Twitter. Continue your email marketing efforts. Just make sure the content is relevant and supports your message of why the need for your organization is great.
The Right Approach Can Create Repeat Donors
If you have an influx of newly acquired donors during this time, understand that the majority of donors acquired during a disaster or crisis, driven by that disaster or crisis to give, tend to be episodic givers. It is unlikely you will convert those donors to giving a second gift. Mark these donors accordingly in your customer relationship management (CRM) database, include them in future acquisition campaigns, and if they convert to a general acquisition message—consider them as a donor for regular communication. Communicate with these “disaster donors” in the future by giving them updates on how their donations helped in the time of great need. And when the next disaster or crisis strikes and you need to raise money, reach out to this group because they will likely be ready and willing to help again.
If your organization’s need for services hasn’t been stretched due to COVID-19, don’t try to find a way to be relevant during these times if that relevance isn’t apparent. Your donors will see through that, and it will do more harm than good.
Most importantly—make sure you are serving your cause and are there for your donors as they have been there for you. Connect with your donors. Show your donors empathy. Ask them if they are okay, let them know you care. Continue to be active in your community and provide support within your sector. Engage with your volunteers. Make sure you are walking the walk. Stay focused and continue doing great work.
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