Leading in Turbulent Times | Step 4 of 5: Engage Purposefully

Fires, floods, pandemics, lawsuits, and technology failures are just a few disruptions with the potential to send shockwaves through your organization.

Regardless of the specific crisis, there’s one absolute truth: The nonprofits that will get hurt the most are the ones that haven’t assessed their new environment, named their priorities, and adapted their operations accordingly. A common mistake when an organization has too many fish to fry is pulling back on fundraising, as they don’t have the time to reach their donors in a meaningful way.

We all know the communicating and fundraising you don’t do is guaranteed to net you zero revenue.

Will it be easy to successfully raise funds during a time of crisis? Not likely.

But if you don’t lean in — and fast — you’ll lose precious connections and relationships you may never be able to recover.

If your goal is to improvise for impact, there are five specific messages you’ll need to deliver to your donors during this difficult time. And if done right, not only will you be able to keep your donor relationships strong, you’ll also be able to keep the contributions coming in.

Message 1: Concern

If you continue to send the same fundraising appeals you were distributing before a crisis, you may be perceived as insensitive and out of touch. And rightfully so.

A crisis is not the time for business as usual. Instead, it’s time to be reaching out to your supporters and most loyal donors in a purposeful way, and the best method to do this is by delivering messages of concern.

Touch base with existing donors to see how they’re holding up. A quick phone call, a thoughtful card, even a well-crafted email will go a long way toward letting these folks know that you think enough of them to be concerned about their health and well-being.

Prior to each conversation, take just a few minutes to review the information you have on file for them, and then make the call. Let them know you’re calling for no other reason than to check in, and then ask them how they’re getting along.

Here’s the best thing: There’s nothing standing in your way. All you need is your donor contact list and a quiet place so that you can start reaching out.

Message 2: Hope

When you deliver messages of hope to your charity’s supporters, several good things happen. First, you invite someone to envision a better, brighter day. It provides the recipient with a brief but powerful moment of happiness.

It not only makes a tough situation more bearable, it can also serve to improve the recipient’s quality of life. Envisioning a better future has been proven to motivate people to actually take the steps necessary to make their dream a reality.

In a very real way, providing hope to your nonprofit’s supporters helps them link the present to a better future. And it’s one of the most powerful messages you can deliver during times of great uncertainty and instability.

Message 3: Need

While it seems counterintuitive, your job as a nonprofit leader is to provide people with as many opportunities as possible to make a difference — the kind that can change lives and transform circumstances.

And because your donors, volunteers, and ambassadors have already demonstrated through their actions that your nonprofit is important enough to them to give their time, talent, and treasure, this is a message they’ll not only be expecting but one they’ll embrace.

Even though times are tough, your supporters still want to know what opportunities exist for them to help. It’s your job to keep them informed.

When sincere, well-crafted messages of need are sent to your supporters — especially on the heels of receiving messages of concern and hope — people step up and do some pretty extraordinary things.

Message 4: Impact

There’s a large body of research suggesting that when you provide your donors with a detailed, blow-by-blow account of how their gift has impacted someone’s life or changed a circumstance, not only do your supporters feel great but they are far more likely to give again.

And therein lies the power of delivering messages of impact.

When a donor sits down to write you a check, they’re already feeling a tinge of excitement in anticipation of what their gift might accomplish. So when they receive an inspiring update from you, that initial excitement is validated, and their joy is made complete.

Remember that it’s vitally important to understand why donors give to your nonprofit in the first place, but it’s far more important to understand how they feel when they do. Delivering messages of impact is the perfect vehicle to accomplish this.

Message 5: Gratitude

When we express gratitude, we’re affirming to the world that there are wonderful blessings occurring all around us. In this case, those blessings are your donors, volunteers, ambassadors, and supporters.

This leads us to yet another way you can activate purposefully: by delivering messages of gratitude.

When you deliver messages of authentic gratitude to your donors, not only will they feel an overwhelming sense of meaning, purpose, and unbridled joy, but you’ll experience it as well.

And that’s the real power of gratitude: When you share it, it works both ways.

Key Messages

  • Concern: Reach out for no other reason than to see how they are.
  • Hope: Invite them to envision a brighter day.
  • Need: Your supporters will embrace and step up when you communicate your needs.
  • Impact: Give donors a detailed account of the impact of their gift(s).
  • Gratitude: Authentic gratitude validates a donor’s sense of purpose.
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