Since March fundraising has been devastated, with mass redundancies and deep cuts made to services. The causes to which we have devoted our lives have suffered in a way never seen before in our lifetimes. It has been truly awful.
Once we were over the peak we began to plan for a new normality. Not the same as before – far from it – but a re-imagination of our services.
As I write (October 14th), hope for the future has turned to uncertainty. Confirmed cases of Covid-19 are rising, and quite dramatically. Everything is being done to contain the situation, but a second wave seems almost certain. A second national lockdown? Possibly greater than the first, as it was in the flu pandemic of 1918/19? Of course, we will all do everything we can to stop that happening. But, until there is a vaccine which really works, or a treatment or cure, we are going to have to learn to live with Covid.
Being optimistic, let’s assume there isn’t a national lockdown (if there is, everything I’m about to write will be hugely exacerbated). It seems very possible that there will continue to be local spikes and local lockdowns. Suppose at any one time, 20% of the population is in lockdown, what will that mean for fundraising?
Events – indoors or outdoors – all require planning. Yet each may have to be cancelled at 48 hours’ notice. Will virtual events deliver the same income?
Shops have tight margins. 20% of shops closed will mean 20% less income with the same costs.
I may well be wrong; none of this is certain. Things will even have changed by the time you read this. The only thing that is certain about the next year is – uncertainty.
So, where to turn?
To your supporters.
In the first wave many charities were reluctant to ask their supporters for money. They felt that they’d be preoccupied with Covid, or that adverse finances would mean they couldn’t afford to give, right now. So, they let them be.
They were wrong then and they are wrong, now.
Now is absolutely the right time to be engaging and communicating with your supporters. It is likely that much of what you do needs to change. Now more than ever the experience you give to your supporter will make all the difference.
So, communications to supporters need to be well-crafted. They must be outside in, not inside out. What does the supporter want to hear? Not want you want to tell them. Start with the supporter. How are they feeling? If their finances are suffering, offer them a payment holiday. Thank them for all they have done so far. They’ve been there for you, now you can be there for them. “We look forward to hearing from you when things are OK.”
Huge numbers of your supporters are not worse off. They have steady jobs or fixed pensions. They are actually better off. No foreign holidays. No theatre or cinema. Only rare meals out. You can tap into this money.
Indeed, charities who have done this well have seen almost unbelievable results. So, what exactly do you need to do to immerse your organisation in the supporter experience?
The supporter experience
This thinking is what the Institute of Fundraising’s ‘Supporter Experience Special Interest Group’ exists to help with. Several members of the group, with decades of experience, and steeped in ‘the supporter experience,’ have produced an online booklet entitled ‘Fundraising at the time of Covid. How the supporter experience can help you navigate the pandemic.’ The booklet contains seven principles with up to six actions beneath each of them. Concrete, practical and do-able. A veritable ‘How-to’ guide.
How can you start to think about the needs of your supporters, rather than the needs of your organisation? How can you change the mindsets of all staff within your organisation? How can you convince the decision makers that your supporters still believe in your mission – and that they want to give? How can you make the case for investment in fundraising, rather than cuts? Unlike other parts of your organisation, fundraising is a profit centre not a cost centre. Fundraising can be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
We have given a lot of thought to all of these questions.
On Wednesday 4th November, the online booklet will be on the Institute’s website. All members will get an email with details, and non-members will be able to access it through the site. On Monday 9th November there will also be a free webinar with even more content and compelling case studies to bring the principles to life.
Do read the booklet and come to the webinar. You will get oodles of insight, and practical things to do tomorrow.
You won’t regret it.
Giles Pegram CBE, Chartered Institute of Fundraising – Supporter Experience