This year, nonprofits are facing challenges that they have never seen before. However, even in the midst of all of the uncertainty, we have hope. Nonprofits, more than most organizations, are used to having to do more with less and adapt and evolve to best accomplish their missions. Organizations who are strong in these skills and are open to looking for creative opportunities to best serve their clients during this time will survive and be able to eventually thrive again. One important key in this is to have clear and consistent communication with donors and prospects that you have been cultivating in order to sustain support.
Get your nonprofit in order
Before you can communicate with donors, you need to be very clear about how your organization is shifting operationally, staying true to its mission by adjusting to your client’s needs and what plan or plans need to be in place for sustainability. These plans must demonstrate an understanding of the current nonprofit landscape and how your cause fits within that landscape. Strong leadership is needed and some difficult decisions may need to be made during this time to move forward in the most responsible way. Some nonprofits are seeing a need to go into hibernation for a time or reduce staff or services.
Once your organization has clear plans in place, they need to be sure that those plans can continue to be supported financially. Communication to donors is vital to nonprofits surviving this time. Because crises tend to bring clarity to what is really important, nonprofits have the opportunity to present and plead a very clear case to donors for support.
When to use enewsletters and mailers
There are a variety of channels for communication that can and should be utilized to maximize outreach during this time. For a wider donor base, nonprofits should be using social media, enewsletters and mailers. We discussed social media platforms in last week’s blog, A Nonprofit’s Guide to Online Communication, and those channels are best used for brief updates on what your organization is accomplishing during this time to keep your audiences informed and engaged.
Enewsletters and mailers can be effective tools if you are very intentional with communication and understand what your audience is feeling and what will resonate with them. Many people are reporting currently feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information and updates they receive in their email inboxes during this time. Because of that, many nonprofits are turning to more traditional mailers to reach their donors. Both methods can be effective if the content is relevant and cuts through high volumes of communications. Enewsletters should be used for consistent concise communication with a clear purpose and relevant information. They can also be used for special announcements or to share stories. Mailers can also be effective when used to announce something important or tell a story and can be exciting for an audience that is feeling stuck at home. Mailers are more of an investment so it is important to look at what return you can realistically expect to receive back compared to the cost to ensure that it is a good investment for your nonprofit.
Tips on messaging
When designing content messaging for either newsletters or maileres, nonprofits must first identify what their objective is for each specific communication. Understand who you are trying to reach, what they care about and what you want them to do in response to your message.
Messaging that will cut through the noise and stand out will be focused on establishing a human connection. People want to feel strongly about what you are doing in order to support your cause. An example of this could be to tell stories about donor impact rather than just reporting your fundraising metrics being met.
Many nonprofits aren’t sure what length will work best for their communications. It is important not to include irrelevant or unorganized content. This can overwhelm the readers and cause them to stop reading. Only include a message that is related to your objective. On the other hand, when trying to be concise in your message, it is also important not to just boil content down to the top three bulleted points and miss out on telling the story that will result in establishing a human connection with the audience.
Communications with major donors
Nonprofits must connect with their major donors during this time. Rather than relying on mass communication channels, calls should be made or personal letters sent. It is important to remember that relationships can become stronger when you face difficult times together so this is an opportunity to build even stronger relationships. Your donors haven’t forgotten you and still care about your cause.
Remember also that a relationship goes both ways and you need to be sure that you are there for your donors and understand where they are and how they feel. What are their current needs or concerns? Are they still able to support your organization?
With donors who have capacity there could be opportunities for you to work together to brainstorm innovative new ways to serve your clients. Some donors may not have the capacity to be faced with more challenges so it would be important to focus on communicating about what you can do and solutions rather than problems.
Remember, they know you need money. Let them know you need them. Each relationship is unique so be sensitive to what each donor is dealing with and continue to build these vital relationships during this time.