Social distancing and work from home mandates have created a unique challenge for nonprofit fundraisers. Without the ability to meet supporters face-to-face, it can feel like we’re doing our jobs with not just one, but both hands tied behind our back.
To ensure we are staying on target with donor communications, including cultivation/stewardship outreach and gift solicitations, it’s imperative to develop an action plan. Before diving into the action steps, you’ll want to be sure you are engaging with your donors strategically. Click here to learn “How To Engage Donors in a COVID-19 World.”
After devising your organization’s engagement strategy, it’s time to create an action plan. Your plan should address these 4 questions:
Who Will You Reach?
Whether you are reaching out to a donor or prospect, they will each need their own course of action in order for your efforts to be as meaningful as possible. You can go beyond donors/prospects here and include other types of supporters such as volunteers and community leaders. Essentially, ask yourself ‘who are my defined constituencies?’
You’ll also want to note who within your organization will reach out to whom. Make sure that those you choose to do the outreach (staff, board, etc) have the time and right skills to make the connections, and that they are committed to doing so.
How Will You Reach Them?
Knowing what communication method you will use is important. You may not be able to meet face-to-face, but there are other ways to connect. Zoom calls, personalized emails, webinars, Facebook Live, etc. can be just as impactful. There may be a learning curve with some of the technology so be sure to test it out before engaging with a donor via the platform.
There may also be costs associated with the actual outreach, especially if it requires a new technology. Just like if you would’ve taken your donor out for lunch, be sure to track these expenses.
What Will You Ask of Them?
It’s important to be as specific as possible about what your organization needs. For instance, are you funding a new/enhanced program, asking for a virtual event sponsorship, in need of supplies for clients, or just looking for general operating support, etc.? You also want to target a gift size. How much will you ask for? Knowing your ask - and rehearsing - before you connect can help you be more confident and better prepared.
Even if your outreach is just intended to serve as a cultivation or stewardship point of contact, you’ll still want to have prepared a list of well-developed bullet points that you can easily reference during the discussion so that you stay on track.
If you are communicating in writing, you’ll want to have another set of eyes in your organization review the document or email prior to sending it out. The request may seem crystal clear to you, but it’s always helpful to have someone else review it.
Preparation. Preparation. Preparation.
When Will You Reach Out?
You want to develop a dated schedule of regular touch points depending on your relationship with the constituent. Be sure that all communications are not jammed into a short period of time or that you’re not going months without communication. Also, be sure items are slotted in your and your team’s calendar.
Setting deadlines and checking progress is a key component to include in your plan because it will help keep you and your team on track. Be sure to take any production timing into account – i.e. how long does the printer need to produce and mail your appeal? Creating a schedule will also help you be realistic about what you can accomplish in the timeframe you are looking to adhere to.
Let’s Get to Work
Once you’ve completed your action plan, you should carefully review it to be sure it’s thoughtful, well timed and strategic. Again, make sure you have other sets of eyes on it and that everyone involved in making it a success is fully committed to implementation. Following the review, it’s time to get to work executing the plan; checking progress; making agreed-upon pivots as necessary; and celebrating wins along the way.
Ready to create your Action Plan? Click here to view a sample.
About Rachel M. Decker
Having spent nearly 20 years in the nonprofit sector as an effective and strategic fundraising and foundation executive, Detroit Philanthropy Founder and President, Rachel Decker is passionate about helping others, making meaningful connections, solving problems and, most importantly, creating impact in our community. With the founding of Detroit Philanthropy, she turned that passion into a commitment to champion philanthropy throughout metro Detroit as a philanthropic advisor, fundraising consultant and speaker.