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Last year, nonprofits found themselves battling disruptions to their staffing, operations, donations, and so much more, with 94% of organizations reporting negative impact. The pandemic stripped away valuable support and resources, and without them, nonprofits were struggling to stay afloat at a time when their causes needed them most.
But our partners at GivingTuesday were at the ready, and in just over a month, #GivingTuesdayNow was born. The all-new “pop-up” day of giving was organized by leaders in the GivingTuesday network from all over the world who mobilized their communities overnight. The day resulted in $503 million in online donations in the U.S., three billion Twitter impressions, and social media activity in over 145 countries.
Now, we’re digging into GivingTuesday's data-driven insights on what generosity looked like in 2020, and sharing how you can adapt your fundraising strategy for what's been another year of unpredictable circumstances.
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State your needs loud and clear
Historical research shows that people are more interested in volunteering, getting involved in community issues, donating, and giving back in other ways during times of crisis when they know their help is truly needed. This means that your supporters might be more motivated to help, but there’s a catch—they’re also extremely burned out and overwhelmed.
The past few years have had no shortage of crises, and many are finding it difficult to identify which causes are best to give to, given that countless issues could use their help. You can help put an end to their decision fatigue with a clear-cut communication strategy and streamlined donation process. Examine your messaging and identify what’s at the heart of it, then choose your words wisely to keep them as direct and easily actionable as possible. Knowing that some of the problems you face are solvable can be a source of hope to your supporters, so give them the comfort of understanding how they can participate.
On the operational side, examine your donation process step by step and identify any areas that might create a barrier to donation. Once you’ve moved a supporter to donate, it’s critical that they don’t lose interest before they’ve followed through. With streamlined action pages, the journey from initial interest to a completed donation will be quick and easy every time.
Make ‘giving’ inclusive of non-monetary actions
While your supporters might be more motivated to donate, keep in mind that their means to do so be more limited. Be sure to give them plenty of alternative ways to contribute to your work—whether that’s signing a petition, sending your donation page to a friend, or sharing about your work on social media. And, make sure you have the infrastructure set up so they can opt into these other opportunities and keep moving in their supporter journey.
This applies to your longest-standing supporters too. Don’t assume that a supporter who has donated for several years or made a large contribution in the past will be able to do the same this year. Use this as an opportunity to reward them for their loyalty by giving them more responsibility in other areas of your work. Take time to identify all your greatest needs outside of donations. Could you use more volunteers? Digital event hosts? Help with your website copy? Don’t hesitate to make these asks—your most dedicated supporters want to help; they just need to know how.
And lastly, keep an open mind in terms of what your donations might look like this year, and encourage donations of any size—even as small as $1. In fact, historically small dollar donors have shown up and been a reliable source of contributions even through tough times. The true long-term value is in the supporter relationships prompting each donation. You’ll want to continue to nurture those relationships for lots of reasons, the least of which is that eventually, your supporters might be able to donate more. The fact that they chose to donate when they might not have had much to give shows just how deeply they care.
Make your supporters feel like heroes
A donation is so much more than money changing hands. It is a tangible endorsement for the work that you’re doing. It’s easy to get caught up in the tactics, channels, and processes involved in your fundraising strategy—so make sure you take a moment to ask yourself: “what does this donation really mean to me?” Connecting a donation with direct impact in your communications can help you avoid creating a donor experience that feels transactional. So, focus on how you can make your donors feel like a critical component of accomplishing your mission.
With all that’s going on, it might be especially hard for supporters to know exactly how—and who—their contribution helps. Paint a clear picture of the problem, who it’s affecting, and exactly how the money they’re donating, regardless of the amount, is helping solve that problem. Using photos and video on your donation page and website can be a quick and impactful way to help supporters understand and connect with your cause. Your story is the greatest tool you have—make sure your supporters can see themselves in it.
Lean on your local community
In times of crisis, people turn to their local communities for support—and in 2020, neighbors rose to the occasion. Research shows that in 2020, donations were double their usual size for city-specific organizations, with an increase in the number of overall donors as well.
Given that the pandemic isn’t limited to any geographic location, supporters opted to put their local community first, knowing it would likely benefit them and others they know. There’s a built-in sense of trust and vested interest when it comes to local organizations that is heightened in the current climate as people turn to relationships that are familiar and established.
Having digital tools like tags, lists, and filters along with geo-mapping capabilities at your disposal can help you easily identify your local supporters and reach out to them with a personalized ask, given their familiarity with the local area and the specific interests you share.
Prioritize empathy in everything you do
Empathy is always important. But especially given the past few years, you’ll need to craft your outreach thoughtfully and consider all that your community has been through. While one person might still be employed and adjusting to remote work, another might have lost their job and feel burdened by the thought of donating anywhere. Try to customize your approach to each possible scenario, and be mindful about what headspace your supporters might be in—your understanding now can affect their view of your organization long after the pandemic.
Stay prepared long-term with a strong online infrastructure
While it might be tough to think of future crises while still coping with the ones at hand, the best thing you can do is be prepared. Your ability to quickly and effectively respond to a crisis has a lot to do with the digital tools and infrastructure you have in place at the time. With an integrated database, you’ll have a clear view of your community—their interests, previous work with your organization, their most recent donation, and more. You can create targeted lists of supporters in minutes and quickly send out varied communications to each, depending on your needs and theirs. You’ll have action pages that are streamlined to make donating simple and fast, and signing up for recurring donations even easier. What’s more, a digital infrastructure will allow you to build deeper relationships that outlast a crisis and follow you to better times.
The past few years have brought a lot of unexpected change—and growth, in spite of it. While there might be hardships in the months to come, our hope is that with the right tools in hand, you’ll be equipped to face them head on and continue to scale your important work even (and especially) through crisis.