Donor Communications: Now is the time for MORE communications, not less

April 20, 2020

As of today, in the middle of a global pandemic, I’ve only received exactly two COVID-19-specific mailings from nonprofit organizations.

One was from the Salvation Army and the other from Heifer International. This despite being a donor to numerous organizations.

And, while my usually jam-packed mailbox has been emptier than usual, the other communications I received from nonprofits were “business-as-usual” pieces.

What’s more, since the country went into lockdown mode, approximately one month ago, my in-box has been noticeably empty. Keep in mind that I’m subscribed to receive email updates from at least 200 nonprofit organizations. And keep in mind that my readers and students who have launched emergency email appeals have done very very well.

I’m not alone. Nonprofit consultant Claire Kerr noted the absence of communications as well in this LinkedIn post.

What’s going on, and why is this a problem?

Yes, we are in the midst of a crisis of the proportions we haven’t seen before. It’s too early to tell how the world will be affected from a health standpoint — let alone from an economic standpoint. But, imagine how you would feel if, in the middle of what we’re going through, one of your loved ones disappeared? Imagine a child or a friend or your significant other dropping off the face of the earth. That’s how it feels to your donors. They love you and want to know how you’re doing. What’s more, they want to help.  We are all, every last one of us, affected by COVID-19 and you must continue to fundraise.

Just as importantly, you need to communicate. And you need to communicate more frequently than you may be accustomed to.

But how? Consider that your donors are likewise feeling unsettled about what the future may hold. How can you, as a trusted nonprofit, provide them with reassurance? Consider how you might inspire and even delight them right now.

Case in point. The Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, a nonprofit located in Tucson, Arizona, works to “create a community where: ecosystem health is protected; nature and healthy wild animal populations are valued; and residents, visitors, and future generations can all drink clean water, breathe clean air, and find wild places to roam.” Over the years, they’ve established a solid, donor-focused communications plan that includes a multi-channel approach and incorporates a mix of appeals and print and email newsletters. When COVID-19 hit, the coalition introduced A Dose of Desert Joy, a new email series created to inject a “little dose of joy” into their supporters’ week. The first issue introduces the premise in a warm and empathetic way. And serves as a reminder, in the words of John Burroughs, “I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order.”

Check out the first edition below and subscribe here.


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