Planting Seeds for the Future - In Your Words

Planting Seeds for a Brighter Nonprofit Future – In Your Words

Julia Claire Campbell Fundraising, Marketing, Nonprofits Leave a Comment

In my email last week, I asked nonprofits to share at least one seed that they are planting right now that they think will benefit the organization in the long-term.

The responses were wonderful, and I want to share them with you. Fundraisers are SO generous with their expertise and their time.

I have decided to keep the responses anonymous.

Here are the responses, unedited – I hope they provide you with ideas and inspiration during this time of crisis.

“Honestly, I have found I need to be more disciplined and organized working from home AND I am finding the work is benefiting from my being more organized and disciplined! I am laser focused on where I can make an impact through my work and still closing gifts. It feels good to help others feel good!”

“I am meeting more with my management team and getting to know them more personally which I think will make us stronger.”

“I have been calling our donors to reach out to them. For those I don’t have #’s for I am emailing or sending cards.”

“Since the pandemic hit Atlanta, I have had some truly meaningful conversations with our major donors. It opened up a level of connection that maybe wasn’t as strong as before. I know that will pay off in the future. Also, I’ve been able to take some online education classes that I wouldn’t usually have the bandwidth to do. That’s been helpful as well. And honestly, I’ve noticed that my anxiety level has dropped (yes dropped) since I haven’t had to be in the office every day. For once, I don’t feel like I am continually torn apart, serving two masters (work/home) and underserving them both. I have also adjusted my expectations that we’re doing our best, and that’s good enough.”

“I have been calling our donors—not an easy task for an introvert like me!– to connect with people and share what we’re doing right now. It’s been a great experience and people have been really pleased to be contacted. So that’s one bright spot in this mess!”

“Our org is a youth mentoring program, and for a long time we’ve wanted to hold mix and mingle nights for our mentors (Bigs), but it’s been a challenge because you have to find a cheap or free place, pick a time, get food donated or pay for it, get it staffed, the list goes on. Since corona, we’ve started a bi-weekly Bigs Night Out virtually on Zoom meeting and we’ve had mentors and staff connecting and talking about things. It’s been great and has been a lower stress way to connect our mentors and staff together in an informal setting. We hope that it develops enough of an audience virtually that we can transition to IRL (in real life) once this is all over. The big benefit is that with more mentor engagement with the organization, and not just their mentee, we’ll be able to develop more user generated content and engage mentors in fundraising efforts (peer-to-peer campaigns, etc.).”

“Girls Inc. is closed for direct services, but the admin and direct care staff are working from home. Our ED and I wrote notes to our $500 and up and legacy donors, roughly 100 people. We’ve had a positive response, including a couple of checks in the mail. I write and send a bi-weekly e-letter from the ED, titled What’s Happening at Girls Inc? Very soft ask at the end of the letter. Yesterday, I sent an e-letter from our board chair, sharing her thoughts, saying she’s proud of the staff, etc. She mentions that the Girls Inc staff is collecting money to donate to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank as a Giving Tuesday gesture. The food bank is critical to our community and we all wanted to do something to help them out. (we’ll probably have $200+ by the time May 5 rolls around). However, she also makes a soft ask on behalf of Girls Inc. at the end of her letter, with a donate link. Also, we have staff Zoom Happy Hour on alternate Fridays. No work talk allowed!”

“We chose to use this time by creating Innovation Teams that focus on things we never had time for before – setting up new tools or SOPs, taking webinars to learn new things, cross-training, even creating an online ‘water cooler’ where we post links for self-care (the museums and zoos you can tour virtually, how to book a llama for your Zoom meeting, videos of songs that lift your soul) as well as share our pet photos and those adorable ‘Pluto Living’ YouTube updates.  It’s a way to stay connected in a virtual world, and we love it.”

“We sent handwritten thank you notes to our recurring donors, who are basically sustaining us now. We wanted to let them know that we were so grateful that at this time we were still getting their donations. One immediately doubled her donation!”

“We have made phone calls to everyone who has donated since the UK went into lockdown on 23rd March (one month tomorrow – eeep!). We have also created a thank you postcard which will be going out next week to all our supporters who only receive postal updates. And I created ‘The Lockdown Lowdown’ so people can get a weekly snapshot of the work we have been doing: https://www.bigissue.org.uk/the-lockdown-lowdown-supporting-big-issue-vendors/ This has all been done by myself personally whilst also managing social media and our website so it shows it doesn’t need to be a team of people. Our entire fundraising team is currently 5 people so even then it’s not lots of resource!”

“We are reaching out with checking in with you emails. NO asking, but sincerely wanting to know, making it as personal as we can addressed specifically with their family members, etc. This has been received very well.  We also include how our non-profit school is addressing the closure and going distance learning. This week one of our students came up with a cute idea of Bandana Bread: different flavored loaves of bread that are wrapped in a bandana which can be used as a face covering afterwards.  We send them with a personal note and say they are Hillside Hugs.  We will be participating in GivingTuesdayNow as well and have started a daily posting on Instagram and FB.  We will have one of our salutes be Hillside Heroes, who have been exceptional supporters of our school.  We will also do photos of the kids and Help us Grow, etc.”

“I’m the board president (no staff) of a small local organization. We’re an educational/cultural organization with an audience of adults. Many of our members are sometimes hesitant about using technology as part of our programming. Shelter-in-place has meant the temporary end of our weekly conversation groups and classes, but Zoom has kept us going, and some of the most reluctant members are regular participants! Face-to-face is always best for our programs, but as a small group without a building or space of our own and a limited budget for bringing in guests, I’m hoping we’ll continue to be open to exploring some occasional programming using technology.”

“One thing The Night Ministry is doing, that seems to have quite an impact, is calling as many donors as we possibly can to thank them. We’ve enlisted a handful of trusted volunteers to make calls for us, to great success. I’m hoping to make this a lasting volunteer activity, even when we get back to ‘normal (ish).’ We’ve received lots of immediate second gifts from donors after they get a call—or even during the call! I hope this inspires other orgs to make this direct connection a priority somehow. It’s time consuming, but if you can find a volunteer to do it, you have access to tons of time right now!”

“1. Using this downtime to create volunteer training and other process-related projects that have spent 1+ years at the bottom of the “to do” list when we are in the throes of daily operations. 2. Seeking new revenue streams that may become long-term programming fixtures.”

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