Posted , by Marissa Monell, Client Manager. Topic: Crisis Fundraising, Donor Acknowledgement, Donor Retention, Donors, Fundraising, Gift Solicitation, Making the Ask.

By Marissa Monell, Client Manager

Over the last year, I’ve had the privilege of working with several nonprofits that have risen to the top during these challenging times. Their missions might be varied, but each has found a way to address the challenging fundraising environment while remembering the importance of the tried and true fundraising process: Cultivate; Ask; Steward. The Virginia Arts Festival, the James River Association and REACH Riverside have had great success this year because of their abilities to adapt to the evolving fundraising environment. Below, find their real-life examples and practical tips to grow your fundraising program today.

  1. Look for reasons to reach out by phone, email or video — Share regular, personalized updates pertaining to your mission, your programs and your organization. Document and remember the interests and passions of your donors and pass along a story or article. REACH Riverside invested in professional videography to show their impact in 2020, and I think you can agree THIS video is worth its weight in gold.  In our short “Let’s Talk Fundraising” video, Victoria and Abby share more creative donor stewardship ideas.
  2. Think outdoors — Could you hold your annual fundraiser in a tent on your property or at a remote location? Would your board members invite key prospects for cocktails in their backyard? The Virginia Arts Festival has been utilizing their outdoor space for safe, distanced donor meetings over the last year. They have also invited donors to watch outdoor music rehearsals. So as not to lose out on another season, they have even redesigned their 2021 season to take place predominantly in outdoor tents.
  3. Make your case for support unique — How does your case look on Zoom? Both REACH Riverside and the James River Association have each designed their case for support to be easily shared virtually with donors. They have also developed engaging videos, such as the James River Association’s fly-through video of 3-D capital project renderings, to accompany the case and create a more engaging experience for their donors.
  4. Be transparent— This year has been full of surprises. I am sure this year has presented your organization and your donors with unique needs. You need to be prepared with a strategic response to address both the challenges and accomplishments. Share your needs with your donors, and do not make assumptions regarding the capability and interests of your donors. Both REACH Riverside and the Virginia Arts Festival had specific and immediate needs arise due to the pandemic. Instead of burying their heads in the sand, they reached out to their donors to ask for emergency funding. REACH launched the Riverside Relief Fund to respond to the pandemic-related needs of the Delaware community. The Virginia Arts Festival participated in an arts collaborative fundraising effort with three other arts organizations to raise funds from a small group of committed donors who gave to help offset the budgetary impact caused by canceled shows and closed doors.
  5. Prepare to make the ask virtually — Can you ask for a major gift via phone or over a video chat? YES — if done thoughtfully! Register for our free webinar, “Making the Virtual Ask” on April 14 at 1 p.m. Victoria Dietz and Hilary Fulp will provide you with practical tips and interactive discussion that will help you conquer your potential fears surrounding asks, so you can confidently approach prospects and successfully close a gift.
  6. Share Success — Make your thank-you letters standout by adding a great story. Check out our blog on how to write a thank-you letter that your donors will read. Offer virtual or in-person tours and behind-the-scenes opportunities to share progress and accomplishments. REACH Riverside has been regularly hosting “Mask and Glove” tours for their major donors, and even saw a visit from then candidate Biden on Election Day!
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