An Analytics Consultant's Recommendations for Fundraising During COVID-19
As consultants, we give advice for a living. We are not medical professionals, but first and foremost, our advice is to follow the recommendations made by true experts whose guidance offers the best path to health and a return to normalcy. Please be safe!
Since the turn of the century, we have faced many societal and financial challenges to raising money for our organizations: September 11, 2001, the recession that began in 2007, and annual natural disasters that challenge the worldwide environment. We’ve weathered the 11 recessions that have occurred between 1945 and 2001 as well.
In the past, members of the analytics consulting team at Blackbaud have written on this subject matter in the 2009 publication Building Fundraising Momentum in a Recession and the 2011 article Raising Money During Challenging Times. In preparation for this blog, I revisited the recommendations and found that they have retained their value in 2020. The biggest difference is in the method of communication: social distancing limits in-person interaction as customarily practiced. However, social media and the Internet enable different forms of interpersonal communication that may be highly effective!
Below are some of our best recommendations. If you are currently engaged with an analytics consultant, please do not hesitate to reach out to them to discuss strategies specific to your organization.
Do not assume that philanthropy will decline.
Past data indicates that the opposite may happen. The CARES Act includes tax incentives for contributions from individuals and corporations.
Whenever possible, communicate the following with your constituents:
- A succinct statement of your mission
- How your mission impacts COVID-19 (if relevant)
- How COVID-19 impacts your mission
- The fiscal responsibility of your organization
Employ positive messaging whenever possible.
If you have access to any of the following types of data, you are positioned to effectively segment your database by estimated responsiveness and ability to give:
- Predictive models
- Wealth, affluence and capacity indicators
- Persona-based cluster segmentation
- Prospect research and screening tools
For example, it is not unusual for an organization to focus their communications on individuals and households that are already significant donors. Predictive modeling can help uncover individuals with high-end potential who are not currently performing at that level. Be as inclusive as you can with your communications and attempt to engage all of these prospects at a higher level.
On the flip side, models also indicate those likely to be unresponsive. If you are looking to curb expenditures, eliminate or reduce communications to these individuals.
Planned giving activity often accelerates in tentative economic times.
Donors may choose to protect their income for the next round of economic uncertainty with gift annuities. Other individuals may decide that now is the time for estate planning, while still others may wish to convert cash pledges to planned gifts.
Use technology to communicate with donors and prospects.
Using your smartphone to record a brief “thank-you selfie” is a highly personalized method of communication. It does not need to be a professional production. Ask individuals who have benefitted from your services to record “thank you” messages as well.
Most people are at home. A short break from their new normal featuring a virtual event offers participants an opportunity to re-engage with things that matter to them.
While we are forging ahead in uncertain times, having the right strategy and the right tools and data to support your strategy will help you make the best decisions you can. Remember to focus on your mission, your convictions, and the dedication of your constituents. It will go a long way.