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Thursday, 02 April 2020 20:25

Special Appeals: Asking with Purpose and Urgency

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Special Appeals: Asking with Purpose and Urgency Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

“Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

These are crazy crazy times. The philanthropic sector is being challenged. While the challenge doesn’t feel good right now, we need to look at this as an opportunity. An opportunity to implement the extraordinary . . . with extraordinary results.

If our mission was important last month, it is important today. Maybe even more so. That said, it is critical that we not stop philanthropy and all that goes with it.

  • Our fundraising appeals must continue.
  • Our fundraising appeals need to adjust to this extraordinary and crazy time.
  • Our fundraising appeals need to be courageous and kind.
  • Our fundraising appeals need to be direct and talk specifically about the impact COVID-19 is having on those served by the mission. And
  • Our fundraising appeals must have a bold and inspiring ASK.
  • Our fundraising appeals must appeal to the heart first and then to the head.

If we do this, we will have success and our mission will do more good. Because “DOING MORE GOOD” is what it is all about.

Let this quote from Helen Keller guide you through these difficult times -- “Be happy with what you have while working for what you want.” We can’t change the crisis, but we can change how we manage our organizations through it.

Many organizations feel they should take a step back and delay sending their Spring Appeals or other fundraising communications. We’ve heard organizations say, “we don’t want to be insensitive during this uncertain time by asking for money.”

Now more than ever, it is important to stay connected to your donors and supporters and engage more deeply and significantly. This is an opportunity to share our mission stories with those who have expressed an interest in the incredible work we do.

In the words of the late great Jerry Panas, “there is no perfect moment to raise money. The fact is that in good times and bad, Americans give to worthy causes. When times are difficult, they seem to respond with even greater dedication, generosity, and a genuine sense of sacrifice.   They will allow nothing to interfere with their fervor in supporting worthwhile causes.”

Tom Peters tells that “If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.” During these trying times, we need to not "pull down the shade" on our missions and those served as a result. We need to embrace the opportunity (however horrible it is) to DO GOOD.

Many organizations who have decided to move forward with their Appeals find themselves struggling with “do we go with our original theme for the appeal or do we change it to reflect the times”.

It is important that moving forward with our appeals means that we must:

  • Be compassionate. Acknowledge that these are uncertain times for everyone, including your donors/supporters. Ask your supporters how they are doing? Wish them well. Offer a prayer (if appropriate). Make sure you acknowledge the stress this must be having on them. Provide an opportunity for them to share their story of how the crisis is impacting their lives and LISTEN. Be empathetic.
  • Address the elephant in the room. There is no need to dance around it. The coronavirus has put your mission in peril. The more perilous the more imperative it is to talk about it. Be sincere. Be truthful. It’s ok to be vulnerable. Just don’t be desperate.
  • Talk about those who you serve . . . not the awesomeness of your organization. Your supporters, your donors, the community need to know that just because we are embroiled in this coronavirus pandemic, the need, the needs of those we serve has not stopped. It’s likely that the need for your services is greater now than ever before. Tell their stories, use powerful visual images about why those you serve need services now more than ever.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a gift of support. Giving feels good. People want to do good right now. They want to do good because they can and because it’s something they have control over. Ask for what you need . . . and be able to justify it. Don’t just ask for a $100 gift . . . tell what the $100 gift will support. Most important – make it clear that the decision to give or not to give rests solely with your supporter – and either way you are ok with their decision.
  • Show how their gifts will be used. Be clear, be organized and share your plan. It’s about transparency and being good stewards of the gifts you receive.
  • Talk Tax Benefits. The good news is that the stimulus bill passed last week is really good news to donors!!!! Donors will be pleased to hear that giving is good for them financially. This is a perfect “P.S.” in your letter.
  • Be appreciative. Thank them in advance for their prior gifts, support, and making it through to the end of your letter. Be genuine. Be authentic.

Philanthropy is the gentle art of teaching the joy of giving.” ~ Hank Russo

There is joy in giving. Give your supporters the opportunity to be joyful in these less than joyful times.  

When written in Chinese, the word 'crisis' is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.

How will your organization look at your upcoming Appeal as an opportunity?

We’d love to hear how your Appeal turned out.

Read 223 times Last modified on Thursday, 02 April 2020 21:18
Janice Fonger

Janice Fonger, is SVP and general manager with J. Milito & Associates a direct response fundraising company. Janice has spent more than thirty years in the nonprofit sector. She has been on the front line, in the development office, in the board room and in the executive director’s chair. She knows organizational operations, board and committee oversight, marketing, finance, program delivery and fundraising in small nonprofits. She rose to the many challenges including creating new annual fundraising strategies, building an endowment during a recession, securing and maintaining needed public and private grant funding, as well as caring for and nurturing donor relationships. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards and is past president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals West Michigan Chapter.