The question comes up every election season: what will happen to fundraising in the wake of a major election?
But this year – this wild year of 2020 – it’s hard to know what’s going to happen from day to day, much less in the last four weeks of the year when so much of the philanthropic giving happens in this country.
So, while I can’t possibly tell you what will happen to fundraising after November 3rd, I can tell you how to keep your focus and move ahead:
Your message: For all of us in the nonprofit sector, the results and the aftermath of election day don’t change one thing: the work continues. I can’t think of any issue that won’t necessitate continued vigilance and support: homelessness, climate change, preschool education, community theater. In fact, the need for the work that your organization does is probably going to be needed more than ever as the attention of our nation is on the political scene. So, unless the election is central to your work or will affect it profoundly, acknowledge the moment, but stick with your message.
Your major donors: Statistically speaking, very few of your donors are also giving politically. While more than 70% of Americans give to charity, less than 5% give to political causes. (Hopefully you know your major donors well enough to know about their political giving.) In any case, your major donors give to you because they believe in you, and many are waiting to hear what you’re going to do in this in the face of so much need. Keep the lines of communication open, make your case for your work in 2021, and ASK. Don’t make decisions for your major donors by assuming they are maxed out by the election.
Your year-end appeal: I’ve had a couple of you ask about year-end mailings and I have to say I’ve been struggling with this myself. There’s no perfect time to drop an appeal this year, but my approach has always been that it’s better to send something early. So, I will be dropping an appeal before Halloween and following up the ask through all of our channels. I’ll also be sending a second shorter reminder in December.
Your events: Be brave and move ahead with that virtual event you’re planning. And if you don’t have one on the books, try to create small forums for donors and prospects to meet up. Maybe it’s just an online “house party” or small happy hour using Zoom. It doesn’t have to be perfect – people just want to connect with each other and most are incredibly grateful and forgiving in these times. Whatever you do, remember to have a system to follow up and bring the donor or prospect closer to your organization.
Your digital December: Regardless of the state of your online fundraising, don’t sit this one out. Create a plan – however limited your capacity – to try to engage with your donors this giving season on email and social media. Make your case, tell your stories, and concentrate on learning from what you do so you can weave it into your fundraising in 2021.
You’ll notice a pattern here. We recommend that you keep on keeping on. Don’t try to predict the election results. Don’t second guess your strategy. Make a plan, adjust as you go, and keep track of your results.
And give yourself a break – this is hard. And what you are doing in the face of uncertainty, is amazing. If you need us, we’re here for you!