Fundraising 101

Stuck in the Middle with You

Last week, my colleague, Emily, and I were meeting to lay out our firm’s marketing plan for the rest of the year. We had stopped planning more than a month at a time back in March because everything seemed so in flux and we knew that to plan further out than that was futile.  

We have spent most of our time the past few months helping clients, past clients and other nonprofit friends try to make sense of fundraising in the middle of a pandemic and a racial justice reckoning, in a presidential election year to boot. To say the airwaves have been clogged is an understatement. But, our team put our best foot forward, relying on what we knew to be true in fundraising and our own learnings from prior national and international events. When we felt like the world had turned upside down, I will be the first to admit that it felt good to be helpful and encouraging. As experienced nonprofit professionals, our team cherishes these moments of being able to put our knowledge to the test in order to do good.

However, when Emily and I met last week, we were at a loss. It felt like all of our creative juices had been depleted and we sat quietly on the phone (because Zoom exhausts us at the moment) trying to piece together our plan. As two people who rarely run out of ideas, let alone things to say to one another, this was not our typical phone call. Finally, we got it: this is exactly what our clients have been feeling during the past five months. We had been working so fast and furiously that this brief moment of quiet brought it all into perspective. We felt stuck and we think you may be feeling this way too.

That afternoon, I reached out to another colleague, Lisa, to get her input and she told me a wonderful story about how she’d just come back from a client meeting (socially distanced with masks, of course) where she had spent the morning brainstorming with the organization’s fundraising team on how to change course for the year. They’d tossed out the prior fundraising plan and zoomed in on what COULD be done in the current environment to care for their donors and continue to fundraise. Then she said to me “we should do this exercise with other clients and past clients to help them move forward.” 

At Evolve, we are committed to helping you move forward during the good, bad, and downright scary times. Here are a few tips to get through the stuck of this moment:

  1. Sometimes it takes an outside perspective and someone who is not in the weeds every day to help bring in the energy and focus needed to chart a new path. Who can you call to offer their fresh eyes on a project you can’t seem to move forward? Is there another staff member who might bring a creative approach to your stewardship and cultivation plans for the year? Now is the time to make those calls.
  2. It is okay to change course. How could you not? We always encourage our clients to be comfortable putting pieces on hold if they are not realistic right now. You may have planned for the year thinking you had five staff members on hand, but then were forced to make challenging cuts to your team. You might also have assumed your event would bring in its typical revenue and now have to meet your goal elsewhere in order to make your budget for the year. 
  3. Focus on what’s possible. Leadership and vision go a long way in times of uncertainty, and a big part of that is knowing when to say “we can’t do X this year but we CAN try Y.” What can you control? I bet you can control what messaging you put out to your community in emails and social media, and I think you can also control how many touchpoints you have with your donors between now and the end of the calendar year. What else if on your list?

At this moment, we are also committed to taking our own advice, which is why we are putting together a new service that will help our clients create the change they need to survive and succeed right now. We will be launching this new program shortly and can’t wait to tell you more about it in the weeks to come. It will help you immensely (I promise), and it won’t take months of your time. In fact, we’ve designed it to be just a few hours over the course of a few weeks. 

If you or someone you know could benefit from this type of support from our team, make sure you are signed up for our emails to get a first look at this new service offering.

If you’re gearing up for a planning process of your own, download this week’s freebie that outlines what we recommend including in every successful fundraising plan.