Tips to Help Organizations Stay Financially Healthy and Connected to Their StakeholdersBy Hope Goldstein | May 27, 2020
It has been nearly two months since I wrote an article about how nonprofits should prioritize during the Response phase of a crisis. The article was focused on determining cash flow needs and contingency plans to address any shortfalls an organization may be facing. Although many of the shared ideas still apply, most nonprofits are experiencing the next phase of the pandemic crisis, which is about Recovery as they move into the final stage of Resiliency and onto the road of Reopening and Rebuilding.
Speaking with several leaders of nonprofits, I have consistently heard that participating in the CARES Act helped them get through the initial phase of this crisis, but they continue to need to prioritize their cash flow position—cashflow is and will always be a major priority to fulfill a nonprofit’s mission.
As part of moving towards the Recovery phase, many nonprofits have refocused and are strategizing and evaluating their mission to continue to help the communities they serve. They have pivoted and begun reassessing their programs, realizing that now it is about the pursuit of funds and how to communicate their mission to their donor base in a whole new way so cash flow can become less of a priority.
This is a time for nonprofits to shine, not a time to “pull in” but to toot their own horn and brag about their nonprofit programs and the difference they make in the lives of others. Incorporating this renewed messaging as part of a strategy will fare well to reconnect and stay connected to donors. If done well, it can also be the entrée for an organization to obtain potential new donors.
The following are some helpful tips that may increase contributions during these uncertain times:
- Stay in Contact – At the moment, most are connected at home, plugged to their computers, phones and televisions. Reaching out to people through social media is the best way to reach your target audience during this time to keep them engaged and informed. Take advantage of this unprecedented digital marketing opportunity, and if you’re not already a thought leader in the virtual space, become one. Make sure to include the Give Now link with your messaging.
- Solicit Others to Help You Strategize – Consider having virtual meetings to brainstorm creative ideas for outreach. Include past and present donors, and perhaps invite all past board members and past presidents as well. Along with past board members, past presidents played a pivotal role not only in sustaining your organization but helping it grow. You would be surprised at the ideas that will be generated. One foundation whose mission is providing grants to new writers held an online book club for their community. I am sure you have seen how museums have done virtual tours to continue to engage visitors even though they cannot visit in person just yet.
- Point of Difference – Share data with your old and new friends about what makes your nonprofit unique and valuable. The standard can no longer be anecdotal evidence of how good your nonprofit might be, but you must be able to back up what you are saying with data and facts. In this age of Big Data, there are many software tools to help share your story in an easy way for your audience to understand. The numbers do not lie and can be used to help you brag about your accomplishments.
- Consider Creating a Specific Fundraising Effort Around Your Impact on COVID-19 – If your nonprofit has a mission that has a direct impact on our current situation, this would be the time when your organization’s mission is of the utmost importance. Create a campaign around your programs or services that directly deals with the crisis. Donors may be skipping over other nonprofits so repurpose your fundraising appeal to support a COVID-related program. And if your mission is not directly impacted, consider aligning with another nonprofit that you can help. As an example, a nonprofit food bank needed delivery vans and personnel to help deliver food to the regional food pantries. The “non-COVID-related” nonprofit, whose mission is driving senior citizens to doctors, helping them do their shopping and taking them to activities, used their idle vans and drivers to help the food bank deliver the food to the pantries. Both entities can solicit for a COVID-19 cause.
- Getting Your Board Even More Involved - Ask your board to make a commitment and either call or write at least one donor every month (i.e., assign names to specific individuals). Make it a point at your monthly virtual meeting to reiterate how important this is to your organization and make sure to follow up with how everyone is doing.
One last comment—we cannot forget that once the Recovery phase shifts into Reopening and Rebuilding, the demand for nonprofit services will be greater and will need to be financed for months, if not longer. Helping to meet these longer-term needs will be key. It is never too early to employ fundraising strategies to address the challenges we will be facing ahead. The nonprofit sector must remain strong financially as we rebuild our society and economy.
About Hope Goldstein
Hope Goldstein, CPA, is the Co-Partner-in-Charge of the Nonprofit, Government & Healthcare Group at Marks Paneth LLP. Ms. Goldstein brings to her role the skills she has developed during more than 27 years of providing accounting and auditing services to her clients in the nonprofit, higher education and public sector industries. She co-leads a team of more than 60 professionals who specialize in the nonprofit industry and focus on ensuring the accuracy and transparency of... READ MORE +