Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, philanthropists have stepped up to improve access to testing, accelerate research on therapeutics, and utilize unique technologies in the fight against the disease. This activism has inspired countless others to donate and volunteer their help in any way possible.
However, as the economy faces a possible recession, nonprofit organizations are under threat as their income streams slow down. Charities that rely on in-person support and face-to-face fundraising are getting hit especially hard due to widespread event cancelations.
Opening up Lines of Communication during a Crisis Situation
Realistically, recovering from the coronavirus pandemic will rely heavily on help from a wide variety of nonprofits, so it is important to keep these charities afloat at a time when the future feels uncertain.
As the majority of giving in the United States comes from individuals, not from private foundations, there is an important role that everyday donors can play in the months to come as the whole world works to recover. Moreover, nonprofit leaders have the responsibility of stepping up and engaging with their donors to help them understand how they can contribute during this tumultuous time and why their support helps so much in the push for normalcy.
A key to keeping nonprofit organizations afloat during this trying time is communication. Charities need to communicate what they are doing and how people can help. While many of us want to get involved, we might not know how to get started.
Communication with past donors is key to keeping them engaged with the organization. When businesses face tough times, they often ramp up their advertising and marketing efforts. Nonprofits can do something similar through their communication channels, whether that means sending a newsletter or an e-mail blast. Charities can even consider calling donors to reopen the lines of communication—they will likely be excited to hear from the charities they care most about.
Capitalizing on Social Media and Digital Giving Campaigns
Social media is also a powerful tool during the coronavirus pandemic. Charities can post links to their social media accounts, making it easy for people to donate virtually. Even small donations from many people can mean a great deal to nonprofits and boost their ability to help during the pandemic. These organizations should tailor their message to the current crisis and keep their donors informed about how they are changing their approach or adapting their methods to meet the needs of a changing world. Many charities and individuals have successfully used social media to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in coronavirus relief.
Now that in-person gatherings and fundraising events are canceled, there has been a spike in online giving. People are spending more time online than ever before as a result of stay-at-home orders, so they will be likely more open to opportunities to help their communities. Nonprofits should share what they are doing and how people can help, which may include sharing the post with followers to increase visibility.
Of course, nonprofits should make sure their websites are clean and updated to reflect how operations have changed due to COVID-19. Social media campaigns will largely drive people to the main website, and the organization can use online tools to track responses and reengage respondents down the line.
Using Third-Party Giving Vehicles to Drive New Donations
Third-party tools for giving will likely also play a big role in keeping philanthropy afloat through the coronavirus pandemic. Tools like donor-advised funds (DAFs) may become increasingly important in the coming months. A giving vehicle, DAFs allow donors to create an account and make a charitable contribution, which is immediately available for a tax deduction. The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently called DAFs a potential “shock absorber” for philanthropy.
DAFs have become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years, and they may gain more momentum as donors seek out ways to get and stay connected to the causes they care about. For many givers, DAFs make more sense than individual giving, so it is important not to overlook these vehicles.
Nonprofit leaders can identify which of their donors use DAFs for donations, as these individuals likely have more money in their accounts. They can draw from their DAF accounts, allowing them to give at a time when their stock portfolios and income are likely taking a hit. Leaders can also reach out directly to community foundations and DAFs to see if they have funds set aside for COVID-19 relief and if they would make the information available to their donors.
Also, in unprecedented times such as these, private and community foundations might be willing to lift restrictions temporarily, such as changes in how general operations may be funded or how grants should be reported. Nonprofit CEOs should not be afraid to reach out during this time.