What does it mean to lead through crisis? Many CEOs are asking themselves this question as they navigate the uncertainty of a global pandemic and an economic Black Swan. We all have heard “let’s hope for the best, plan for the worst” along with “we will get through this.”
It is during times of crisis that leadership matters and the way that leadership shows up can make or break an organization. President of The Alford Group, Brenda B. Asare spent time with Dr. Lee Barker, President Emeritus of Meadville Lombard Theological School discussing leading an organization through challenging times.
“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” – Mr.Fred Rogers
Our country is facing challenging times as never before due to COVID-19. Fortunately, our nonprofit sector is rising to the occasion by responding in innovative ways to meet unprecedented demand for services. Less visible, but no less critical, is the rapid adoption of technologies for delivering programs, and quickly pivoting fundraising strategies to mitigate revenue loses.
Many organizations are also engaged in major campaigns to address important needs in their communities. Some have hit – or are considering hitting – the pause button, while others are modifying campaign plans and moving forward in new and creative ways.
With the cancellation of traditional fundraising events and the elimination of in-person meetings due to COVID-19, nonprofits across the sector are elevating their donor engagement strategies and reaching their base of support in unparalleled ways during this critical time. In my conversations with clients, some are now challenged to think about how to build a more integrated approach to their current donor engagement strategies while using the systems they already have in place as they pivot to plan for the next fiscal year.
In this time of quarantine, social distancing and wide-spread uncertainty, connecting with donors over virtual channels is more necessary than ever before. Across the country Americans are living in isolation, looking for opportunities to connect with others and give back to those communities being impacted by disruptions related to COVID-19.
Thankfully, new technologies make online connection easier than ever. There are many digital tools out there. This blog post will highlight a few that we have recently used with our clients and would like to share with you!
As seasoned fundraising consultants at The Alford Group, we can say there’s never been anything like COVID-19. However, we have helped our clients through many crises over our 40-year history and the lessons we’ve learned can be applied to today’s challenges.
Since the outbreak hit, my colleagues and I have been working around the clock with clients who are scrambling to transition to this new virtual reality, all while trying to maintain fundraising momentum. This crisis is affecting organizations in a wide variety of ways. Some organizations are experiencing a survival crisis, others are working to raise the additional funds needed to match the increase in demand for their services, and others are pulling out all the stops to not skip a beat as they move forward with their campaigns.
Over the past few weeks, we’ve held our breath as Congress worked to pass a $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act or “stimulus package”) on Friday, March 20, 2020. While the enduring impact of COVID-19 and the reach of this package is not yet known, nonprofits across the sector are looking to this bill to find answers in its many provisions, from forgivable emergency loan programs to direct cash infusions.
A Message from Brenda B. Asare, President and CEO, The Alford Group
The Coronavirus (COVID-19) has created unexpected challenges and new daily realities for your organization. While this is uncharted territory for all of us, we know that the need for your services and programs continues and The Alford Group stands ready to be your partner through this difficult time.
One reality that is not new is that Americans are generous – in good times and bad. That history of generosity has enabled us to weather challenges and come through difficult times stronger.
In recent meetings with many organizations we are helping clients navigate and create strategic approaches to meet increased demands for services, pivot on special events and engage with donors in meaningful ways. Over the past 40 years, The Alford Group has helped our clients navigate through national crisis, economic downturns and organizational challenges.
The most important thing to remember is that your donors and volunteers care about you and your mission. They want to know how they can help your organization. Here are some proactive steps – and specific strategies being implemented by our clients – to consider.
It’s hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the last census and it’s more important than ever to make sure everyone is counted. Nonprofit organizations have a major stake in ensuring that the right level of funding is budgeted based on the results of this census.
“There are serious concerns that children under five years old may be missed, as well as other vulnerable populations who were undercounted in the last census conducted in 2010,” says Brenda B. Asare, President of The Alford Group. “A lot is at stake for the next decade and we need our trusted community leaders and nonprofit organizations to help spread the word.”
The Census Impacts Us All
The constitution requires the U.S. government to count the number of people living in the country every 10 years, which directly impacts how much federal funding is allocated based on population. This data informs an estimated $675 billion in federal funding to state agencies and nonprofits across the country to provide:
It’s the beginning of a new year, and across the country Boards of Directors and staff members are gathering for annual retreats – a time to renew and refresh vision for the many challenges and opportunities in the year ahead.
You might be wondering, what scenarios could unfold in the course of planning for 2020 and beyond? We have a few examples to share. Someone on your organization’s Board of Directors may have a big hairy audacious goal for future growth and impact. Or you may be facing a cash flow crisis that requires tough trade-offs and strategic pivots. You may find strategic discussion running in circles from a lack of cohesion between staff and board leadership and your organization’s roles in the community.
Without a clear vision or strategic objective, it will be difficult to generate volunteer enthusiasm and energy for the work necessary to make 2020 a success.
During this time of year, gratitude is front and center as the holiday spirit begins to take shape in our communities. However, we know that for nonprofit leaders like you, gratitude is not just felt during this time of year but infused in our work all year long.
In fundraising, we know that sending thank you letters within a few days of receiving contributions is an essential pillar of a basic development program. Additionally, there are countless articles on the internet with excellent suggestions for going further in expressing gratitude to your donors and I wanted to share a few of my favorites with you as you come up with new ways to further engage your most valued supporters:
Send a welcome packet to new donors with information about the impact of their giving
Set up board members to make thank you calls to a few donors each month
Engage donors as volunteers, especially with direct contact with your organization’s participants and programs
The idea is to bring people closer to your organization. These small gestures can have a positive and lasting impact on your donor retention – keeping your donors year over year and increasing the level of their contributions.
Congratulations! As you near year end, you can momentarily rest in cruise control knowing that the craze of event season is an image in your rearview mirror. Imagine you’re in a position where both the total number of attendees and the number of new attendees spiked at the variety of friend-raising events you’ve held throughout the year. Exhale a sigh of relief, crank up the volume to your favorite song and enjoy the fruits of your labor!
Now the dust is settling and it’s time to take back control of the car. You run your annual metrics and expect to see strong retention numbers with the added donor engagement you’ve invested in over the last two years. To your surprise, you see that retention rates for the last fiscal year actually decreased for the first time in several years. Yikes! Before you accelerate off the next exit, let’s take a deeper dive. Along the way, we’ll provide helpful strategies to get ahead of these downward trends. Continue reading “Highway to Your Fundraising Metrics”
Annual giving programs typically serve as fundamental revenue engines for nonprofit organizations and yet are notoriously knotty plans to put on paper. We need our institutional leaders, boards and staff to understand our plans. Making them understandable, measurable, achievable, and yet strategic and ambitious is part of the job of the chief development officer. How best to do that?
What to include in annual giving?
By definition, an annual giving program encompasses solicitations that recur each year, and that should produce incrementally greater results over time, increasing the number of donors and dollars raised. The program should generate predictable cash income at targeted times in the year, based on when solicitation activities are scheduled to occur. Annual giving income addresses an organization’s need for current funds, largely, but not exclusively unrestricted. Continue reading “Comprehensive Annual Giving – Roadmap to Creating Your Plan”