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Three lessons nonprofits learned from the pandemic

Man pointing at a whiteboard with a group of people around him

For many nonprofits, in-person meetings and events are key to carrying out their mission. From maintaining strong donor relations to providing necessary services, both nonprofits and their communities benefit from in-person interactions. However, the pandemic posed a major challenge. Nonprofits were suddenly unable to engage donors with in-person events or provide traditional means of supporting their community.

Instead, they had to get creative to fulfill their missions during this unprecedented time. Many nonprofit organizations opted to move in-person operations online. Despite not being able to physically bring people together, nonprofits were successful in boosting engagement through social media campaigns, livestreams, online fundraisers, and more.

By adjusting their strategies, nonprofits have been able to not only sustain their operations during the pandemic but also consider new approaches to make a greater impact in their communities. Whether you’re a new nonprofit or an existing one, understanding how to apply these three lessons from the pandemic can greatly benefit your organization:

  • Lesson #1: Be resilient and plan ahead
  • Lesson #2: Adapt your fundraising strategies
  • Lesson #3: Make your communications personal

Lesson #1: Plan ahead to be resilient

In order to overcome challenges, your nonprofit organization needs a strategic plan. You may already have a strong understanding of your goals, but it’s equally important to know how your organization will achieve them, especially in the face of adversity.

Begin by assessing your organization’s current state. Ask yourself: “What challenges have we dealt with in the past? Were we successful in overcoming them? If not, what steps can we take to be more prepared?” 

For many nonprofits, this will often come down to assessing your organization’s financial health. Take a close look at your nonprofit’s budget and determine how much funding is needed based on past expenses and future goals. Account for any unexpected changes in revenue.

As you plan your budget and yearly activities, keep your goals in mind. While there might be a lot you hope to accomplish, you’ll need to prioritize the most important tasks. This way, when unexpected situations come up — like a decrease in revenue — you can make a decision that aligns with your strategic plan.

Once you determine priorities, create an action plan. Expect that your plan may change due to unforeseen circumstances, but any new direction you take should always tie closely back to your mission and be relevant to your goals.

Lesson #2: Adapt your fundraising strategies

A fundraiser does not have to be in-person to be successful. In fact, hosting a virtual or hybrid fundraiser can connect your nonprofit with supporters all over the world. Online fundraisers often have less overhead costs than in-person fundraisers, helping your organization maximize its reach and revenue.

Here are a few steps to increase your virtual or hybrid fundraiser’s chances of success: 

  • Develop a fundraising strategy. Your digital fundraiser needs a concrete fundraising plan to attract as many donors as possible. Set an ambitious, but reasonable goal based on the problem you’re trying to solve and set a timeframe for your campaign. To engage your supporters, you’ll need a fundraising idea that gets people excited to participate even when they’re at home. For example, you can pair a virtual walk-a-thon event with a crowdfunding or peer-to-peer campaign.
  • Create a marketing plan. Use multiple communication channels to get the word out about your fundraiser. Social media is a great way to reach people far and wide, but be sure to tailor your marketing strategy to your target audience. Consider where your audience spends the most amount of time — whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or somewhere else — and develop engaging content on your chosen platform(s).
  • Make your fundraiser widely accessible. Optimize the user experience by giving donors the option to give via desktop or mobile. This widens the scope of people who can donate to your cause, thereby increasing your fundraising potential. Offer donors convenient giving options that they’re already familiar with, like Venmo or PayPal, to streamline the donation process.

Lesson #3: Make your communications personal

Donors play a key role in how big of an impact your nonprofit can make on the community. However, if they’re only donating once, you’re missing out on an opportunity to increase revenue and grow your donor base.

During difficult times like a pandemic, it’s especially important to thank donors for their generosity and emphasize how their contributions will support causes they care about. Thank donors directly by emailing or calling them. Offer additional ways to get involved, such as volunteering.

Once you’ve built a relationship with your donors, you can send out a donation request letter to formally ask for another contribution during your next fundraising campaign.

Donors value human connection, so expressing gratitude through personal communication will help boost donor retention and establish a reliable revenue stream.

By diversifying your strategies and preparing for unexpected changes, your nonprofit can withstand any obstacle thrown at you, including a global pandemic. Putting these lessons into practice will help your nonprofit continue to make a positive difference in the world.


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