Crisis Management in Fundraising
Manage the situation; don't let it happen to you
As noted earlier, the school began the decision-making process several months in advance of finalizing it. Staffers knew there was risk with donors, and they knew the public relations fallout could be significant.
"We wanted to make it clear that we remained a viable, vibrant charitable option and, in the best case, show that this actually strengthens the organization," Greg said. "The rumors will get you more than the reality, so we had to effectively manage the situation."
Provide an atmosphere where it's safe to have vulnerable conversations
As the management staff weighed options, made its decision and moved forward, staff members knew they were free to ask tough questions and express concerns to one another.
"These transformational events actually crystalize relationships," Greg told me. "We have a shared experience now."
Reach out personally to donors most likely to react negatively
The development team identified donors who were most at risk of cancelling their support and contacted them personally. The staff members "offered ourselves up to hard questions," as Greg explained it. "In conversations, the most important thing was that I wanted to answer any questions a donor had about what we could have, should have, would have done. There is simply nothing better than walking toward the issue."
Limit your focus on the day-to-day events that are most important
"Every fundraising shop has to guard against over-fragmentation of its time," Greg noted. "We asked, 'What activities will have an impact on our key success factors?' That's what we focused on. By making sure they put their energies into the essentials, letting nonessentials slide so they could focus on managing the closure process and maximizing fiscal year income, the school was able to stay on track with its fundraising goals."