Positive Fundraising in Challenging Times
Over the course of the past week, I’ve driven three children to the doctor for seasonal colds and small bugs that I probably would have ignored in previous years. These early-morning doctor runs were not only stressful because of the ever-looming fear that they might, on the off-chance, be COVID-19, but because all my other children had to stay home from school until we got the “all clear.”
En route to the pediatrician’s office is a hardware store. It bears a sign that proclaims, “The answer is yes!” It made me smile on each ride, because in a year when there are so many restrictions, it was so refreshing to see this can-do attitude — no matter what obscure part or piece a customer roams in search of, this store is committed to finding a solution that works.
Last year, my colleagues at RAISE and I published an article for NonProfit PRO titled “When to Say No (and Yes) in November.” It pointed out that saying “no” strategically will make room to allow for more creativity and innovation in choosing to do new, different things that make the most sense for your organization and that will yield better results.
This year, however, we need to be yes-oriented to see success. Saying yes requires more than it used to — creativity, gutsiness, knowledge and preparedness.
For example, a client of our firm paused a multi-million dollar capital campaign when the lockdown began, and after several months of cultivation and communication, worked up the nerve to relaunch the next ambitious phase of the campaign. They kicked the campaign into high gear, scheduling dozens of individualized, social-distanced tours at the new property, raising over $1 million in the past three months.
A colleague who operates a New York City-based community center shared his secret to getting by during these tumultuous months. When others were saying no, he thought about how he could say yes — of course in a safe way that complies with all government policies. He shares these updates — stories of how this community center is able to make a difference in the lives of others — with his board and key stakeholders, so they, too, can be inspired by the positivity the organization is generating.
Say yes to recognizing donors in generous ways this year, because their generosity in trying times is extraordinary. Make them feel valued for giving consistently and loyally at every giving level.
Think about how you can say yes to your organization’s staff. Embrace flexibility — how can you make it possible for your team to manage the different demands of working from home, managing virtual school, caring for family or community members or whatever else they may be facing in these difficult times? Demonstrate your commitment to your team now when they need flexibility by saying yes, and build stronger resolve to succeed now and solid team loyalty for the future.
How can you say yes to your volunteer leadership? Is there a new idea they wanted to try that you could make happen? With the cost of online programming being minimal, let them take the lead and experiment with new ideas.
The juxtaposition between the grave reality of the world right now and the gratitude that the holidays at this time of year engenders is quite stark. To thrive in challenging times, we depend on our positive outlooks — our ability to reframe and to find silver linings. More than any one example, it is that our positive organizational attitudes will keep our constituents — donors and clients alike — coming back, because it is a welcome ray of light, the “Yes!” in the midst of so many pandemic-related “no’s.”
Rachel Cyrulnik serves as principal at RAISE Nonprofit Advisors, where she helps nonprofits achieve measurable and strategic growth. With more than 15 years of experience in nonprofit management, Rachel leads a team of experts in helping organizations increase revenue, strengthen governance, plan strategically and communicate powerfully.
Rachel is an expert in philanthropic trends, a frequent contributor in thought leadership, and a sought-after presenter in the nonprofit community. Rachel graduated from Yeshiva University summa cum laude with a BA in Journalism and earned her MPA, with honors, from New York University, where she studied Nonprofit Management.