What to Say to Your Supporters Right Now, Part 2
How best to talk to supporters now? Should I be fundraising during the crisis?
In a recent blog, we discussed the appropriate language to use with supporters in the age of the COVID-19. We suggested that you imagine how you might speak to a family member during these times. You’d want to reassure them, to let you know that you’re concerned for their safety.
Since that blog was posted, we’ve seen some great examples of that type of communication. Others, well, not so much. One outstanding example of hitting the perfect tone came from a U.K. nonprofit, the Royal Navy Lifeboat Institute. The U.K. doesn’t have a U.S.-style Coast Guard, so privately supported water rescue groups fill a critical need.
The RNLI posted a sixty-second video thanking their supporters, reassuring them that they are still on duty and that they’re a “part of the crew.” And that today, “We’re sending our support to you.” Give it a watch. It strikes all the right chords.
There are great examples of messages that do make a request to donate, as well. Last week the Humane Society of the United States launched a Facebook Fundraiser to support the delivery of pet food to seniors, veterinary care and shelters across the U.S. After nine days, they had 735 donations totaling more than $23,000. The average donation was $32.
John Vranas, the chief development and marketing officer at HSUS, said that they were approached by the Lewyt Trust with an offer to match gifts up to $200,000. He told us that the main goal of the campaign was “... to let people know that we’re still in business, moving forward, and we still need your support. It was a way to remind donors how important they are.”
John was quick to point out that not all of their communications to supporters include a request to donate. Their messages consist of equal numbers of updates about the mission and requests.
Should I Be Fundraising Now?
When surveyed, RNLI supporters describe themselves as old, retired folk. Even “elderly.” When asked to describe themselves in relation to the RNLI, however, they use words like “brave” and “loyal.” By supporting the RNLI, they get to become the best people they can be. The people they want to be.
In his recent book, “If You’d Only Known… You Would Have Raised So Much More,” fundraising copy guru Tom Ahern says, “Donors are not giving to you, they’re giving through you, to make something important happen.”
Seen in this light, the answer to the question, “Should I be fundraising now?” becomes pretty clear.
The coronavirus has made most amongst us feel powerless. We’re trapped in our homes. Participation in nonprofit missions is a way that people can reclaim some of their power. A way they can make something important happen. And that something important might or might not have a direct coronavirus connection.
Research has shown that prosocial behavior — doing “good deeds” — actually helps people to combat stress. Participation in your nonprofit’s mission is a great gift that you can give to your supporters.
They need it right now — a lot.
Katrina VanHuss and Otis Fulton have written a book, Dollar Dash, on the psychology of peer-to-peer fundraising. Click here to download the first chapter, courtesy of NonProfit PRO!
Katrina VanHuss is the CEO of Turnkey, a U.S.-based strategy and execution firm for nonprofit fundraising campaigns. Katrina has been instilling passion in volunteer fundraisers since 1989 when she founded the company. Turnkey’s clients include most of the top thirty U.S. peer-to-peer campaigns — Susan G. Komen, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the ALS Association, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, as well as some international organizations, like UNICEF.
Otis Fulton is a psychologist who joined Turnkey in 2013 as its consumer behavior expert. He works with clients to apply psychological principles to fundraising. He is a much-sought-after copywriter for nonprofit messaging. He has written campaigns for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, The March of Dimes, the USO and dozens of other organizations.
Now as a married couple, Katrina and Otis almost never stop talking about fundraising, volunteerism, and human decision-making – much to the chagrin of most dinner companions.
Katrina and Otis present regularly at clients’ national conferences, as well as at BBCon, NonProfit Pro P2P, Peer to Peer Forum, and others. They write a weekly column for NonProfit PRO and are the co-authors of the 2017 book, "Dollar Dash: The Behavioral Economics of Peer-to-Peer Fundraising." They live in Richmond, Virginia, USA.