Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE will show how organizations have survived and even thrived during this unprecedented time and how you can use this information to make your organization even stronger going forward.

Full Transcript:

– [Steven] All right, Linda. I’ve got 3:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and kick us off here? 

– [Linda] Sure. 

– [Steven] All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Thanks for joining us for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “COVID One Year Later, What Have We Learned About Fundraising?” I’m Steven. I’m over here at Boomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion. Good to see you all. Hope you’re all staying happy and healthy and productive. 

If you’re watching this as a recording, I hope you’re having a good day, no matter when and where you are. But we’re going to have some fun. So thanks for being here. Just a couple of quick housekeeping items before we get going. I just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation, and we’ll be sending out the slides and the recording a little bit later on today. 

So if you have to leave early or maybe you get interrupted or just want to review the content, maybe share it with a friend or a colleague, don’t worry, we’ll get all that good stuff in your hands today. You won’t miss a thing, I promise. And if you haven’t already, please use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. 

Introduce yourself. Ask questions, leave comments along the way. We’re going to save time at the end for Q&A. We’ll try to get to as many questions as we can before 4:00 Eastern. But don’t be shy. We’d love to hear from you. Introduce yourself, tell us where you’re from. 

Tell us what the weather is like. I always like to get the weather report. You can also do that on Twitter. But the main thing is we’d love to hear from you, so don’t be shy. If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, welcome. We do these webinars every Thursday throughout the year. We love doing them. 

This is now our almost … I think it’s our ninth year of webinars. We’re getting close to 1,000 sessions, one of my favorite things we do at Bloomerang. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond that, we’re also a provider of donor management software. That’s what Boomerang is. It’s a donor database. So if you’re interested in that or just curious, check out our website. 

There’s all kinds of good resources on there. We’re pretty easy to find. So we’d love for you to do that if you’re interested. But don’t do that right now because, wow, we’ve got a living legend here. One of my favorite people ever joining us from beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada, Linda Lysakowski. Linda, how’s it going? 

You doing okay? 

– [Linda] Good, great. 

– [Steven] It’s good to see you. I always love having Linda on the webinar series because you’re the reigning queen of the Bloomerang webinars, by the way. This is your ninth session. I was adding them up. 

– [Linda] Is it really? Wow. 

– [Steven] Yeah. It wouldn’t feel like a season of webinars without my buddy Linda here. If you don’t know Linda, I feel silly trying to summarize Linda’s credentials, but she’s a legend. She’s an ACFRE, which is kind of a big deal. There’s only like 100 people who have that designation. Has been doing this for over 30 years. Has written or contributed over 30 books. 

I got a bunch of them on my bookshelf here, but I don’t have all 30. I don’t know if I have room on my shelf for them, Linda. Super involved in the Las Vegas AFP and nonprofit community there. And, jeez, I feel like I’m introducing a rock star a little bit, Linda. So I don’t want to take too much of the time away from your presentation. 

So I’m going to stop sharing, and I’ll let you bring up those slides, hopefully get those working again. 

– [Linda] Now, are you able to see my slide? Because it’s showing on my screen but … 

– [Steven] I think you may have to reshare since I was sharing previously. Yeah, you may have to hit that Share button again. 

– [Linda] Now I have to figure out how to get through my … get rid of the slide because it’s dominating … Okay. Let’s see. 

– [Steven] Oh, was it full screen and covering everything? 

– [Linda] It was. That always messes things up. Okay, now let’s see. Now I seem to have lost the things to share my screen. 

– [Steven] It might be a … it’s kind of a green button on my screen. 

– [Linda] Yeah, usually it is, but I don’t see any of my Zoom controls for some reason. 

– [Steven] Hmm. 

– [Linda] Hmm. Well, I don’t know. This is weird. This has never happened before. 

– [Steven] I know. Those Zoom gremlins get you every time. 

– [Linda] I can share the document. But I don’t know what happened to the Zoom. I may have to close out this document altogether. I don’t know. Hmm. Okay. 

Share screen, there it is. 

– [Steven] There we go. 

– [Linda] Okay. Now, hopefully, you can see. 

– [Steven] There we go. Hey, if that’s the worst thing that happens, that wasn’t too bad. 

– [Linda] I think Zoom gremlins have been after me this week. 

– [Steven] They knew we were doing our presentation about 2020. 

– [Linda] Some very strange things. 

– [Steven] There you go. 

– [Linda] I was telling Jay, before we started, somehow Zoom decided that I had to sign in from scratch and I lost all my virtual backgrounds. 

– [Steven] The worst. 

– [Linda] So now I have to upload them all again. Anyway, welcome, everyone. It’s good to be here again. I didn’t realize I had taught nine webinars for Bloomerang. So I guess that’s one a season at least. We’ve been doing it for nine years. But this is a topic that I’m eager to talk about because, first of all, it’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since we’ve all been going through this pandemic. 

And I think that many of you have probably had lots of changes in your organization. Hopefully, you’re all surviving. I heard some interesting statistics on a webinar I was on a couple weeks ago, that they fully expected one-third of non-profits to go out of business altogether, which really is quite scary. 

So, hopefully, you’ve been one of the ones who have been able to survive and maybe even thrive in this pandemic, because some organizations are doing quite well. So I thought we’d get started by talking a little bit about what we have learned. We’re definitely living in a different world than we were a year ago. 

Whoever thought that we’d all be wearing masks? And I’m convinced that, in a couple of months, everybody is going to need ear surgery, because every time I wear a mask, my ears get folded over at the top. And I said, “You know, we’re all going to need ear surgery when this thing is over and we don’t have to wear masks anymore.” And then we’re going to have to go back to buying makeup again. 

My goodness, I haven’t worn lipstick for a long time, except when I’m on a Zoom meeting. So there are some things I think that’s different. But it’s good to see that people are getting out and about more. People are traveling a little bit more. In fact, I had my daughters visiting a couple weeks ago, and then four of my granddaughters came out and visited this past weekend. 

So I think people are starting to travel more. If you’re not traveling yet and you feel comfortable doing it, I can tell you that the airfares are very, very cheap. We have some really cheap rates into Las Vegas from all over the country really. But I think people are still scared. Not everybody has been vaccinated. 

I’m fortunate enough to have had my second vaccine. That’s one of the benefits of being old and gray-haired. You get your vaccine early. But I think there are still people who are leery about what’s going on. And certainly, in some locations, the economy is still in a great deal of danger. I honestly feel sorry for the governors of every state and especially states like mine, where our state depends on tourism, that’s our biggest source of income. 

And so the governors are trying to protect everybody and keep them safe. And yet, at the same time, they’re getting a lot of flack from businesses saying, “You know, we need to open. We can’t stay closed.” And some people I think are still worried about the economy, and some people are still not back at work. 

Many people, of course, are working at home and finding that they really love working at home. For me, it didn’t make a whole lot of difference because I’ve worked at home for 20 some years, I guess, since I livef in Nevada. And so I’m accustomed to working at home. But I think some of the things that nonprofits need to think about is there is a lot that hasn’t changed. 

One is your mission still matters. You’re still doing good work in the community, and you need to get the word out about the work that you’re doing in the community. Some of you probably are being stretched even further, like food banks and food pantries and organizations that are dealing with health care. Certainly nonprofit healthcare institutions, nursing homes, hospitals, those missions really matter probably more now than they ever did before. 

And I think people still care. What I have found is that people are just as generous, if not more so, in this environment because they understand that many organizations are really very vital to the community, more now than they ever were before. 

One of my clients was a free health clinic, and they did a fantastically successful online fundraising event because people really understood how important their work is now. It was always important, but now it’s even more. And I think, because of the publicity that we’re getting, people are more aware of these things and they are still being generous, except for those, of course, who have been hurt by maybe being out of work and having their businesses shut down. 

But they’re still supporting organizations that they really care about. I know I lost clients in this pandemic, and certainly my financial picture has changed. But I still give to the organizations who I really care about. And I think most people are like that. So even though we’re living in a different world, I really believe we’re beginning to appreciate the nonprofit sector and appreciate each other more than we ever did before. 

So even though there’s a lot of things that have probably changed in your organizations, there are some things that still are the same. And I think you really need to emphasize how much work you’re doing in the community and that your organizations do matter, that your missions are important, that you’re doing good work in the community. 

And you need to communicate. Maybe you’re communicating in different ways now, but it’s really important that you do still communicate with your donors. So how has COVID affected your nonprofit? Well, if you’re like others, and we’d love to hear your input in the chat room too, and maybe Steve can kind of monitor that and share some of it with us, but most organizations, their staff has been affected. 

One of my clients, for example, had to cut more than two-thirds of their staff. They had a staff of about 20, and they’re down to 4 I think now. So some organizations did have to reduce their staff. Others probably had to increase their staff because they’re more in demand just because they’re front-line workers and they’re providing direct services to people that are in need right now. 

But your staff may also be affected by the fact that there are now many of them being forced to work at home and also possibly homeschooling their children. I know my daughter has worked full-time at home and has three children that she’s homeschooling while she’s working full-time. 

And she’s a CPA, so this is a busy season for her already. But many staff members are feeling that pressure of being working at home, maybe having a husband and a wife working at home and having children homeschooling. I know my son had to actually renovate his basement to make more office space at home, because he’s got two children being homeschooled, and has he and his wife both working at home right now. 

So your staff has definitely been affected. Your board has probably been affected. Maybe they’re accustomed to meeting in person, and now they’ve been forced to meet online and things like that. So sometimes boards maybe tend to feel less engaged because they’re not there at your organization’s office as much as they were in the past. 

So they’ve probably been affected in some ways too. And your clients have been affected. Depending on what kind of organization you work with, you may have more demand. For example, as I mentioned, an organization like a food pantry, I know our local food pantry used to only be open a couple days a week and now they’re open every day because they have so many more people coming for food. 

So your clients have been affected in one way or another. Maybe if your clients pay for some services, maybe they can’t afford to pay for them now if they’re not working. Or maybe their needs are greater. Maybe they’re caregivers for someone else in their family who maybe has had COVID. And your volunteers are affected, because a lot of times organizations are very dependent on volunteers to help run their programs, to help with administrative tasks, to help with fundraising. 

And now their volunteers maybe don’t have the time because they’re also working at home and maybe homeschooling people. So they’ve been affected. And, of course, your donors may have been affected. If the economy hit them especially, they’re going to be affected by this. So I want to talk about some ways that you can start keeping these people engaged with your organization during this crisis, and as we come out of it, how you can keep them engaged. 

And, hopefully, you’ve been doing some of these things all along. But I think your board is one area that people really have found the way their boards function have changed greatly over the last year. Fortunately, for many, board members are now more comfortable with technology for board meetings and their committee work. 

And I think this is one of the good things that probably has come out of COVID. For example, I had one client who their board always met in person, of course, and several of their board members were out of town and traveled a lot. So they used to do conference calls. Well, I don’t know how many of you have sat around a table with that outer-space gadget that looks like what they always look like, the phone line, and somebody calls in. 

And you’re never quite sure if they’re there, and you participate in a conversation and they can’t hear it all because it’s in the middle of the table. And I find conference calls are almost useless. So now boards are starting to get accustomed to technology, like using Zoom to have meetings, where everybody’s on, they can still see each other face to face, and they can converse back and forth with board meetings and committee work. 

So I think this is something that many organizations will benefit from if you continue that technology in the future. Even when board members can get together, instead of just having that conference call telephone in the middle of your board table, why not have a Zoom meeting where board members who can’t attend can still participate fully in the meeting? 

And I think they get so much more out of it when they can see people face to face. Steve and I were chatting before time, and I think, like most of us, we’re on Zoom. I’m usually on about three or four times a day, depending on what’s going on. Sometimes it’s more than that. 

Sometimes it may only be once or twice a day. But we’re all so accustomed to being on Zoom meetings. And there are other tools that some people are using, like Google Hangouts and things like that, GoToMeeting. But having your boards getting more comfortable with technology, to me, is one of the good things that has come out of COVID. And I would encourage you to keep your board members engaged in this way because they can accomplish so much more. 

So some of you may have, during this time, set up either a board page on your website, so they can access documents. Or maybe you’re using a program like Boardable or some other program that board members can access a page, either on your website or through some other medium, where they can access all the documents. 

You don’t have to be sending things out in the mail anymore. I think that’s another positive thing that has come out of the new technology. And I find that most boards are much more comfortable now with technology than they used to be. I don’t think I know of any board members that can’t even get onto a Zoom meeting anymore. 

It just seems like it’s part of our life now. So I think these are some advantages that we can continue to carry forth and try to help keep your board members engaged as much as possible. So if you don’t already have something like a program like Boardable or a website page that’s only accessible to board members, this is something I think you could do in the future to keep your board members more engaged, because a board that doesn’t meet and doesn’t really engage with the organization pretty quickly loses interest. 

And they aren’t really involved. They don’t understand your programs. They may not understand the need for fundraising and things like that. So try to keep your board as engaged as possible now and moving forward. And I have some ideas for boards that I think have been really helpful. For some organizations, this has been a great time to really start restructuring their board, getting them involved in the strategic planning process. 

If you don’t have a strategic plan … I just recently surveyed some people and I was surprised, during a webinar, how few of them actually had a strategic plan. And those that did said it was so outdated it really needed to be updated now. So this is a perfect time to begin strategic planning. 

And a lot of this can be done virtually too. You don’t have to meet in person. If you’re still uncomfortable about meeting in person, you can do a lot of strategic planning through virtual tools. I’ve even done some strategic planning retreats with boards over Zoom, and it works just as well as meeting in person. 

So this also might be a time to think about getting your board engaged in fundraising. You can teach them about your organization. There’s so many things that you can do on Zoom. Maybe have some special board training sessions about your program, about fundraising, about all the things that are important to your organization. 

So this is a great time to think about doing things like this. If you don’t have a good board in place, maybe this is a time to restructure your board and think about: “Okay, do we have a large enough board? Do we need to add new board members?” I have one client, for example, who has a board of four. So they’re using this time to really increase their board size because four people is really not enough to accomplish a lot. 

Another one of my clients, they had a board of directors in place, but they weren’t doing any fundraising. And so what they did was they used this time to start appointing some board committees to get a development committee in place. And within a couple months, their development committee has just progressed so amazingly. 

I’m just truthfully shocked at what they’ve been able to accomplish in the couple months since they’ve organized a development committee. And, again, it’s all done by Zoom. But they’ve done a fantastic job of using this time to reorganize their boards and make sure that they are getting everything they really need for their organization, getting the right people on board. 

And it’s a great time to do things like that. So I would suggest if you need to restructure your board, if you need to begin a strategic planning process, if you need to engage your board in fundraising or just give them some more awareness about your programs, this must be a fantastic time to start a regular maybe a virtual training session for your board members. 

And all this can be done virtually, so you don’t have to worry about endangering any of your board members by expecting them to come in person to meetings if they’re not comfortable doing that. So this is something that I really suggest you work on very much over the next couple months. 

Another thing that I think is a thing to think about is how you can engage fundraising volunteers. And you might think, “Oh, gosh, you know, we can’t go out and do fundraising in person. We can’t involve our volunteers.” But there are so many things that volunteers can do for you. And one of them is get them involved in some social media fundraising appeals. 

I know, for example, lots of organizations are doing these things. I mentioned the free health clinic that was a client of mine, and they did an event that was just amazing. Now, I know they made some personal contacts with people, either by phone or by Zoom or maybe actually in person, to make major commitments before this event. 

But they had a virtual tour of the organization. They had several people, their clinical director and several other people. Some of the people that they serve gave testimonials all through a Zoom meeting. And they had a host who kind of organized this and introduced each person. 

And then they asked for contributions, and they announced some very major … one person donated I think $25,000. In an hour’s time, they raised about $400,000 just through this virtual appeal. So it was really effective. I’m sure it took a lot of work to coordinate it behind the scenes. 

But it was a very effective way to involve some volunteers in doing things like this for you. One of the things that volunteers can also help you with is research. You know, sometimes this is a part of fundraising that a lot of people don’t like. 

I admit I’m one of them. I hate doing research. But if you have a volunteer and you have access to the Foundation Directory, maybe a volunteer could do some of that research for you to help you find possible foundations that would support your organization. Or a volunteer could sit and research business websites and look for the kind of businesses that might be interested in supporting your organization. 

And most major businesses, if they’re a medium or a large company, they have a social involvement page on their website that shows the kind of things that they do support, because most businesses want to brag about the fact that they are socially responsible. And so they’ll talk about the kind of people, the kind of organizations they support and what their causes that they really get involved in, and how their employees get involved, and how they, as a business, can support your organization. 

So that’s something that you can assign a volunteer to do. If you are one of the organizations that had to cut back on staff, maybe you don’t have enough staff to do this research on your own. So you can have some volunteers get involved in that. And even researching individuals. 

That’s a little bit trickier because a lot of it is not public information that you’re not going to be able to access as easily as you can foundations and businesses. But you could still do an individual screening session virtually. You can get a group of your board members or your development committee members or some leaders in your community together and talk about individuals who might be willing to support your organization. 

How you can reach those? Who knows them? How much are they capable of giving? What are their particular interests? All this could be done virtually by volunteers. And then, of course, there are those virtual events that many people are having. I personally am not a big fan of special events. 

And I think that’s one of the lessons that we learned, in this last year, is that organizations that were so dependent on special events have had to really rethink their whole fundraising. But there are many other virtual appeals that volunteers can help you with. This would be a great time to do a volunteer phonathon if you have a list of members or a list of existing donors. 

We never suggest that you just pick up names out of the phone book and start making phone calls. But go to your Bloomerang list, hopefully, you’re all Bloomerang users and you have that data at your fingertips, and call your existing donors, and, you know, ask them if they would be willing to support that. 

This is something that you can do with volunteers at home. You can have a virtual training session on Zoom and then let everybody kind of keep your Zoom meeting open but let everybody sign off and make their phone calls and come back if they have questions or comments. And at the end of the night, bring them back to make a final report. So a virtual phonathon I think is a great idea right now to raise money. 

You can also ask volunteers to help you with email appeals or direct mail appeals. They can still get involved in things like that, whether or not you’re meeting in person or whether you’re doing it virtually. So engaging fundraising volunteers, to me, is one of my favorite topics, because so many organizations use volunteers for a lot of things, but when it comes to fundraising, they think, “Oh, we can’t get volunteers to do that.” 

And believe me, I’ve seen a lot of volunteer campaigns that have been extremely effective, both phonathons, business appeals, direct mail appeals, social media appeals. All these things can be done by your volunteers, and it’s a great way for them to stay engaged. 

And right now there are a lot of people who are working at home. And maybe they actually have more time because they don’t have to commute. They don’t have to get up in the morning and get dressed up to go to work. They can work in their pajamas if they want. Or as those of us who use Zoom a lot probably work in your pajama bottoms and a nice top. 

Many organizations are doing that. I think their employees are getting accustomed to working that way. But some of them maybe are saving some time because they don’t have that commute into the office. And what I have found since I’ve been working at home for the last 20 years is I get a lot more done when I work at home than I did when I had an office because I have no interruptions, except for, occasionally, the Amazon driver ringing my doorbell. 

But that’s about it. So there’s a lot of things that volunteers can do to get involved. And I would start thinking about ways you can involve them if you haven’t over this past year. Think about it now. Now, your donors I think are really important, obviously, because they’re the ones who are keeping your organizations alive, in many cases. 

So I think it’s important that you let your donors know that you care about them. Maybe just call your donors and say, you know, “How is it going? How are you doing? Are you okay? Are you isolated? Are you feeling lonely?” Sometimes you just want somebody to talk to, especially if your donors are older people who are living alone and maybe they’re not getting out and seeing people. 

I have a neighbor, he just turned 90. She’s more like my age. She’s still in her 70s. But because of his fragile medical condition, they don’t get out at all. And sometimes they just need to know that somebody cares about them. So maybe calling your donors, not asking them for money, but just letting them know that you still care about them and wonder how they’re doing and if there’s anything you can maybe do to help them. 

But also you can let them know what you’re doing. You can fill them in on this is how we’ve been surviving over the last year, and we’ve changed some things. Maybe we’ve added some new programs. Maybe we’ve had to eliminate some programs. But let them know what you’re doing and let them know that you still need their support, because sometimes, you know, people that they don’t hear from you, so they’re not quite sure whether you’re still in existence even maybe. 

And I think the more you can stay in touch with your donors and more importantly than even letting them know you need their support is letting them know if they did contribute to you in the past year, how you used their money. “Gee, you know, we’ve had to lay off some staff members. But we’re continuing our programs, and your money is enabling us to do that.” 

Or, “Your money let us maintain our staff level, so we can provide these services because we’ve had an increased demand.” And if you let people know how you use their money, they’re much more likely to give to you again and they’re much more likely to recommend you to other people. I know that some individuals and even some businesses … 

in fact, I believe, a couple years ago, Bloomerang did this. They gave a certain amount of money to a bunch of different charities to see how they would be thanked. And people do this. They test your organization to find out, you know, “How long does it take them to send me a thank you letter, and do they tell me in the thank you letter how they used my money? And do they tell me that they really appreciated it, that it really did make a difference?” 

So the more things like that you can do to support your donors, the more they’re going to feel like they’re really tied to your organization, even if maybe they don’t see you in person as much as they did before. So I think sending some kind of a thank you letter … I know one of the organizations that I support is a perfect example of this. 

And I’ve been supporting this organization for probably 30 years or more. Well, they invite their donors to sponsor a child in a foreign country, in an underdeveloped country. And I got involved in this about 30 years ago when a missionary came to my church and talked about the work they were doing in developing countries. 

But the thing that really sold it for me was when we walked out of church, in our vestibule, there were pictures of the actual kids that they were helping. And we were told, if we were interested, to take a picture off the wall and say, “This is who I want to support.” 

And so I did that, and I’ve supported several girls over the years. I decided I wanted a girl in Africa. That was my two criteria. So I picked out a girl in Africa. And when she aged out of the program, I got another girl, also from a different country in Africa. But every couple months, I would get thank you letters from these girls. They were written in their native language, but always someone translated them into English for me. 

And they told me what a difference my contribution … that wasn’t a major gift, by any means, but it made a difference to them because they were able to buy books to go to school. They were able to buy shoes so they could walk to school. And small things like that. And knowing that you make a difference in someone’s life is really what’s important. 

So if you can tell your donors how you used their money and what a difference it made, maybe even getting some testimonials from some of the people that you’ve helped. They can remain anonymous if they choose to, but you can use a story and say, “Your gift enabled so and so to do this, that, or the other thing.” So the more you can do to maintain relationships with your donors, in the past year, I think it was real important, but it’s going to be just as important, if not more important, going forward. 

So in your donor communications, I think it’s important to, first of all, let donors know that you’re grateful for their support especially during this trying time. Maybe some of your donors have lost their income or a portion of their income. Maybe there were two people in the family working and now only one is working. 

So let them know that you really appreciate the fact that, even though things have been tough for them, they’re still supporting your organization. And, again, letting them know how their money was used. And some other things that you can do to communicate with donors is maybe broadcast some of your current programs. You can do them virtually on YouTube or Facebook Live or Zoom, but try to give them a hands-on experience. 

Now, that’s not always possible in every organization because some of you deal with confidentiality issues and you may not be able to actually show your clients. But I’ve had some, like the free medical clinic that I mentioned, they ask people, when they come in for services, “Would you be willing to be videotaped and talk about us and give a testimonial for what a difference we made in your life?” 

And some of the things that you hear from actual clients who receive services are so powerful. I remember seeing one video testimonial for this clinic that came from an RN. She was a nurse, and I mean nurses aren’t the wealthiest people in the world, but they make decent money. 

But she suddenly found herself without a job, which meant she was without health insurance. And if she didn’t have this clinic, she wouldn’t have been able to get health care. So it kind of showed the story that, you know, “Hey, this can happen to anybody.” You know, if you’re out of a job, you suddenly don’t have health insurance and you might need a health clinic someday yourself. 

So that was kind of something that gives you a virtual hands-on experience with what your organization is all about. And then having a strong case for support that talks about community needs, not your needs as an organization. Every non-profit needs money. 

I don’t know of a single one that doesn’t need money. If you’re one of those, I’d love to hear your story. But everybody needs money. But what are the community needs that you’re addressing? This is what people tend to support. They either give money because you’re saving lives or you’re changing lives. And maybe some of you are doing both. 

But that’s what is going to get people really excited. So, again, if you don’t have a strong case for support, this might be the time that you might want to build your case for support so that you have it going forward. And you can really spend that time now to develop good donor communications. And then you can either start or continue to run some social media appeals if you haven’t done this already. 

One of the things that I would suggest is maybe going to your board members and your staff members and your volunteers and maybe even your clients and say, “Maybe you would like to do a birthday appeal.” I know I do this every year. My birthday is in November. And every year, I pick out a different charity because, at my age, I don’t need stuff. 

I don’t want my friends sending me stuff. I just don’t want any more clutter in my house. So I always do a birthday appeal where I ask my Facebook friends if they would contribute to a charity. And I’ve raised, over the years, thousands of dollars this way. And it’s something that really doesn’t cost your organization any money at all to do. 

It’s just communicating with your donors, with your board members, with your staff members, with your volunteers. And, of course, hopefully you all have a good website donation system set up. And make sure that Donate Now button is on every page of your website, not just on the homepage, because when people start to look for something on your website, they’re going to see that Donate Now button pop up everything they look at. 

So that’s something that you can be doing if you aren’t already. And using social media to create awareness. Social media fundraising I don’t think is all that effective because it’s kind of hard to measure how much you’re really getting from some of these social media appeals. 

But use them to create awareness. Do regular postings about your organization and what you’re up to, what you’re doing, how you’re surviving the pandemic, how things have changed, maybe new programs that you’ve added. Whatever you need to do, but continue to do that. If you’ve started it during the pandemic, keep it up. 

Maybe your message is going to change, but keep up that good work because it is going to be important. And then continue your research. As I said, the Foundation Directory is a great tool. If you don’t have access to it yourself, it is quite expensive, and if you’re a small organization, maybe you don’t have access to it. 

But you might be able to go to your local library, or even local university, and ask if you can access their Foundation Directory. So continue to do that. Do some research on businesses. You can go to their website and search their websites to find out. And you’d be surprised how many businesses talk about their social responsibility to give to their community. 

But you can also do brainstorming sessions, either in person or virtually, where you maybe get your board members together one month and say, “What businesses do you do business with? Who are some people that you might be able to talk to? Your accountant, your attorney, your doctor, your car dealer, or your insurance company?” 

And when you do that brainstorming, you come up sometimes with a huge list of companies that maybe you never thought of before. And this can be done online. If you’re not meeting in person, you can easily do a brainstorming session online. I actually have a brainstorming form that, if anyone is interested in, you can email me and I’ll be happy to send it to you. 

Because just asking board members to give you 15 names, they never give you 15 names. You’re lucky if one board member gives you five names or three names. But giving them some ideas to start with, this form gives them a whole list of people that they might have contact with who could be interested in supporting your organization. 

And then do some things like researching individuals, both electronically, through programs like Windfall or DonorSearch. But also doing that brainstorming for individuals can be very helpful too. And, again, all this can be done virtually as well as in person. So continue to keep doing that research because it’s an important part of your fundraising toolbox. 

Now, with special events, I mentioned one thing that I think that a lot of organizations learned during this last year is that they were addicted to special events. And, please, get rid of it if you’re one of those that are addicted to special events. And it’s important to evaluate your special events so that you’re not doing events year after year just because you’ve always done them. 

Are you really making money on this event? What are the hard costs involved in putting on this event? What are the soft costs of putting on the event? How much staff time? How much volunteer time? Do you have donor fatigue from donors who are sick of coming to special events? And I can guarantee you, I live very close to Las Vegas, which is an event town, and people are so tired of going to special events. 

And I think one of the good things that came out of COVID is maybe some organizations realize that they were way too dependent on special events. So if you’re one of them, try to get rid of that event addiction and start looking at other things. And if you have some virtual events that are working, like some of the ones that I’ve mentioned, keep doing those, do them now and continue. 

But after COVID, if you do go back to doing in-person special events, don’t try to do 12 events a year or 10 events a year. I once had a client who had a one-person development office and they were doing 14 special events a year. And I used to tease their development director, because he was a former Marine, and I said, “Nobody else would have the stamina to be doing 14 special events a year.” 

But it restricted them from going out and doing major gift fundraising and other things because all he did was manage these events all the time. So choose maybe one mission related event for post-COVID-19, when you’re ready to start meeting again in person. Pick one event but make sure it’s something that’s related to your mission. 

You know, I always sort of pick on golf tournaments. And I love golf. I used to play quite a bit with my husband when we were both in good health. But golf tournaments, you’re getting exposed to 72 people a day. So what are 72 people going to do for you? Choose an event that somehow connects to your mission. 

Now, if you’re the First Tee or some golf scholarship organization, then maybe you are making an event that’s related to your mission. But if not, try to pick something that really helps build relationships with major donors and helps them understand the mission of your organization. So with events, I think that’s one really great lesson that a lot of people learned, during COVID, is don’t have 10 events a year. 

It’s just not worth it, and you’re going to burn yourself out trying to do it. And this year most of them got canceled. One of the worst fundraising appeals I got during COVID was from an organization that said, “We had to cancel our event, and now we’re going to have to close our doors if we can’t raise $40,000 in the next 2 days.” 

And I thought, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t have been so dependent on special events in the first place.” So I, of course, didn’t support that organization. I doubt many other people did. Virtual appeals, think about direct mail, it still works. I know a lot of people … I personally get so much direct mail, and I don’t respond to it very well, but some people do. 

My friend that I mentioned, that just turned 90, gives literally hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through direct mail. So it does still work. Email is another form you can use. Start building your email list if you haven’t already done that. Try to get emails for everybody on your list so you can contact them through email, because it’s a lot less expensive than direct mail, and in many cases people will respond easier. 

I know if I get an email and there’s a link to click on and make a donation, it’s much easier for me than sitting down, writing out a check, writing out an envelope, finding a stamp, finding a return label to put on. I would rather just click on something and make a donation that way. A phonathon, I mentioned, this is a perfect time to do it. 

But I always tell people, “Be like Santa and check your list twice at least.” Look at your mailing list, and you should be able to pull it very easily from Bloomerang, and find out: Are these people still in the same address? Are they still married? 

Are they both still living? What does your list look like? So if you have the right list, that will make all the difference in the world in doing a phonathon. And then have your case for support and build talking points. And you can train your volunteers virtually, as I said, and then they go off on their own, make the phone calls, and come back and report to you. 

So these are some things that you can continue doing. And you might find that, even once you are meeting people in person, that these things still are working better and it’s much easier for you to do some virtual appeals. So how are we going to operate post-COVID? Well, I think one thing is that our human resources are going to change. 

We might have fewer staff members. We might have more staff members. Our volunteers are maybe doing different things than they did in the past. Maybe your client services have changed. Maybe your fundraising has changed. Maybe you have become less reliant on special events. Your communications with your donors, hopefully, have gotten better, and you’ve done more to communicate with your donors during this time because you know how important it is. 

And your board has probably changed too during this time. Maybe it’s grown, maybe it’s shrunk. Maybe it’s become more active. So think about how you can operate post-COVID-19. One thing is I think everybody is convinced that we’re going to have a much greater reliance on technology than we ever had before. 

And technology can be our friend. I know sometimes I have a feeling it’s not my friend, but, in most cases, I don’t know how I would function without it. And I think you probably can say the same thing. There’s also I think much more of a need to diversify your fundraising streams because of the fluctuating economy. 

Maybe you’ve always depended … for example, living close to Las Vegas, a lot of nonprofits here depended so much on the casino industry to support them. Well, the casino industry, first of all, they were closed totally for about three months. And then, when they were reopened, they had to spend a lot of money putting up plexiglass screens and temperature machines to take your temperature when you walk in. 

And the capacity is limited. So you’ve got to become more diverse in your funding stream so that you’re not dependent on one grant or one company or one major donor to supply all your money. There’s going to be more opportunities for volunteers, so take advantage of that. 

And I think there’s going to be more of an emphasis on strong communications and definitely more sensitivity to your client needs to really be able to deal with them. And if you can’t deal with them, make sure you have someone that you can refer them to. And more flexibility for staff. My son doesn’t work at a nonprofit. 

He actually works for the government, but he had always worked two days a week in the office and three days a week at home. And then he got a new boss who said, “Oh, I don’t believe in this working-at-home business. You’re all going to work in the office.” Well, a couple months after the new boss came, COVID followed. And guess what? 

They’re all working at home five days a week now. So I think he’s realizing that he was wrong, you know, that you can get work done at home. So definitely I think the more flexibility your staff members have, the better off they’re going to be. So I know that many of you are spending more time at home now than you ever did before. 

And one of the things that I think is going to be important is how you use your flexibility time at home. So this is a perfect time to train your staff, board, and volunteers. Take advantage of all the online learning that’s out there. There’s so much out there. 

Some of it free, some of it very expensive. And maybe even, you know, encourage your staff to volunteer maybe not for your organization, but I know many people in my community that are sewers. I’m not a sewer, but I have a friend who made hundreds of masks. Calling shut-ins. 

If they’re retired nurses, maybe giving vaccines. Your employees are going to feel better if they’re doing something to help the situation. So that’s something that you can do is encourage your staff members to volunteer so that they don’t get just so randy being at home all day long that they go crazy. And try to make sure that your staff are taking care of their health. 

Encourage them to get out of the house safely and eat properly, get some exercise. I know many of my friends say one of the greatest things about COVID is they now have time to get outside and exercise. And, for a while, the gyms were closed, so everybody went outdoors and did their exercising. But these are some things that I think are always going to benefit us, but we’re becoming more aware of them during COVID. 

So one of the things I want to just briefly mention before we open it up to questions is when it comes to online learning, some of you may know that I do a lot of online courses. I have 14 courses actually, and they’re all approved for CFRE credits, if that’s important to you. 

But right now, during COVID-19, I’ve reduced the price. Some of them were anywhere from $199 to $799, but right now they’re all $99 each. So I would encourage you to visit my website and look at those if your staff does need some training in some specific areas. 

And also you can sign up on my website for my newsletter, which means you’ll be invited to my free monthly online sessions. I do about a 30-minute webinar every month that’s free of charge. It’s called “Learn with Linda.” So with that, I want to open it up for questions. But I think one thing that I think is important to remember is that even if the economy is uncertain, I do believe it’s important for us to face the future with certainty and with some trust. 

And I hope that your organization is going to be one of the ones who comes out of this thing stronger. Some of you may be a little bit weaker, and hopefully none of you are going to be non-existent. But if you just want to talk sometime, if you have questions about, you know, what you might be able to do differently, feel free to email me. 

And I always answer all my emails, if you have some questions. I know we don’t have a whole lot of time for Q&A. But if you have questions that don’t get answered today, feel free to contact me by email, and I will be sure to answer all your questions. So, Steve, I talked really fast. 

But I think we still have some time for Q&A, right? 

– [Steven] Oh, yeah, we could probably do two or three. But thanks, Linda, that was really awesome to hear. I was just nodding along. Actually my neck kind of hurts because you were just saying things that not only did we see in our customer data, right, but also that I’ve just been hearing anecdotally. I love what you said about the volunteer thing, I just feel bad. 

You know, these volunteers who have been coming on-site, you know, may just be sitting around waiting for you to ask them to do something. I loved the phonathon idea, you know, letter writing. There’s all kinds of things they can do. Fundraising peer-to-peer. Yeah, that may be worth the price of admission alone for this webinar. So thank you, Linda. 

I can’t wait for session number 10. It’ll be great. 

– [Linda] Okay, we’ll have to work on that. 

– [Steven] Here’s a couple questions. My buddy Holly here was wondering if you think this is a good time to look at your strategic plan, right? It’s kind of an uncertain time but also maybe an opportunity. What do you think there? I’m kind of a toss-up. 

– [Linda] Yeah, I think it’s an excellent time to look at your strategic plan because, certainly, plans or guidelines are kind of like budgets and they don’t always go according to plan. If you have an existing plan, a lot of it maybe went out the window in the last year. But it’s a good time to think about, if it did go out the window, why. 

You know, maybe we were too dependent on certain programs and we’ve had to change our programs and we weren’t prepared to make that shift as readily. Or in the fundraising arena, maybe we were too dependent on special events and in-person things and we have to now think differently. So I think this is an excellent time to look at your strategic plan. 

– [Steven] I love it. Let’s do it. That sounds like a super fun exercise. I’m kind of a dork. Maybe that doesn’t sound fun to other people. 

– [Linda] I know. 

– [Steven] I love it. There’s a couple other good ones here. The phonathon idea with perhaps volunteers or anyone else, you mentioned, you know, they talk about your case for support. Can you unpack that a little bit, because I think some folks maybe are hearing that “case for support” word and thinking, “Oh, that’s a case statement. Is that different than case for support?” 

How deep should they go? How would you prepare those people to talk about the organization? 

– [Linda] That’s a great question. And I actually happen to have a whole course on building your case for support that talks about what kind of … there is a subtle nuance in the difference in terminology. The case for support is kind of your overall organizational case of every reason why anybody should give to you. 

But then, from that, you often develop separate case statements. If you’re having a capital campaign, you’ll have a case statement focusing on why you need a new building or renovate your building. If you’re trying to raise money through bequests, your case statement might focus more on the future of your organization and building up a reserve, which right now I think a lot of people are struggling with because the reason they’re not in business any longer is they didn’t have any reserve funds. 

So building an endowment might be something that’s important to you, and you might want to develop a separate case statement for that. If your case is for your annual giving, it’s usually more focused on your programs. And that’s probably what you’re going to be using your phonathon for. So focus on what programs you offer and what difference they’re making in the community and how people can be a part of that supporting. 

But if you’re interested in learning more about the case for support, my course is called “Tell Your Story Right, Build a Compelling Case for Support.” So I think that’s a real important tool in every nonprofit’s toolbox. 

– [Steven] I thought you had a resource for that. That’s maybe why that question was … 

– [Linda] Yeah, I have resources for everything. 

– [Steven] Pretty much everything. Yeah, if you want to take a trip to the Southwest, Linda has got you covered there too, not just fundraising advice. Maybe a good way to end it is, you know, we’ve been talking a lot about the organization, but this has been a hard year on us personally and I’m a big believer in self-care. Any stress-relieving tips? Is it as simple as setting boundaries, going for a walk? What do you think, Linda? 

How have you been doing that? 

– [Linda] For many of my friends, it’s going out and walking. I had a stroke and I have a little problem hiking and walking. But one of the things that has helped me tremendously is I was doing yoga before COVID, but I actually benefited by finding an even better yoga instructor who does it online, and it’s called Gentle Yoga. 

It’s mostly breathing and meditation. And it’s all sitting and laying down basically. We don’t do a lot of strenuous yoga. But that has helped me focus my energies a lot. 

– [Steven] That’s cool. 

– [Linda] And it’s amazing. When I’m done with yoga, I feel more energetic. Even though I’ve been relaxing and meditating, I feel more energized to go. And, of course, for me, writing, because I’ve written so many books. If you have any inkling that you’d like to be a writer, you might want to think about this as a time to start. I’m finishing up a book right now that I’m hoping to get out in the next couple weeks. 

And then there’s always several books in my file that I’m working on. But if you like to write, this might be a good time. Even if you just don’t want to write a book, but just start journaling about your experiences. And another thing that, believe it or not, relaxes me is I play words with friends on my phone all the time. 

Every night before I go to bed and every morning when I wake up, I catch up on words with friends. But my kids are scattered throughout the country, and when COVID started, we began Zooming and we play games like Pictionary online with my family, and there for a while, we were on every day. 

Now that people are getting out a little bit more, we’ve sort of tapered down to a couple times a week. But just, you know, a phone call to a friend that you haven’t seen for a while. I also am doing a lot of volunteer work for my church, and that helps me kind of channel my thoughts into a different direction sometimes so I’m not always thinking about work. 

Most of the time I’m thinking about work, but those are the things that I find helpful. 

– [Steven] Yoga? You heard it here first. 

– [Linda] I also use a lot of essential oils too, which helps. 

– [Steven] Oh, my wife does that too. Yeah, she swears by it. 

– [Linda] I, unfortunately, lost my sense of smell when I had my stroke, but I still use the diffuser and use the oils because I think, even though it’s not getting into my olfactory system the way it normally should, it’s probably still helpful. So I do that. 

– [Steven] Well, folks, I do yoga also. We actually do it through Bloomerang. We have a virtual instructor every Wednesday morning. If I can do yoga and Linda can do yoga, there’s no excuse. And I’ll vouch for it also. I was skeptical, but I’ve learned to love it too. So, dang, this was fun. 

We’re a little over time, but, Linda, this was awesome to have you. Thank you for always being willing to come on my weird webinar series. I really appreciate it. 

– [Linda] Well, I appreciate you and I appreciate all Bloomerang is doing for the community. And I hope all of you do. I mean, I don’t know of anybody else that does weekly webinars for the community, so I think that’s a great thing that Bloomerang is doing for the community too. 

– [Steven] We love it. Well, thank you. It’s good for me. I mean, I feel like I’ve gotten my CFRE like 100 times over by now. So I feel bad that I’ve been able to listen to all these, but this is great. And thanks to all of you for hanging out. I know it’s probably a busy time of year. 

It’s always a busy time of year, right? But I always say that, but I appreciate seeing a full room. But we’re going to get the slides, recording, all the good stuff to you. So just be on the lookout for an email from me a little bit later on today. And, hopefully, we’ll see you next week. We’ve got a great webinar coming up same time, same place. I’m going to just flash that on my screen here real quick, Linda. 

My buddy Sean Hale is going to be joining us. Same time, same place, next Thursday 3:00 p.m. We’ll talk about how to create a strong back office. So he’s kind of a guru on accounting, HR, all that non-fun stuff, you know, that we’ve got to do that’s kind of necessary. Maybe it’s fun for some of you. 

That’s cool too. But be there. If you’re an ED, small shop EDs, this is the one for you. He’s going to give you a good kind of rubric on how to wrangle all those things, so you can get back to fundraising and, you know, helping your beneficiaries. So be there if you’re free. If not, we’re going to record it. There’s lots of other sessions on our webinar schedule. 

So just check it out because we’re here every Thursday. And I’ll be talking to somebody, so you can tune in to hear a great conversation. So thanks for listening to this one. Hopefully, we’ll see you next week. But have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe, stay healthy. 

Please, we need you out there. And, hopefully, we’ll talk to you again soon. Bye, now. 

– [Linda] Bye.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.