March 30, 2020

I know you keep hearing you should connect to donors now, but during the COVID-19 crisis, public media is needed more now than ever. We are seeing public media audience skyrocket during this crisis. Why? Because people want trusted advice and information.

If there was ever a time for you to personally connect with your major donors, this is it. While some nonprofit leaders have said we should leave donors alone because they are too affected by this crisis, I can tell you first-hand this is not what fundraisers around the country are experiencing. 

What we are hearing from fundraisers is that major donors are grateful that nonprofits are reaching out to them to see how they are doing. Donors are responding to fundraisers via phone, email, text, and video conferencing in numbers never seen before. Why? Because they are now home and have time to actually connect. And, guess what: Donors are giving! Some donors are giving larger gifts, and others are giving more gifts because they want to make a difference. 

As a public media fundraiser, you have a unique opportunity to communicate to donors about what your particular station is doing in this crisis. Part of your station’s mission is about bringing your community together. Now, more than ever, your donors want to know you are putting their gifts to work. 

Here are some suggestions for you to start conversations with them during this crisis.

[Continued below…] Manage digital buyers and agencies

Know what your COVID-19 crisis story is.

Share what your station is doing to address the crisis. What are your added fundraising needs, i.e. what are your anticipated shortfalls? What are listeners and viewers telling you about your coverage? How is your station adversely affected by this national crisis? Understanding this will help you communicate to donors.

Know whom to target.

You can easily start by reviewing your top 200 donors in your database. Look at giving amounts, and recent dates of giving to determine who your top donors are. 

Make a human connection.

When you reach out personally, first find out how they are doing. Thank them for their support and start asking them what their passions and interests are as they relate to your mission. Give them inside information about what your station is doing to address the crisis. Find out how they would like to be communicated with and ask their permission to see if they are open to you communicating with them again to provide more information and possible funding opportunities as this crisis develops. 

It could sound like this:

“Hi, [NAME], this is Jeff calling from [STATION], first I just wanted to know how you are doing during this time and to thank you for all you have done to help us continue to provide our news and programming for everyone in the [REGION]. How are you coping right now?” 

It’s OK to leave a voice mail.

A majority of the donors don’t answer your calls or respond to your emails. That’s okay. However, what we have noticed during this time when most of us are at home is that a larger percentage of donors are picking up the phone or responding to emails.

If you have to leave a voice mail, it’s okay. Your donors now know you are thinking of them. You should also expect that you are going to have many long, meaningful conversations with some donors. This is an unprecedented time in our history and people will want to connect with you. Listen to your donor’s story. Let them know you hear them. Be prepared for them to ask you how they can help you even more. Have a list of things that your donors can fund now beyond their renewal gift. And, after every conversation, make sure you record your notes into your database so that you have all that information to follow up on.

Follow up.

If you talk with a donor by phone, follow up with an email to thank them for the conversation. (Or follow up in another way, if they’ve expressed a preferred means of communication). Be sure to actually follow up on anything you promised that donor, like a proposal on a station need you discussed, or information they requested about their giving, etc. If the donor gives you permission to connect with them again, create a real plan to make that happen with that donor. 

Your donors want to hear from you. They want to connect. You can give them that opportunity by reaching out and showing concern and interest to gain a better understanding of why they are so committed to your station. This crisis, while devastating, is also an opportunity for you to make real and meaningful connections with your donors.

Manage digital buyers and agencies