Jim Eskin Explains, “The 4Rs In The Age of COVID-19” was written by fundraising veteran Jim Eskin. Here’s what he has to share:
We all share something profoundly important in common: There is so much more that we don’t know than what we do know. People around the world are responding to and transitioning to a reality that we just haven’t experienced before. Frankly, this is a perfect time to call up our parents and grandparents who lived through two World Wars and the Great Depression for advice on how to endure times of extreme adversity.
Nonprofit organizations are being challenged in ways perhaps even more complex than the business sector, which is confronting massive pressures.
In advising non-profit leaders, management, staff and boards, I like highlighting the 4Rs. Let’s consider each of these elements:
Rapid: Move as quickly and decisively as your circumstances permit. This is no time to plan to plan, this is a time to take action. Don’t use the excuse of waiting for more information. You have to work with those things that you do know, as limited as that might be. If you haven’t already done so, conduct video and audio conference meetings for board and staff to take stock and think through what COVID-19 means to your entire organization and its stakeholders — staff, lay leaders, volunteers, donors, and clients and people in need that you serve. Communicate that as honestly and clearly as possible. There will be some issues you can address right now, and many others that you can’t. Get the word out. What does COVID-19 mean for your organization? How are you all being impacted? What kind of support do you need, and to do what?
Relevancy: Scrutinize your mission. How are you positioned to provide much-needed relief and aid? Perhaps this is a good time to revisit and tweak your mission. However, whether your mission speaks to critically important services in this moment of very specific health circumstances or not, we all need to continue reminding our supporters and the general public of the importance of our non-profits in all times. Without question, we can’t allow these organizations to fall back during periods of economic uncertainly and decline. They’re simply far too important and impacting in our lives each and every day.
Relationship: Should you continue the solicitation of donors and prospects? This will be largely determined by your organization’s relevancy and capacity to address the awesome challenges presented by COVID-19. If you need financial support to move forward, focus your attention on those with whom you have the closest relationships. Unless you are directly involved in providing emergency or disaster services, I would advise approaching only current donors, especially those who have given at the major gift level as defined in your organization. By all means, reach out to that inner circle which has empowered your organization to achieve its current level of progress. I would suggest calling them, stating your needs, and approaching them with the tone of “we couldn’t imagine responding to a moment like this without your input and asking for your leadership.” Yes, these are times of historic financial uncertainty and volatility. Our major gift donors are being drastically impacted by the roller coaster ride in the stock market. But here’s something fundraisers know for sure: There is never a perfect moment for the solicitation. Be ready for questions, hesitation and, of course, negative responses. This is nothing new to fundraisers.
Resilient: Just like our parents and grandparents during the Great Depression, we are being forced to make do and make sacrifices during a “new normal” of self-quarantine and social distancing. It is in the DNA of most non-profits I know to be highly adaptive, entrepreneurial, and able to stretch every nickel into a dime. These muscles must be developed and flexed as never before. The old ways of doing things likely won’t cut it.
If your organization is small, as most non-profits in the U.S are, recognize that smallness can be a competitive advantage and better empower you to be nimble and move with speed. Seize the moment.
Eskin Fundraising Training is composed of me, my wife Andrea and our two cats. We recognized that we had the ability to retool our operations and instantaneously transform both the delivery and content of our training and consulting services. This means a swift entry into the webinar world and scheduling subject matter experts to join me in presenting the best thinking on subjects such as the do’s and don’ts of rescheduling events, communicating during a crisis, and the discovery, cultivation, solicitation and stewardship of donor prospects in vastly different and trying times.
Non-profits are special and are driven by passion, leadership and commitment in improving the quality of life in a wide range of essential ways. When non-profits do well, we all do well. We serve non-profits because we have a personal and inspiring vision of what they do. Know that you have huge armies of donors, volunteers and friends who believe in you!
Jim Eskin’s leadership roles span more than 30 years in fundraising, public affairs and communications in the San Antonio area. During his career, he established records for gifts from individuals at three South Texas institutions of higher learning. He enjoys training non-profit boards on fundraising best practices and overcoming the fear of asking for gifts. His consulting practice Eskin Fundraising Training builds on the success of his fundraising workshops and provides the training, coaching and support services that non-profits need to compete for and secure private gifts. He has authored more than 100 guest columns that have appeared in daily newspapers and business journals across the country, and publishes Stratagems, a monthly e-newsletter exploring timely issues and trends in philanthropy. Sign up here for a free subscription. He is author of 10 Simple Fundraising Lessons, which was recently released and can be purchased here.
Jim Eskin Explains, “The 4Rs In The Age of COVID-19” was first posted at INSIDE CHARITY
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