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  • Writer's pictureErin Lynch Moran

3 Ways to Support Fundraisers During a Pandemic

Here are some concrete ways you can help fundraisers during a stay-at-home order. Because helping is what advancement services professionals do.

If you’re like many advancement services professionals today, you’re working in a makeshift home office trying to balance an extraordinary workload while wearing a few hats you’re not used to wearing (school teacher, dog walker, etc.). And you're worried. You’re worried because your institution has closed to the public and is losing needed revenue every day. You’re worried about your organization, you’re worried about your job, and you’re worried about your own health as well as the health of people you love.

These are challenging times. It's understandable to be afraid. And perhaps the worst aspect of our current moment is that the one thing we are being asked to do is to stay at home, which is hard for us because we’re the type of people who want to actively help. If we weren’t naturally driven to help, we wouldn’t be in our line of work.

My mom used to say that the best way to pull yourself out of a funk is to find someone who needs your help. As it happens, that was more than just folksy wisdom. Psychologists have confirmed that helping other people and showing them compassion is a more effective way of reducing depression and anxiety than focusing on helping yourself.[1] And I have good news: your colleagues need your help now more than ever. Here are three things you can do today to make them, and yourself, feel better.

1. Give Them Clarity: 

It’s likely that when your fundraising colleagues were first sent home, they began checking in on their top prospects to see how they were doing. Now that the initial shock has worn off, fundraisers will need to make sure they have covered all their bases. Have they reached out to all their current prospects? To top donors who are unassigned? Individuals who have documented a bequest intention? People they have contacted within the last three years who may otherwise fall through the cracks? It’s worth taking the time to build and execute a query to help you identify which individuals have been contacted recently and which haven’t heard from your organization yet.

The easiest and best way of doing this is by building a data visualization, and I don’t just say that because visualizations are one of Solas’s specialties. A well-designed data visualization will permit you to review many constituents at once to quickly identify the ones that need attention, and it can be built with filters to help you prioritize the call list. Here is an example of an visualization Solas designed in Tableau Software to help organizations ensure they have reached out to everyone who should get a call. The dashboard filters the population by a variety of factors (rating, recent giving, stage, assignment, etc.):

And an accompanying tooltip is revealed when you move your cursor over any of the dots:

Dashboards like this give you and your colleagues confidence that you haven't neglected anyone who needs a touch. If you don't currently have a data visualization software, you can download a free trial of Tableau, or simply reach out to us. You can also create a list using spreadsheets—it just takes a lot longer and isn't interactive.

2.    Support Strategic Decision Making:

Development officers will need to review all the solicitation plans they have prepared for the remaining calendar year to determine whether they should be adjusted. Some of their prospects may be fortunate to weather the storm in terms of their health and their finances, but even so, fundraisers will need to think about how to approach them. If they had plans to take the prospect out to dinner with your organization’s CEO, that plan may need to be delayed or changed.

You can help by providing all development officers a complete list of their active solicitations, broken out by those that are being planned and those where the solicitation has occurred but the gift has not yet closed. If the development officers have entered strategy notes in your database, be sure to include them. Additionally, give fundraisers an easy way to review recent contact reports so they can refresh their memory on the most recent interactions they had.

3. Show Empathy:

It’s important for all of us to remember right now that anyone on the other end of a phone call or email may be burdened with some very difficult life circumstances. Fundraisers don’t know when they reach out to their prospects whether they are sick, whether they have just lost their livelihood, or whether they have just lost someone they love. For that matter, we don’t always know the answers to those questions about our colleagues. You may be having conference calls about everyday tasks with someone whose spouse just lost their job or who is worried sick about a parent in a nursing home.

This is a difficult moment, and people you know may be struggling with something they haven't shared with you. Recognizing that, it's important that we strive to be empathetic and generous of spirit. Fundraisers may not remember to complete the right request forms, and they may be a little behind in filling out their contact reports. Forgive them. Ask how you can help.

Sooner or later, this pandemic will end and life will return to normal. People are going to remember how you treated them when they were having a difficult time. This is true of your organization’s prospects as well as for your colleagues. Being the kindest and most patient version of yourself will serve you well, and it’s also the right thing to do.

This is the ideal moment to remember why we do what we do. We are helpers. Each of us at some point in our career realized that we are good with data, we excel at identifying prospects, and we have a knack for supporting fundraising strategy. We are fortunate to have found a way to apply our talents toward the benefit of worthy organizations and the people they serve. What we do is a gift.

Your organization needs you more than ever, and your colleagues may not be okay. By diving into the data and giving them concrete steps they can take, you will make them feel better. And like Mom always said, you’ll make yourself feel better, too.

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