It sure does feel like the 987th day of Febaprarch doesn’t it? The days of physical distancing and #stayhome seem to both be going by at a distance and at a snail’s pace at the same time. It feels like forever ago that we were contemplating the what ifs around March and April campaigns…and now here we are, in mid-April, and have some preliminary findings and data to share.
Let’s start with the good news. Folks are figuring out the new normal and many are even identifying new ways of communicating with colleagues and peers…and many have even said…they like this new way of deeper connection.
Organizations have taken this opportunity to steward donors and engage with them in meaningful ways. Subject lines have gone from ‘urgent reply needed’ to ‘how are you doing?’ in a mere matter of days….and it feels as if even the solicitation emails have taken on a more tender feel.
And so far, direct response fundraising doesn’t look so bad. According to our colleagues at Next After who have compiled this extensive analysis, overall digital traffic is up, as is overall dollars raised by a total of $3.3 million. This reporting also highlighted that while overall average gifts is down slightly, overall donations are up; a trend that is inverse to much of what we were seeing pre-COVID where gifts were down, but average gift was up.
Other recent reports include upticks in DRTV performance, likely due to the increased viewership on major news channels – as well as flat (if not higher than average) mail response, depending on the specific vertical and strategies employed. We have even begun to see a resurgence in telemarketing, a channel that many organizations have seen soften in recent years.
And yet, while this is all good news, there are still many potential challenges that lie ahead. According to a recent article within The Agitator, the UK is reporting the biggest uptick of monthly giving cancellations ever recorded. Read more here. We need to plan for that with strategies and messaging that address this potential challenge, along with many others.
For example, we know that organizations with a heavy reliance on galas and in-person events have been forced to (or are in the process of having to) pivot strategies, investments and expectations. Some examples of how nonprofits are addressing this challenge can be found in this article from NonProfit PRO.
Now, at this point – you might feel like the information is contradictory –one says there’s good news, while the other says “but there’s still so much more we don’t know”. That’s true. This story is evolving, and will continue to do so in the weeks and months that follow. The organizations that are able to continually survey the data and make nimble adjustments to messaging, cadence, audience and channel strategies will likely be those that fare the best. And sadly, the ones that will fare the worst are those that are most regimented in their ways and unable or unwilling to make adjustments based on real-time information.
Over the course of the foreseeable future, some organizations will make significant gains – they will learn new things and engage donors in new and meaningful ways. Some will even grow their revenue. Others will struggle and tread water. This ‘new normal’ time is challenging in many ways, but there are many opportunities for innovation in nonprofit programs right now. Take a hold of the possibilities and see what your program is capable of. You may just surprise yourself!