Over the past few weeks, I have had several conversations with leaders who expressed concerns about how to best position their nonprofit, amid the frenzied environment created by the new presidential administration. Many of those I spoke with lead small organizations, with most budgets not exceeding $1M.
Most midsized to large organizations typically have the benefit of internal communications staff or paid consulting agencies, like my organization, to develop and execute strategies to keep their organizations in the hearts and minds of their audience.
So Where Does That Leave Everyone Else?
According to Guidestar, there are more than 1.8M active nonprofits in the United States. With so many organizations vying for the same dollars and resources, small organizations are challenged to not only increase their donor pool, but potentially take immediate steps to ensure that donors don’t reallocate their giving to organizations that they believe are dealing with more pressing issues.
You May Need To Pivot.
Just months into a new presidential administration, we see shifts in policy that will undoubtedly impact philanthropy, making the fundraising landscape more competitive. Whether your organization focuses on policies or programs or a little of both, chances are there is some connection to your area of focus and the major storylines that are being played out in the media. From social media to traditional news outlets, your current and potential donors are being inundated with information about the issue of the day. That information is driving their decisions about their next actions.
Organizations will need to be both proactive and reactive in their communications. Be proactive in the creation of a plan that methodically highlights your impact in your respective space and the call-to-action you want your audience to respond to. Prepare to be reactive in your ability to quickly respond to the real-time events as they are happening and the correlation to your organization and its mission. This approach will not only help organizations strengthen their connections with stakeholders, but it also provides clarity for internal teams regarding next steps.
Not knowing where to start and what to tackle is what often leads to stasis. Below are a few areas to think about, as you take action over the next few months:
Collaboration. Join forces with other organizations to cast a wider net of support for your constituents. When thinking about collaboration, don’t limit your partnerships to those with similar missions. Consider those who serve the same audience but provide different services. If possible, form a citywide or nationwide coalition to share information. Working together and through that collective strength, garner more support from donors.
Big Data. Most nonprofits I know collect a tremendous amount of data but aren’t quite sure how to use it outside of what is required to complete a grant proposal. The media will always be interested in your data to help them tell stories. If you are not already collecting data or mining trends within your organization, start now. Record as much information as possible about your constituents and donors to help you identify any changes and patterns in behaviors. This information can be used not only to help you better respond to the needs but gives you a reason to contact media outlets and share information about your work.
Community Allegiance. Outside of 9/11, I can’t think of another moment in my adult life when people sought connection and community at this level. Thanks to social media tools, people are forming relationships with like-minded individuals online, but there is still a need for personal connection. People want to experience activism beyond what the online world offers, and that presents an opportunity for your nonprofit. Tell stories that capture the local need, spirit, and future of your community and let neighbors join you. People want their communities and cities to thrive. Think about ways that your organization can connect people within the local community to your cause and hone in on that spirit of allegiance.
Activism and Advocacy. Prepare your team to introduce well-meaning newcomers to your world. The current climate has birthed a population of people who are new to activism. Your guidance is needed in directing their energies into areas that can be most helpful to you. This is also an opportunity to educate people in general on how they can help use their voices to help bring about more awareness. Your early interactions with this group can create loyalty for your organization and strengthen your support base.
Everyday Philanthropy. While many fundraising initiatives focus on connecting with donors that give large gifts, nonprofits may want to modify their strategies to include more engagement with small and first-time donors. I suspect monthly gifts will increase throughout 2017. These average donation levels can have a positive impact on your bottom-line, especially if they are recurring.
Don’t justify not asking for donations out of concern that people are only interested in giving to the larger organizations at the current time. Think of the current climate as an opportunity to fine tune your messaging and illustrate exactly why your donors should give to your organization. Be consistent and try different approaches. A/B test materials that you send out. Create campaigns that center the call-to-action around an issue that is happening in the moment. There will be rewards for those who stay the course.
While nonprofit organizations have always been on the frontlines of social change, in this new day, they will need to represent their mission in ways that are consistent with the new landscape. What strategies can your organization deploy? Feedback welcome in the Comments section below, or feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.