The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption for nonprofit organizations, as the majority of nonprofits did not have a contingency plan for an event as impactful as COVID-19. Although the pandemic is a major disruptor for many nonprofit organizations, nonprofits have shown resilience during other disruptive events throughout their existence, and surely will again this time. There remains significant uncertainty on the long-term social and economic impacts of COVID-19, so it is imperative that organizations develop short and long-term contingency plans to help to ensure they are able to continue to focus on their mission, whatever the future may hold.
While the impact of COVID-19 on a nonprofit’s mission varies by organization, most nonprofits are experiencing a set of common core challenges that are mission agnostic. Executive directors know better than anyone the unique challenges that their organizations are facing, but are most certainly all are grappling with shifts in:
- Transitioning major in-person events to virtual events
- Engaging donors in the absence of live events (especially since the mission needs the funding now more than ever)
- Providing education in a remote environment
- Onboarding new board members and influencers to achieve a fresh perspective in light of all of the change occurring
- Forecasting revenues in an uncertain economic environment and adjusting expenditures to minimize the impact of a deficit
Organizations need to reflect on the best practices of the past and quickly adopt new best practices in order to remain nimble through these times. Their messaging needs to remain strong and mission focused, so as to remind past donors and supporters that despite the chaos unfolding around us, there is still much work to be done. Technology will play a significant role in helping to maintain connectivity; encouraging video versus audio calls and meetings will create more engagement and drive better activity and results. Research and share how other organizations are leveraging tools such as Teams and Zoom and experiment with features, such as breakout rooms, to create more intimacy and idea sharing during larger virtual meetings.
And did I mention keeping the mission out in front of all of this? The absence of a golf outing or gala does not diminish the needs of those that we serve. Take the time to have one to one video meetings with major sponsors and donors and work with them to develop a funding strategy. If an annual event is a significant source of fundraising for an organization, evaluate the NET vs. gross support that you have received during past events and consider passing along the “savings” in event costs by asking for a contribution that is lower than the prior year to pass along the “savings”. Finding new and creative ways to think about and message your organization’s “ask” could have a profound impact on your success, not only today, but as we continue to work towards developing a “new norm”.
According to a LendingTree survey, which polled 1,000 adults from June 12 to June 15, 55% of Americans had donated to a charity this year, while 63% said they had not changed their giving behavior as a result of COVID-19 and the related economic challenges. However, 15% indicated that they had paused donations due to a loss of income and 5% actually decreased their contributions. Only 6% of those surveyed have increased their contributions. The major takeaway from this survey is that donor behavior is expected to vary widely for the foreseeable future and organizations need to be prepared to approach fundraising with an open mindset. Use the past as a guide, but challenge the status quo and take an individualized approach when evaluating how to appeal to and engage contributors, both large and small.
As you continue to evaluate your contingency plan over these next few months, leave no stone unturned in thinking outside the box. Whether it’s how to transition to virtual events and meetings, developing new ways to engage with your supporters or adopting new approaches to fundraising from sponsors and donors, your creativity and the uniqueness of your approach and thinking may make the difference between thriving post pandemic and struggling with recovery. If you have any questions or concerns about the economic impact of COVID-19 on your organization, the Nonprofit and Business Advisory Teams at LGA are here to help you develop your unique strategy and approach. Contact us today.
by Daniel Pare, CPA