As a public relations firm specializing in health care, nonprofit, law firm and professional services PR, we know firsthand the communications challenges facing organizations of all sizes. We are excited to launch an ‘Adapting to the New Normal’ blog series featuring PR tips and communications advice for navigating the new business climate.
Nonprofit Communications Strategies During the Coronavirus Pandemic
We began the year optimistically looking forward to the dawn of a new decade. Now 2020 will forever be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing a level of uncertainty that none of us could have predicted (even those of us who advocate always being prepared with a crisis communications plan in your back pocket!) While it may feel like the world is at a standstill as we wait on a viable treatment or vaccine, many nonprofits don’t have time to lay low, as the populations they serve are still in need of services and fundraising can’t be halted.
Many nonprofit organizations have been forced to reimagine how they provide services to their core populations with social distancing restrictions in place. For many nonprofits, funding has dried up at a time when demand is higher than ever.
Navigating this new “abnormal” presents significant challenges for nonprofits of all sizes. However, armed with the right communications strategies and tools, nonprofit organizations will be able to successfully adapt and continue to fundraise, reach their target audiences and keep stakeholders engaged.
In this guide, we will offer several tips to help your nonprofit organization continue to reach its goals and survive this pandemic.
Identify new ways to provide value to sponsors
For many of our nonprofit clients, event sponsorship represents a large portion of their yearly revenue. With social distancing requirements making it difficult to host in-person events, nonprofit leaders will need to get creative with how they provide value to sponsors absent the ability to have an on-site event presence.
Potential strategies to engage nonprofit sponsors during the pandemic:
- Instagram and Facebook Live While sponsors may not be able to have an on-site presence at events, consider helping them reach your audience by hosting an Instagram or Facebook live on your platforms featuring one of their representatives. The key to creating an engaging Facebook or Instagram live is to ensure your programming offers value to your audience. Depending on your sponsor’s industry, provide them with the opportunity to showcase a subject matter expert. For a beverage company, this might look like an at-home cocktail making tutorial. For a financial company, this might be a Q&A session about how to build your savings during turbulent times.
- Explore New Offerings Sponsors support nonprofit events to boost their brand awareness, reach their target audiences and cultivate brand value. Even with new social distancing constraints, you can still help sponsors achieve these goals. Consider offering new sponsor benefits like a branded email to your email marketing list, guest social media posts or the opportunity to create a unique virtual activation for your event attendees.
Evaluate your digital fundraising strategy
Now, more than ever, it is essential that nonprofits have a strong digital presence that supports their fundraising efforts. Take this time to evaluate your current digital presence and identify areas for improvement.
Questions to ask to improve your nonprofit’s digital fundraising strategy:
- Does your website have a clear call to action? Your website should feature a fundraising message and link to donate above the fold for the best results. It is essential to reduce the number of steps (clicks) users must take before they can donate. Create a streamlined online donation process that is highly visible and easily accessible.
- Have you developed a text messaging campaign? SMS campaigns have high open rates and during the pandemic with email fatigue at an all-time high, many brands are turning to text messaging as a way to connect with customers. Before launching an SMS campaign, think about how you can add value to your clients. Ensure that text messaging campaigns feature content marketing messages instead of strictly promotional messages that can come off like spam.
- Is your email marketing strategy working for you? We’ve all received more “We’re in this together” emails from brands during this pandemic than we could possibly ever read. These messages often fall flat during a time when consumers don’t want you to say you’re in this with them, they want you to SHOW them how you’re making a difference. Use your email marketing campaigns to put an image to the cause you support and show how your organization is directly making an impact right now. Use measurable data points to demonstrate your impact in a way that is much more meaningful than a generic message of solidarity.
- Are you crowdfunding? Fundraising from within your existing donor database will continue to be an important strategy for nonprofits but with crowdfunding at an all-time high, it is vital that you don’t ignore this source of revenue. Whether you develop graphics and a call to action to activate your supporters to host birthday donation campaigns on Facebook or start a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds for one of your specific programs, crowdfunding will continue to be an important tactic for nonprofits.
Questions? We have years of nonprofit PR experience and we are here to help. Use this link to schedule a free consult to discuss the challenges that are most daunting to you and your team.
Put donors before donations and foster relationships
With many donors feeling just as uncertain about what lies ahead, cultivating meaningful relationships with your existing supporters will be more important than ever.Donor relations will require a delicate touch and you should expect your donation cycle to be longer than your pre-pandemic cycle.
How to Communicate with Donors During the Pandemic:
- Don’t ignore the situation. This is not business as usual and your communications should reflect this. The pandemic is top of mind for everyone and it is essential that your communications acknowledge the current situation. Explain to donors any increases in demand as a result of the pandemic, loss of donations and other ways your nonprofit has been affected. Including this information can strengthen your ask, rather than weaken it.
- Stay in frequent contact with your top donors. For many nonprofits, 80 percent of donations come from just 20 percent of your donors. While you likely have already been fostering strong relationships with these key donors, now is the time to ramp up that effort even further. Schedule time on your calendar every month to check in with a quick phone call or email. Avoid asking for a donation during every touchpoint and instead work on cultivating the relationship and providing updates on your organization’s good works. During these interactions, it is essential to be acutely aware of your donor’s cues regarding their current financial situation to avoid making an ask if they are financially struggling.
- Get clear on your message. With new Coronavirus centered charities in the spotlight and a tightening of belts, competition for donor funds may reach an all-time high. To stand out from the crowd, your nonprofit will need to be able to demonstrate how you are directly impacting your cause through datapoints and compelling human interest stories.
Keep telling your story and uncovering new stories to tell
As we all adapt to the new normal, it’s important to continue to tell your nonprofit’s story to continue to raise brand awareness and connect with stakeholders. Maintaining a strong public-facing presence during this time is essential to keeping clients, board members, donors and other stakeholders engaged with your mission.
Communications Channels Nonprofits Should Be Utilizing During the Pandemic:
- Don’t forget about earned media. Even though the focus is entirely on the pandemic, the media is still looking for good stories to tell. Use your expertise to talk about how nonprofits are reimaging themselves. Are you providing virtual services? How is your team managing working from home? What steps are you taking as states start to reopen? Who on your staff has been doing a remarkable job during this crisis?
- Take advantage of video and virtual tools. Video can be a powerful and authentic way to communicate with your stakeholders. Have your CEO or executive director record personal messages directed at staff, volunteers, donors, clients and other audiences. Use Zoom or other tools to present seminars or virtual happy hours. Ask your clients to record video messages about how they are surviving, what they are worried about and what they are grateful for.
- Use social media to build community. During this time when people are craving connection, social media can be a powerful tool to bring your stakeholders together. Consider starting private Facebook groups for clients and other stakeholders where they can share advice, connect on issues regarding the population you serve and build deeper relationships. Be sure to keep these groups active by serving as a moderator and frequently posting questions to start discussions.
While the COVID-19 pandemic presents significant challenges to nonprofits of all sizes, with a nimble approach and creative thinking regarding your public relations and communications strategies, you can help your organization weather this storm.
At Pushkin PR, located in Denver, Colorado, we have more than 22 years of experience helping nonprofits communicate their story, reach new audiences and successfully meet their fundraising goals. If you are in need of assistance to update your public relations strategy to meet the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are offering a free one-hour consultation. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 303.733.3441.