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5 mini-plans your nonprofit needs to thrive during the next 12 months

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You didn’t see COVID coming.

Nobody did.

But now that the initial shock to the system is over — and you survived — it’s time to think about the next 12 months.

Because you can come out of the pandemic positioned for growth.

You can prepare for the next downturn or crisis lingering around the corner.

You can protect your nonprofit from any future volatility.

And you can achieve predictable fundraising success.

But you have stop waiting for “normal” to return.

You have to accept that right now, today, is normal.

And normal looks like no more galas, golf tournaments, major donor field visits and face-to-face fundraising campaigns.

Normal looks like no 3-year strategic plans.

Normal looks like some donors living in areas hardly affected by the coronavirus, and others quarantined at home worried about their loved ones.

Normal looks like creating a simple, clear, and concrete strategy for how you will raise funds during the next 12 months.

And to do that, you need to create 5 mini-plans right now.

And then you need to act on them.

Here they are:


Plan #1: How are you going to show up for the donors that showed up for you during this time?

Start here.

These are the heroic people who came to your rescue at a time when their own financial future was uncertain.

If you appreciate them for the kind and caring people they are, they will move mountains for you.

When this is all over, chances are they won’t remember how much money they gave to you during the coronavirus pandemic.

But they’ll forever remember how you treated them.

So make a plan to show up for them in the same way they showed up for you.


Plan 2: How are you going to acquire new donors?

New donor acquisition is challenging for many nonprofits right now. If you’re facing budget cuts already, you might be tempted to eliminate it.

But cutting acquisition is a terrible mistake.

Yes, you’ll save some money upfront.

But after 12 months, when some of your donors start to lapse, you’ll realize your fundraising isn’t working as well anymore.

Your revenue will start to taper off.

Slowly, at first.

Then more pronounced.

You won’t have as many monthly donor, middle donor, major donor and bequest donor prospects anymore.

And even though you only cut acquisition for 12 to 18 months, it will take you twice that time – or longer – just to make up for it.

You’ll be years behind.

You don’t want to live in regret. Make a plan for how you will acquire donors in the next 12 months.

It might look very different than before. And chances are you will have to try something new — something you’re not used to.

But try. Your mission is too important not to.


Plan #3: How are you going to keep the new donors you’ve acquired?  

You already know donor retention should be your top priority, even in the best of times.  

Success in fundraising always comes from donor loyalty. The longer a donor stays with you, they more valuable they are to your organization.

And the donors you already have are more valuable right now than ever before.  

Why? Giving has been a fixed percentage of the GDP for decades.

With the economy heading toward a recession (in Canada, the GDP is set to shrink by more than 6%), we are about to lose thousands of donors.

So make a plan to hold on to the ones you have.

Here’s a start: make sure you give your new donors a quick win. Thank them promptly, personally and profusely.

Then report back on what their gift did. Be specific.

Then give them another chance to make a meaningful difference right now. 


Plan #4: How are you going to convert your active donors into monthly donors?

Monthly givers were the heroes we needed but didn’t deserve during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many organizations were saved by having predictable and stable income from their monthly giving program.

There’s no better way to boost your donor retention rate, maximize your donors’ lifetime value and create a reliable legacy gift pipeline than to build a strong monthly giving program.

If you can acquire donors, keep them, and convert them into monthly donors, you are 90% of the way there to achieving predictable fundraising success.

Even if you have a strong monthly giving program in place already, now might be a good time to test a special 12-month coronavirus program.

A set end date (with the option to cancel anytime, of course) might lower the barrier of entry for your donors who are hesitant to sign up for an ongoing program.

And if you treat them right, chances are they’ll stay on long after the 12 months are over.  


Plan #5: How are you going to encourage your donors to leave a gift in their will?

Real predictable fundraising success comes from legacies over time.

This is the end-game of fundraising. The holy grail.

It’s often the largest gift your donor will leave to your organization. It’s their values and beliefs living on, even after they’re gone. And it’s your job to remind them. Gently, softly, continually.

The coronavirus has given all of us a chance to pause and reflect on what’s important.

In Canada alone, estimates show a 160% increase in people making wills. Donors are deciding what values are so important to them that they want their children and family to remember for a long time.

Make sure you have a plan to help them leave a mark in this world.

And the benefit to your organization is that you can expect a consistent flow of legacy gifts for decades to come…no matter what crisis comes your way.


Your next step: Get it all on one page.

Here’s my encouragement to you:

  • Get your team together.
  • Pull out a white board, or if you are meeting on Zoom, a blank document.
  • Create 5 columns, one for each mini-plan.
  • Brainstorm as many bullet points for each plan as possible.
  • Select the top 3 bullet points for each mini-plan.

And that’s it.

That becomes your strategy.

And then comes the most important step: do something about it.

Remember, this is only for the next 12 months.

Plans change.

That’s ok.

You’ll tweak as you along.

But do something. Even if it’s new and unproven for you. Even if it fails.

You’ll never regret trying something new during the time of COVID.

Because action yields information. Inaction doesn’t.

If you’re simply waiting for normal to return you’re not getting smarter. All you’re doing is losing time and opportunity.

So start.

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