Digital Strategies for Crisis Fundraising

In our latest webinar, we shared that consumer behaviour during this COVID crisis is changing everything. One of the biggest impacts, and one of the biggest opportunities for us all to connect – is on digital.

Digital is leading the way in making connections with people who care about the missions and values of our organizations, and the COVID-19 crisis is pushing us to examine new ways in which to connect, and with whom.

As with all great fundraising and marketing, it starts with strategy – not tactics. Doing a Facebook live event might be the right thing for you, but it’s not the tactic itself. It’s how it fits into the overall digital strategy. And even more importantly, how are you inspiring people to connect prior? What is the onboarding or thanking journey for them after? That’s what really matters in the long run.

Rachel Hunnybun, Special Strategic Council at Blakely, talked through opportunities to align content with your role in the crisis. As with all great fundraising, content matters in digital – a lot! It’s still about great integration and great storytelling using your digital channels, so again, planning and strategy matter as you move through this crisis, and as things continue to change. You need to be agile and flexible – but planful, even if you are planning week to week.

Your digital channels need to integrate well on-line and with off-line channels, and link with a clear message. You need to be open in your communications with donors about what you are doing, how, and why.  And you may need to communicate with different audiences in different ways during the crisis.

Your ‘why’ is critical – and it needs to be framed up against this crisis regardless if you are front line or not. As Rachel says, “it’s not business as usual for anyone right now, regardless of your role in this pandemic.” You must do more – not less – but differently. And you must do it now.

You need to be clear about your pressures and your challenges and be empathetic to your donors’ challenges. This is a journey that you need to be on together.

There are a multitude of digital opportunities for you right now. What’s right for you? Oliver Hibbs, Director of Digital and Integration at Blakely, shared a simple checklist that might help you look at where you are on the digital front. You may have all of the foundational digital elements done and are working on intermediate areas, or you may have bits and pieces implemented on all areas, including advanced digital fundraising, but you need to fix some fundamentals (ask us for the chart!).

Are you looking at new opportunities like Tik Tok or Messenger events? Mo Waja, Account Manager at Blakely, shared that Facebook-owned platforms are up by more than 50% in the past month in the US, so thinking about how to use these opportunities to speak to the people you most care about, and who most care about you, is vital. New technology and new channels need to be incorporated into the mix for the long-term to create powerful two-way connections with your stakeholders and the community.

We also recognize the power of our own data. Jay Aber, from the Aber Group, shared the power of using your data to move your missions forward on digital. For those who have invested in evergreen digital and things like email collection, now is the time to do more with those assets. Remarketing, look-a-like audiences and even the creation of custom audiences – now is the time to move past just your Google Ad Words account (although you should be taking full advantage of that too!) and invest in wider engagement based on your role in the crisis and your strategies overall.

The most inspiring message came from Alain McKinlay Tilgner, Fundraising Coordinator at the Ottawa Food Bank, who shared all of their digital strategies and tactics for the last three weeks – from raising amazing amounts of money through emails; to their digital media buy, which raised over $500,000 on a $20,000 spend; to how they have integrated with all of the channels in the mix and where they have room to grow.  Alain’s message, “Things don’t have to be perfect. They need to get done and you need great partners to help you do it!”

We couldn’t agree more!  Now is the time to start thinking about how what you’re doing today is going to support your recovery down the road. Getting your digital house in order, and increasing your activities in the right way, is important to move through the crisis into contingency and recovery. So, start to think about how your digital fundraising can better support those activities and be an important bridge to revenue replacement for the future.

The word of the day is opportunity – this intense, challenging crisis is driving creativity and we are seeing organizations doing things they never thought possible in the digital fundraising realm because of it.  You are not alone. We are all in it together: finding solutions, testing, going to market and creating new connections faster than ever before.