Being a fundraiser or business development professional is challenging enough as it is. A global pandemic makes your job even more complicated,. Now you must adjust your fundraising goals to incorporate urgent, emergent needs for your nonprofit, social enterprise or company. It seems the only funding out there is for COVID-related projects. There’s emergency grants, loans, and countless free resources, short term funds, funds for COVID cures, innovation or equipment.
Where does this scenario leave organizations keen to invest in post-COVID rebuild or continuous resiliency measures? How do you, as a fundraiser, get clear and focused on your fundraising process for the longer-term resiliency of stakeholders?
Here are 4 simple steps you can take to stay intentional around your fundraising objectives and drown out the noise:
1. Review priorities. You likely had your 2020 fundraising strategy developed well before COVID. Now is the time to adjust your priorities. Your funding needs have changed, or will need to evolve as the COVID crisis continues to play out. Start with a simple prioritization exercise. You need to differentiate between what's emergency "fill the gap" priorities versus what your medium or longer term strategic needs are. Clarify your absolute must haves. Those urgent needs should be the focus of your fundraising for the next 3-6 months. Luckily, donors are shifting some of their restricted funding towards more urgent recipient needs given COVID. This will help dramatically ease the way in which organizations implement emergency, stop-gap programs, and the usual burden of reporting or systematizing funding for donors’ needs. Hopefully this trend will continue even beyond COVID.
2. Think next about "nice to haves". Once you have confirmed what your most urgent, short term, “fill the gap” needs are, consider what “nice to haves”, or medium term projects will slowly allow you to rebuild your post-COVID pipeline. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be past your state of emergency before thinking about some of the more medium term needs. Otherwise you’ll find yourself playing catch up down the road after some of the emergency funding sources have dried up. Donors may not be as accessible then. Again, these nice to haves will help set the foundation for your longer-term planning which comes next.
3. Begin longer-term planning. After completing your priorities around medium term needs or opportunities, revisit your two, three, five and ten year goals. Go back to your original fundraising plan and eliminate which objectives will not be achievable over the longer term given any changes you’ve made in your organizational structure or approach. Then shift your gaze towards the future. Redevelop the priorities for your organization’s mission and goals (ideally with leadership buy-in). Just like in any strategy process, consider what your time-bound commitments are to your stakeholders, versus what’s more idealistic and forward looking. You’ll need to make assumptions about what the world may look like in two, three or five years, but as a fundraiser, it’s your job to find the resources to position your organization or company in the space to craft part of that future. That’s what the post-COVID environment will depend upon.
4. Consider dollars ONLY after steps 1-3. Only after you have your emergency/short-term needs, medium term operational needs and longer-term needs defined should you start putting dollar values to them. Consider timelines as well. Some donors (i.e. public funders like governments) will have longer timelines than some of the emergency funding sources available for COVID. Make your matches with both funding needs and those differing timelines in mind. Be cognizant of where your objectives truly match what donors are looking for. It’s a waste of your time and the donor’s if you prepare proposal materials and you are simply not the right fit. Make evaluating whether you are a good recipient for the donor’s requirements a key element in your funding process.