The last few weeks have pushed non-profit organizations into new territory. As the world changes (sometimes daily), you have risen to the challenge and carried out your missions in new and amplified ways. For some it means historically high numbers of families seeking emergency food. For others whose doors have closed, you've quickly organized to identify what your community needs and how you can respond in new and different ways. It has been inspiring to see how organizations have answered the call to help.

    But your unwavering commitment comes at a cost and your organization will need philanthropic support to continue to serve people through this crisis. While your mission remains the same, your story and case for support has likely changed. As you reach out to ask for help, be ready to share why.

    We recently sat down with T J Joyce (CEO) and Abby Farris-Rogers (EVP & Chief Advancement Officer) of the YMCA of Greater Richmond to talk about how they have pivoted their case and shared that story with donors. (Have a listen: Pivoting Your Case for Support.) Here are some tangible takeaways so you can create a case that is relevant to today.

    Pause and Observe

    When the crisis hit, you dove into the work and just started doing what was needed. The first few days were filled with what felt like a million big decisions and endless conversations. You mobilized and pushed through because you knew people were counting on you. Take a moment to pause. Observe the work you are doing today and how you are planning for tomorrow. THAT'S your new case.


    Now is not the time for flowery language and long paragraphs. Your case today must focus on immediate needs and be simple, direct and memorable. Even if you are doing ten new things in your community, a long bulleted list will get lost. Take stock of all you are doing and organize into two or three pillars.  For the Richmond Y, it's Child Care, Community Care, and Staff Care. Rolling up all of your efforts into a few, understandable groups can help you get your need across in a succinct manner. Pick your best/strongest story(ies) and tell that.

    Identify the Gap

    What will it take for you to do the work you need to do? It might be additional storage space to hold more food and supplies to meet the increased demand. Perhaps it is technology to support telehealth now that in-person therapy is no longer an option. Or $75,000 each month to cover emergency child care staff. Donors will want to know how they can help. Be ready with clearly identified needs.

    Steady Drip

    Once you have articulated your case, find ways to communicate it in drips. Everyone is on information overload. Take one element at a time and communicate that. In a few more days (or a week), share another piece of your work. It will be easier for donors to digest and different elements appeal to different people.

    Be Ready to Pivot Again

    If there's anything we've learned over the last few weeks is that things can change in a minute. The work you are doing today is critically important. And as the days turn into weeks and months, much of the work you are doing will continue. But we know there is an "after" where the world will start to open up again. We're not entirely sure what that looks like, but for sure your non-profit will be different and how you do your work will change again. Be ready with that story.


    While our natural inclination is to have all the answers before asking for help, this is the time to be more direct and transparent. Communicate regularly with donors, sharing what has changed and what new needs have cropped up. Donors understand that these are extraordinary times and are looking for ways to be helpful today. By pivoting your case, you're offering them a way to do just that.


    Fundraising in Uncertain Times

    Do you need to talk to someone about the challenges your organization is facing? Contact us and request a free consultation

    We have updated our resource page on Fundraising in Uncertain Times. including recordings from recent DBD webinars and new podcasts with non-profit leaders from across the country! 


    Posted by DBD Team on Apr. 6, 2020
    DBD Team

    Written by DBD Team

    The Donor By Design team is made up of professionals from the non-profit world, leveraging their decades of fundraising experience to help organizations raise the resources they need to make a positive difference in the world.

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