Creating value without events during a pandemic

Many nonprofit professionals are racking their brains trying to figure out how to create value when they can’t host events. For years, charities have relied on  transactional-experiential exchanges that have now been shattered by this pandemic.

It’s time to get creative in terms of what you can offer donors in lieu of events.

Beyond altruism, we need to create community chemistry

Nobody really wants loot bags,  promo pens, or customized address labels anymore. Connection is at the heart of altruism – feeling that we are all part of something bigger, that we can help move the dial and make a difference to someone in need – this sense of purpose is universal. In a time when there are so many unknowns even donors are looking for a sense of security and reassurance. Donors are part of your not-for-profit organization’s community and that means support should be reciprocal. It is not time to send trinkets of thanks or persuasion – organizations have to tap into the well of expertise they already have and make use of it creatively to nourish the lifeblood of their community.

If you work in the healthcare sector, consider offering webinars by doctors or other healthcare professionals. If you work in child welfare, you could host webinars for parents looking for advice for their kids. A food securities organization could host an online talk about nutrition or cooking classes. Think about your area of expertise and how you offer a sense of security, reassurance, or even well-being, when these “commodities” seems so hard to come by. 

A client of ours, Geordie Theatre, hosted a virtual movie screening via Hoovie, allowing them to connect with a newer and broader  audience. This quick pivot has opened doors for a new revenue segment that would have never existed if they had limited themselves to local in-person performances with the limitations of ever-changing health guidelines.  Virtual physical activity events are also on the rise with do-it-yourself peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns from home like the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation’s current event, “Virée Rose”.

Many people support fundraising events because of the networking opportunities offered to them by charities . Your organization needs to think about what other networking opportunities you can provide even if participants can’t meet in person. Every organization has something to offer, you just need to focus your team’s attention and brainstorm some great ideas. 

In-house brainstorming flash-exercise

Here’s an exercise to help get the creative juices flowing.

We recommend you set aside two hours for a brainstorm session with as many of your team members as possible (with the help of videoconferencing). Think beyond inviting the traditional events and fundraising folks, the more varied the expertise the better. If you can also gather one or two board members or volunteers, that would be a bonus. Do you have someone loyal, close to your organization who comes to all your events, consider inviting them to the brainstorm session as well. They would be honoured to contribute during these challenging times.

Once you have the virtual meeting booked, send out a note one week ahead to get everyone thinking of virtual event ideas or alternative activities to replace your in-person fundraising events. Everyone should come to the meeting prepared with one or two ideas to share.

On the video conference call, have everyone share their ideas and have a designated notetaker share their screen (using Powerpoint or Google slides for example)  as a great way to involve the group.

Take a few minutes to discuss and understand each option, then have everyone vote for their favourite idea. The goal is to end up with three ideas your team is excited about.

Create one slide per idea with a column for the pros and one for the cons. Discuss the opportunities and obstacles, then review all three ideas and see which option is the most viable. 

From there, the appropriate team members can run with the best idea and build an action plan around it.

Be sure to share the action plan with the brainstorming group so they can see the fruits of their labour, and don’t forget to share the results of the activity when it’s completed.

How you doin’? Survey your donors and past participants 

Everyone’s life habits have changed in the last 6 months. It is important to keep in touch with stakeholders, find out how they are doing and what they expect from your organization. For some, job security and the advent of Covid-19 means less travel, less meals out at restaurants, less trips to the local coffee shop and possibly a bit of extra money at the end of the month. Consider asking your donors to add up what they’ve saved in gas over the last two months and convert that to a donation to your organization. Use social media to poll your audience and get feedback and ideas. Engage your donors and they will feel more connected to you.

Ask for help

Your volunteers are restless, many of them are looking for a way to stay connected with your cause and feel purposeful. If you had a gala planned with 150 people attending and it was canceled, you could get 10 volunteers to donate 6 hours of their time to call each guest individually to foster the relationship. With our reflexes primed to use email and social media, we often forget how powerful a simple phone call can be.

Shared experiences create happy molecules! 

It’s imperative to develop interesting online content and activities. There are a lot of competing online activities but research suggests that “screen time itself is no cause for concern. Rather, it’s the content we choose to consume that could have a significant impact on our psychological well-being.”  Check out this great article about how COVID-19 has impacted media consumption by generation. It will help you choose what content to share with each audience segment. 

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity 

The reality is that you may have to accept a decline in revenue in the short term but it is essential to maintain a connection with your donors and supporters long enough to ride out the pandemic. Your organization will be forced to look at diversifying fundraising strategies – and that’s a good thing! You may have to let go of activities that are no longer generating enough revenue, a sensitive issue that nobody wanted to talk about before the pandemic, right? It’s time to discuss those antiquated strategies with your board and explain how time consuming, and possibly ineffective, traditional fundraising events are to your staff. It’s time to innovate and create new experiences.

If you need help brainstorming, strategizing or thinking out loud, contact us and we’ll be happy to assist.