What You Should Do and/or Avoid Now (Part 4 of 6)

Fundraising, Marketing & Communications

During times of crisis, it helps to have access to Best Practices and objective input from industry professionals and practitioners. The Global Center for Nonprofit Excellence has assembled a team of nonprofit experts to provide the following recommendations. 

Contributors include Co-Founder Marc Stein of The Global Center for Nonprofit Excellence®, Co-Founder, Attorney and CPA Bob Lipps, MBA Steve Maegdlin, CEO Mike Farag, Executive Consultant Jason Malec, CFRE Andrew Olson and others. 

Giving money effectively is almost as hard as earning it in the first place.

-Bill Gates

Our first recommendation is always to plan for a crisis before it happens. Moving forward, do the tedious work of planning for a crisis so you can have confidence in your ability to execute when the time comes. That said, here’s what you need to know now.

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Take Immediate Action

Prioritize Fundraising, Marketing and Communications focus and spend.

  • Identify your most profitable fundraising, marketing and communications starting with the fastest channel first.
  • Reallocate fundraising, marketing and communications funding accordingly, at the expense of lesser value efforts. So, even if digital isn’t your most profitable channel, you can grab considerable market share if you get there first. 
  • Explore and invest in new talent and technologies for donor acquisition, increased frequency of giving and larger average gifts.

Note: Double down on stewardship and engagement activity. In 2008 – 2009, the nonprofits that were most successful coming out of the crisis and getting back to “normal” fastest were those who over-invested in thank you and check-in calling, improved the quality of their thank you and new donor welcome processes, and went the extra mile to communicate how important their donors were to their mission. 

Use COVID-19 to create an agile new Fundraising, Marketing & Communications plan, including required modifications and new objectives, relative to mission and budget.  

  • Plan for successful exit from COVID-19 and beyond.
  • Get buy-in from the CEO and approval to tap into rainy day funds, if necessary.
  • Be bold to take ground as other nonprofits pull back.

Execute on your new plan, making adjustments as necessary, with regular communications and reporting to all stakeholders.

  • You can only expect good results from things you measure – be selective.
  • Measuring the right things drives focus and performance.
  • You are much more likely to achieve your mission when you measure the right things.

Note: A big mistake nonprofits make is not considering the relationship between channels that drive traffic and those that convert. In a crisis, it might be tempting to cut the traffic-driving channels because they have lower direct revenue and ROI but often that negatively impacts the conversion volume. 

Over-Communicate With Your C-Suite and Board

Consider holding short, weekly update calls to ensure your C-Suite and the board are apprised of important and quick developments and can act immediately, if needed.

While most boards delegate all operational matters and decision-making to management, in times of crises, board members may have practical insights, resources and/or professional skills they could share to help management through the crisis.

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What to Avoid

Do not cut your Fundraising, Marketing and Communications budget (unless absolutely necessary).

  • Do not stop fundraising, marketing or communicating.
  • Do not forget your smaller donors.
  • Do not lose sight of the long-term.

Do not panic.

  • Do not forget your staff’s, donor’s and community’s need to know you’re there for them.
  • Do not stop measuring, adapting and improving.
  • Do not go into hiding.

Do not engage in business as usual.

  • Do not silo your Fundraising, Marketing and Communications efforts.
  • Do not stop communicating as lack of transparency drives mistrust inside and outside the organization.
  • Do not start any new initiative unless they specifically address COVID-19 related needs.

Closing Thoughts Inspired by Executive Consultant, Jason Malec

Every organization should consider developing several contingency plans. What would you do in these scenarios? 

  1. Minimal revenue reduction. 
  2. Significant revenue reduction. 
  3. Catastrophic revenue reduction. 

Have you leveraged your fundraising, marketing and communications for a successful exit from COVID-19 and beyond?

If you need help, or want to discuss, any of the above, please contact The Global Center for Nonprofit Excellence Co-Founder, Marc Stein for a private conversation.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article does not constitute advice and should not be relied upon in making or refraining from making, any decision. Independent research is recommended.

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Nonprofits want more funding. Funders want more confidence. More confidence comes from demonstrated operational competence. Funders will more confidence give more. Operational competence can be measured and improved with OpX360®

For thought leadership on nonprofit Best Practices, measurement and how to achieve operational excellence, please visit The Global Center for Nonprofit Excellence® where Nonprofits, Funders and Recognized Experts work together for the greatest impact. We make nonprofits better. We can help yours.


Marc is Co-Founder and Principal Advisor of The Global Center for Nonprofit Excellence. For the previous 12 years, Marc served full-time as executive and practitioner in three significant yet very different Nonprofits overseeing extensive domestic and international operations.