Covid-19 Week 4: Adopt, Adapt, Improve

It is the second day of week four of Covid-19 Fundraising, and this week we are inspired to adopt, adapt and improve.  Like so many other regularly scheduled events, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) turned its 2020 Annual Conference into a VIRTUAL event, demonstrating the path for all of us to adopt, adapt and improve.

adopt adapt improve
You can not change the wind but you can adjust your sails.

At about this time each year, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) hosts their annual global conference, ICON, which will typically attract 3,000 to 4,000 development professionals, nonprofit CEOs, board volunteers, and other members of our sector.  Conference participants gather to learn the latest philanthropic trends, and new techniques, to hear the best practices from seasoned practitioners.  And, to network and socialize with their peers. As many of you have already experienced with your own events, Covid-19 turned the 2020 ICON event upside-down. But, AFP’s Global staff used this as an opportunity to launch a series of great virtual education sessions to create a three-day ICON VIRTUAL event and in turn developed a platform that will be used in subsequent years to further educational opportunities for the fundraising profession. 

Our three quick thoughts for this week are our take-aways from ICON VIRTUAL:

1) ADOPT a forward-thinking sensibility.

Read your mission statement, and read it again. What is the vision for your organization?  Because the immediate future is not certain, your focus must be on mission and vision, and to delivering your mission-critical programs.  Look at your case for support. Do you start with history and end with your vision of the future? Leave the 100 years of service message behind and lead with the vision.  Adopt this strategy: “What do we need to do now so we can be here when we are back to “normal?” Don’t lose the thread of excitement – your donors want to help you change the world for the better.

2) ADAPT to the current situation. 

Turn things on a dime, the way they did at AFP – so use technology to expand your message to engage new audiences, and better engage existing audiences.  Today’s fundraising professionals have many new tools to employ.  One of the great new tools demonstrated at ICON VIRTUAL was a terrific way to send short personalized videos to donors. Other interesting techno-tools to check out and potentially add to your fundraising and relationship building strategies, include: handwritten emails; personalized video thank you posts; personalized text messages to donors; features for email signatures; online design; and new applications to create stories for Instagram. 

It is critical to adapt.  Keep an open mind to change, your organization may not be what is was when this crisis started, consider new technologies and consider new collaborations.  Adapting to the new situation may foster new ways of looking at partners and working with others to fulfill your mission.

3) IMPROVE your development practices, every day. 

Lead with compassion. Don’t start with tactics, start with strategy.  What do you want to achieve and what action is the best fit? Continue to fundraise but consider the message – what is the value exchange that you are offering? Challenge the standard “development speak” that we all use. It’s time to consider what a donor to your organization experiences and make it better. Clearly communicate about what you are doing at this time and concentrate on your mission, vision and values by focusing your efforts on stewardship, engagement, and retention.  We could be facing a time of passion fatigue, and donors and potential donors are getting better at being “banner blind.” It is not the size of the organization that determines the importance of its work, it’s the mission and the actual impact.  People give because you meet needs not because you have needs.  Sharpen your skills by connecting your organizational families with the values of your organization and bring to light the joy of giving – it still exists.

One final takeaway from AFP’s sessions: DONE is better than PERFECT! Stay positive and focused, and rest assured that our work as professional fundraisers is essential.  Be well, stay healthy, and give us a call.  Together, we will overcome these challenges

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