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One of the most exciting aspects of my job is that I get to meet and speak with hundreds of nonprofit leaders and fundraisers. Week after week, month after month, I hear stories about successes and challenges from those contemplating and leading capital campaigns.

When the stakes are high, as they are in a capital campaign, nonprofit leaders must constantly make important decisions. Two years of the COVID-19 pandemic amplified the weight of those decisions and gave us a whole new set of challenges for fundraising.

10 Lessons Learned from COVID-Era Fundraising

In the USA, we’re recognizing the 2nd anniversary of COVID shutting down schools and businesses across the country. And COVID has taught us much about fundraising, the nonprofit sector, and life in general.

1. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst

Always have an A, B, and C at the ready:

  • Plan A is your best-case scenario.
  • Plan B is what you expect to likely happen.
  • Plan C is your go-to if things don’t work as planned.

I suggest planning for an enormous goal and working hard to get there. Your back-up plans will help you sleep better at night.

2. Effective meetings are just that

Whether leading in-person or virtual meetings, boring meetings are boring regardless of the format. Conversely, meetings can be effective in-person or virtually. Work hard to ensure you’re leading effective meetings, whether they are in-person or virtual.

3. Action and adaptation reign supreme

What happened over the last two years during COVID? Some leaders decided to “wait and see” while others reacted and adapted in real time. Those who acted and changed course as appropriate got much farther ahead with plans and fundraising than peers who took a more passive approach.

4. Meet more, not less

Too many leaders have put off countless meetings with donors, committees, and their board. In times of crisis, it’s important to draw supporters, volunteers, and donors in by meeting even more often than usual.

5. Donors want to help

Donors have stepped up in big ways and risen to the Covid challenge. When asked, they have been generous in unexpected and usual ways. Major and leadership level gifts have been made over Zoom and over the phone in unprecedented ways.

If you have donors that have lapsed during this period, check out Amplifi’s post about how you can start recovering lapsed donors.

6. Technology is vital

Video conferencing made remote work possible throughout the pandemic. While not everyone was able to work from home, many donor, committee, and board meetings were successfully conducted virtually. Not only that, but new apps and technology also came to market that helped make life and work easier and more effective.

7. Communication is essential

Too many leaders feel they are “bothering” their donors and supporters when reaching out. As a result, they leave donors in the dark by failing to communicate plans, progress, and setbacks. You know the expression, out of sight, out of mind? It’s true.

8. Don’t make assumptions

Over the last two years, we’ve made a lot of assumptions about masks and vaccines, and about people who will and won’t wear them/get them. Err on the side of curiosity and empathy. Before assuming a donor can’t or won’t give, ask.

9. There is no right time

The time is never right. You could wait forever if you are waiting for the exact moment, or the perfect opportunity. There is always something in the way — like other campaigns in the community. Your clients and your community need you now. Proceed like there’s no tomorrow.

10. Take calculated risks

Another way to say this is: progress, not perfection. In other words, do your research, weigh your options, and go for it. The details will fall into place as you proceed… or they won’t. You’ll never feel completely ready — sometimes you have to jump in and learn as you go.

Moving Ahead with COVID in Our Lives

The COVID pandemic is finally receding, but the virus is here to stay. We must be prepared to move ahead, despite surprises and setbacks.

I have heard countless leaders tell me they are waiting (for a board retreat, or to start or resume their campaign, etc.) to be able to get together in-person. It was one thing to wait six months, but some leaders are still waiting two years later.

The good news is I’ve also seen countless leaders proceed with campaigns and raise more than they ever thought they could. They’ve looked COVID in the eye and pivoted and planned around, over, and under it.

Don’t Postpone a Capital Campaign Any Longer

If you’ve been putting off a capital campaign, it’s time to stop making excuses. We can help you push past the fear and plan for success. Sign up for a free strategy session with one of our campaign advisors — we’ll help you start on the right foot.

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