With each passing day our outlook becomes murkier with seemingly daily record-breaking COVID-19 case totals, rising unemployment numbers, and muddled responses from local and national leadership. With events revenue and mid-and-major gifts drying up as a result, nonprofits are in the difficult position of eliminating staff roles and cutting marketing budgets, while delivering on their missions which are needed now more than ever. This delicate balancing act is our “new normal”. We hope it will be short-lived, but nonprofit fundraisers and marketers need to adapt to this landscape, both to drive short-term revenue as well as positioning for growth in the future.
Here is the bad news about our “new normal”:
- We are in a recession - based on the Great Recession over a decade ago, we can expect giving levels to take years to return to the banner-year we saw in 2019.
- COVID-19 is not receding - in fact it is just the opposite.
- Nonprofits are hit hard - 90% of nonprofits are negatively impacted by the pandemic.
But there are some glimmers of hope for nonprofits:
- More than half of consumers are confident going out in public.
- Small dollar giving is actually up - the American public has showcased its generosity, with gifts under $250 increasing 6% in Q1 vs. last year.
Understanding those truths, we see three important contexts that must inform nonprofit marketing and fundraising success:
1. Digital adoption is accelerating
According to McKinsey & Co., we have vaulted five years forward in consumer and business digital adoption in about eight weeks.
2. Consumers are thinking locally
The pandemic has driven people to look at their own communities. According to the National Retail Federation, half of consumers have made a purchase to support a local business and 35% have made a purchase or donation to help those impacted in their community.
3. Events need to be reimagined
We are hearing from our clients that events are returning 50 - 60% less revenue in virtual formats than they did pre-pandemic. Many nonprofits are resorting to a “lift & shift” approach, turning their galas or speaker series into virtual ones. But is that really the right format to engage your most valuable audience, when the “exit door” is only a few pixels away on their computer screen? As Robin Cabral aptly put it in Nonprofit Pro, “Many virtual formats are falling flat and appear somewhat out of tune with these unprecedented times…With people locked in their homes with their mental health declining, the last thing on one’s mind is grabbing a glass of wine and sitting in on a virtual gala.”
With these inputs, we have put together a blog series that addresses these challenges and opportunities to help nonprofits become more relevant to donors and prospects in this evolving landscape. Our blog series helps nonprofits capture short-term opportunity, and positions them to capture long-term loyalty and revenue growth. Over the coming weeks, we will publish different blog posts for What the New Normal Means for Nonprofits, focusing on:
1. Audience Insights & Strategy: how to gain a deeper understanding, at a local level, or real-time data on COVID cases, economic resilience, and charitable activity and how to build an audience strategy based on that data.
2. Relevant Messaging: How do we dynamically deliver creative based on our data-driven audience strategy? Many of us have strong hypotheses about what creative messaging will drive action, but we must be agile in our delivery as the situation on the ground is fluid and each individual is impacted differently.
3. Engagement & Loyalty: We know that events are incredibly important for driving revenue, engagement, and driving loyalty, so we need to take advantage of the accelerated digital adoption to create engagement platforms that inspire loyalty and focus on retention and LTV.
4. Virtual Events Strategy: how do we rebuild an events revenue pipeline by creating virtual events in this new normal that achieve your fundraising goals while also delivering an excellent experience? That doesn’t necessarily mean turning your in-person gala into a virtual one, but requires a re-imagining of what the event could be to achieve your goals.
Please stay tuned to this space over the coming weeks as we delve into these topics. And check out our recent webinar, How Nonprofits Can Thrive in the New Normal for an overview of our series.