Fundraising During This Time of Turmoil

In times of upheaval, it’s not unusual for a nonprofit organization or a political candidate to temporarily suspend their fundraising solicitations.

During my 35-year career, I have witnessed several events that triggered many nonprofit causes to take such action, including 9/11 and the beginning of the great recession in 2008. 

However, the year 2020 is prompting a reaction previously unseen within the fundraising industry.

Jim Hussey, Chairman

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic downturn caused many organizations to suspend their fundraising campaigns in March. Unlike the fundraising suspensions in 2001 and 2008, these interruptions were … and for some continue to be … much longer.

Following the onset of the coronavirus crisis, the murder of George Floyd was the catalyst for a new wave of protests in cities from New York to Los Angeles and everywhere in between – another reason to reevaluate fundraising campaigns.

And 2020 is far from over. The remainder of the year promises even more turbulence.

In addition to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, the troubling and divisive political situation within the nation guarantees even more tumult, especially during the final quarter of this year. The election in November, as well as its lead up and aftermath, may be the most politically contentious period in modern American history.

So what do we do? Should nonprofit organizations constantly suspend and revive their fundraising efforts with each new, dramatic event? No.

For the sake of the causes we care about, we must continue on the path forward and push through the storms we are facing. We must carry on.

Even the temporary suspension of solicitation efforts can set your program behind by months or even years. A fundraising program is like a train … once stopped, it takes much time and effort to restart it and get up to speed.

In addition to the immediate loss of income, the suspension of donor acquisition efforts will cause attrition, instigating major downturns in your donor file that will further impact your efforts in future years.

Control packages and language atrophy without the constant testing necessary to keep them viable, necessitating further testing and smaller rollouts when the program is reinstated, until confidence in the market is rebuilt.

Decisions to suspend fundraising often come from outside the development office, by supervisors who too often are cynical about fundraising, and view it as a necessary evil.

More must be done to educate our nonprofit leaders that fundraising is about more than asking someone for money. It’s about empowering the donor and providing them with a chance to address an issue which is important to them. Suspending fundraising operations denies them that opportunity.

Nonprofit leaders often believe they are doing a favor for their donors by giving them a break. In reality, the donors probably don’t notice. But once loyal donors move on to other organizations that are less reluctant to ask for their involvement and help, and it is incredibly difficult to bring them back to the fold.

It’s best to address major events directly. If everyone’s attention is directed toward a particular issue … acknowledge it in your copy.

Don’t ignore the elephant in the room.

Your donors will not be angry with you for continuing to advocate for an issue that is important to you both, even in difficult times.

How are you fundraising right now? We’d love to hear how your organization has been reacting to and coping with 2020’s current events. Tell us in the comments!

Fundraising During a Pandemic – Tips & Considerations for Donor Selections

As we enter the third month of the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have settled into a new normal and accepted the crisis as the surround sound of their missions. CCAH, in partnership with our clients, has adjusted and is continuing to readjust revenue projections and expectations. We are closely scrutinizing incoming returns from outbound solicitations.

For those organizations not directly impacted or serving beneficiaries impacted by the pandemic, there may be a temptation to scale back fundraising asks of their donors. Most organizations recognize this is not a prudent approach for the long-term viability of serving their missions, and CCAH strongly counsels against the exclusion of efforts, or cutting back too severely.

Is there a middle ground? Can organizations continue to solicit donations from their donors, while at the same time acknowledging not all donors on their file have the capacity or interest to give right now?

Yes! You can find donors who are willing and able to help you continue furthering your mission. We suggest targeting those house file donors that are the most in love with you. But how do you know who they are? 

We recommend considering some of these selection criteria to choose your donors:

Donors who have given for 5 or more years consecutively to your organization – including this year

Within this group, further identify the long-on-file (example, 10+ years), highly consistent donors (giving 75% or more of the time they have been on your file) with a lifetime revenue of perhaps $1,200+. Consider using as many channels as possible: SMS, phone, and/or email, connecting with them in much the same way you would with family and friends. Send an affirmative message showing you care such as: “these are uncertain times, we hope you’re doing okay” to solidify your donors’ relationship with your organization.

New donors acquired after March 17, 2020

Also, consider adjusting the new donor onboarding and the acknowledgement language new donors receive during this crisis. Adjust messaging to reflect the current environment (e.g. make sure it’s not just the normal welcome series, since that may not sound authentic to new donors at this time).

Lapsed Donors

Typically, reinstated lapsed donors tend to be more valuable than newly acquired donors.

As such, re-prioritize the more recently lapsed (like 13-36 months lapsed donors) and focus on those who were multi-year consecutive donors before they lapsed. Where possible, further refine by focusing on those who have been on your database for a substantial period of time (consider 7+ years), and who had given a cumulative amount of $100 or more. We recommend removing any new or reactivated donors who lapsed again.

Target these lapsed donors via SMS, ads, and email where possible. Multichannel contacts will increase the rate of conversions. 

Sustainers

Target committed donors who, after becoming a sustainer, have given additional one-time donations. Do you know who these sustainers are? If not, find them.

They are some of your best donors! Consider narrowing this selection further to the time period after March 17, 2020. 

Identify those sustainers who voluntarily upgraded their monthly committed amount, has anyone done this after March 17, 2020? Then identify monthly donors who converted to giving monthly donations after making one-time gifts for a significant period of time (like 7+ years) or maybe even those who have been on your database for 10 or more years in totality.

Other Donor Constituencies for Selection:

  • Donors who have given in the last 18 months and have returned a completed mail survey (digital survey completion as secondary)
  • Donors who volunteered their change of address (not auto-NCOA updated)
  • Multichannel donors who have given to two or more channels both this year and last year
  • Active (0-18 month) donors who are also coded as:
    • Active Advocates
    • Fundraising on the behalf of the organization
    • Current Volunteers
  • Donors donating using alternate payment methods:
    • Donor Advised Funds               
    • Family Foundations
    • Stocks

As we navigate this uncertain time, it’s important to make informed choices that best serve the overall missions of our clients. While we need to be mindful of the environment we are mailing within, we can use careful donor selection as an opportunity to keep the best donors involved and keep striving toward organizational goals.

Who are the donors you have identified as your strongest supporters, or do you need help finding them? We’re happy to help, reach out and work with us!

CCAH has a long history of working remotely

Around the world, businesses have been forced to deal with the coronavirus crisis and learn how to operate remotely from the homes of their employees. This has been an intense struggle for companies that had little experience with telecommuting before Covid19 quickly and unexpectedly reshaped the economic landscape.

However, Chapman Cubine and Hussey was well prepared when the time arrived to begin working remotely because our firm has a long history of allowing employees to work remotely.

Jim Hussey, Chairman

CCAH began telecommuting in 1997 when a valued staffer moved to San Francisco from our original base in Washington, DC. We decided we could not live without her and took advantage of the then new-fangled Internet to see if someone could work remotely, away from our office.

We quickly learned that this new technique not only allowed our firm to hold onto valued staff, but that telecommuting was an indispensable tool to improve our services and grow our company. Within two years, our use of telecommuting quickly developed into a fully staffed West Coast operation that opened new markets for talented employees and new clients.

We soon also realized that this new technology allowed us to tap into employment talent pools in every corner of the United States, hiring excellent employees who were previously considered out-of-reach because they were not within commuting distance of Washington, DC or San Francisco.

Today, 23 years after we began the use of telecommuting, a large percentage of our staff works remotely full time and part time from their homes (as I am today from Connecticut). In fact, we have staff in 14 states!

So when we made the decision in mid-March to send the entire staff home to work remotely, all of the necessary systems were in place. Our IT staff already had two decades of expertise, the infrastructure was ready to go, each employee had their own company-issued laptop, and we were highly-experienced with teleconferencing amongst ourselves and our clients.

As a result, the work of our 120 employees continues forward, uninterrupted. Our hospital and health oriented clients must raise even more money than before. Older Americans and others in need are desperate for help. Elections still must be won. Rights must be protected. Abused animals still need our help. And the work of our many other charitable clients must go on. 

And as long as it is necessary, the employees of CCAH will continue working from our homes to ensure that the funding for these worthy causes continues to flow.

Welcoming New Partners to the Fold

This Women’s History Month, we want to take a moment to celebrate some truly outstanding women making history here at CCAH.

When it comes to the question of whom I surround myself with, people often tout the benefits of surrounding yourself with those who are smarter than you, and while I think that is one key ingredient to success … I think it is more important, as the President of this company, that I am not only surrounded by smart people, but that I’m surrounded by individuals that share our collective vision for this company — a vision of where we want to go and what we want to accomplish this next decade. 

It’s critical that I surround myself with individuals that not only share our company’s vision, but those individuals who have been instrumental in getting us to where we are today — and in the continued success of this company. 

For many years, I have had the pleasure of working with the best there is.  Individuals that I consider trusted confidants, valuable sounding boards, innovative leaders, and — very importantly — friends.

So, it is my sincere honor to announce that we have four new Principals at CCAH!  Join me in congratulating the incredible women who have truly dedicated themselves to making a difference:

Chrissy Hyre, Susie DeCarlo, Brenna Holmes, and Lynn Waller.

Check out their bios on our Who We Are page to learn a bit more about each of these impressive ladies!

Looking Forward. Thinking Back.

I can hardly believe it’s February … it feels like only yesterday that we were ringing in the new year and the beginning of the new decade! As I look forward, I have so much confidence in what we will accomplish together in the years ahead. But I also think it’s a good time to reflect on the success we have shared with our clients. 

And I want to take the time to remember how what we do matters.

Every single person at CCAH plays an important role in helping our clients achieve their goals. This is the kind of job where you get up every day and know that your work makes a difference. 

Whether its filing lawsuits in states to fight voter suppress suppression, furthering research that will one day cure cancer, fighting against Antisemitism, or protecting our Parks and wild lands against over development so they will be around for the next generation … and even possibly helping to elect the next President of the United States. 

And let me tell you, our work has made a difference these past 35 years … did you know:

  • Our supporter mobilization and the money we raised in the fight against oil and gas companies helped save the great Sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park
  • CCAH built the membership programs for several AIDS prevention groups—and I mean built from the ground up—and the money we raised helped fund medical advancements so that an AIDS diagnosis is no longer a death sentence
  • It was the money we raised through direct mail that helped Hillary Clinton become the first woman nominee of a major political party
  • Our work fighting voter suppression during the Obama Administration helped fund the legal challenges to gerrymandering and voter ID laws in states like North Carolina and Wisconsin
  • And our work with Alley Cat Allies has helped them help save so many cats across the country after natural disasters like hurricanes and wildfires

This is just a short list of the many, many success stories where CCAH staff have played a significant role in helping make the world around us a better place. Talking about our company and the work of our clients is one of my favorite things to do.

At CCAH, we look for integrity, we want grit, we demand team-first mentality, folks who want to learn, and, most importantly, we hire people who care about what we do, who are proud of the success that we share with our clients. 

And frankly, we are starting 2020 on great footing—with some the most talented staff ever.  

CCAH has diversified the services that we offer, we have diversified our client portfolio, we have expanded our “CCAH Roof” to encompass staff working from Oregon to Connecticut and to several states in between. And as a result of these changes our staff has grown by 43%. 

So, we are going to do some NEW things in 2020 and continue to be the disruptors of our industry!

I think this new decade is going to be our best year ever, and I cannot wait to see the incredible changes we will be able to accomplish together. So, I thank you, our staff, our CCAH family, for your continued commitment to excellence and to your clients’ missions.

And for those reading this who aren’t part of our family just yet, but are inspired by what you’ve read, please check out our open positions, and think about coming to Work With Us.

Digital Day 2014

Only one week away – don’t miss DMAW’s Digital Day!

Digital Day 2014By Brenna Holmes, VP of Digital | You may have seen this post on the DMAW’s blog today, but I wanted to make extra sure nobody missed out on registering for the 2nd Annual Digital Day Forum. So read on, click through, register today and share – bring friends and colleagues who manage digital marketing and fundraising programs no matter the organization!

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THERE’S NO VANILLA IN DIRECT MARKETING

describe the imageOmnichannel marketing is exactly what the name suggests, touching prospects and supporters across every channel and taking advantage of the multiple touch points available: television, print, radio, telephone, email, websites, digital and more. Ironically, though, omnichannel marketing is nothing like the term suggests. It is not the limitless outbound flow of messaging attempting to influence behavior without regard for the recipient. Omnichannel marketing places customers and their channel preferences uppermost.