Three potential digital activities in the time of COVID-19

Based on caging results so far from Aegis, a Moore company, caging results from around the sector, and historic impacts of economic downturns, we are cautiously optimistic that direct marketing fundraising through mail, digital, TV, and phone is holding steady so far in the current challenges for many organizations.

That said, there are other areas like events, canvassing, and face-to-face major donor fundraising, that are leaving sizeable holes in many nonprofits’ budgets.  Here are three things you can do online to help fill those gaps:

Help the donor-advised fund donor.  The National Philanthropic Trust says there is $121 billion in donor-advised funds at last count. 

Researchers Heist and McMullen found that donor-advised funds were a valuable hedge in times of recession:

“While other forms of charitable giving generally drop during economic downturns, we find that grants from DAFs remain relatively stable in recession conditions…  Given these findings, donor-advised funds may be an important resource to the nonprofit economy in future recessions.”

This is likely because while major donors can be reluctant to give in times of stock market downturn (as they are more likely to have substantial declining assets in the stock market), the money in donor-advised funds has already been donated; it just hasn’t been distributed.  Thus, they are great vehicle in times of economic challenge to get gifts out to organizations like yours.

DAF Direct aims to make donor-advised fund giving as easy as Paypal giving online.  They’ve created a widget that can be incorporated into your donation page allowing a donor to make a disbursement from many of the most popular donor-advised fund carriers.

Remember the planned giver.  Last week, Gentreo, an online estate planner, said they say a 143% week-to-week increase in wills made.  They expect this week to garner even more interest.  Estate planning attorneys are also reporting a substantial increase in inquiries (hopefully from home because, and I mean this with the utmost respect, they are not essential personnel in the current crisis).

While it’s our hope that each of these will-makers will live for decades to come, it’s more essential than ever to have clear language on your web site for how someone can leave you a legacy in their will.  Giving USA has found that most bequest givers rarely or never tell organizations they are making a legacy gift.  They also said that only seven percent said the process is very or somewhat easy.  You can be the organization that makes the process easy for your potential planned giver if they want to honor you in this way without contacting you directly.

Bringing your mission to the public. In November 2018, the National Cowboy and Western Museum in Oklahoma City, OK, broke ground on a $15 million investment called Liichokoshkomo, which is the Chickasaw phrase for “let’s play.”  The center included a maker space, introduced indigenous cultures, and created hands-on STEAM activities for kids.  In short, it was to be exactly what a museum wants to create for modern visitors.

It was supposed to open for kids during spring break 2020 with a week of themed activities.

As you might have guessed, it didn’t.  The whole museum is closed through at least the end of April.

There’s not much more vital to a museum than having people come to, and through, your museum.  That’s largely the point.  So temporarily closing the museum could have meant temporarily closing the mission.

Instead, they decided to bring the museum to the public through Twitter. 

There’s a tiny bit of artifice, as the digital team talked about this takeover with their head of security before being closed.  Either way, the result is funny…

And funnier…


And inspirational:

So how is the engagement doing?  Before the crisis, the National Cowboy Museum’s Twitter account had almost 10,000 followers.  It has 275,000 as of this writing.

The museum’s chief marketing officer Seth Spillman said of the takeover:

“I am genuinely happy to have good news to share at this time, and I am hopeful that all of this puts the museum in a good position to bounce back and bounce back quickly once we open the doors. Getting engagement … is only as good as how much it actually drives people coming to your museum, people actually being able to experience directly the things that we’ve curated here.”

So, if you are at an organization where people can’t come to your mission, how can you bring your mission to them?

Hope these help.  Other tips folks are using in this unique time to attract or keep donors online?


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