[NPFX Ep. 10] Rapid Response Fundraising: How to Leverage Episodic Giving

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Welcome to The Nonprofit Fundraising Exchange, a podcast from IPM Advancement. Our mission is to help you raise more money so you can make the world a better place.

Today’s topic: Rapid Response Fundraising — How to Leverage Episodic Giving

In this episode, we discuss:

  • The 3 different rapid response strategies to engage donors when they are most inclined to give
  • How episodic giving has changed fundraising
  • Common mistakes with rapid response fundraising
  • How even small nonprofits can capture the attention of donors
  • When is the best time to use search engine ads
  • What to do when everyone seems focused on an event unrelated to your mission
  • How rapid response can be used to convert members and prospects into donors

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Curtis: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Nonprofit Fundraising Exchange. I’m Curtis Schmitt, your host, and joining me today is Russ Phaneuf, IPM’s Managing Director & Chief Strategist. Thanks for being here, Russ.

Russ: Thank you, Curtis.


How Rapid Response Fundraising Differs from Annual Fundraising

Curtis: So Russ and I are doing another deep dive, one on one conversation — this time discussing an important topic that I don’t think gets talked about enough, which is rapid response fundraising. Russ, in case there are listeners who might not have a lot of experience with this topic, can you define what rapid response fundraising is, and maybe give an example or two?

Russ: Rapid response fundraising is a type of nonprofit fundraising that leverages an episode or event. That episode or event might be something you can foresee, or it might be something that’s completely out of left field. And rapid response is an organization’s answer to something unexpected in the environment that hopefully relates directly to its mission and the work that it does in the community. I think a good example and an easy one to consider would be the Red Cross: An environmental event happens — typically it’s a natural disaster — and the Red Cross is ready to go. They are specifically messaging around that event. They are offering people a way to help that’s related to that event. And they are, hopefully and I think authentically, on the ground offering assistance. And it’s a very easy thing for donors to do the math that the Red Cross is there: “I can give them money and I will be helping what’s happening” in response to this event that has happened.

You know, this is where we get the term “episodic giving” in many cases and, you know, in many cases episodic giving is driving the kind of new annual giving. And episodic giving — we’ll talk about it later, I’m sure — but episodic giving, it’s really the giving that comes from rapid response fundraising.

Curtis: Great. Could you describe some aspects of rapid response fundraising that really distinguish it from the more traditional annual fundraising?

Russ: Yeah, so my disclaimer is that organizations are going to vary in their approaches, but annual giving fundraising in general is predictable, it’s structured. You start well, well in advance and you know exactly what you’re going to do, hopefully, at the beginning of your fiscal year. You have everything mapped out. So if your organization’s fiscal year starts on July 1, you might establish a year-long fundraising campaign that incorporates several direct mail appeals, maybe telefunds, and digital outreach, perhaps, led by email. So, some organizations also have a lead generation tool in the form of digital ads, and those can run year round, and they serve as a way to find prequalified leads for follow-up. We don’t see a lot of folks benefiting tremendously in their standard predictable annual fund or annual giving programs, grabbing donors from digital advertising. But, as we’ll talk about, digital advertising can play a strong role in rapid response.

Rapid response fundraising, on the other hand — it’s generally what we think of when something in the environment happens like I said, some episode or event, and that something is related to your mission and the work that you do. So at IPM, we categorize rapid response episodes and events as two types: There’s forcastable and unforcastable.

Forcastable events are things that you know are going to happen on some date in the future; you don’t know the full details, but you know that they’re going to happen. These are things like presidential elections, important anniversaries related to your cause or your organization, you know, those types of things. You know what’s going to happen, you just don’t know when so you can plan ahead for it.

Unforcastable events are things that will probably happen in the future, but you don’t know when and you don’t have any of the details. These are things like hurricanes, tornadoes, natural disasters, deaths of founders — there’s a lot of nonprofit organizations that are led by founders and at some point those founders are either going to step aside or, you know, unfortunately they might pass away. Those are all things that are predictable, you know they’re going to happen in the future, but you’re not sure when; you don’t have the details and you can’t really forecast for it. You can you can come up with a plan that you maybe stick in a binder somewhere and keep it on a shelf to give you an outline of what to do, but again, those are unforcastable.

We worked quite extensively with gun violence prevention organizations, and they have a lot of unforcastable events in the form of mass shootings. We know mass shootings happen. They’re horrible tragedies, and unfortunately they keep happening, so we know they’re going to happen. And in that type of work, it’s one of the only times where almost the entire nation becomes galvanized around this issue of gun violence prevention. And so they have to be very, very careful in terms of how they respond to those situations, but those situations are unforcastable events that are going to happen.

Curtis: I want to follow up on one of the examples you gave of a forcastable event — a presidential election — because we are in an election year. Now, with a presidential election, we know what date it will be so that’s not the part of it that’s not known, but we might not know who the candidates will be or what the key issues will be. Is that what you’re talking about — those kinds of details are the things that are unknown?

Russ: Yeah, those kinds of things, and I would say that in the environment we’re in with the president that we have, there are a lot of issues that just come up in record time. He covers multiple things, offends multiple groups of people, and there’s a lot of stuff going on that can be leveraged by nonprofits in an election year with a candidate like that. And I think that it’s almost too much, right? And that’s something that everybody is aware of — that it is basically a technique of throwing so much information at voters and at the general public that they just don’t know which way is up.

And I think the opportunity there for your nonprofit is to be on the lookout for issues that resonate with your audience and be able to explain those issues in more detail. Slow down this crazy cycle of the way that this information is being presented by this candidate, and explain it to your folks and explain why it’s important. But you know, it’s really tough to do in an election year such as this because stuff is coming so fast. We’re getting information so fast; every day, it changes. And that actually accelerates as we move toward election day.

Curtis: Yeah, yeah, to your point about eyes being on an issue, you know the eyes keep moving as the issues keep moving.

Russ: Right.


The Growth of Episodic Giving

Curtis: Now it’s hard to have a conversation about rapid response fundraising without also talking about episodic giving. So why has episodic giving grown so much in recent years?

Russ: So I think a lot of organizations, a lot of nonprofits, the way that they did annual fundraising was to really rely on predictable revenue from donors who gave year after year. And the goal for most nonprofit organizations, up to about maybe 5 or 10 years ago, was to really focus on folks that would give over and over again and just gradually build their way up in the donor pipeline in a very linear way. Episodic giving has really changed that. Episodic giving is driving small donor engagement, and the way that people get information nowadays has sped up, and it’s driven by the internet and social media and 24-hour news. And it’s understandable because when people hear about a disaster or they hear about one of these unforcastable events or even a forcastable event, there’s this sense that they want to do something; they want to take action. And in many cases, the most frictionless way to get involved and feel like you’re doing something is by giving money. We see that a lot of the times after natural disasters — and again I’ll go back to that mass shooting example — these horrific events, people feel powerless. And if your organization is out there and authentically involved in doing the work to address the root cause of what happened, or to address the healing that takes place afterwards, that’s an opportunity for people to get involved in a very frictionless way, give money, and feel like they’re doing something to help.

Curtis: And as we’ll see later, when we talk about IPM’s specific recommendations for nonprofits, it’s not an ambulance chasing kind of strategy. A lot of times the donors themselves are looking for an organization like yours, and your rapid response strategy is really helping them find you with as little friction as possible.

Russ: That’s right.


Lessons from the 2010 Haiti Earthquake

Curtis: Now, donor response to the Haiti earthquake in 2010 is considered a major tipping point in episodic giving. What lessons can we take away from that event?

Russ: I’ll direct people to our Resources section of the ipmadvancement.com website, and in the Learn section, you scroll down and we have a bunch of white papers that you can download. And one of those white papers has to do with rapid response, and we go into great detail about the Haiti earthquake and cite numerous sources of how that event really changed episodic giving and changed the way that most organizations would respond to something. And I think the three takeaways for me were:

Number one, be ready with digital ads, and these are search engine based ads. I think that’s super important. And also text-to-give to support your inbound rapid response. You want to make sure that your fundraising messaging has already been coordinated with marketing and communications or anybody else at your organization who has to have a say in what you’re going to put out there. And in that way you can leverage any earned media opportunities. After something happens in the world of unforcastable events or forcastable events, the press, the media, they typically look to organizations — leaders of organizations, maybe even board members — to provide some perspective. Those are opportunities for you to get your name out there. It’s important to be ready on the back end, so that when people see that coverage, they know what to do in terms of this. They want to give money to help your organization. So I think that’s number one.

I think number two is to have your appeals already templated and pre-approved. You’re not going to be able to fill in all the details but you can have everything outlined; you can have your vendors lined up and ready to go. And that way, you want to cut down and give yourself some more flexibility on the time it takes to deploy. And you might not want to deploy right away, especially in terms of a tragic event. You’re not going to want to get out like the next day, but I think it’s important to have everything ready. So that gives you the opportunity to be flexible and to say this is the right time for us, we’re ready. And then you hit the Go button. And I think that helps with the other side of rapid response which is outbound rapid response. You want to be able to deploy quickly but you want to do it on your own terms. And you want to do it in a way that’s as sensitive as possible to the environment.

And I think number three is: Have a specific plan or strategy to show donors how their contributions were used. Now this is a topic that I think the Red Cross could speak about very eloquently because they’ve learned a lot over the years about how to report back to donors. They have a ton of episodic donors. And the way that you get people to give on a more regular basis is by having that stewardship element, having that kind of transparency of reporting back to donors with what happened. Now this might be, it might be a week, it might be several weeks later, you have to decide the frequency of follow up. But follow up; you have to do it, you just have to report back so that people don’t feel like they’re just throwing money into a black hole. Because if this type of event happens again, and you go back out to those folks, they’re gonna remember how you responded and how you reported back to them. Remember it’s still annual giving, it’s still someone making an investment in your work, and you owe them an explanation of how you use the money. And you’re going to benefit over the long run by involving them in that reporting back, in that level of transparency, and sharing information about the work that they helped make possible.

Curtis: Yeah, donors are partners in your mission not an ATM machine.

Russ: Right.

Curtis: You mentioned a white paper with information on the Haiti earthquake. I will link to that in the show notes for any listeners who want to dig a little bit deeper on that.


Common Mistakes with Rapid Response Fundraising

So moving forward. Before we get into IPM’s specific recommendations for how to do rapid response fundraising successfully, let’s talk a little bit about common mistakes that nonprofits make. So what are some ways that rapid response fundraising can be done wrong? And what are the consequences or risks if you do it wrong?

Russ: So let’s start with the consequences or risks if you do it wrong. So the biggest risk is that people won’t give. The second biggest risk is that they’ll give one time, they’ll get a bad vibe, they’ll have a bad experience, and they won’t give again when you go back to them. I think you want to look at episodic giving as an opportunity to attract people into the work you do, get them in as supporters, and then steward them and treat them as if they’re going to be lifelong donors after that. So the way that you can really mess that up is by, number one, not having an appropriate response. If your organization is just leveraging this event and your organization really doesn’t have anything to do with it, it’s a very inauthentic Ask. That’s a problem. So you want to make sure that your organization is responding appropriately. If you were on the ground where something is happening and you’re highly involved in the work, you have the right to feature that Ask for money, to raise money around it. It’s very authentic and it’s the right thing to do.

If your organization is involved kind of on the fringes, then you have to really think about it and think about the way that you’re going to position your fundraising messaging out to folks, especially folks who don’t know you, right? People who know you are going to get pretty much right away that, you know, you’re approaching them with a very authentic ask. The people who don’t know you, don’t try to dupe them because you’ll never get them as a long-term donor if you try to convince them that you’re doing work that you really don’t have a whole lot to do with in the first place.

Curtis: Great. We saw an example, I think, of how nonprofits can make mistakes in this way with their response to COVID-19. You’ve mentioned this in other episodes and we’ve written about it online. Do you want to just quickly summarize that for listeners?

Russ: So I think one of the things that a lot of nonprofits did that I saw in the immediate build up to kind of the initial peak of COVID-19 in the US — and this is in maybe the March 2020 timeframe — these organizations, finally it clicked that this was going to affect them. And a number of organizations that I saw went out to their audiences and said, “COVID-19 is here. We expect that it’s going to be a horrible thing for our nonprofit, and please give money.” And that really left out the most important part of the case for support, which is, okay well, you know, other than what’s happened, what’s your plan? What are you going to do about it? How does it impact your beneficiaries? Tell me more about that stuff. That’s what makes it really authentic. When you go to ask people for money, you have to make the case and you have to have a strong case for support. When you go out to folks, especially in terms of one of these episodes or events that happens, it’s not just about, “This event is going to mess with our bottom line, please give us money to help us cover the gap.” Uou know, that’s just not a convincing fundraising message.

Hi, this is Curtis from IPM Advancement jumping in for a moment. If you’re a nonprofit professional who has questions about your program, or maybe you feel like you’ve taken your advocacy, fundraising, or membership effort as far as you can and you need some fresh ideas, then we have a special offer for you today.

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Just enter a few details, and an IPM team member will contact you to follow up. It’s that easy. That website again is ipmadvancement.com/free. Thanks for listening, and we hope to talk to you soon. Now let’s return to the episode.


The 3 Types of Rapid Response Fundraising

Curtis: All right, well, it’s time for us to really kind of dig into now IPM’s recommendations for how to handle rapid response fundraising. If you’re a listener, get ready, take some notes. IPM recommends three different facets of rapid response fundraising: There’s inbound, outbound, and contingency. Russ, can you give an example of each so listeners understand the difference? And then we can get into the nuances of those strategies.

Russ: Sure. And I’ll give a few examples because there’s a lot of things you can do in each area. For inbound, obviously that is those are leads that are coming into you from the external environment. So inbound in terms of rapid response, we think a lot about Google ads or search engine ads. We think about text-to-give. Putting information on your website right away, you know, maybe you have a call out or a banner in the header of your website. And also leveraging your social media presence. So those are all categorized as inbound. People are searching for information and you’re putting your organization in that feed of information that they might find.

Outbound, we think of a rapid response email, like an emergency appeal to donors. We might even use a telephone campaign, a telephone phone-a-thon, whatever you want to call it. More often now, we might use a text campaign if we can do that in the organization. Things that kind of combine both telephone and kind of follow-up with the, like a tele townhall campaign where you offer people the chance to listen to maybe your executive director or your chair of the board talk about the events and how it relates to your organization; and then you might do follow up by email or you might do a recap by email. Down on the list for outbound is direct mail. So you do want to get started on direct mail because there’s a longer production timeline associated with direct mail, you do want to get started right away on direct mail. Like I said, it’s best to have things teed up, template, pre-approved, ready to go with as little work as possible, but have that ready to go. And I would say after you kind of cover all these bases, in terms of email maybe tele Town Hall, things like that. Then you’re ready to go out and usually that’s been several days since you know whatever happened happened. And then, that’s an appropriate time to go out with a direct mail message, and oftentimes you can include in that direct mail message some of the initial experiences and some of the initial response you got from donors that you learned about. Remember, this is a two-way street. This isn’t just about your organization talking to donors and saying, “Well, this is what we’re going to do, and this is how it affects our beneficiaries,” and you know once you’re in this and you’re getting feedback from people that you serve and you’re getting feedback from people who are giving money to you. it’s important to share that with other people so that you are immediately starting to build this community of donors and this community of individuals that are responding to this event. I think that that covers inbound and outbound.

The third part is contingency. Contingency is a category where it’s your organization’s plan for what to do if a rapid response type of event happens but your organization kind of falls outside of an appropriate response. So, you know, if a really horrific tragic event takes place, and your organization is not on the front lines of that event, it’s best to have a contingency plan in place to say, “You know what? We might have a mailing that’s about to drop, but now is not the right time for us to drop that mailing.” So you have an immediate kind of rapid response contingency plan to reach out to your vendors, to get everybody on the same page at your organization, and say, “Hey here’s what the calendar looked like before this thing happened, and here’s how we need to change it. We’re going to delay this by a week, we’re going to delay this by three weeks. We’re going to accelerate, maybe this messaging on email that was scheduled for two weeks from now.” There’s a time where you have to sit down after the event has happened, get everybody on the same page, and make sure that your communications that are going out to people, and the things that are coming into your organization, align with the messaging environment. That’s really, really important to do. If you don’t do it, your organization comes off as being really tone deaf and not paying attention to what’s going on in the world.

Curtis: Yeah, I think that third category is really important because most nonprofits, I imagine they understand: Okay, an event happens, people are going to be searching for organizations where they can get involved; or an event happens, let’s reach out to our own donors because we can do some good work here. But I think that contingency scenario that you described, a lot of times, doesn’t really get thought of. And this idea that you can plan for not being a part of an event, I think is really important.

Russ: Yeah, and I would say it also gets back to episodic giving. I mean, to be an annual giving fundraiser now, or to just be a fundraiser in general, you really have to pay attention to what’s going on in the world. If you don’t read the news and keep up with what’s happening, it can affect the way that your organization raises money, and I think it’s important to know what’s going on. To make tweaks where you can to align your organization with what’s happening and to really be relevant. That’s really important for organizations that have a strong social media presence. You know, it’s not enough to just have social media accounts and be posting kind of generic evergreen content that could go up any day of the week and really doesn’t matter. I think it’s important to be involved in the conversations that are happening out in our culture.

And, you know, we saw that with the Black Lives Matter movement. Your organization had to respond to that. There, you had to state your position, and you really had to step up and be thoughtful and not give a canned response or else you were going to be excoriated for it. And I think that it’s very important for organizations to think through this stuff. And for fundraisers, often that requires them to work across departments, especially if you’re in a larger organization. Work with the marketing and communications folks if they are outside of your kind of fundraising silo work, cross department and interdepartmentally, and I think that will benefit your organization’s fundraising over time.


How Small Nonprofits Can Capture the Attention of Donors

Curtis: So I want to ask you about inbound rapid response fundraising, and specifically regarding small nonprofits who may feel that they don’t have a broad media presence, or they’re just not well-known, and they might be wondering — you kind of addressed it a little bit earlier but I guess I want to ask it directly — they might be wondering how do we capture the attention of some of these people who are out there looking for organizations that can help?

Russ: Sure. I think, for a small organization, you have to leverage digital and you really have to have an executive director, or someone who could be in a position to speak on behalf of the organization, ready to go and eager to talk to people. And the best way that I’ve found, you know working in the trenches on this stuff, especially in higher education, was to get on Twitter and make sure that on Twitter, you develop relationships with the journalists that are going to be covering your local area. Local journalists are all on Twitter. It’s just a great tool to leverage for smaller organizations. If you’re not on Twitter, I would highly encourage you. It’s not just about your organization being on Twitter. As a professional, look to Twitter, and maybe to some extent LinkedIn, to make those connections to leverage earned media. But Twitter definitely. Twitter is what’s happening, and granted, you have to be really careful on Twitter; it’s a huge rabbit hole, you can spend a lot of time on it. But there are opportunities to develop really meaningful direct relationships with journalists and people that would be able to help you in those rapid response situations, help you get the word out and put your organization out there as an expert or a resource for commenting on what’s happening.

Curtis: Those are two great practical recommendations, developing relationships through Twitter, and also having some Google ads or, you know, wherever you’re advertising but having those digital ads, ready to go when people are looking.


How to Do Rapid Response Prospecting

I also have a follow up question about outbound rapid response fundraising. Are we talking about messaging to people that your nonprofit already has a relationship with? Or can you also go out to prospects? can you do prospecting as part of that?

Russ: Yeah, you can do prospecting. It’s best to prospect to people who are already on your list because if you go out to a rental list, typically there’s going to be a much longer set up time on that to work with a list broker and get the approvals that are needed. That’s why it’s so important to have a really good list of pre-qualified people in in your donor database. That’s the opportunity to go up to those folks with a really compelling message because they’re already kind of familiar with your organization; they at least know who you are and you can get out to them and make a really strong case for giving in response to this to this event.

Curtis: Regarding this point about having an in house list of prospects, I want to get your thoughts on something that came up in a recent episode on advocacy. The idea was raised that advocacy can be a great opportunity to add people to your in-house prospecting list. So people might care about a cause, they find your organization, they sign a petition, they get on your list, and then down the road, that can be somebody you can message to.

Russ: Yeah it’s important to have internal prospects that are ready to go, and ready to be asked after an event happens and I think one great way to do that is to use advocacy. Advocacy campaigns are things that again are split up between kind of an annual giving mindset and a rapid response mindset. You might have an ongoing advocacy campaign that relates to your root cause of the things that your organization addresses. But then these events might happen, these rapid response events might happen, and that’s an opportunity for not only fundraising but for advocacy as well to get out there and almost parallel what your fundraising is doing.

So during these rapid response events, these unforcastable and forcastable events, there’s an opportunity to attract people who might not be ready to give money but they might be ready to at least sign a petition or take some other action that shows that they’re on your side. They want to feel like they’re doing something, maybe they’re not able to give money, maybe they’re just not trusting enough of your organization — they don’t know who you are, they have never heard of you — maybe they just kind of want to try it out and see what that relationship would be like. And that’s an opportunity to leverage advocacy as a funnel to build up that list of internal prospects.

And again, you want to have a pretty good list of internal prospects ready to go because in most situations — and again this is outside of digital. Digital, you can put together a campaign, you can kind of choose your target audiences, you don’t necessarily have to go for approvals. Do Google and do the same kind of things. You wouldn’t direct mail those internal prospects, even if you get them on digital. It’s important to just be building that list, try to build that list in a way where you have their mailing addresses. And then once you’re able to deploy with direct mail, that’s just a terrific way to involve those people. Like I said it’s probably your best opportunity to convert those people from advocacy type activist supporters to actual individuals that give money who become donors.


Rapid Response Can Turn Members into Donors

Curtis: Yeah, yeah, great point. Since we’re talking about advocacy and we’ve moved a little bit away from fundraising for a moment, I’d like to also bring up membership — the third part of IPM’s client services: fundraising, membership, and advocacy. How does rapid response fundraising relate to membership, if it does?

Russ: It depends on the event. Something like COVID-19 has really upended the membership model, right? We have organizations that simply can’t deliver on their promises to members that they can come to a museum or they can have an experiential type membership opportunity. And so that’s really an outlier. I think a lot of the rapid response fundraising type opportunities can also be extended to membership in terms of, you know, looking at your membership as not just a group of people who attend events or who come to your museum or theater, but that those members are also your best internal prospects. And so being able to go out to your membership with a fundraising message and leverage these rapid response opportunities is really, really important for most organizations who rely on membership revenue.

Don’t look at your members as just members. They are immediately as soon as they start to have a relationship with your organization, they are warm prospects for giving. I would say you want to wait a little while, you want to make sure you deliver a great value to them as a member. Make sure that member value proposition is really high. And then see if you can convert them to being donors. And that might be as simple as just having a year-end mailing that goes to all members. It might be as simple as making sure that your members also get a donor newsletter and get a peek behind the curtain into what it’s like to be a donor. Those are all good opportunities to think about rapid response fundraising and fundraising in general for members.

Curtis: So it sounds like a rapid response situation could be an opportunity to introduce a member who might see their relationship with your organization as a bit transactional, it might be an opportunity to introduce them to the broader work that you do, the good work that you do that maybe, maybe they’re not aware of?

Russ: Yeah, and I think there are a lot of organizations that are a bit skittish about doing this, right? We don’t want a member who’s giving us, you know, X amount of dollars a year and has been a member forever, we don’t want a member to become a donor and then we only hear from them once a year when they write us a check. And if you can deliver a really good member value proposition, and a good donor value proposition, there’s no reason why your members can’t also be donors and continue their membership over the years, especially if your organization is really doing good work in both areas. You know, you might have a membership experience where people come on site, and they have this incredible opportunity to interact with your exhibits or whatever it is that gives them that experience that they go home and they feel great about it; there’s an opportunity to follow up with those people and say, “One of the things we do in our fundraising program is we provide free memberships for low income families,” or “We provide scholarships so students can experience this,” or “Some of the folks that help with our exhibits are interns and we have an internship program that you can support, and we’re asking you to go above and beyond your membership and make an annual gift.” I think that’s a very natural way for organizations to leverage their membership file.


Successful Rapid Response Requires Planning

Curtis: So before we end our discussion, is there any other advice or final words that you have for nonprofits who want to improve their rapid response strategy?

Russ: I would say it’s very important for organizations to remain extremely authentic. When these episodic giving opportunities, when these rapid response fundraising events and episodes happen, it’s just not a good look to get out there and kind of attach your organization to whatever is happening in the world. At the same time, it’s really important to be ready for those opportunities when they come up and make sure you’ve thought through the ramifications of an event well beforehand.

This is a workshop opportunity for organizations to sit down and spend a day or two thinking about all the possibilities. You know, if your organization is run by founders who are maybe in their seventies or eighties, those founders at some point are going to have to step aside, or they’ll be gone. And you really should think about what your organization’s response is. Don’t do it off the cuff; take the time to really come up with a plan and a strategy for how you’re going to respond to that, and be very thoughtful about it. And I would say there are lots of episodes or events that could happen, these unforcastable and forcastable events. Go down the list workshop it and think about your organization in that kind of environment: What would you say? What would you say to donors? What would you say to people who don’t know you. It’s an exercise that’ll take a little while to do, and you should do it, and revisit it maybe once a year to really think through it.

And there are events that you’re going to miss. You know, nobody was thinking about a global pandemic back in maybe last November. Six months later, it’s completely upended fundraising, and it’s completely upended the way that nonprofits interact with their target audiences. So I would say, you know, the fear is, “Well we can’t plan for everything so we’ll just plan for nothing.” I don’t think that’s the right way to go. Plan for what you can. Try to be thoughtful about it, workshop it, spend the time. If you miss something, you miss something and you’ll learn from it. But it’s going to make your organization stronger and better and more flexible and ready to leverage those events, because the fact is, nonprofits don’t have unlimited budgets. They don’t have bottomless wells of cash that they can use to respond to these events and kind of stumble through them until they find what’s right to do. So be good with your donors money, be good to your donors and your beneficiaries by taking the time to plan ahead.

Curtis: I love that advice. It’s not enough to just listen to this podcast. You need to pull your team together, you need to have the conversation, and you need to do the preparation.

Russ: Right. That’s right.



Curtis: Well, thank you, Russ, for joining me again. I think this was a great conversation on rapid response fundraising and I really appreciate your time today.

Russ: Thank you, Curtis, it was a great conversation. And I do want to put out there for folks, if you’re really struggling with how your organization should respond in these types of situations or how you might workshop it or how you might plan out a strategy, then reach out to us. We’re always available and we’d love to talk to you.

Curtis: Yes, please reach out and contact us if there’s something we can do to help. So that wraps up our conversation about Rapid Response Fundraising. Thanks again to Russ Phaneuf for sharing his insight and expertise. I’d also like to thank you, our listeners, and invite you to share your comments and suggestions. If you have a question or challenge your nonprofit is facing that you’d like us to talk about on the podcast, please email us [click this link]. That email address will be in the show notes, along with a list of resources related to topics we discussed today. If you liked this episode, please subscribe in Apple PodcastsSpotifyGoogle Podcasts, or your favorite podcast app. And leave us a review. We also invite you to explore our growing library of whitepapers, infographics, and blog articles in the Resources section of the IPM website. That address is ipmadvancement.com/learn. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you next time.


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