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Non-profit crisis management: 7 things you can do right now

Money Matters

Non-profit crisis management: 7 things you can do right now

As the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak continues to make an impact around the world, governments, businesses and non-profits race to adapt and respond to limit human hardships.

The UK government is continuing with a series of restrictive measures to ensure social distancing, such as the requirement for people to work from home, certain businesses being required to shut their doors, and schools closing to all except children of key workers.

However, despite government support being offered, general uncertainty remains, causing a crisis of confidence in across the economy.

At this time of public health and economic challenge, you need the full picture of where your non-profit stands financially, so you can remain nimble and respond quickly to the changing needs in your community.

At this time of uncertainly, it’s likely your non-profit has seen a seen a decline in donations. It’s critical you take stock of your current financial situation, create forward projections and make early, intelligent decisions to shore up funding and engage donors.

Community needs are growing but will donations keep up?

As a non-profit finance leader, you’ll know charitable donations are closely correlated with the economy. When it’s strong, consumer confidence is higher and salaries rise.

This translates into more disposable income and an increased likelihood that you see generous donations from individuals and corporations.

When the economy is weak, the opposite happens – disposable income shrinks and donations are more likely to decrease.

In light of so much economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to engage with your donors and show them the concrete results of how your programmes are achieving your organisation’s mission.

Going forward, you’ll want to be able to powerfully demonstrate both financial stewardship and positive outcomes.

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7 things your non-profit can do now

No one knows exactly how the coronavirus outbreak will play out over the coming weeks and months.

But to keep things moving, non-profits must be proactive now to trim unnecessary expenses, review programmes, and step up donor engagement in order to sustain existing programmes and direct new efforts.

Here are seven things you can do now to manage business uncertainty.

1. Steady your team

People, relationships and community are vital for non-profit organisations. Coronavirus has caused disruption, anxiety, and uncertainty at home, at work and in the community. Economic volatility and uncertainty around future funding brings additional concerns.

It’s critical to communicate with your team regularly, acknowledging the changing reality and expressing your organisation’s support and flexibility in these tough times.

Help your team stay balanced and focused on long-term goals, while supporting day-to-day needs and priorities.

As people have been asked to work from home where possible, staying in contact via video conferencing tools can help your team to stay connected. The aim is to calm fears, support flexibility, stay positive, and encourage your valued team members on a regular basis.

2. Keep communicating with your donors

Your non-profit needs to get in front of the inevitable extra funding needs that the coronavirus and economic uncertainty is causing. Ask your existing donors to help you create a cash reserve now in order to meet needs during this rapidly evolving situation.

Ensure you have the support of your major donors by providing them with extra confidence that their contributions are making a difference.

Increasingly, large donors are responsible for a bigger share of total contributions. Your goal is to ensure you remain among your major donors’ top priorities this year, with the understanding that smaller donors may have less to contribute in an uncertain economy.

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3. Stay on top of your financials

Now is the right time to deeply analyse your current financial situation.

Where can you conserve cash to keep moving if you see a drop in individual donations? Are there any funds that can be redirected to existing programmes that meet community or economic needs? What would it cost to create new programmes that address new challenges?

Your donors will appreciate your duty of care and will feel like they are making a positive impact.

4. Apply for grants

If you’ll be offering services related to coronavirus (or your organisation has been impacted by it), there are a series of government offerings and local support grants worth exploring.

Take the time to see what’s available and apply early.

5. Review current programmes

Knowing that needs will accelerate at the same time the economy is slowing, it’s time to study recent programme performance in terms of financial outlays versus programme impacts.

What programmes have made the biggest difference? What programmes will be needed going forward?

By using your financial management system, you should be able to identify the relevant key performance indicators so your team can make smarter decisions fast.

6. Get creative with your fundraisers

Social distancing rules have forced in-person events to be postponed or cancelled across the board. This will have a serious impact on your traditional fundraising events, such as charity auctions, dinners and sporting events.

Think about how you could recreate some of these experiences online. Or, better yet, get creative and develop entirely new experiences. Tools such as Facebook Live, online meeting software, and social media can help.

7. Apply donor engagement best practices to your communications

Share your vision through powerful imagery. Make sure all of your messaging builds and reinforces your brand. Bring donors into your story with metrics that demonstrate the urgency of your mission and personal stories of how you’ve helped.

Expand your reach by ensuring your website, social media, and campaigns make it easy for people to give. Ensure you respect the current situation while being responsive.

Every donation helps, so people want to believe they are making a difference.

Looking to the future: Stay flexible and be proactive

These are unprecedented times. As a non-profit leader, you may be under pressure to balance an increased need of what your organisation does with potentially shrinking donations.

Everyone on your team needs to work together to get through these extraordinary challenges. During this time of uncertainly, your organisation needs to be flexible and proactive in order to make an impact, meet needs, and find enough funding.

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