After COVID-19 Will There Be a “New Normal” for Donors? | Sharpe Group
Posted June 4th, 2020

After COVID-19 Will There Be a “New Normal” for Donors?

In some parts of the country, governors and locally elected mayors are developing phased-in programs as “safe-at-home” orders are beginning to expire. As it appears, these elected officials are allowing their local businesses and nonprofit organizations to begin to return to, what many are calling, “the new normal.”

At Sharpe Group, we have been inspired to develop new, creative approaches to help our clients maintain personal contacts with donors while observing safe-at-home practices and social distancing. We are asking ourselves, “How will current and/or deferred major gift donors’ behavior change as a result the pandemic?”

During the past few months, I have observed how technology has taken the lead in providing alternatives to the face-to-face meetings so many of us are accustomed to. Being a baby boomer, I had few prior virtual meeting experiences. Now I can say I have been in more Zoom meetings and attended more virtual conferences in the last three months than I have in my entire life!

Because older donors have been the most vulnerable to COVID-19, those over age 60, and especially those with diminished immune systems, may be reluctant to have face-to-face meetings or even small group meetings, such as legacy society events, even after the pandemic is under control.

So, what are some ways we believe nonprofits can modify past practices in the “new normal”?

Communicate with your donors differently.

The frequency and form of donor communications should be consistent and varied according to audience. Perhaps most importantly, the message should resonate with the reader. Sending the same publication to a large number of donors based on a single criterion, such as age, will not generate the responses desired.

The donor constituency needs to be refined by more critical attributes. This can be accomplished by processing your donor data history through machine learning software platforms.

Earlier this year, Sharpe Group invested in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to enable our clients to make communication decisions based on AI results. We are calling this service “Augmented Intelligence.”

AI results produce more targeted messaging with a call to action that will resonate with the greatest number of a smaller group of donors. We use Augmented Intelligence to perceive more similar segments of donors to increase responses from each group.

Our editors, who interact continually with nonprofits with diverse missions and donor constituencies, work with our experienced graphic designers to produce communication pieces that will resonate with each group of donors to create a blend of printed and electronic publications. Some are in the traditional newsletter style, some in the postcard format and some in an origami style that has to be unfolded for the full message.

We have found the format, style and media must be varied so the donor doesn’t hit the “delete” key or make an immediate deposit to “File 13,” the waste basket.

Maximize your staff.

The importance of recruiting, training, empowering and evaluating fundraising personnel and their performance metrics will be even more crucial in the days ahead. Sharpe Group has developed a service to provide better position benchmarks for fundraising personnel.

This service evaluates the strength of each individual in their position. Based on their strengths and needs, a training plan is developed featuring modules and videos and can be tracked in a dashboard by the development VP.

This service has been designed to assist management in evaluating personnel effectively, identifying strengths and training needs and targeting solutions to improve the effectiveness of your development team. It can also identify areas, such as fundraising strategies, that would benefit from Sharpe’s consulting expertise.

The key to successfully maximizing your staff is to build a team of individuals with the strength, knowledge and experience to carry out your mission. Equally important is your staff’s ability to obtain gifts and gift commitments.

For those nonprofits operating with reduced staff, the workload on those remaining can become overwhelming. Sharpe Group can assist in this area and help you maintain necessary donor contacts. For more information about this service, contact us.

Overall, we have witnessed how this pandemic has shown the resiliency of our citizens and has demonstrated how caring our culture is. At Sharpe Group, we are honored to serve those, like you, who serve society.

Kind regards,
Jim Ross
Chairman, CEO

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The publisher of Sharpe Insights is not engaged in rendering legal or tax advisory service. For advice and assistance in specific cases, the services of your own counsel should be obtained. Articles in Sharpe Insights may generally be reprinted for distribution to board members and staff of nonprofit institutions and other non-donor groups. Proper credit must be given. Call for details.

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