Looking for the Silver Lining: Nonprofits & Adapting to the Coronavirus

These are extraordinary times. The Coronavirus, or COVID-19 pandemic, continues to have a major impact on just about every aspect of our daily lives. Visit any website, tune in to any newscast and you’re bound to see something about it. Some of the information is helpful. Some of it isn’t. All of it is a bit frightening. Schools are closed. Restaurants, except for take-out are closed. Grocery stores have ever-decreasing limited supplies. Vast numbers of people are sheltering in place and taking steps to self-quarantine. Beyond the fear of becoming sick, we’re also dealing with the financial havoc of COVID-19.

There is no denying that this pandemic is changing life as we know it. It’s scary stuff for everyone, but especially for nonprofit organizations that depend on contributions and volunteers.

What’s a nonprofit organization to do? Nonprofit Megaphone (NPM) has a glass-half-full kind of attitude, but we’re also realistic. Like most situations, there’s usually a proverbial silver lining or opportunities to be had. If you’re thinking I must be crazy to suggest this, hear me out.

The Google Advantage

With so many people working remotely and sheltering in place, there are likely more people than ever checking in with Google. Think about it. They’re using a personal computer, so they’re no longer restricted by firewalls blocking them from social media sites, etc. That means they can do Google searches to their heart’s content and visit your social media sites as much as they want. Make sure to have fresh content on your site and use your social media sites to connect visitors to your website. If applicable, let visitors know ways in which your organization is helping people cope with the situation. Use the opportunity to tell your story. Talk with your NPM grant manager about ways to take your account up a notch to capitalize on this opportunity. If you don’t have a Google Ad Grant, reach out and find out how we can help you.

 Biology Lessons

Humans have a  tendency to want to help in times of need. For every headline about a national or global disaster or tragedy, there are as many stories about people mobilizing to support organizations. Events such as the pandemic we’re dealing with often compel us to respond to online pleas for help and organized fundraising events. It’s not just that it’s the right thing to do and makes us feel better, there is actually research evidence that specific areas of our brain activate when we behave altruistically, meaning we’re hard-wired, or programmed biologically to give. Biology aside, there are many practical benefits for communities that unite during a crisis.

Empowering in vulnerability
Tragic events are an unfortunate part of daily life that can trigger our own vulnerabilities. We feel a loss of control and a sense of powerlessness. It enables us to empathize with those affected and want to reach out to help. Doing that gives us an opportunity to reestablish feelings of power and control.

Suffering together
Humans are social beings, designed to live cooperatively. This is a practical way to collect and share resources, as well as being important to our physical and emotional wellbeing. While tragedies are devastating to those who are directly affected, as well as those who are a witness to the events, the social and empathetic nature of our humanity manifests during these times. A crisis can instill fear and isolation, but community resilience flourishes as we connect with others.

Show the Love
Do whatever you can to increase your engagement with your donors, volunteers and staff.  

  • Donors: This is a good time to remember that sometimes it’s not about the money. Don’t make your donors feel as though the only time you contact them is for a contribution. Consider phone calls to your mid-to-high-level contributors to let them know you’re thinking about them during these stressful and uncertain times, ask if they’re okay, and make sure they know how much you appreciate them especially during challenging times. Consider holding virtual meetings with major and corporate donors. Google and Microsoft are offering their conferencing tools free of charge, and GoToMeeting is also offering its remote work tool for free for three months.
  • Volunteers: You can never thank volunteers enough. Thank them. Then, thank them again. They could easily stay at home, but they’re choosing to risk their health for your cause.
  • Staff: Your staff will be under extra pressure to pick up the slack wherever it appears. Be intentional about finding ways to show your love and appreciation for everything they do.

Share the Journey

This is not the time to be territorial. Think things through with other fundraising professionals. All nonprofits are searching for ways to effectively reach their target audience and continue to engage their donor base. Sharing ideas will bring forth the creation of more ideas and only help each other. There are many in need and many more opportunities for people to help.

This is a time to reinforce to your members, supporters and visitors that we’re all in this together and that, together we can and will find ways to support each other and mitigate the negative impact on all of us. There has never been a better time to demonstrate your leadership in your industry.

 See, it isn’t such a crazy suggestion! Stay healthy!

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