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Charity fundraising in the Corona Virus era.

In the past month the fundraising landscape has changed dramatically.


With social distancing, self-isolation and now lockdown in effect, face-to-face fundraising events have been cancelled. From the Virgin London Marathon to coffee mornings and fun runs, these avenues of income have been removed for the time being and no real idea on when they may be reinstated.


Charity income is dropping fast and yet the need for charitable work – both domestic and international – has increased dramatically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Charities need to act fast to replace funding streams and maintain and increase services.


However there is a reluctance in the air – is it ok to ask for donations when everyone is struggling themselves?


There is no doubt that just as COVID-19 has had a huge impact on public health and community safety, the economy has also taken a hit. Many people have lost their jobs or income, are under extra financial pressure and quite simply sick or at least worried sick.


In my opinion, asking for donations as a Corona Virus Appeal is essential. There is a need for help that has been caused by a crisis. In recent days, many charities have begun to slowly launch appeals asking for donations in order to continue providing services to meet growing need.


This is a sensitive time. People are struggling and the perception of charities and their asks is different to usual.


Charity perception during the Corona Virus pandemic.


nfP Synergy, the research consultancy for charities, recently conducted a short public poll during the run-up to the UK lockdown (22nd – 24th March 2020). The results looked at the public’s opinion of charities during the COVID-19 pandemic and make for interesting reading.


According to the poll, the public’s biggest current concern is the COVID-19 virus – as to be expected. The effect on the NHS, followed by Climate Change and Brexit came next.


Personal financial security ranked high as the 5th biggest concern (29%) which is telling as to the how the current landscape may affect charitable appeals.


People are concerned for the economic wellbeing, leaving less opportunity and funds to be concerned about others.


In terms of trusting information sources, 90% trust the information coming out from the NHS and 73% trust that coming from the Government. However only 53% trust information put out by charities which is low and could make things difficult for charities moving forward and asking for funds.


In terms of charitable causes, those with the most obvious connection to health and the Corona virus are the most trustworthy and valuable according to the poll. Cancer research development and charities which serve the elderly were the highest ranking. Only 7% of respondents would consider donating towards oversea aid or development and only 5% for refugees.


What has been shown to be encouraging though is that regular donors are much more likely than the general public to consider giving to a charity appeal during the current situation. This perhaps should not be surprising, the relationship with these donors has already been established and for the sake of ease, many may choose a familiar charity again.


So how should this information be handled?


Constructing your Corona Virus charity appeal.


The tone of voice and approach that you take with your appeal communications is very important. Here are 4 points to consider:


Relevance:

As the poll has shown, relevance to the current crisis is more likely to be successful in gathering donations. For charities such as Age UK, this is quite clear and straightforward. For an international aid charity, the relevance to donor personal health and circumstance needs to be made clear. Concentrating on eliminating the global spread of COVID-19 is best for all our health so this should be made clear in the ask. Concrete information on what donations will go towards (hygiene kits, ventilators) will be far more effective than vague details.


Urgency:

Conveying a sense of urgency (of which there no doubt is!) is tricky. You should not come across as badgering your donors. However, messaging which helps them to understand the direct impact their action now could have, is important. Look at your different communication channels and the monetary size of your ask. Asking for smaller donations from a wider audience via mobile could be more effective than larger sums and asks.


Supportive tone:

It is important to show an understanding of your donor’s personal circumstance, however they may be affected. Some will simply not be in a position to make even a small donation. Others may be sick or caring for someone who is sick. Everyone is worried. A supportive tone that recognises the audience struggles and impact of COVID-19 on the UK is essential to avoid alienating or even angering donors.


Thanking your donors:

Your regular donor-base is likely to be more receptive to your messaging. Therefore it is also important to ensure you thank your donors for their contributions and support over the last year and feedback to them what their money achieved. You may like to keep the main message of your communications to just this and keep the ask as a sub or secondary message. If you are planning multiple communications or an email sequence, I would definitely recommend starting with support, feedback and thanks. Be prepared to adapt your email sequence as the situation continues to unfold within the UK.


Bear these points in mind as you decide on your fundraising efforts going forward. There will need to be more reliance on digital fundraising than before, so creativity and consistency will be important in ensuring your capture attention in the right way.


If you need some advice or would like help with your fundraising copy – whether donor retention or a direct appeal – please do just get in touch at: louisebuttcopy@gmail.com

You can read the full poll results from nfP Synergy here.

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