Catherine Brooks, Community Directors Council member and senior advisor at Wendy Brooks & Partners, helped produce the landmark report, The Big Rethink: Fundraising in the era of COVID-19. In this piece, Catherine examines how organisations might adapt some of the lessons of the past year to the new “COVID-normal” world.
It’s been a strange year in many ways.
For many not-for-profit organisations the focus of 2020 was often about survival. You may have spent a lot of time trying to do more with less or finding new ways of doing things.
At the same time, many funders modified their grant rounds to provide funding relief for COVID-19-affected individuals, organisations and communities.
But that was 2020. Many of us are now cautiously resuming our normal rhythms and life patterns and enjoying a return to socialisation and intermittent time in the office.
Funders, meanwhile, are reviewing their focus areas to see where their money can make the most impact and returning their attention to long-term relationships and funding arrangements. At Wendy Brooks & Partners we are heartened by their work to champion important causes, including reassessing their communities’ needs to see what is still required by COVID-19-affected communities. This is exciting to see.
With all this in mind, we believe that there are three things not-for-profits must focus on in 2021 to secure the funding your organisation deserves:
- Engagement with your community;
- Continuing to apply for funds; and,
- Building up your relationships with funders.
Engage with your community
Social media can help you reach the people you serve, as well their families and friends, and your broader support base (including potentially new faces). Use it!
Regularly communicate with the people you serve about changes to your service offering, benefits of your programs, and ways that they can keep in touch with your organisation.
Speak to supporters about your work, the needs of your community, your achievements, and your challenges – the areas in which you could use more support. Those that aren’t able to give now will appreciate being included in your messaging and will think of you when they are ready to give. Those that are able to give now will appreciate knowing what they can do to support you and where their money may go.
Potential funders from grants and trusts also keenly read communications from not-for-profit organisations.
Continue applying for funds
We have heard from multiple funders that applications are down 30% at the moment, even though we know that there is greater need, particularly for those communities hardest hit by COVID-19.
While it is understandable that many organisations had to focus on service delivery and organisational changes last year, this also meant that some organisations didn’t prioritise fundraising.
We implore you, apply for those grants! As the saying goes, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
This also means you should make the time to write solid project business plans and applications.
Build up relationships with funders
If you have applied for a grant and weren’t successful, don’t let that be the end of it.
Recently we encouraged one of our clients to contact a funder and ask why their application wasn’t successful and what further information would be beneficial to help the funder turn their answer from a “no” into a “yes”. Through that conversation, our client was able to talk to the funder about their important work. Later that day, the funder came back to the client offering a smaller (but still helpful) grant to kickstart the relationship.
It takes time and effort to build up trust with a funder, but in our experience it is well worth the effort.
Catherine Brooks recently presented the Big Rethink webinar to help inspire and guide organisations through this year's fundraising season. Timed to pre-empt the end-of-financial year donations spike, the webinar covered topics such as: assessing your fundraising “assets”, approaching priority markets, applying the principles outlined in The Big Rethink, growing your digital capacity, new research, and the new fundraising landscape.
Webinar: Register to watch the webinar now
Publication: The Big Rethink: Fundraising in the era of COVID-19
Article: Catherine Brooks: How to build great relationships with funders
Strategy: Catherine Brooks and other members of the Community Directors Council spell out COVID-19 priorities