Your donors want to help, so let them!

Your donors want to help, so let them!

Apr 3, 2020 | Crisis, Marc Middleton-Heath

With the country in lockdown and many jobs uncertain, it might feel a strange time to ask for donations. But many of your supporters will be desperate to help. So it’s time to launch appeals and help people act.

When the country first went into lockdown, one of the first things people worried about was the desperate plight of people on the streets. We helped Crisis launch an emergency campaign and within a week, people had donated more than £500,000. The total is rising every day as loyal supporters and new donors rush to help.

The coronavirus outbreak has prompted a huge outpouring of kindness and generosity up and down the country. We’ve seen people on their doorsteps wildly applauding the NHS; countless offers of help being shoved through the doors of elderly neighbours; community hubs inundated with offers of support.

Yes, everyone is worried about their family, friends and local community, and it’s vital you acknowledge that in any communications. But people have big hearts and as the coronavirus outbreak takes hold, they want to help people who are most vulnerable.

Help people to act

At Catalyst, we’re busy launching a range of emergency appeals. With clients in international development we’re used to turning things around fast. It means quick decision making, minimal amends and no-nonsense creative. The result is appeals that materialise in hours, not months. Start with digital so you can reach supporters now. Follow with a pack as quickly as you can.

It’s important we get the tone right. In a time of crisis like this, it’s less about asking for donations and more about building a movement of people who care. It’s our mantra anyway, but in these uncertain times, it matters more than ever.

We’re talking about the coronavirus, and beyond. We all know it could take months for this to pass – and it’ll take even longer for vulnerable people to rebuild their lives. With an unpredictable future looming, our clients need regular givers, and that will shape our appeals too.

Building new relationships

Life may feel daunting, but it’s also a time of opportunity for our sector, for people to see us at our best, to see how important the Third Sector is. We’re communicating with many new donors for the first time. It’s a chance to see if people want to get involved in a whole range of vital activities, from volunteering to campaigning. Our clients can raise awareness of all their vital work to a whole new audience who are keen for information genuinely interested.

Crunch time for charities

It’s not an easy time for our sector. Charities are expecting to lose around a third of their income over the next three months, due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s no surprise Karl Wilding, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, told MPS yesterday that the NCVO has been “inundated with calls for help”

With charities more involved in public services than ever before, demand for support is going up already. It’s hard to think which beneficiaries won’t be affected by COVID-19, and our clients are desperate to meet this new demand.

PM Boris Johnson has promised a “package of measures” for our sector and charities can take advantage of the many government policies designed to ease the pressure.

But my guess is donors have got your back. Some people might not be able to afford to help anymore, and it’s vital we are deeply respectful of that. But many will want to donate, volunteer and campaign. It’s the reason they got involved with a charity in the first place, and when the chips are down, they want to help more than ever.

It’s heart breaking when charities struggle, when they can’t meet demand and beneficiaries go without. So act when you can – people want to make a difference and we need to help them do it.
Put simply, we must reach out to supporters, be respectful, show understanding and explain why help is needed. This is a tough time for everyone. We need to come together. Don’t bandwagon – every situation is unique so rely on your fundraising instincts when you decide whether to run a campaign. But, if there is a need, make the case and appreciate your donor.

Marc Middleton-Heath
Managing Director, Catalyst.
3rd April 2020

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