On March 30, nearly 450 non-profit professionals, consultants and agencies from around the country gathered for the DMFA’s webinar on direct mail and digital fundraising during the public health crisis caused by COVID-19. The webinar was moderated by Karin Kirchoff, President of K2D Strategies, featuring Steve Abrahamson, Vice President, Direct Response at National Audubon Society, Larry May, Senior Vice President at Infogroup, and Madeline Stanionis, Partner at M+R.

While the scale of this crisis is unprecedented, Larry reminded attendees that we should be guided by lessons learned from previous calamities, such as the 9/11 terror attacks and the Great Recession. With direct mail, he recommended that non-profits stay focused on successful techniques; now may not be the time to test. Continue to emphasize the mission and work, but address the impact of the crisis on the organization. Expect softer response and make realistic projections. But remember, if an appeal or acquisition mailing is skipped, the non-profit may never regain the revenue it would have generated, plus it could be challenging to add new mailings later without sacrificing other efforts or the quality of the audience.

Madeline provided the following digital trends: fundraising is okay, ads are doing fine, social media is on fire, and virtual events and -thons are EVERYTHING! For virtual events, aside from having the technology that works, figure out how to bring the “cool” from your real-time event to your virtual event. She also recommended that organizations look to new tools — video conferencing software, SMS, and atypical social media platforms like Tik Tok — to help with fundraising and engagement. Go where the people who care about what you’re doing are “gathering.” Remember, in digital channels, you can (and should) change the cadence and tone of fundraising to reflect the news and what people are feeling.

At the National Audubon Society, Steve shared that they are still making asks via digital and mail, while showing love and concern for their supporters by bringing joy without asks. Not every organization has happy content, but “joy” could be a thank you or testimonial. Audubon’s efforts right now are being guided by three questions, which all non-profits could ask: Is it still relevant? Does it acknowledge the new context of the week (or day)? And how will it be received?

All presenters agreed that non-profit organizations should stay the course! Bring joy, keep communicating, and don’t stop fundraising!

Watch the webinar for free here. 

By Shayla L. Titley, Director of Membership, Central Park Conservancy