What the #$%& is Happening? Marketing Your Nonprofit During Coronavirus

Week one of staying home during the coronavirus pandemic is officially over. I don’t know about you, but with all the changes, announcements and uncertainty it already feels like it’s been a month. This week, nonprofits have had to make tough decisions. Decisions based on an evolving timeline and where no answer is perfect. While we are all living apart, there is a new feeling of closeness amongst our communities, a strength knowing we are all going through the unknown together. 

When it comes to marketing your nonprofit right now it can feel awkward. What are the marketing rules during a pandemic? Are you supposed to pretend everything’s normal? Are you supposed to only communicate if it is COVID-19 related? While I’m still figuring it out myself, here’s a few things I’ve learned this week.

Take your fundraiser online, but only solicit if appropriate 

One of my clients was supposed to have a 5K fundraiser this week to raise funds for utility assistance. While the event was cancelled late last week, funds are needed now more than ever. Low-income households who already struggle to make ends meet are now home more often and increasing their utility usage while losing out on wages. The case for this organization to take their fundraiser online was obvious, and in light of the situation, actually increased funding. This is a time when doing a facebook fundraiser can be super successful as people are looking for ways to help and can easily share or give from their smartphone.

I know every nonprofit out there is nervous and taking a hit right now, but if you don’t provide a service that is an urgent need right now, I’d say take a step back from the limelight. For example, I received a solicitation for an after school program this week and it just didn’t feel right. While I support this organization and its mission, people in our community are in survival mode. Right now, donors want to help causes that directly affect small businesses, low income families, healthcare workers and just make sure everyone has a roof over their head and food in their bellies. While I think there will be time for organizations who provide educational programming and development to solicit too, at this moment, we have to think about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

maslows hierarchy of needs

Video and social media can help us still feel connected

Could you imagine going through this whole thing without social media and the technology we have available today? I think a lot of us are coping by staying close to our loved ones and community through social media and video chatting. Many nonprofits and businesses are turning to Facebook Live, Instagram Live, and YouTube to continue delivering their services. 

A fitness studio I follow on Instagram is recording classes daily and they’re free to stream – that’s smart marketing! I’ve been contemplating going to the studio and now I can try a week for free? Heck yes! Nonprofits with programming can use this example to connect with their audience in lieu of solicitations. Stream weekly live sessions of your programming your clients can watch and participate in. I recommend making it inclusive and available to everyone, not just your clients or paying participants – you might actually increase your clientbase in the long run.

I also recommend Facebook Live for organizations delivering critical services right now. If you provide food, utility or any other assistance, hop on for a couple minutes to give an update. You’ll increase your reach and your community will feel more connected. 

Don’t overwhelm your audience, be clear and concise

How many emails from businesses have you gotten in a day about coronavirus since the outbreak started? How many have you actually read? We are getting so many messages right now and everything is changing so fast, it’s better to be clear and concise with your message and only send essential messaging. After your initial announcement, don’t send another email unless there have been drastic changes to your program. People are so overwhelmed trying to settle into this new normal and don’t need another email unless it’s absolutely necessary and has concrete information that won’t change in less than 24 hours.

Don’t feel pressured – you don’t need to have this solved today 

Like I’ve mentioned, news is ever changing and folks are in survival mode. Now is more of an appropriate time than ever to admit you don’t know something. While we wait to figure out if communities will go on lockdown or if schools will reopen soon, just sit tight and take it one day at a time. You can create some contingency plans and play out some what-if scenarios but just know, no one knows what is going on right now. If you don’t know when you will resume programming or if your event will be offered in a few months, that’s okay! We’re all in this together and understand! Just keep that clear, concise, and essential information coming and your audience will be fine.

What have you learned this first week? A lot has happened and I’m sure we will continue to learn and adapt our communication as the weeks go on. Times are weird but this past week has also reminded me our communities have heart, nature is amazing medicine, and being able to hug your friends and family is easy to take for granted. 

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