Show Up. Strategy and Consumption During COVID-19.

By Julia

What is happening in the world right now is unpredictable and confusing.

It’s hard to fully wrap your head around. Each day, week, and month, that pass can feel either endless or like time is giving you whiplash.

Crises on a massive scale are, unfortunately, not uncommon. Whether it be drought, famine, widespread illness, or war, countless people around the world are afflicted with immeasurable hardship. The impact of COVID-19 is different in the sense that it’s felt on a global scale; no matter who you are or where you live, the effects of this pandemic are impossible to hide from. Even the most ardent protestors are impacted by closures and general disorganization and inaction from the Federal government. That said, it is necessary to acknowledge that the impact of COVID is not distributed equally, as race and class play a larger part in the systemic inequities that have, for too long, limited access to healthcare and resources.

On that note, many folks working minimum wage jobs have been deemed essential, even without adequate compensation or hazard pay. And these essential workers, in hospitals, healthcare facilitates, food production roles etc., are showing up for the rest of us in big ways. Concurrently, some nonprofits have become beacons and the focus of global “from home” concerts and national fundraising efforts. Others are hard hit, crossing their fingers that their bank has the bandwidth to process their Payment Protection Program application and that they will be able to keep their doors open. Right now, there are more questions than answers when trying to put a fine point on “industry trends” in terms of fundraising and financial forecasting.

It’s hard to navigate real, tangible ways to assess what is happening in the world of philanthropy and what it means for your organization beyond today, let alone next week or next month.

ThinkShout has been sprinting to keep up, providing routine support, stable hosting for websites as traffic spikes (depending on the daily news), and supporting your teams in finding creative ways to stand out from the crowd. We hear many questions across nonprofit sectors related to analytics and leveraging existing functionality to elevate key messages and core needs.

How do we know what works?

Should we pivot our long term strategies based on the behaviors we are seeing right now?

That organization over there is killing it, how can we do something similar?

We wish we could provide definitive answers, but we can’t. What we can do is highlight some things we are seeing that work and support you and your teams in thinking through strategic approaches to use what you have in new and different ways.

Analyzing your Digital Ecosystem

We have always been, and will always be, huge proponents of data. Do everything in your power to set up tracking on everything you do–social media, email marketing, website workflows etc. More data means more informed decisions. However, we are witnessing many unique moments in time right now. Data trends are all over the map. We recommend you don’t make any drastic decisions about your long term strategies, but instead focus on the day to day pivots that can ebb and flow with the ever changing flux of COVID-19 information. Pretend your organization is responding directly to the daily DOW report. 99% of people have no idea what is happening, or why. They are reacting in the moment and you need to be there to catch them.

Highlighting Key Content

One thing that is akin to gold in data currency is an assessment of what content your constituents are consuming. So, pay close attention. If you have a blog post, a campaign, a press release or an article that is getting traffic, use it. Make sure you have a relevant call to action (CTA) on every piece of content that is attracting attention. Measure conversions by setting up ‘Events’ or ‘Goals’ in your Google Analytics. Try some A/B testing while you have heightened traffic to optimize for the best conversions.

You can’t lose here. There are plenty of tools that are free that you can easily layer on top of your existing website or splash page. Google Optimize has COVID-19 specific tooling that they are offering for free. HelloBar is another free tool (you can pay to remove the watermark) that allows you to quickly set up full page takeovers, redirects, alert bars etc. on your site.

Surveys and Segmentation

This can be labor intensive. We know. But by closely monitoring who is signing up for your lists, following up with both existing and new file members and segmenting your communication as much as possible, you could see a huge impact.

Columbia Riverkeeper in Hood River, OR has been using their Drupal 8 site, Salsa Engage forms, and hands on staff to send email surveys to different subsets of their mailing list. This has resulted in:

  • Prioritized programming needs and in the field organizing;
  • More targeted fundraising campaigns;
  • Personal phone calls from appropriate staff members to key donors;
  • A virtual event series based on expressed interest;
  • And ultimately a clear uptick in list building and donation conversion.

Your survey doesn’t have to be complicated. If you have time to ask three key questions, or even just one, it will get you more insights and information than if you skipped it altogether. Asking questions never hurts!

Heavily Personalized Donation Follow Ups

Call your donors. We got some bad information in the middle of 2019 that calling donors directly wasn’t all that effective. Not true. Now more than ever (we know, it’s overused) people are seeking a personal connection. They want to know that what they are doing with their money is making an impact. And they want to hear that from your president or your development director, not a canned message from a volunteer reading a script. Obviously, this tactic needs to be used sparingly– you likely don’t have the time or resources to be calling everyone. But if you use the research and be strategic, leveraging your time to connect with people over the phone will pay off.

Cascade Bicycle Club has been sending out targeted campaigns with clear CTAs to donate. Mike is a huge supporter of all things biking and was compelled to give. He got a call from a board member and has been telling everyone about how nice it was. If you make your supporters feel like Mike, donations are bound to follow.

Share your Story

There are no silver bullets right now. Times are difficult, and things we were previously sure of are turning into unknowns on a daily basis. We are all working overtime to try and fill in the gaps, show up for ourselves, and show up for each other. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have your own story to share. Embracing our successes as equally as our failures will allow us to learn from, and with, each other.