By Kyle Schnurbusch, OrgStory Partner & Director
Four elements of your story that tell donors how your organization became even stronger in 2020.
Regardless of why your organization exists, 2020 has been a challenging year. As you consider how to summarize the past year to your donor community through year-end appeals, letters, emails, phone calls or even annual reports, consider changing the narrative from describing only a year filled with challenges to one that also helped your organization become even stronger.
Consider sharing one or all of the following with your donor community:
1) Reflect on lessons learned, but focus on how it’s made your impact stronger.
Your organization undoubtedly learned important lessons in 2020. Maybe there were blind spots in your mission or programs that neglected certain needs of your clients; or, maybe you over, or under, communicated with your donors as critical changes and challenges occurred. Whatever the lessons learned, use them to let donors know your organization created new solutions to further strengthen your mission.
It’s important not to let 2020 “hijack” your organization’s ongoing purpose, vision and mission — be sure to not only share what your organization has become, but more importantly, what it is becoming.
2) Recognize and celebrate long-time supporters and first-time donors that make your organization’s work possible — especially through a pandemic.
The rapid outbreak of COVID-19 in late March and the economic turmoil that followed left nonprofit leaders scrambling. For most organizations, client calls for help were exploding while at the same time, stay-at-home orders created challenges to serve those in need. Some organizations were forced to curtail, or even pause, some of the services and programs for clients. Many organizations were faced with a disruption in their fund development activities — key events canceled, postponed or done differently or virtually; donors that lost their jobs; funders being inundated with funding requests. For many, it was hard to know where to turn.
In our work, we’ve heard stories of long-time donors increasing their gifts or making a special gift during the pandemic. We’ve also heard of family foundations, churches and individuals becoming first-time donors to help nonprofits respond to the needs of those they serve. Make it a point to celebrate long-time and first-time donors and share the impact their support made to your organization’s story. And be sure to invite them to continue to be part of your story in the years to come.
3) Communicate how COVID-19 influenced new ways of doing your work and revealed old ways that no longer work.
Over the past seven months leaders have embraced the new things COVID-19 has made them consider to their programs, services, staff, locations and funding. Be sure to share those stories and the impact they are making to your operations and to those you serve. But equally important, share stories about things in your organization that COVID-19 has helped reveal the need for changing, or even discontinuing.
4) Share your organization’s strategic priorities for 2021.
The next few months offer a chance for your organization to affirm or modify its strategic priorities in light of the “new normal” COVID-19 has presented. Affirm your organization’s priorities and share any modifications to those priorities with your staff, board and donor community so they can reset and re-energize themselves about the important work still-to-come.
How are you planning on communicating with your donor community in the next few months? Share your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org