8 ideas for business contingency planning to protect your fundraising during COVID-19

Here’s a useful article by Jackie Lawrence, Head of Marketing for Rapidata, an Access Group company, and published recently in UK Fundraising, on putting a business contingency plan in place to protect your not-for-profit’s fundraising during the coronavirus pandemic:

“As the Covid-19 crisis has changed usual working practices with staff at home, teams now separated and often with limited resources, it’s crucial that charities check and adjust their contingency plans to protect and maintain their fundraising income over the difficult weeks and possibly months to come.
Existing business contingency plans are unlikely to be set up to deal with something of this magnitude so here are some actionable points to consider to:

1. Revisit your existing strategy

While ‘the now’ requires focus, this is a situation that is going to run for some time so it’s essential to look too at your long-term planning: what happens as this continues over the next three to six months? Make sure you have forward looking plans in place and regularly revisit them as things change.

2. Keep communicating with your donors
It’s inevitable that some donors will be unable to continue supporting and many others will be extra conscious of their spending. To boost retention, it’s more important than ever to keep in touch, share what’s happening at your charity and in your work programmes, and to remind supporters of the impact of their donations and listen to their feedback and needs.

3. Strengthen your digital offering

Look too at your digital strategy to ensure you’re making it easy for people to find you, to keep up with your news and support you:
o Are you using social media effectively to communicate with supporters and the wider world?
Is your website kept up to date with important news and appeals?
o Is your site mobile optimised?!
o Does your online giving form offer supporters flexibility over how they donate, ie how much they give and how often?

4. Provide alternatives to cancelling donations
More than ever, your supporter care teams will play a vital role, providing you equip them to be able to make a difference. Empower them to offer supporters alternatives to cancellations, such as a payment holiday or a reduction in the amount they give.

5. Consider the potential reputational impact of changes
The pandemic inevitably means a lot has changed in how charities are operating. What do these changes mean for your supporters? You may be moving an event online or changing how you operate services. How are you going to present these to supporters to mitigate any reputational damage and avoid losing supporters?

6. Equip staff with everything they need to work remotely
Staff will already be working from home where they can but do they have everything they need to work effectively during a prolonged period out of the office? It may be necessary to align all staff with the same tools, for example the same video conferencing platform, file sharing, etc. Double check they can access all of the systems they’re going to need, that they have the necessary security clearances and passwords. Also, look at what support your partner providers give for workers using their systems remotely, ie is there extra security?

7. Keep talking internally

This is a fast-moving situation requiring constant reassessment and dialogue between senior management and trustees so ensure you have strong internal communications in place to facilitate this. Good organisation-wide communication is also critical for keeping all your staff up to date with what they need to know and helping them stay on the ball with latest messaging and motivated in their work when there are plenty of other distractions in the home working environment.

8. Check in with key suppliers & partners

It’s not just about what you implement in-house of course but how prepared your suppliers and partners are. Have that conversation now about what impact Covid-19 is having, or likely to have, on them and the services they provide you with. Do they have an adequate business continuity plan of their own in order to maintain their services for you?

Of course, there are many operational areas where business contingency plans may need reassessing and bolstering, but the steps outlined here will help you to mitigate the risk of losing income and supporters as we traverse the challenges of the months ahead.”