An external crisis such as COVID-19 causes significant shifts for a nonprofit’s operational and strategic funding needs and plans. Whether it’s for a campaign or operational sustainability, through a focused and clear request strategy, your organization can secure immediate support from your closest and most capable supporters without compromising future strategic funding requests. In this post, we lay out the key considerations to keep in mind when planning a combined or sequenced request.

  • Prioritize your prospects. Review the potential in your request pipeline as well as your recent major gift donors to identify which prospects you will approach for this type of request. Be guided by affinity, ability, and access. Ask: Who do we consider our insiders? Who is briefed on our long-term needs and understands our current situation? Who would be receptive to an additional or increased request? Whose support might inspire others to commit to our immediate needs?
  • Develop your connected case. You will need to articulate the need for immediate support, the importance of your strategic vision or campaign impact, and the connection between these needs. A strong and clear relationship between your immediate and long-term needs can lead to successful combined requests. Your case should address key questions, including: How much funding is needed to support your immediate operations? How will immediate annual support help advance your long term, strategic plans?
  • Lead with your mission and be transparent. As you approach your lead supporters for a combined or sequenced request, ground the request in your mission and the essentiality of your organization. Provide a clear outlook on your immediate needs and acknowledge that they may shift, given this ever-changing environment.
  • Embrace flexible strategies and gift structures. A pivoted solicitation should be rooted in flexibility. You are likely to navigate an accelerated solicitation timeline and should therefore offer your donor various giving vehicles or payment schedules to fulfill this combined or increased commitment.
  • Update and steward regularly. Demonstrating the impact of your donors’ operational support can help advance your future campaign request. Additionally, a frequent update on your immediate needs leaves the door open for additional support should your annual operations needs grow.

The Request Conversation

As you prepare for these requests, develop language to help articulate the urgent need alongside your long-term plans. Your conversation may include the following language:

  • Our organization has had to be flexible in this unprecedented time, and we anticipate we’ll need to continue to shift our plans as we respond to changes in our environment. Your partnership is critical as we navigate this situation. As one of our closest friends, we need your support to uphold our mission while advancing our campaign plans.
  • Our campaign plans remain the same, but COVID-19 has had a significant impact on our annual needs. The sooner we can address our current operating needs, the sooner we can advance our campaign mission.
  • With these needs in mind, would you be open to discussing your (future campaign commitment OR current pledge) and how you could have an impact on both our immediate needs and the future of our organization?
  • I invite you to consider a combined gift structure that provides us with immediate support while helping to activate our important long-term strategy.

Potential Gift Structures

We recommend developing several options that will allow flexibility for your donors and your organization. Based on the current prospect relationship and strategy, you can develop a combined or sequenced approach to secure funding for immediate and future needs.

Future Considerations

As you activate these combined gift strategies, keep the following questions top of mind:

  • Which donors will step up again if COVID-19 continues to impede our ability to raise our annual revenue?
  • Will our current operational need impact our campaign case, strategy, projections, and timeline?
  • What have we learned about our donors’ interests and gift structure preferences through this process?

CCS Fundraising is a strategic fundraising consulting firm that partners with nonprofits for transformational change. Members of the CCS team are highly experienced and knowledgeable across sectors, disciplines, and regions. With offices throughout the United States and the world, our unique, customized approach provides each client with an embedded team member for the duration of the engagement. To access our full suite of perspectives, publications, and reports, visit our insights page. To learn more about CCS Fundraising’s suite of services, click here.

CCS Fundraising is a consulting firm that works with nonprofits. We provide campaign counsel, strategic planning, and other services to strengthen development efforts for charities.

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About the Author

Maeve Riley is an Assistant Vice President with CCS Fundraising. Maeve has over 12 years of experience in nonprofit management and philanthropic advising in the health, social service, cultural, and higher education sectors. Maeve specializes in campaign planning and management, strategic planning and capacity building, staff and board training, and major and principal gift strategy. She holds a Masters of Science in Nonprofit Management from DePaul University and a Bachelors of Science in Sociology from Santa Clara University.