Healthcare institutions around the world are currently doing everything they can to combat the COVID-19 crisis, and they are doing so while also ensuring that other essential programs, such as cancer research, rare disease prevention/treatment, and other lifesaving services remain active for the sake of all of their patients. Many healthcare organizations are therefore asking how to best communicate the continued importance of these programs during this pandemic.

Advocates and friends of these programs – as well as nonprofit organizations and philanthropists dedicated to providing healthcare for all of those in need – can fill the funding gap and ensure treatment for those whose lives depend on it by executing on tried and true practices.

Communicate about the disruption

This is a critical time for healthcare organizations to communicate their needs to donors and prospects. Don’t be surprised if their response is more positive than anticipated. The current health crisis and its economic impact have been so disruptive to our daily lives that many philanthropists want to understand the entirety of its effects on their community’s nonprofits. Sometimes organizations intuitively feel the need to postpone communications while they resolve the uncertainty that affects their work. Yet it is exactly in times like these that need more information is needed, not less.

Communication will help individuals to understand how they can continue to be a part of the organization. Provide regular updates. Help the broader community understand how they can do more in this period. Invite them to respond creatively, to serve as advocates and fundraisers when armed with updated information about your organization. Use these advocates and volunteers to tell stories that demonstrate how you continue to deliver on your mission by repositioning services in the current environment. Share how some patients are still being helped. Explain what it means for individuals who can’t receive a critical healthcare service and how their world is different because of the suspension or shortfall of lifesaving healthcare service.

Articulate the impact through numbers and narrative

Help potential donors understand how the current disruption will affect the budget of the specific program in question. Provide updated fundraising forecasts as soon as possible. Events are being postponed every day. Embrace that and share what you are doing to replace the lost revenue. If major gift requests have been postponed, project the impact the delay will cause and when solicitation of prospects in the pipeline will resume. But don’t just message a general need for money. Address the costs required to maintain services, the investment made to pivot to an online model, explain ways in which you have reduced expenses, and articulate your vision for the short and long term.

Cast the net wider and innovate

With so many organizations depending on fundraising events for annual revenue, their wholesale cancellation presents multiple challenges. It causes a shortfall in relationship building, enhancing public awareness, stewarding donors and volunteers, and fundraising for crucial revenue needs. Yet, the current crisis offers other healthcare programs a unique opportunity to rethink their fundraising model. Consider other ways to strengthen relationships, thank valued members of the community, increase visibility, and raise funds:

  • You may be able to hold an annual event virtually.
  • Perhaps you can conduct an awareness drive to educate the broader community about the program and the unique challenges the current environment presents.
  • Set aside dedicated time for one-on-one conversations with prospective donors and ask them for a special gift, above and beyond their normal giving, to support the cause during these challenging times.
  • Encourage volunteers to reach out to their networks and identify potential new donors.
  • Consider reaching deeper into the organization’s database to connect with past donors who haven’t been heard from in a while. Are they open to returning as a donor given the unique situation?
  • Let people who have given in the past understand what challenges you face now. It might be that a family impacted by an illness in the past understand might be receptive to making a special gift during these unusual times.

Does your organization need assistance with ensuring fundraising support for all of your programs? Contact CCS today.

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.

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About the Authors

Julia Siebel is an assistant vice president with CCS. She has more than two decades of experience in the nonprofit sector that has focused on empowering communities through effective action and capacity building. Her work spans the sectors of education, membership organizations, social services, and health care. She holds her Ph.D. in U.S. History and Women’s Studies from the University of Southern California.

Christopher Smith serves CCS clients in Southern California. He came to fundraising after working in the financial industry and serving a number of faith-based organizations. Christopher holds a Master of Divinity from New York Theological Seminary and a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and Accounting from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.