Today, I served as a panelist as part of a weekly Zoom series that Philanthropy Miami is offering as a service to the nonprofit community in Miami.  We had nearly 30 professionals from a wide variety of organizations such as those providing social services assistance within the Haitian community to those providing comfort to families with sick children to those focused on education and the arts.

This is the first in a three-part series exploring the most pressing questions we received from our participants.

What is the number 1 thing a nonprofit should be doing right now?

When donors are surveyed, a typical question would be “Why did you stop giving?” or “What motivated/motivates you to give?”

Invariably, donors that stop giving do so because they did not feel connected to the non-profit’s mission, organization or staff team.

The Number #1 thing you should do right now is  call everyone to check in.

  1. Establish a communications plan for all of your stakeholders: employees, donors, community partners.  Not suggesting a plan that takes a month to put together.  Make it quick and actionable.  One page, MAX, per audience.  Feature your main messages by audience.
  2. Avoid improvisation when discussing the situation within your organization and what you are doing now and what you need now.  These points should be clear, honest, and hopeful.
  3. Provide these talking points to everyone on your team that will be making these outreach calls.
  4. Encourage open dialog when asking how each employee/donor/partner is doing and sharing how you are feeling.
  5. Update your CRM for the details from these conversations. Note any way in which your organization can be helpful.

Many non-profits are also wondering how to/if to add solicitations to their communications plans at this moment.  This is a tough call. Organizations with frontline impact (food; healthcare; protecting vulnerable populations) should be actively fundraising, and their communications should prominently feature their urgent needs and impact. For those organizations outside of these immediate needs, consider how or if your work has an immediate impact and could be positioned in your communications as such. For those non-profits without an immediate, direct impact, consider how your communications (emails, social posts) can be framed so that you articulate the value of your organization in the community, even if it’s not on the front page now. If your organization is not on the frontline, you and your leadership team may consider offering your development team to assist another non-profit that is stretched beyond it’s capacity and needs assistance to activate more donations.

Beyond your communications plan, consider how you might amplify your expressions of encouragement and gratitude, via photos or videos.  ThankView is a great tool that my clients have used to personalize messages of thanks and to engage their donors. What other creative ideas can you develop to recognize and thank your donors?

In 2008, I worked in development at United Way and we were in the midst of the Great Recession.  The fundraising environment was challenging yet we still needed to connect with our donors, so we launched the Loyal Contributor program to thank donors with ten or more years of giving support.  Red feathers had been a symbol of United Giving in the days of the United Fund and Community Chest, both predecessor organizations to United Way, so we gave each Loyal Contributor a red feather pin as a token of our appreciation for his or her valued connection to our history.

We recognized every loyal contributor at United Way events, at company campaign gatherings, and in our digital and print marketing.  It was a way to celebrate our donors—not for the size of their giving, but for the consistency of their giving.     The companies where we ran workplace campaigns loved it and our Loyal Contributors loved those red feather pins.  It was not about the money, it was all about creativity a shared history.

If I can help you sort through donor stewardship, communications planning and recognition efforts, contact me at or 305-338-1735.  Wishing you all the best.