Days are getting shorter, the nights a little cooler, and my work from home attire now includes a lot more hoodies. It can only mean one thing…

Fall is in the air! Which means the craziness of year-end fundraising is upon us. And this year, I think we’re in for year-end giving season like no other.

Because as we head into month 6 under some form of COVID-19 restriction, we’re armed with a lot more knowledge about donors and giving during these uncertain times than when the pandemic first struck.

We know that many donors have not decreased their giving and many are actually giving – or planning to give – more (check out our Research Lab for more on this next week!). We know that many donors just want to do something – anything – to feel like they’re making a difference, even if your cause is not directly related to the fight against coronavirus. And, we know that we need to keep fundraising!

But obviously what we don’t know is what’s in store in the months to come. At the time of writing, Ontario has put a hold on further loosening coronavirus-related restrictions. British Columbia has shut down nightclubs and banquet halls for the second time since March. And as kids across the country head back to school, only time will tell what other measures might be needed to stop the spread.

So how do you plan for the unknown with your fall and year-end digital fundraising? Here are 3 tips to keep in mind as we head into our busiest season in the midst of a pandemic:

1. Be flexible.

While we always strive to plan as much as possible – especially for big campaigns like year-end – flexibility is going to be the name of the game this year. Things can change at a moment’s notice and your thoughtful messaging or killer creative may suddenly not fit what’s going on around you. Perhaps you work for a healthcare charity and your fundraising focus needs to shift in response to a second wave. If you work at a museum, what will your messaging be if you’re no longer allowed to welcome patrons just months after re-opening?

This fall, you need to be able to adapt to those changes rapidly. And digital channels offer a great medium to do that because changes can be implemented in minutes. Crafting a new appeal or changing some language on an already-approved letter doesn’t require halting a printing press or pressing pause at a lettershop. You can be super nimble and respond to changes as they happen.

Which brings me to…

2. Be reactive.

Perhaps you’ve planned a great campaign with a powerful story and dynamite creative. But just before you hit send, guidelines change and it just doesn’t feel like it reflects the current situation.

Maybe you run programs for kids and recommendations around mask-wearing change – now your campaign photos don’t reflect reality. We know how hard it is for many charities to get approvals through multiple levels, and making changes last minute is not ideal, but putting out an appeal that doesn’t fit the current narrative is even less so. So, what can you do to mitigate the last-minuteness of it all?

Talk about contingency plans with your team and leadership ahead of time. Discuss possible scenarios and get some variable copy and photos approved just in case – “If X happens, our messaging is Y.” And examine what you’ve learned about your organization and your donors since March. Recent research has given us a general view of giving trends, but what’s true of your supporters?

And finally…

3. Be informed.

What’s worse than sending out an appeal that doesn’t reflect what’s going on in the world? Not knowing you’re doing so! Keeping glued to the news is not the most fun these days. Believe me, I get it. But in this climate, it’s absolutely critical that you’ve got a good idea of what’s going on in your community and how that can potentially affect your donors and your fundraising.

It’s been a weird year – to say the least. But the research coming out about how donors have responded to the charities they love is truly inspiring. And if we all keep the above tips in mind, I think we’re in for an incredible year-end giving season!

Do you have any other great tips for year-end campaigns this year? Or have you learned some new information about your donors during this unprecedented time that will help you plan for the future? I want to hear about it! Drop me an email or comment below.