ANTHEA IVA, the Director of Redstone Marketing, asks three fundraisers for their perspectives.

Talking PointADRIENNE GREEN Fundraising Manager, Catholic Mission

Months before coronavirus landed in Australia, we launched thank you campaigns, sharing the
impact of our donors’ support. These campaigns allowed us to hear our supporters’ motivations for partnering with us and reminded us to stay focused on our mission and continue to present
supporters with opportunities to engage. As we moved into uncertainty in March, those reminders shaped how we adapted to the pandemic. For us, that looked like:

Being agile Within days, we pulled appeals and created timely, relevant and engaging campaigns. Supporters responded because we remained true to our mission and values,  told stories of the impact of coronavirus in the communities we serve, and gave them an opportunity to make a difference. 

Strengthening culture It’s not uncommon for fundraising to take a back seat to the ‘real work’ of our organisations, which is delivering programs or services. Organisations that will thrive on the other side of this pandemic are the ones that continue to make fundraising a priority, engage other teams with fundraising efforts and collaborate to achieve organisational outcomes. 

For us that meant empowering the fundraising team to make well thought through but tough decisions based on the best information available, and working with stakeholders to achieve shared outcomes. The success of our emergency and EOFY appeals were due to the great work of fundraisers and collaborative efforts across our organisation. 

Retaining donors Shore up donor journeys and retention strategies to increase donor engagement, maximise lifetime value, minimise attrition and grow acquisition. This is good practice in the best of times but is even more critical now as acquisition channels like events and F2F have all but stopped. 

Now is a great time to review welcome packs and email series, key retention milestones, newsletters and conversion and upgrade opportunities, think beyond direct mail and email, and integrate digital touchpoints.

Keeping supporters engaged Supporters connect with us because they believe in our mission. When people felt helpless to change anything about the pandemic, many welcomed the opportunity to be a part of the solutions that we offered in the communities we serve. The best thing we can do is keep supporters engaged with our mission and present them with unique opportunities to participate in this changing environment. 

Talking PointCHRISTINE DIAMOND Manager, Philanthropic Funding, Melbourne City Mission

Coronavirus has touched every part of our lives, both at home and at work. It’s in times like this that both the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation come to the fore and Melbourne City Mission (MCM) is no different. In a short space of time, we adapted, pivoted, invented, collaborated, struggled and overcame. Underlying all of our decision-making and behaviour was the physical and mental safety and support of clients and staff. 

One of our biggest challenges was the shift to remote service delivery and working from home. MCM is a large, complex organisation and each of our areas experienced different results from new methods of service delivery. 

Some of the students at the Hester Hornbrook Academy, our independent learning school, thrived on remote learning and we are exploring ways to continue to offer dual services. 

In contrast, our palliative care staff were keen to return to face-to-face comfort and support for people. In homelessness and disability services, many staff noted that they rely on visual cues to help assess client needs whereas others benefitted from the ability to reach more clients through remote delivery.

A silver lining was the government’s commitment to providing emergency accommodation for everyone who needed to self-isolate. This gave MCM the opportunity to collaborate with partners to house clients in our youth and adult homelessness services. 

Like many of our peers, our fundraising team experienced a range of challenges caused by the uncertainty of how COVID-19 and the ensuing economic downturn would affect our donations. We made the difficult decision to cancel our flagship event, Sleep At The ‘G, and needed to quickly find alternative sources of revenue. We responded by stewarding our current donor base and creating a digital emergency appeal, a first for us. We acknowledged the situation in our communications and focused on strengthening our relationships with funding partners and donors. This encouraged an upsurge in support and numerous offers of assistance when we needed it the most. 

Talking PointNICHOLAS LEE Founder & Chair, Jodi Lee Foundation

At the Jodi Lee Foundation (JLF), adapting our initiatives and workplace practices and cutting costs has transitioned more smoothly than expected. One major shift was our office closure, which required our team to adapt to working from home. While we have always offered flexible work arrangements, the lack of direct contact for a team that collaborates daily was a challenge. We’re proud of the way we embraced the use of technology, quickly upskilling to maintain their productivity.

Our workplace program, previously a personal presentation, has now been converted into an easy-access webinar that we continue to deliver to businesses across Australia. We have found the webinar allows us to reach more employees in this format than face-to-face, which is a definite positive.

We are concerned by reports showing a drop in colonoscopy referrals this year as people delay visits to their doctor. In the past few months we have focused our attention on our social media platforms, posting about the impact of COVID-19 on colonoscopy, the importance of regular bowel screening, and encouraging people to see their GP if they experience symptoms. We have engaged online to support our community through changes to usual routines and practices. 

As with most nonprofits, we rely on our annual events such as The JLF Trek and other community events to raise the funds needed to keep our organisation running. Fundraising has been the most impacted as our largest annual events due to be held in March and May were paused. Luckily, we have been able to reorganise them to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. 

The support from our partners has been overwhelming as they have worked with us to pivot and cut costs where necessary to ensure our signature events are still possible. 

We have all worked well together to support one another. We recognise you should never let a good crisis go to waste and have been unified by having the right attitude and searching for opportunities to improve the way we do things. 

This August marked our 10th anniversary. As we continue to navigate through these changing times, we are hoping to mark this milestone with a celebration to remember Jodi Lee and reflect on a decade of work to prevent bowel cancer.