Read time: 7 minutes
All of us in the professional do-gooder business are built for times like these. We are the tough types that get going, the ones hanging in there, the small group of committed people. They’re us. You, reading this. And us, the people of M+R.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Figuring out what to communicate, how to fundraise, what to cancel, what to double-down on, whose ass to kick, and how to be here for this coronavirus crisis is no small feat. Here’s what we’re thinking—have something to add, ask, or share? Do it right here.
- Don’t stop talking. Talk LOUDER.
Look, we all know that the people who were already suffering the most as a result of the Trump Administration’s actions and policies are now suffering even more. People who are barely getting by on minimum wage. Immigrants. Gig economy workers. Single parents who, when the school closes for a week or three, will be totally screwed. People who don’t get to work from home, and who have never had a paid sick day in their life.
These are the people we are here for. If you weren’t already talking about them, fighting for and with them, start now. Start with expanded healthcare coverage or relief for kids who get much of their food and health care at school. Start with paid sick leave for everyone. Start here.
- Don’t stop fundraising
You know this already. You can’t stop fundraising—people, animals, the planet, candidates, and more are relying on us to keep bringing in the resources and revenue they need.
That doesn’t mean business as usual, of course. It means paying attention to who your donors are and what they’re thinking and feeling right now and delivering relevant information and offers to them. And it also means incorporating coronavirus thoughtfully and authentically into your messaging. It might mean switching gears and canceling a planned campaign in favor of one that is more relevant to what’s happening in the world in general and in particular with the people you serve. Just don’t stop.
And btw, we’re keeping a close eye on how it’s going and we’ll share what we learn here. You can help. Answer a few easy questions here and we’ll share our results soon.
- Grab the spotlight
It can be tempting to back down right now in order to leave room for essential information or to avoid appearing opportunistic. But if you’re working on issues even remotely related to how we ended up here, don’t back down. Get up, and get in it. The truth is that many of the conversations swirling about how the federal government does (…or doesn’t) respond to this crisis can offer springboards for powerful stories that make the case for equitable and common-sense policies for those who need them most.
And it may feel hard to imagine now, but one day (or week, or month) soon, coronavirus will be receding into the rearview mirror. If you’re hitting walls with reporters right now, use this time to plan! This crisis is impacting every community, every institution, and every aspect of our lives. It’s a textbook example of why so many of the values and policies we fight for every single day are so critical. Use this time to fine-tune that narrative, hone your messages, and identify powerful spokespeople for when the media landscape opens up a bit. This news cycle will continue to shift rapidly—be ready to jump in as soon as the opportunity arises.
- Plan B is now
Some fundraising and organizing events will be postponed or canceled. Gala dinners, rallies, lobby days, in-person events, all fall into this category. This, we know, is difficult. Replace these events with online or in-home versions. Create a party-in-place kit for your gala dinner guests—recipes, a Spotify playlist, a group video chat, and show the dinner video in real time on Instagram stories or Facebook Live.
Fundraising thons/walks/races are particularly crucial for many organizations, and it’s likely that at least some will be canceled, devastating budgets. Are you one of them? Please let us know. We’ve pulled together organizations and experts to work through this together. You’d be welcome to join us.
- Social distancing = Social media close-ness-ing
Just because we’re practicing good social distancing doesn’t mean we actually want to be distant. We’re humans. We crave connection, now more than ever. This is your cause’s chance to embrace social media more deeply and broadly than ever as well. Use all your communications streams to inform, inspire, and invite participation.
You can post more frequently than you have in the past, and your topics can be broader and more experimental. Ask for input. Tell people you want to hear their stories. How is this moment affecting them? Try to capture these stories now, because you’ll be glad you have them later. Get your mission-focused content out into the world too, particularly if you have something to offer to support people with medical conditions, unfair or inadequate leave policies, or even just learning activities parents can use with their kids when schools are canceled. Take a look at your past top-performing content and consider how it could be adapted and reposted for this moment.
Also literally, get close. This is a good time to explore how Facebook groups, Twitter direct message groups, or Instagram Stories Close Friends can allow you to talk to smaller groups of your supporters in more direct and intimate ways, to provide them with tailored information, advice, or support.
- Embrace new tools
Have you dipped your toes into peer-to-peer fundraising or relational organizing yet? How about using Slack for organizing volunteers? Or, you’ve heard about running ads on connected TV but you haven’t done it?
If you have, great. Do more of this. If you have been waiting for the right time to enhance your in-person practices with digital alternatives, it’s now-o-clock. No matter what happens over the next few weeks and months, your investment in new ways of reaching folks will pay off.
- Give people something to do
We haven’t seen results soften during the past week or so—not for fundraising, not for organizing, not for advertising. That doesn’t tell us what the future holds, but it does tell us that your supporters and activists are here for this too!
Right now, the vast majority of most organization’s audiences are not sick. (Let’s keep it that way, mmkay?) Many are sticking close to home. There has to be more for them to do than scroll through half-baked articles and binge on Netflix. Be the something. Provide related actions—see the aforementioned paid sick leave for everyone angle. Reuse previous engagements like quizzes and thank you cards. Provide real, related information and encourage people to share it. Ask a question. Invite people to submit a story, photo, a video, or write a letter to the editor describing their experience in their local community. And keep doing it.
- Give ‘em hope
I watched a short video of a bunch of puppies climbing into a bucket nine times this morning. It was really really sweet. I needed it. We all need rays of sunshine, moments of levity, stories of kindness, videos of puppies now and then. As Harvey Milk famously said, you gotta give ‘em hope. So mix some hope into your content. And don’t forget to save some for yourself.
***One last thing: Thanks for being part of our great big community of die-hard do-gooders. Thanks for being here for this. If we can be here for you in any way, let us know.