In my last blog, I talked about how communities and organizations need to invest time and energy into upskilling staff and volunteers. One of the best ways to upskill is through generating great grant writers to help move forward your collective vision.  However, most people will tell you that it’s tough to find the money to send people to conferences, courses, etc. to add that professional skillset.

As the pandemic rages on throughout the United States, it made me stop and think about ways that communities raise money.  There are always the traditional avenues, especially for businesses and cities, and that is selling services/products people need.  While that can be less during a crisis situation, it’s still relatively normal.  However, what other methods to raise funds and get your message out that you are open for business across the board?  How do you handle a crisis and continue to raise money through other means?  As things have changed over the course of this year, and likely to for the foreseeable future, what can communities do to make sure they are still bringing in income and keeping it varied enough for long-term success?

Fundraising In a Time of Crisis!

The current pandemic has taught us that there is no “normal” in a crisis situation.  Every day there are new lessons to be learned and there are new problems to overcome.  As always, funding will always be a concern.  Businesses need customers and clients, but can have troubles adapting to constant changes in public health advice or customer needs.  Non-profits can have trouble showing their communities just how impactful and necessary they are.  Cities and communities have trouble enticing people to come to their communities and spend money, stay locally, etc.  Loss of time spent in a community inherently lowers the ability of that community to attract new funds.  And times of crisis make people hold on to their money more than any other time.  So how do you fundraise in a time of crisis?

First and foremost: Be creative!  When you are dealing with a situation that no one else has dealt with either, it can be scary.  But it also gives you the opportunity to be creative.  Remember that one idea you had that you thought was a little “out there” or a little “crazy?”  Now is the time to try it!  Maybe it’s a new item that you are selling online only and for a limited time.  Maybe it’s an online wine tasting and pub crawl event for your local non-profit?  Maybe it’s deciding to close off the City parking lot downtown and installing seating for outdoor venues to help restaurants be able to socially distance better.

Second: Work together!  I know it can seem like everyone is on their own raft that is slowly (or quickly) sinking.  But again, this is new for EVERYONE!  Everyone is having worries, but they are also trying to think of ways they can stop the bleeding.  Band together and work on ideas.  Cities, non-profits, and businesses have limited funds and limited time to get their message out.  Work together to make something happen NOW.  Not only is this good for short-term fundraising, such as through a coordinated Buy Local campaign, but it sets up more long-term investing in a community.

Finally: Keep asking!  Whether it is through continued advertisements in your local paper or on social media, businesses and non-profits especially need to make sure you are asking.  You need to tell people the story of how the crisis has impacted you and why the community needs your service/product.  By showing a connection to the success of your enterprise and that of the community, you have a better chance of earning and retaining funds.  By working with your city leaders, they can help get the message out as well.  During a time of crisis, there is no US in a community.

Watch for My Next Blog!

The next blog post will discuss how communities, businesses, and non-profits need to be planning for the future.  Most do some sort of planning now, be it business planning, comprehensive planning, or some other form.  However, a lot of these are static and they do not live past the publication phase.  They sit on a shelf or are outdated the moment they are written.  If this crisis has taught us anything, it’s that you need to make sure to plan strategically, for the immediate and distant future.

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