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Adjusting Annual Giving During COVID-19

COVID-19 has affected all of us, changing the way we work and live in innumerable ways. Universities face unique challenges in these times: how can they ensure the health and well-being of their student, faculty, and staff population? How can they support their alumni and local and global communities? How should they adjust communications and solicitation schedules?

Rachel Cleary

Senior Sales Manager, Education and Nonprofits

University workers are navigating these questions while adjusting to working from home and even more importantly, ensuring that they and their families and loved ones stay healthy and safe. While we take on these challenges day by day, GetThru would like to offer support and be a resource to our education partners.

How do we approach texting now?

At GetThru, we know that crafting communications on any channel right now requires an extra-delicate approach. Folks are being bombarded with information from all angles, and many are feeling overwhelmed. There’s rightful hesitation about compounding that, but we believe that with thoughtfulness and intentionality, texting can be a helpful tool. Since P2P texting allows for real, personal conversations, it may be a helpful mechanism for connecting with all areas of your community: students, parents, alumni, and fellow staff members.

No matter who you text or the subject matter, you should take extra time thinking through your initial message and recommended replies to ensure striking the right tone. Consider using the channel to be of service: offer help and resources to affected students, provide information about how campus is responding to COVID, or even provide opportunities for your community to make a difference.

But what should we text about?

Before you embark on a campaign, take a close look at your recipient list, and consider your segmentation. For example, young alumni or those who work in the arts or service industries may be affected in particular ways by economic side-effects, so you may not want to send them solicitations. Consider who is in the best position to give and would be most receptive to your request—in many cases, it may be your most loyal SYBUNTS and donors with capacity. Additionally, make sure that your texters have the information they need while working remotely, and that everyone is trained and understands the goals of the campaign. 

Here are a few ideas for outreach:

  • Send an update from campus & offer resources to your community
  • Opportunities to donate to emergency funds for students or the campus community
  • In-person or digital volunteer opportunities
  • Providing ways to connect: alumni networking platforms, webinars, or remote alumni mixers. Get creative with Zoom and teleconferencing!

What about planned solicitations?

With the fiscal year end approaching, we know that now is the time you’d be normally ramping up for giving days, donor renewals, pledge fulfillment, and much more. Annual funds and general support are the lifeblood of many institutions, and there’s understandable concern about ensuring financial support for your institution without alienating alumni and donors. With any texting you do, be sure to approach messaging carefully. Acknowledge the current reality and think about how you can make the ask thoughtful but direct, and have recommended replies at the ready for when recipients have questions or concerns.

What are peer schools doing?

GetThru spoke with Kamalei Lee, Assistant Director of Annual Giving at Pitzer College. She said, “In light of everything happening now, phonathon is done for the semester. The team is considering ways to continue communications thoughtfully.” In the meantime, Pitzer has launched a crowdfunding campaign for their student emergency fund, specifically focused on supporting students through the COVID-19 project. Over the next few weeks, Pitzer will send a text campaign to promote this effort.

Conclusion

GetThru is providing COVID-19 grants to support organizations providing direct relief and support. To learn more about that, click here.

We know that this is a difficult time, and that many are searching for ways to navigate the uncertainty. We’re proud of the work that all of our education partners are doing to keep their communities safe, informed, and engaged. We want to hear about and highlight your creative solutions and approaches! If you’d like to share how your campus has been responding, send your story to info@getthru.io.

If you are planning to send text campaigns in the coming weeks but aren’t sure where to start, we’re here to help. Drop a line to rachel.cleary@getthru.io with any questions, to schedule a brainstorming session, or for a script review. Stay healthy and take care of yourself, and let us know how we can support you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rachel Cleary

Before GetThru, Rachel spent years in higher education and non-profit fundraising. She now brings that experience to our education clients, where she provides strategic support and sales expertise. Outside of work, you can find her listening to Broadway musicals, making pasta from scratch, or hanging out with her dog, Sadie (sometimes all at the same time!).

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