Herd Instinct

Herd Instinct

In this blog I’m still on the side of the table where the grant maker sits. As a grant administrator I have been receiving a large number of special appeals for support because of COVID 19. I’m not certain whether the applicants are obeying Churchill’s maxim of “Never waste a good crisis” or if they think this situation adds an irresistible argument to their application. COVID 19 is not the base of the case, unless your organisation specifically deals in related medical care. These applications have the feel of herd instinct.  Fundraisers are not properly considering the situation of the person they are addressing.

This is the moment to stand in the other person’s shoes; to consider what they are experiencing. It’s back to the blog on Dale Carnegie. In the last two months many Grant Givers have seen their asset base shrink considerably as stock markets fell. A key concern will be whether they can maintain their grant giving programme at current levels. In addition, can they fulfil the pledges they may already have undertaken? When there is less money in the kitty, there is pressure to spend it more effectively. Grant Givers are aware that the operating models of charities have been, in the modern parlance, disrupted. So charities need a clear explanation of how they are responding effectively to the new normal.

Herd instinct is not helpful at the moment. A desperate appeal for funds is a soundtrack that risks deafening the grant giver. The appeal, of course, is often fully justified. But it is difficult for the grant maker to select what is merit worthy when the tone is so similar. How do you stand out from the crowd? We all respond to positive news. The attention-grabbing narrative is that COVID 19 has energised you. The crisis has forced a rethink of service delivery which will actually make you more effective when we return to the “new normal”. In last weeks blog Change and Challenge I reported my admiration for the way charities I talked to were responding to the challenge of adapting their service delivery. It is not difficult to work out whether “crisis” or “creative rethink” has the most appeal.

I’ve talked about appealing for grant money. But it is equally important, probably more important, to talk to the people who are already funding you. They have made an investment and here is a critical moment when they need to know how it’s doing.

This crisis is an opportunity to demonstrate to grant givers your appreciation of their support. It is a chance to imprint on their consciousness that they made a good decision. A statement of how the crisis has affected the organisation’s operational activity; a summary of how you are overcoming the problems; an assessment of how the client group is managing in the new environment; this will not only be appreciated but it will be noted in the plus column in the event that you reapply. In my book “Fundraising the Essentials for success” there is a short chapter “Love your Donors” which includes the two most important words in fundraising  “Thank you”. You can hardly say them too often. Keeping your donor informed about progress through choppy waters is one powerful way of saying “Thank You”.