Crisis mode, and staying strategic

by Richenda Vermeulen
March 26, 2020

What a crazy few weeks.

For me, the last time the world felt this gloomy was in 2008, during the global financial crisis. I was working at World Vision USA and my job on a malaria campaign was made redundant.

I moved into a role on a new experimental project — launching social media.

I know now, I was lucky. World Vision was brave enough to hold the line, and even innovate, during a crisis. Their leaders focused on long-term survival, and wisely reallocated their marketing efforts.

Less than a year later (during the Haiti earthquake), that choice to innovate brought in significant new revenue.

Today, Australian NFPs are facing similar challenges and questions. I’ve spoken to a number of charity CEOs and leaders this week who are facing difficult decisions. My message, to them and to you?

Don’t give up hope. Don’t panic. Stay strategic, and take hope in this fact: Australians still give when it’s needed.

It’s just about being brave.

Many of our clients are affected by COVID-19, and we’re partnering with them to dive head-first into adversity.

Our key takeaways from this work:

  1. Continue to invest in marketing

  2. Become digital-first

  3. Find new opportunities

Continue to invest in marketing

It may be tempting to cut your marketing budgets, but past recessions show that slashing marketing costs have a larger negative impact on revenue than the gain in cost savings.

Pulling marketing spend will most likely only result in greater losses.

In Australia, during the global financial crisis, there was a 20% drop in revenue for NFPs. One year later, donations were virtually back on track. Organisations that kept their activity and staff in place were better positioned than those who panicked.

Source: ATO, NAB Charitable Giving Index (NCGI) created in association with Quantium, JBWere Philanthropic Services

A downturn is inevitable. You will likely need to shuffle your marketing budget. Events, face-to-face, and outdoor advertising are obvious areas to look for budget savings.

We’re recommending:

  • Shift your appeal messaging toward ‘emergency appeals’ for COVID-19 through communicating how your program recipients are being affected by COVID-19 and how donating can help.

  • Above all, stay in the market. Aussies are still giving—if you’re not in the market, they won’t be giving to you.

NFPs are creating COVID-19 appeals

Source: UNFPA (Instagram). Shift your appeal messaging.

Become digital-first

Your donors are likely working from home, so speak to them where they are and know it’s a 24/7 channel.

Ask your team—what can we pivot to digital? Can we digitise our events? Can we increase our investment in digital fundraising?

Experience agency, Because shared a great list to pivot here.

Due to the confidential nature of our work, I can’t share case studies of how we are helping our clients pivot. But below are some macro suggestions for refocusing.

Pivot your offline activity to digital

Capitalise on this opportunity, and if you feel you’re not digital-ready:

  1. Start small, by bringing a team together to brainstorm ideas.

  2. Ensure you prioritise impact vs investment. It can be easy to get swept up in the ideas, especially when in crisis mode. Pick carefully.

  3. Test and learn, dive in head-first and keep learning and optimising. Halt if you are continuing to not see success.

Opportunity favours the bold

Challenge invites creativity.

During the Great Plague of London, Newton developed his theories of gravity while working from home. It’s true.

For your NFP, where are the opportunities to tell different stories? Or, where can you tell the same story in a different way through a different channel?

If you want insight into how we’re helping our clients thrive during COVID-19, I’m hosting a free webinar on April 2 to give some insights on how NFPs are responding.

Register for the free event here.

Stay focused, you’ve got this

Look, it’s a challenging time. The future is far from certain. But by leading with focus, clarity, and a good dose of bravery, you can help your organisation navigate the difficulties ahead—and perhaps, even innovate and grow in key areas.

If you’re looking for a digital partner to help guide your adjustments ahead, please do reach out.

Stay safe, and thank you for the work you do to help make the world a better place. In times like these, the work of Australia’s NFPs will be especially needed to help support the most vulnerable.