Marketing in the Time of Coronavirus

Lately, we’ve been dusting off our notes from recessions past and conjuring up selective memories of global crises that spilled into our everyday lives. It’s wince-worthy work. But we’re here to calm your nerves and remind you of the simple steps to take when the future feels uncomfortably gray.

3 Mantras for Marketing Planned Giving Right Now

1. Don’t. Stop. Marketing.

During times of instability, your instinct may be to retreat from sending solicitations or communicating with donors for fear of offending them. Resist! History proves that nonprofit leaders who take a scalpel, not a cleaver, to their marketing budgets — making careful but consistent investments in fundraising — reap outsized rewards. 

Borrow from the golden rules of crisis communication: Be proactive. Get ahead of the story. Show your human side. Prepare to act … differently.

2. Tweak your messaging

Now is the time to show your humanity. Imagine how your donors are feeling — perhaps a little anxious, looking for a distraction, thinking about the fragility of life. Acknowledge the situation and take the opportunity to reinforce the value you bring to their lives, the community or the world. We’re all in this together. 

Scan your marketing copy and your conversations for these “trigger” words and topics, which have taken on new meaning as events unfold:

  • your future/your legacy/the future
  • vacation/travel
  • stocks/markets/investment
  • handshake/crowd

Reframe these areas with honesty and empathy. Legacies still matter. The future is on donors’ minds. Addressing even touchy subjects confirms that you understand where donors sit. Similarly, noting the economic climate at the time of your communication informs the conversation. 

BUT consider postponing certain topics. For example, The Stelter Company shelved an article on estate planning documents to prepare before you travel, which felt insensitive based on recent events.

Planned giving marketing is, fundamentally, delivering the right message to the right person at the right time. If communicating right now was in your plans for 2020, keep going. Just ensure your message matches the moment.

3. Go multichannel

A silver lining emerges at times like this. Life slows way down. People travel less, crowds disappear and we hunker down at home with our loved ones. Yet, in the spaces in between, we find time to ponder our humanity, focus on what really matters and steal moments for ourselves. 

Take advantage of the disrupted pace to provide your donors with a rich, multichannel stream of communication. Digital is an ideal channel for delivering timely, heartfelt messages. The U.S. Postal Service will prevail — continue with educational mailings. Deliver handwritten notes. Make personal phone calls. Focus on making those meaningful, personal connections — handshake-free, of course.  


How is your team communicating with donors today and do you have plans to tweak the conversation? What are other teams within your organization doing? Let us know below!

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