Remember Keep on Truckin’?
It’s a classic slogan and image from the counterculture, created in 1968 by cartoonist R. Crumb. (And if you aren’t humming the Grateful Dead classic “Truckin’,” you might need a little more music in your life!)
When I was a kid, I had the Keep on Truckin’ poster in my room. Don’t get the idea I was a genuine hippy. I was 9 years old. I just thought it was cool, in a middle-class white-boy sort of way. (It was right next to my own quasi-psychedelic hand-painted poster that said, “Jeff is groovy.” Signs of the times.)
I’d like to resurrect Keep on Truckin’ for fundraisers, because it’s a needed reminder for these strange times.
Here’s why: We may be heading into difficult times for fundraising. It’s been hard … it might get harder before it gets easier.
But whatever is in store for us in the coming months, the motto to keep yourself steady and on target should be: Keep on Truckin’!
Keep working, working the plan, soldiering through — even if it’s difficult and weird.
Let’s look at some of the possible challenges we face. These are scary things that might happen in the near future. Each demands that we face it with smart and targeted strategies. But in addition, the main thing is not to curl up into a ball and hide. When times are hard, Keep on Truckin’.
The end of the “bump”
Fundraising typically thrives in times of crisis, at least for organizations connected with the crisis. The COVID-19 crisis has impacted nearly all organizations, either because it has created more demand for their work, or because it caused them to lose significant revenue — or both.
So there was a predictable “crisis bump” this Spring. Organizations that stayed in touch with donors and pivoted to pandemic-relevant fundraising experienced record-breaking fundraising. Many organizations basically had three Decembers in a row starting in April.
For many organizations, that amazing stretch of fundraising is fading. How much of that is because the energy of the crisis is less compelling for donors, and how much is because fundraisers simply haven’t been able to keep up the pace is not clear.
But fundraising is not as amazing as it was, at least for many of us. And it may continue to get worse.
When (or if) that happens, your strategy should be Keep on Truckin’!
Don’t decide for donors that they are done with the crisis. Keep on connecting with them, giving them good and relevant reasons to donate. You may not do as well as you did in the spring (that may never happen again in your career, frankly), but if you curtail fundraising, you are guaranteed an even greater drop in revenue.
A long-lasting slump
Past crises have often been followed by a general drop in fundraising results. As noted, we may be seeing this happening already. Also, fundraising typically gets more difficult during recessions. Response rates drop. So do average gifts, hitting us with a double-whammy.
The recession we are now in around the world will likely not end quickly. And that could mean difficult fundraising for some time.
If that happens, Keep on Truckin’!
Responding to difficulty by giving up is not a good strategy in any area of life.
If your cause is in any way connected to fighting poverty or helping people in need, you may find that you do quite well during a recession — because your message is more present and believable than ever. If you’re not in that area, you may face harder times. Just don’t make it even worse by going quiet on your donors.
In the past, noisy, weird elections have had a negative impact on fundraising. The 2000 US presidential election results were up in the air for about a month, and fundraising results during that time were atypically low.
I think we can count on this year’s election being at least that weird. Throw in the uncertainty about the US Postal Service, and more than a few of us are nervous.
But I bet you know what I’m going to say: Keep on Truckin’!
Shutting down and doing nothing will badly hurt your results. Going into uncertain times with your eyes open — it might hurt, but the damage won’t be nearly as deep.
Bottom line: I can’t think of any situation where the right response is to give up on your fundraising. You may have to move budgets around, refigure your schedule, and adjust your messaging. And none of that guarantees you won’t suffer.
But giving up does guarantee that you will suffer. A lot.
So please … Keep on Truckin’!
Keep on Truckin’ with fact-based, experienced fundraising training and advice — and by belonging to a community of fundraisers who share knowledge and connection. That’s what you’ll get when you join The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. It’s a true community, the thing we all need most right now — plus all kinds of courses, templates, checklists, and other resources that can help you go to new places as a fundraiser. More information here.