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Communication and Fundraising in the Midst of Physical Distancing

Integrate Online

In an environment heavily focused on the healthcare industry, communications and operations of these organizations are crucial. With in-person events being canceled, how are development and fundraising opportunities, and related messaging, achieving their goals while addressing the hardship consumers experience? Join experts Leandra Clovis, Chuck Harman, Nicole Riggleman Kelly and Kristi Hansen Onkka as they discuss how organizations are adapting during COVID-19.

How has COVID-19 impacted reaching your 2020 fundraising goals so far?

Leandra Clovis: “I think we are really having to adapt and consider the long term. We are looking at a lot of sponsorship. We actually had a really heavy sponsorship push in January and beginning of February that luckily, in our case, kind of set us up and we had raised what we normally raise by June or July by February. So when it comes to walks and peer-to-peer fundraising we are in a bit of a unique situation where we had already taken care of our corporate fundraising tasks. For us, it is really thinking about adapting for the second half of the year and long-term.”

Chuck Harman: “There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has been a major disruption in so many ways. Our grassroots, I think, have been the hardest hit levels at NAMI. What we have done is pivot, we have found new ways to do things. Our major donors have really stepped up and come in at very high levels. We also created a COVID-19 mental health support fund and have seen a great impact from that. Transforming the live events has been the most challenging of all.”

If you are retooling events or the way you communicate, how has your team adapted in a landscape that is continuously changing?

Nicole Riggleman Kelly: “One thing we did really early was a town hall with our hospital president to allow donors to ask questions about the impact of COVID-19 on the hospital. Moving forward we are doing a series of those. We are having to pivot since there are no in-person events. We are creating virtual experiences so donors still feel connected to hospital leadership. We have a lot of different audiences but we have to make sure everyone feels important and informed on where we are.”

Leandra Clovis: “I oversee all development managers for the state, they each have their own portfolios for their walks. One-to-one communication is vitally important during this time. My team is used to communicating with their donors, but we’ve kind of taken it up a notch and we really have increased that one-to-one communication. We have called all of our team captains and walkers individually, which we do every year, but we have done it way more now since March. We really have wanted to put these people first. We have had to retrain ourselves to come out of fundraising mode and really focus on just checking in on people. We are moving back in to our walk and virtual events and talk fundraising, but it was after a very conscious pause and make sure people were okay. It is highly important for us to make sure people know what we are doing. We are doing virtual events and meeting with our team captains so they know what we are doing. Our walkers and team captains must be informed so they can go out and tell their friends and family why they should still support us during this time.”

What are your organizations doing to adapt live events and execute virtual events?

Nicole Riggleman Kelly: “Prior to this we had been doing education sessions featuring some of our doctors and researchers on projects that we were fundraising for and a lot of those had been in-person. We are now doing them completely virtually and they have been really well received. It’s a great new way of engaging. It used to be more difficult to get time with these doctors, but since everything is virtual and we can adapt our schedules it is way easier to set out designated times with these people. I think coming out of this there will be a hybrid of what we did before and the ‘new normal’ for events.”

“For our walks, everything right now is pretty much the same with individual fundraising pages that people share, but come the Saturday of the race things will be different. Not being able to all join together in one place will be very different. We had a lot of our corporate sponsorship come in for this event before COVID-19, but for events in the rest of the calendar year, those funds have not come in. We will be more focused on adapting and navigating new tactics for events in the future and long term.”

If you are going to have an event in-person, what logistical changes will you make to ensure safety?

Leandra Clovis: “Our organization has really looked at everything that will have to happen for a safe in-person event. We have put together a nationwide task force with people from different states that are being impacted at different levels and looking at what the impact would be on all of these different individuals if they came to an in-person event. The organization is putting together a full walk plan that follows CDC guidelines, state parameters and we are really relying on our researchers. We have a lot of medical experts who are really high up in the organization and we are leaning heavily on their expertise for what this plan would have to look like. We also polled a lot of our walkers about their comfort levels for having a live event and ideas for virtual fundraising.”

Chuck Harman: “For our national walks, we are doing one big national virtual walk. The big event that is impacted is our national convention. It is the 40th anniversary, we usually have more than 2,000 people attending. We have a vulnerable audience population so we made the decision to go virtual. We have to make the best of these situations. It is interesting because finding a vendor is so difficult now because they are so busy. However, now we have the opportunity to engage individuals who wouldn't have had the opportunity to attend a NAMI convention now. We are keeping the fee very low, there are no travel costs since it is remote. We are looking at options to enhance the organization and open access to new people. We also have an event called “Stronger than You Think,” three days with a number of celebrities focused on youth. It is entertainment, education and support for youth. This is a live stream event that came about because of COVID-19, we were not planning it before.”

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