We are currently in the midst of unprecedented times in the history of our country. We have all felt the impact of the novel coronavirus on our everyday lives, and nonprofit organizations nationwide know this is the time they are needed most.
I feel so privileged to be working alongside each of you. Our altruistic efforts improve the lives of the people served by our collective missions. Never before has it been so critical for us to step into our role as ambassadors for good in the marketplace as it is now.
At the same time, don’t forget the personal impact we can make.
We can give hope in the midst of fear and anxiety. As Mr. Rogers famously said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.’”
As nonprofit professionals, you are the helpers.
I encourage you at this time of uncertainty, social distancing and isolation to reach out to the ones who have helped support the missions of our great organizations. Be a guiding light to them.
Now is the time to place phone calls to the friends of your organization to simply check in on them. I call these “wellness calls.” The intention is to check on the well-being of people who make a difference in the lives of so many through their philanthropy.
This is the right thing to do. Human connection is at the core of who we are, and we all need to know that we are still part of something big.
The anatomy of a wellness call might look like this:
- Say hello and let them know they are on your mind as we are all dealing with uncharted territory.
- State your intention that in this time of social distancing you are making an effort to connect individually to let them know they are important. Let them know you care about them.
- Share how your organization is doing and how you’re navigating the changes in the current climate.
- Ask how they are doing with all of the social changes.
- Are they OK? Is their family OK?
- Do they need anything?
- Do they have any concerns?
- Reassure them that your organization will remain steadfast in its focus to achieve the shared mission.
- Tell them people come first, so you are checking in to make sure they are OK.
- Many nonprofit missions will be greatly affected, and you should be prepared to share concerns with your donors only if it is appropriate in the context of the conversation. These are not solicitation calls.
- If you have the opportunity, invite the donor to attend a virtual town hall, virtual update, virtual talk-back panel, etc.
These wellness calls are not difficult to do and will make your supporters feel appreciated and important. I am sure you will find them personally rewarding as well.
Don’t believe me? Just ask Brena Baumann-Gonzalez, Senior Director of Philanthropy at Texas Children’s Hospital. She shared this story:
I just had a sweet call with Mary. She is 92 and lives in high-end senior living apartments. They are delivering meals to her door, and residents have been instructed to stay inside their apartments.
She is there with her cat, Sugar. She did buy extra cat food, but I told her I could be Cat Food Express Delivery if she needed it. She is very independent but asked for my number. She was an only child, never married, no family left.
I know she appreciated my call, but I have to say, I feel really good after talking to her.
If you can’t reach who you were calling, leave a kind voicemail. Tell them you are calling to make sure they are OK. After your calls, send a simple note – “happy mail” – to make their day in the future.
If you’re too busy at the moment to make calls and send notes yourself, this provides a great opportunity for people who want to volunteer and help but find themselves stuck at home.
Wellness calls like these are what strengthens relationships. This is truly where the rubber meets the road.
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