In a recent survey of more than 1,200 nonprofits nationwide, including dozens in Kern County, fundraising technology and training services giant Network for Good uncovered a long-term sustainability resource that nonprofits may be underutilizing: time.

NFG, which partners with Kern Community Foundation and the Kern County Board of Supervisors in offering the year-long Jumpstart Fundraising Technical Assistance Grant Program to local nonprofits, found that 86% of nonprofit leaders surveyed said that since the COVID-19 crisis, they have the same amount of time or more to focus on long-term resilience and sustainability planning.

That makes perfect sense considering that many nonprofits’ scaling back of programs and services, live gatherings and travel since mid-March due to public health directives has likely freed up time for many in the sector. Combine that with the need to come up with new sources of funding to make up for canceled fundraising events and lost fee-for-service dollars, as well as to pay for expensive personal protective equipment, and one can see why long-term resilience and sustainability planning would become top of mind for nonprofit leaders.

The same survey, however, also revealed that, currently, 93% of nonprofits do not have a financial resilience plan and 69% do not have a working plan for making effective fundraising appeals.

The survey was conducted during a four-part financial resilience webinar NFG offered free of charge in mid-April, and “due to the overwhelmingly positive response we received,” according to Jumpstart Success Senior Manager Travis Centers, “we are excited to announce that we are launching the training again beginning on Thursday, June 18.”

Making time for a worthwhile training

The training is intense and feels like a miniature version of the year-long Jumpstart Program, with homework assignments designed to help webinar attendees craft a financial resilience plan, develop a crisis communications plan, write effective fundraising appeal letters, identify supporters who can be turned into donors and more.

In April, participants were asked hard questions and encouraged to:

• Remove from their 2020 budget all expenditures and projected revenue for canceled or postponed events, in order to focus only on actual essential costs through year’s end.

• Identify board members, major donors and loyal or recurring donors who can be counted upon for financial support in both fat and lean times.

• Engage constituents during a crisis, and keep them engaged by expressing gratitude and demonstrating the impact of their giving in a timely manner.

• Create a multilayered communications plan that includes messaging using email, texting, photos and videos; testimonials from clients, volunteers, board members and staff; digital and social media advertising; traditional communications such as phone calls and direct mail; and talking points for fundraising advocates.

Close to 50 nonprofit leaders from Kern communities that included Bakersfield, Delano, Frazier Park, the Kern River Valley area, Mojave and Ridgecrest made the time investment and attended the webinar series.

Testimonials from past participants

Lindsay Call, who at the time was the board chair for Mountain Communities Family Resource Center and has since become a part-time employee, took advantage of the webinar series, the homework assignments and dial-in office-hour sessions to receive individualized feedback from a fundraising coach in between webinars.

“The feedback wasn’t generic,” she said. “It was really specific to our situation.”

The family resource center’s executive director, Tammy Rowan, who couldn’t attend in April, plans to do so this month.

Others got a lot out of the training as well.

Lilli Parker, executive director of the Bakersfield Senior Center, said the information she gleaned was useful and succinctly presented.

“My takeaway was the importance of having a communication plan that’s relevant, and have a reason to invade a person’s inbox,” she said. “Very enlightening.”

Juan Avila, chief operating officer for Garden Pathways, said that, for him, “The most valuable takeaway is rethinking donor engagement during these uncertain times.”

He said NFG’s fundraising projections matrix tool, which facilitates current-year goal setting based on the previous year’s donation mix and donor total, can greatly help a nonprofit with the monitoring, assessment and adjustment of its fundraising strategies during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond.

“It’s important to train nonprofit leaders to develop foresight and strategic planning capabilities in preparation for anything else that’s going to happen in the future,” he said.

How to participate

Date and time details for the Financial Resilience Training Program webinar series from Network for Good are as follows:

June 18, 22, 25 and 29, from 10 to 11:30 a.m.

To register, visit www.kernfoundation.org, then scroll down to “Community Events.” You only need to register once but will receive separate email confirmations for each session so you can add each part of the series to your electronic calendar.

Louis Medina is director of community impact for Kern Community Foundation. He may be reached at Louis@kernfoundation.org.

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