How to Fundraise During World War III

For anyone paying attention to any sort of news this morning, you probably woke up to reading about, and watching with horror, war break out in Europe.


And if you’re in the nonprofit fundraising space, how do you maintain your positivity and enthusiasm for doing good when military chaos rains globally, the stock market is taking a nose dive, and an obscene loss of human life is being streamed live across social media platforms?


As tuned in as I am, I can’t recall any list of “best practices” for your fundraising strategy on soliciting while nuclear powers fight proxy wars in countries thousands of miles away with global consequences from their actions.


I know it sounds cliché, but our nonprofit industry is resilient.


We have to be.


We’ve survived a 2-year global pandemic, the Great Resignation and political turmoil…we can trudge forward today too.


There’s real resolve in acknowledging what is happening globally and immediately getting to work on making your own community better.


We might not be able to single handily fly to the United Nations and convince the global power structure to move back from the brink of conflict, but we can make a positive difference in the lives of those we serve and working hard to live out the mission of our nonprofit today.


There’s work to do. There’s money to raise. There is impact to make. There is awesomeness to share.


If you’re stuck on where to start and need a bit of motivation on how to do good today, try one – or all three! - of these things:


1. Think Local


What you do at your organization matters. To a lot of individuals, families, animals and communities, your existence is how they survive, thrive and stabilize. Your shelter given to young adults with no place to go during the winter months is life saving. Your concern for the health and wellness of abandoned dogs and cats eases the needless suffering of animals that can’t care for themselves. Your assistance with individuals battling addiction gives hope to their future and has the potential to have generational change by helping families torn apart by drugs or alcohol.


All of these things can be done near your home, in your neighborhoods, and within your own city limits. You don’t need a title of “ambassador” to accomplish this. You are incredible enough to be able to do this locally. And that’s a gift to the world that’s needed right now.


Your donors can give now. They can give locally. They can see the positive impact quickly.


We don’t individually have the power to solve global hunger. But we can help our neighbors who are dealing with food scarcity. The power of local nonprofit work has a much larger and longer positive consequence than you’re giving yourself credit for.


And in a world of chaos, there is peace in knowing you’re making a long term positive difference without having to cross oceans.


2. Act Small


I know we tend to celebrate Big Hairy Audacious Goals here. Without them, your leadership team can get in the weeds about things they don’t need to worry about.


However, in the case of figuring out where to start, in order to work out the mental gymnastics needed to move forward in times of crisis, what small steps can you and your organization make to move the needle forward for good today.


Reaching out to supporters and asking the how they are feeling and doing. Writing authentic notes of appreciation for leaders in your community thanking them for making hard decisions for the good of others. Celebrating small wins with your co-workers or lifting up those who aren’t always acknowledged for their hard work and dedication to your mission.


These small acts have big positive results. And concentrating on how to build momentum with small victories will also help manage expectations on how to reach larger goals down the road.


Think big. Act small. Move the needle forward as much as you can, knowing that baby steps of doing good add up.


3. Be the Light… But Take Time to Recharge


It’s exhausting to be the most positive person in the room. The typical fundraiser personality is an individual who will go out of their way to inject joy, enthusiasm and engagement, even at the cost of their own energy to talk about making the world a better place.


Conversations with donors and businesses to showcase their impact and showering them with stories of successes, even in the face of global uncertainty is a great place to start when figuring out what to do first. You get to play the part of Captain Optimism.


And woof. It can take a toll.


However, we make a choice every day to be the light when others spread dour and dire attitudes and messages. It’s our superpower.


To counter all the bad things that occur, there are very few of us that have enough reserve positivity to help give to the naysayers and pessimists a run for their money. Helping stave off the dark in our own circles is something we as nonprofit leaders can to for the global good.


But even Superman needs to recharge every once in a while.


Whether that means shutting down when the sun does, so be it. If that means binge watching The Great British Baking Show and eating carbs, so be it. If that means playing video games as a grown adult, then more power to you.


In order to be the light, we need to care for ourselves. That’s a massive priority and something we can do immediately when faced with uncertainty all around us.


It isn’t easy, this nonprofit real we work and live in.


But we’re the last best hope to so many individuals and groups across the globe. And even during historical and chaotic events unfolding in real time…we can make a difference locally.


And that’s pretty powerful in the face of tragedy.


We’ve freaking got this!


-Patrick