Man Doing Yoga at the end of a dock

Why Brick + Mortar Nonprofits Need to Think Differently this Year-End

What do I miss most? Easy. It’s yoga with Mr. Jack. 

If you were to ask me what I’ve missed most after being cooped up in the house since March, the answer is easy. It’s yoga with Mr. Jack at the YMCA. 

Mr. Jack is a spry Septuagenarian who is over 6 feet tall. I’ll admit, I avoided his classes for a while because I assumed they would be boring. But one night, Mr. Jack filled in for my regular instructor. When I realized he was teaching, I rolled my eyes but was too settled to get up and leave…and thank goodness. 

For the next couple of years, I rarely missed a Mr. Jack class. He’s a good ole country man, tells the wildest, most random stories during a lengthy warm-up — then shows up everyone in the class with his headstand. 

Now, when the YMCA asks me for a donation on Giving Tuesday, will I donate to them? Well…. probably not. 

Before Covid, I didn’t give to the YMCA because I pay to go there already. And why would I give to a place where I pay monthly to be a member? The only thing that would convince me to give a gift would be an appeal from Mr. Jack himself explaining why the Y’s programs are worth supporting. After all, I want to know how he’s doing. What’s he been up to? Is he ok? Is he back at the Y teaching classes? 

Going into year-end fundraising, brick and mortar nonprofits like my local Y probably need your support since many have experienced extensive closings. But, if you’re like me, you’re hesitant to give. There are lots of worthy causes right now. So how can they convince us to remember their cause this December? 

Once I considered my own reservations — and my background in strategic messaging and fundraising — I came up with this quick list of how to reach your donors, even if they can’t (literally) reach you this giving season.

  1. Start a dialogue – Remember, fundraising is about more than just asking for money. Begin by asking what your visitors or members miss about coming to your facility.  And don’t forget to respond! 
  2. Mix up your signers!  – Ask yourself: Who is your Mr. Jack? Your audience is more likely to respond to an individual who has personally impacted their experience with your organization.
  3. Open Safely – Assure your audience that you are following all protocols. Open-air, masks, hand washing stations, limited numbers, social distancing are all expected. Also, don’t forget to remind them — their gifts ensure you’ll be there on the other side of the pandemic. 
  4. Build Social Proof – I reached out to my cousin who owns restaurants in Nashville to ask what they’ve learned about re-opening their doors. His advice?  Make sure you’re ready. People want to see proof that you are doing the right things. Once they’re convinced, they’ll share on social media. And don’t overlook your employees. You need them to buy into the procedures and follow the guidelines. 

After being closed for most of the year, museums and other visitor-based nonprofits have a compelling case for support this giving season. They need funds to cover operating expenses. 

The need is there. The affection for your nonprofit is there. And with careful planning and storytelling that connects to donors, brick-and-mortar organizations are well-positioned to do well on Shop Local Saturday, Giving Tuesday, and the ever-crucial December 31. 

Just don’t forget the power of your own irreplaceable Mr. Jack.