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How To Make an Ask When Your Audience is Grieving

It’s been a difficult year, and grief is an unfortunate part of the picture for many people right now. If your organization still needs to fundraise, this can be a tricky time to navigate. You and your team might be stretching every dollar to help folks in need, even as resources are running low. At the same time, you're rightfully concerned about putting the wrong kind of pressure on potential donors who are grappling with loss.

Fortunately, there are ways to continue meeting your fundraising and activism goals while being sensitive to the reality that many families are struggling at this time. Here are some helpful ways to continue making an ask:

1. Acknowledge the grief your audience may be going through.

Show empathy. While there is a time and a place for lighthearted COVID-19 quips or jokes about Zoom meetings, there’s also a time and a place to be serious with your audience. Let them know that you aren’t avoiding an elephant in the room or pretending life is business as usual right now.

By displaying honesty and vulnerability, both about your need for funds, and about the grief your audience is dealing with, you can form more authentic connections with your community and reiterate that your organization is made up of human beings dealing with difficult things, too. We all need support right now, and being honest is one way to foster connection and demonstrate compassion to the folks on your list. You might consider sending a few more emails that don't include explicit fundraising asks and instead simply check in on your audience.

2. Come up with ways that your audience can give back if a monetary donation is not possible for them.

Many families are not only dealing with grief, they’re also dealing with dire economic situations. Even if they want to help, they might not be in a situation to give money.

That’s okay, and it’s important to recognize that might be the case. Find other ways they can make a contribution to your organization, both so that they know they’re making a valuable impact for your mission, and so you can benefit from other forms of support.

3. Remember that messaging should be unique to the situation, the audience, and the timing.

This boils down to knowing your audience, and being attuned to what they need to hear in the moment. It’s vital to maintain regular communication with your community, understand the different groups within your audience, and learn what messaging works for them. On top of that, staying up-to-date on the news and what’s going on in your community can help you navigate the tricky waters of fundraising messaging.

And no matter what, if you’re not sure if an ask is too casual or will come at a poor time for your list, proceed with caution. Ask another person on your team to review the messaging — you may decide to change directions or wait a few days.

4. Ask with compassion, but keep asking.

If you're doing good work that will truly help people right now, the world needs you to have resources. Our clients are organizations that advocate for things like paid family leave, universal health care, and safe conditions for working people. These are exactly the things people need right now. If your work or campaign is to advance something that could save lives, you shouldn't feel guilt about asking for financial support.

If you’re doing meaningful, investment-worthy work and proceed with care, you may be surprised by how well your audience responds to your ask.


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