COVID-19 & Nonprofits Podcast

The Charity Charge Show: EP 37 – Jeff Rum – Co-founder of Yearly

In episode 37 of The Charity Charge show, Stephen Garten chat with Jeff Rum, the Co-Founder of Yearly.

In this post, we hear from Jeff Rum, the Co-Founder of Yearly and Founder & CEO of ignite: explain why it is critical for nonprofits to communicate with radical empathy and honest conversation in times of crisis. Jeff is an award-winning digital strategist, educator and public speaker and has nearly 15 years of experience in digital strategy, branding, and marketing. 

Jeff is an award-winning digital strategist, educator and public speaker and has nearly 15 years of experience in digital strategy, branding, and marketing. 

Prior to founding ignite: action in 2015, Jeff was a partner and Chief Marketing Officer at SPARK Experience, a user experience agency. He also served as a digital consultant with The White House, United Nations Foundation and Human Rights Campaign. During his tenure at SPARK, Jeff also led digital campaigns and special projects with Pepsi, AAA, Fossil, Bose and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Tip #1- Communicate with Radical Empathy.

In Jeff’s opinion, the first and most important thing for organizations to do to communicate with donors in times of crisis is to lead with empathy. Right now is not the time to share with your community your plans for rescheduling events or that you need something from them. it’s time for all of us to listen and to be there for each other. The concept of radical empathy, which is one of ignite: action’s core values, means to simply put ourselves in the shoes of our audience. As a nonprofit you may be struggling to stay above water, but when you put yourself in the shoes of your supporters, they’re also going through a lot right now as they try to figure out how to navigate these turbulent times. In the beginning stages of this current crisis, Jeff states that we all need to take a step back this week and get used to this new environment. Take a deep breath, be there for each other, and maybe in the coming weeks we can start thinking about campaigns that need to close and funds need to be raised.

Tip #2- Communicate Honestly and Authentically.

Now more than ever, it is vital for nonprofits to be honest and authentic with their communities. It is imperative for organizations to take an honest inventory of critical needs and to just be real, sharing with supporters how the communities they serve will be impacted if these needs are not met. In times like this, nonprofits should forget about increasing or expanding their donor base, but simply focus on paying the bills. We must conserve resources and help those who need it the most. Right now, all we can do is take it one day at a time and prepare as best we can while looking out for one another. 

Jeff states, “At the end of the day, this will end, right? Like this is not going to be around forever. What I keep telling our clients and organizations is that a year from now when people are looking back and hopefully making a gift to your organization, how will they remember you? Are they going to remember you as the organization that really led with empathy and stepped up and asked how they could help or are they going to remember you as being the one that was asking for money right away?”

Tip #3- Focus on quality, not quantity. 

Many of Jeff’s clients have stated that the reality is organizations are going to have to go to their top donors, where losing 15% is not going to affect their net worth. The wealthiest among us are going to have to be the ones to step up, because donors are now becoming recipients. The people that were on the boards supporting these nonprofits at a substantial level are now watching their businesses crumble. They have children or elderly family members that they need to support. Their lives are out of balance, forcing them into survival mode. So now they’re needing the services of the organizations of which they, a month ago themselves were supporting. In times of crisis, it’s important that organizations step up and go to the people that they know can help. Having an authentic honest one on one conversation with them about what’s going on versus a shotgun approach to the 10,000 people on their newsletter. During times of crisis, we must adapt and learn to depend on one another. Through unity and love we will overcome the current fear and chaos plaguing our communities. Together we are strong.

Featured image by: Photo by Kay Lau


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