Gennady Favel

Community Outreach, Programs, and Fundraising in the Post-Pandemic Environment

Some time in the next few months the major health shock of the pandemic will hopefully be behind us. We will emerge from behind our video conference screens and face the challenges of helping communities re-energize. This will come with its own challenges and opportunities!

First the good. After siting for weeks locked up in our homes, glued to TVs, computers, and phones, we will crave in-person interactions with members of our communities and discuss topics other than the virus. This is great news for program leaders, and organizations that should have an easier time filling the room. I am predicting packed synagogues in weeks after social distancing is lifted. Programs in JCCs, and other organizations should all see a boost in average attendance. This is an opportunity for Rabbis and program leaders to innovate, test new ideas, and give it 110%. It is one of those few occasions where most of us have exhausted our desire for electronic entertainment and will be open to alternatives. Bringing your organizations A-game will have a long term effect for the year and beyond.

Post-pandemic community outreach can also present some interesting challenges and opportunities. As I previously mentioned, over the last few weeks we have over-saturated ourselves with screen time. This means that organizations that rely exclusively on social media and digital marketing may be missing opportunities and risk having their message ignored by a desensitized audience. However, this is a great opportunity for other forms of community outreach. If your organization has the resources, you may want to be present with an information table at events such as festivals, outdoor celebrations, or street fairs. An in-person visit to volunteers and members who make your organization stronger can also be a great boost. Be creative and as much physically present as your resources allow it. Obviously, wait until the official “All Clear” before you venture our and congregate!

This brings us to what may be the more challenging aspect, fundraising. The stock market is down, unemployment is about to see a dramatic spike, volatility and anxiety are high. Donors may have suffered financial loses, lost business, or employment. One of the first things you will want to do is reach out to your supporters as a friend to understand how they were impacted. If their financial situation has greatly declined, offer to help. You or your organization may be able to make business or career introductions, or help in some other meaningful way. These individuals were there for you, now is your chance to be there for them. Second, compile lists of individuals and industries that financially were least effected by the economic slowdown. Tech companies on the whole have done okay, and in some cases benefited from recent events. Medicine and biotechnology have also been in-demand fields. Donors with careers on those sectors may have seen the least financial impact.

When talking with donors make sure to communicate that you understand the effect of the pandemic on the economy. Make sure to highlight all relief efforts and programming that your organizations continued during the pandemic. Emphasize what your organization is doing to assist in the recovery and the challenges that you are helping others overcome. It’s imperative that communication about your organization’s future are positive in tone while also underlining any urgency and gaps in resources.

About the Author
Gennady Favel has led marketing, community outreach and communications for a number of Jewish nonprofit organizations. His writing has been featured in eJewishPhilanthropy, The Forward, The NY Daily News, and Jewish Week
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