Plan….NOW! Pear-Tree Planning in a Pandemic

by Marcy Heim on June 24, 2020

Pear Tree Planning in a Pandemic

You might be feeling, “How can I plan for anything when everything is so up in the air.”

I understand. And I am here to help!

Pear tree

Let me tell you a story about my pear tree.  It was loaded with buds and now it’s loaded, I mean LOADED, with tiny baby pears. That means that by Labor Day I will have thousands, oh OK, hundreds of pears that ripen within a few days, hit the ground, rot fast and attract swarms of bees. They are also really delicious – a blessing really – and I carry incredible guilt at wasting them. I’ve had groups in to pick, jam-making parties and help just to get them raked up and gone. The neighbors avoid me late August because they know I’ll be bringing another bucket to them.

After a decade with this tree, somehow I’m never ready for the pear avalanche. Why am I surprised that these tiny pears grow into big ones? Even in years when the buds were damaged, I had pears. Pear-Tree Planning has come to symbolize all the personal and professional events in my life I KNOW are coming – yet somehow I’m failing to plan for. They can set me into a last-minute panic – mild or severe – the drama is real.  Can you relate? Do you have a Pear Tree or two in your life?

Here’s the message I want you to get.

No matter what..

Let’s do some Pear-Tree Planning!

Here’s a list of actions to take to enhance your relationships with both your donors AND those closest to you. Remember I want you to take care of BOTH – your donors and YOU!

1. Every-year donor/family specific events – Birthdays, Anniversaries, etc

Regardless of the pandemic, people still have birthdays and anniversaries. You can still celebrate the anniversary of a donor’s major gift and remind them of the impact. If you haven’t collected these dates, now is a good time to start. How? On your next check-in call, have a conversation something like, “We just celebrated Mary’s birthday virtually here. So different this year, isn’t it? When is your birthday? What might be different for you this year?” 

This year it may not be an in-person visit.  Now the mail time for your birthday card may be longer. Now you might have to rethink your message to – “May this find you and yours well and in good spirits.  Happy Birthday! You are appreciated and an important part of our family.”  Let’s face it, sometimes we are last minute with our own kids’ birthdays – not like we weren’t there when they were born.

2. Every-year Holidays

Heim's Fathers Day

This past Sunday was Father’s Day. Just like every year – pandemic or not. I called several donors/friends who are like fathers to me. Just like every year.

This year rather than the individual calls from our kids, they all got on at once on zoom. It was actually better. The holidays will stay the same. You can plan your actions ahead of time taking into account what will be different in you implementation. You may not know when you’ll be back in your office for sure – but there will still be Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Halloween, Christmas, New Years Day… You can plan for these.

3. YOUR Specific Traditional Events

When it comes to events, the most important question is the same, “Why are we having this event?” It may be to thank donors, invite donors to invest, provide a chance to hear from leadership, experience a powerful story of giving impact, feel part of a giving community, and/or just be together.

Seems to me you can accomplish much of this differently – a Non-Event, a zoom gathering, a virtual event. Yes, it’s hard to replace the hugs, the personal sharing that only happens in person and the pure JOY of being together. BUT, we can continue to show up genuine and true. And, we can continue to watch for opportunities to bring people together with a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…

Last week I celebrated with one of my clients – the Lussier Community Education Center.  Their ED, Paul Terranova, has been there 20 years and accomplished so much. No, it wasn’t like being in the same room, but the surprise (Paul really was clueless this was coming!) the tears, the bonding, with each other and the Center, were very real.

Pauls Gathering

4. Your Relationship Action Plans

Those of you who study major giving with me are familiar with a Relationship Action Plan. It’s our roadmap of what’s next with our major donors. While the meeting details may be different now, the steps are remarkably similar. In fact, engaging partners – your board, other staff and volunteers may even be easier! Make sure these have not slipped off of the MUST DO list! You need to plan these!

5. Year-End Planning

Yes, I get it. It’s only June. BUT…this year-end will be different. We have launched special COVID funds early this year and our donors have responded generously! Perhaps we have put our campaign on hold or delayed beginning it. We have tabled some planned giving conversations with donors who are nervous about their investments. NOW is the time to begin finding a year-end theme and start messaging around it to begin the conversations for our year-end giving appeals and major donor asks.  Just today, one of my clients – a faith-based senior facility selected, “Blessed in ALL times.” It’s perfect for them. What’s yours going to be?

I know you are feeling this sort of out-of-sorts feeling. Even with meditation, working out, hop scotch on the sidewalk and baseball in the backyard, these times are just weird and different – and for many of us, scary. Fear is crippling. Focus on what you CAN PLAN now and look forward to. Keep track of each other. Take care of each other.

“Here comes the sun!” the Beatles song, plays constantly in scores of hospitals across the country because it lifts folks up. Did you know it was recorded the very last time the Beatles were together in a studio – a sad night indeed. You will be different from this, but you will be ok.  Shine on!

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