On July 31, 2021, the extended federal moratorium on housing evictions due to COVID-19 will end. The eviction ban, which offers renters protection if they cannot pay rent, has been in place since September 2020 by the Department of Health and Human Services and was extended through July in March 2020. While some states have extended their own eviction moratoriums beyond July 2021, many have not, and those living in states that have may only qualify for relief if they are already in the process of seeking support.
What will the end of the ban mean for individuals and families who are struggling to afford rising rent costs and are at-risk of being evicted? What impacts will be had on the operational capacity and fundraising needs of organizations that address homelessness and housing stability who will be called upon to step up and provide resources for safe, stable housing and rental assistance?
According to the Census Bureau, roughly 3.6 million people claim they face eviction in the next two months and 7 million people are behind on their rent in the U.S. Based on past and recent experiences, nonprofit organizations in the homeless and housing space are already bracing for a significant spike in demand as was seen following the housing market crash of 2008 and throughout 2020 as public spaces closed and quarantines were established.
Across all nonprofits, fundraising is a critical lifeline for sustaining and growing program and service capacity. In addition to prioritizing the fortification of operations and program capacity, as well as exploring new partnerships to meet an anticipated rise in demand, housing-based organizations must also actively respond through their communications, community engagement, and fundraising efforts.
Your best donors are those who are informed and engaged. CCS Fundraising recommends assessing and updating your communications plan and fundraising materials to elevate the visibility of this emergent need, and focus on engaging the new donors who stepped up and joined you during COVID-19 as well as those donors loyal to the organization over the years.
Communications and Case
With regards to assessing and updating communications and fundraising collateral, your newsletters, annual appeals, major gift proposals, stewardship reports, and sharable social media content will be strengthened by including the following:
- The ongoing impact that your organization had on homelessness since the start of the pandemic and eviction ban, as well as how demand and service delivery have evolved
- Information about the policy change and the broader context of the state of homelessness both nationally and locally
- Emphasis on the importance of stable housing and the incredibly damaging impacts of eviction as it relates to fighting chronic homelessness, holding down a job, pursuing career and education goals, supporting families, and providing safety in a pandemic
- Elevated and amplified client stories and experiences
- Your mission’s alignment to broader policy changes, whether that is agile service delivery, public advocacy, or other
- Your steadfast commitment to serve your community during times of change
Intuitively, different constituencies of donors are motivated to give for a variety of reasons. Tailored messaging for different types of donors will only further strengthen your communications and fundraising materials as you seek support in FY21 and beyond.
Strategic Donor Engagement
Donor retention is central to a strong base of annual support and the cultivation of major gifts. New donors that contributed to your organization for the first time during COVID-19 should receive messaging that communicates the value proposition of your organization. Many of these new donors joined you out of a sense of duty to support their community in a time of urgent need. As this urgent need remains, thanking these new donors for stepping up and asking for their continued support is essential. Consider answering: What were you able to do with their support? How big is your addressable population? How dire is the need? What is your measurable impact on the community?
Repeat donors and major donors are often your greatest sources of significant gifts and multi-year pledges. These donors, especially those considered your nearest and dearest, should receive personalized messaging that underscores the continued importance of their support and the very specific impact of their generosity. In addition to sharing impact, offer them specific action steps that they can take to support your plan in response to the policy change. Appreciating the impacts of ending the eviction ban may have long term implications, seeking special two-to-three-year pledges can help provide reliable support you can count on in an uncertain and ever-evolving environment.
Other Thoughts and Considerations for Nonprofits
In addition to seeing the need for and impact of their support, donors want to know what else can be done to address homelessness and housing stability. Beyond raising awareness through communications and publicity, and strategically engaging donors, all nonprofits in this space should explore how new or stronger partnerships with other public, nonprofit, and corporate entities can be used to address homelessness and housing insecurity within their community. At the state and local level, nonprofits should also explore how donors can tap into grassroots advocacy efforts to change the system and ensure access to stable housing which is paramount to ending the cycle of homelessness for individuals and families.