The coronavirus pandemic of early 2020 has forced a new normal on virtually everyone, including nonprofits.

Governors’ executive orders to stay at home, organizations restricting travel, and preventative precautions that drive us to work at our desks at home now prioritize phone use and online meeting software.

Who would have predicted that Alexander Graham Bell’s innovative tool would experience a resurgence in 2020? It’s not just smartphone apps, important as they are, but basic connectivity and communication that matters now.

Unlike many social networks that tend to isolate us from each other, the phone brings us closer. It makes possible and can even improve relationships.

As of March 2020, no one knows exactly how the coronavirus pandemic will unfold. We know it will run its course sooner or later, we know people will suffer and some will die, we know the economy will take a hit, but we don’t know how powerful the hit will be or for how long. We don’t know how long we will shelter in place or when people will feel safe to travel again.

In the meantime, if your nonprofit relies on donations to operate, you may be wondering what kind of funding decline your organization will experience. And we all know that fundraising is “a contact sport,” so we all feel more vulnerable because we can’t go out and visit our donors. So the phone.

The telephone, as it used to be called, is a great relational device. When you call donors, just like that, you are “there.” In your space. Presumably those donors are sheltering in place as well, have less to occupy their time, and will likely be delighted to hear from you. I know, because I’ve tried this.

A leisurely but not too long phone conversation allows you to touch your donor where they live. You care about them and you let them know. As they are? They are fine? Oh, by the way, that’s how the nonprofit is doing it. This is the proactive approach the nonprofit is taking to advance its mission in the new normal.

It is a discreet update.

In a telephone conversation you can hear or transmit a smile. You can express concern or empathy, clarify understanding, participate, solicit input or ideas, share a vision, or most of all simply listen. To be there.

Make your calls like this:
 Be systematic, work your list.
 Identify brief talking points, beginning with “How are you?”
 Convey genuine concern.
 Thank them for their friendship.
 Share how and what the organization is doing, especially in relation to crisis response.
 Maybe ask for a gift, it depends on them and the nature of the call.
 Leave a short but understanding voicemail if you don’t get through.
 Send a follow-up email.

That is. Cheap, efficient, enormously effective.

Telephones were invented in the 19th century, but their power is still evident in the 21st century.