One of the key elements that will drive questions from participants, leaders, and parents is “what happens to the funds I've raised for this trip?”
Some key elements to prepare yourself and your teams for this include the following, which may include things you are already doing, but perhaps can do better/different to make this easier each time that you go through this process.
You already understand your role as a leader when it comes to short-term mission trips. Here are a few ideas for how to improve fundraising communication with participants, leaders, and parents
Involve your Accounting Team and Financial Leaders
This one is pretty obvious, but there are some critical questions that they will need to help walk you through, including:
✓ Tax implications and verbiage you can use when people ask for a refund (because they will, even if you’ve told them many times what the process is)
✓ What should we do with the funds that were already provided?
✓ Are there any restrictions and/or considerations we should make when deciding to cancel or postpone a trip?
✓ Identify which funds or trips that already have expenses and determine what do to in order to recover or eat that cost (e.g. travel costs, etc.)
Involve your Leadership Team
Depending on the involvement of your leaders, some may already be well aware of what is going on, but here are some thoughts to consider:
✓ Be prepared to summarize for them (or provide them a summary that they can provide their own leadership/board).
✓ Provide options with benefits/drawbacks to each approach. For example, reschedule versus cancel.
✓ If you decide to reschedule, have a general timeframe for communication... or at least determine what information you will need to decide on a timeframe.
✓ If not involved in the financial communication with your accounting team, provide your leaders a roadmap/summary of the financial impact and approach that is suggested (as they will likely be asked this by their leadership)
Communicate Clearly to Participants and Leaders
✓ Create a communication plan, even if a very simple one. For example, write up a communication to the teams and create some common questions people will ask.
✓ Clearly communicate what will happen with any funds that have been raised (based on your conversations with accounting and leadership).
✓ Have others review your communication. This can be a review for typos, tone, etc., but it is important to make sure that you get buy-in from others.
✓ Copy and Paste...once you answer a question once, either copy it to a word doc so you can use it later or add it to your common FAQ area/web page.
✓ Provide some education or guidance to the process. For example, participants are not aware of the tax situation for non-profit donation. Provide some simple guidance that helps them understand enough, while keeping communication focused.
✓ Provide assurance that their concerns are addressed. While you may have gone through this process many times, this might be the participant’s first time a trip was cancelled. Try to put yourself in their shoes and address uncertainty. Assure them that you have done this before and will guide them through the process.
We hope this helps you improve fundraising communication when speaking with participants, leaders, and parents.
This is one post of many we're doing related to the current crisis. Download Cancelled: A Guide to Maintaining Missions Engagement When Your Short-Term Trip is Cancelled.