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10 ideas for communicating well during a crisis

We talked about how to improve fundraising communication recently. Let's review some ideas for how you can communicate well to everyone you need to during a crisis—or even when life goes back to normal—for that matter. Here 10 ideas for communicating well during a crisis: 

1. Over communication

I truly believe that over-communicating is key. Would you rather someone say, “Why didn’t you tell me?”, or “Ok, I have enough information?”. I for one will take the latter. Granted there are certain situations where information must come out at its rightful time and place, but communicate until you are blue in the face and people are asking you to stop telling them.

2. Break your communication list down

Who needs to know what? Staff, team leaders, participants, parents, leaders, donors, partners, lodging, transportation. Take a moment a create a list of who exactly needs to know what.

3. Communication is two way

Give people space to ask questions. Whether that's through social media, responding to email, or just making phone calls, allow space for people to ask.

4. Behind the scenes

Don’t be afraid to give them insight behind the curtain. I have found a lot of questions come from a lack of context or communication. What will hurt from letting them know your process? I mean really, are any of us keeping presidential-size secrets that people cannot know? Take a breath and give the people what they want!

5. Prioritize your communication list

There is nothing worse than a participant knowing something before a team leader. Enough said.

6. Create a sample email (then test it)

Write out your email. Give it a proofread. Now read it again. Now send it to your team to proofread. Now send it to yourself. Ok, you’re all set! Hit send and let the questions roll in, just kidding, you’ve communicated so well nobody will have any questions.

7. Don't forget donors

This is a very important group. Here are a couple of approaches to this; it all depends on how your organization handles donations and participants. First of all, thank them. This is so important—but can be forgotten in the chaos. Second, let them know your policy for donations whether the money will remain with the participant until they can go, or your own policy regarding funds when a short-trip is cancelled. This might include letting them know the IRS policy on donations and refunds.

8. What’s next?!

Let them know how you will be monitoring the situation, who you are listening to, and how you are going to communicate moving forward. Should they be looking for emails, phone calls, updates from team leaders, social, or website? Be clear and follow through on those. If it changes, let them know!

9. Empower

If you have the space, empower your team leaders to communicate to your team. For one, it takes the burden off of you to communicate and manage however many people you have going on trips. Second, as leaders, we should desire to draw out of our people the ability to lead. Giving this opportunity, although small, gives them the chance to grow and lead their team well—at your direction. You might even write them a sample email to get them started.

10. Have fun with it!

Seriously, I'm not kidding. Especially at a time like this, there is so much somberness going around that being able to lighten the mood through an email, will relieve the tension for the participant and leader. We need to keep perspective that the God of the universe is in control.

In the meantime...

Share some good books to read (could I recommend “The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry”),  encourage them to engage with the community they were going to be apart over there right here, meetings over zoom or Skype, love people by respecting their space especially at this time, or make a list of places where people in vulnerable situations might be that they could serve and love well. I was telling a friend of mine after all this is over if I am no closer to the Father than I was when it started I will be disappointed. Encourage time and space to spend with God.


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.

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How to improve fundraising communication with participants, leaders, and parents

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.

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Should you cancel or reschedule that short-term mission trip?

For most of us, the decision to cancel or reschedule a short-term mission trip was made for us with the cancellation of international flights and other quarantines.

That still left the remaining question of having to simply cancel the trip all together or reschedule it for a later date. Both have their reasons and both have their benefits.

Let’s unpack the two sides to better assess which might be best for your organization.

Here are a few times when it's good to strongly consider CANCELLING?

  • When it’s time specific

  • When the team you’re visiting isn’t on the field any longer

  • When there are fixed variables

  • Project was time sensitive


Here are a few times when it's good to strongly consider RESCHEDULING?

  • Because of government travel restrictions

  • Because it’s the wise thing to do

  • When you have a flexible team, team leaders, field host, and logistics


Have you made your decision yet? Here are a few questions you could/should be asking:

  • Is it possible to reschedule?
  • Do you want to reschedule the trip?
  • Would participants be able to reschedule?
  • Can we accomplish the same goal if we reschedule?
  • How much work will it be to reschedule the trip (and is it worth it)?
  • What are our absolutes for rescheduling?

Hopefully, for those of you considering cancelling or rescheduling, we've helped you unpack the two sides to better assess which might be best for your organization. 

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.

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Finding peace in Christ so you can care for your team

For many going on a mission trip is a monumental step. I went on my first trip my freshman year of high school and it changed the trajectory of my life. Maybe they come from a family of missionaries, or a friend/mentor has gone on one and they want to go on one as well. Maybe they are simply following the way of Jesus and going.

Regardless of the reason, mission trips can hold a lot of emotion with them whether expressed or not. For this reason, it is imperative that we do everything we can as not just leaders, but as guides to walk with those entrusted to us through the ups and downs of a cancelled trip. You need, especially during this time, to care for your team. 

Specifically, in light of current events there are even more questions and fears that come up with mission trips. Many participants may be thinking, will I ever get to go again. There is so much planning for those outside of vocational ministry that goes into going on short-term mission trips.

From babysitters, to boarding pets, personal time off at work, school schedules, sport schedules, maybe even family holidays. For many, the stars have to align just to be able to follow what they believe God is calling them too. It is so important to keep this in mind when communicating the cancellation of a trip and subsequently walking with those through this because with the cancelling comes almost a gut punch after so much prep work. Caring for their heart in the midst of this is crucial.

People are looking to you for answers and the first way I would say you would care for their heart: care for your own.

I know I know, we all know this, but seriously, are you? If not that’s ok and you’re probably not alone, but go ahead and start somewhere—anywhere.

If you are not taking time to pray and be in God’s word before you start your day or even making each phone call may I just encourage you, start, now.

We all know that the bible is not going to give you a necessarily clean-cut answer for questions concerning travel or refunds, but is that what all of this is about?

In the midst of the chaos it can be hard to find a time to do things that bring you joy. Can I encourage you real quick? Fight for space to breathe, to take joy in God’s creation. Take a walk through the park. Call the friend you’ve been meaning to call. If we cannot stop and realize that this too shall pass, then we will only grow short and impatient with those we serve.

As you have cared for your own heart, you can now welcome the ability and space to care for your leaders and participants.

The most important piece in this: listen. Right, of course, we all listen, but are we really listening? Are we hearing their heart? The frustration, panic, worry, disappointment. The plans that have to be cancelled, the work they will have to go through to change all those plans. Let’s be honest, we all just want to be heard. So be patient, listen to the questions and hear the heart of your people.

So we have cared for our hearts, listened to the heart of those we are entrusted with, now what? Encourage.

Specifically, in light of the pandemic today. Look at Colossians 1:16-17:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

The phrase that has been on my mind and I have shared with a few people: there is great peace in knowing Jesus. Encourage your team and remind them who is in control and that none of this surprises Him.


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.

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Your role as a leader in short-term missions—especially during a crisis.

No matter what your official title might be for your role in short-term missions, you are a more than ever. It’s important to remember that people are desperately looking for direction in a time like this and amazingly, they will likely do what you suggest.

Perhaps another way to think of yourself is a guide...someone who is walking a few steps ahead of others, someone who has a plan, and someone who knows the path. And here’s the great thing, you only need to know the path a little better than everyone else to help guide them well.

Leading well

So this begs the question, how do you lead well? There are many attributes of leadership that we could discuss here but let’s focus on a few that intersect the most with the current circumstances.

  • Transparency: don’t hold the cards of information close to yourself (either from participants or other team members). Share what you know and share it openly and quickly. Far too often, people hold onto information as some form of capital. Leaders share information quickly so those who are following have the tools to make the best decisions on their own. Be transparent about what you know, what you’re hearing from partners, your concerns, alternate plans for the future, and so on. It’s really a matter of honoring other people well when you are transparent.

  • Communicate: we all know this but if you think you are over communicating then you’re closer to where you should be. You might want to consider building a weekly communication plan as a means to touch base with everyone about the current status, how things are looking for future plans, what your partner groups are doing, how they can stay engaged, and anything else that could help them. It’s always better to communicate out to your constituents before they are requesting information from you.

  • Engage: everyone is feeling like a caged animal right now. Remember that your offering of short-term missions trips has a goal for people to use their skills for something bigger. You don’t offer short-term trips so people can see the world - you offer them to make a difference. In a similar light, you can be engaging and encouraging people to make a difference right here and right now. Check out some of the suggestions later in this resource.


These are simply a few suggestions. Just remember that you are a leader and people are looking to you to lead them and to guide them. People want to be led, especially by people they know and trust. And even as these are uncertain times for all of us, you still have an incredibly unique opportunity to lead others well.


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.

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