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By Drew Fox Jordan • April 1, 2020

Fundraising During a Crisis 2.0 - Q&A

Fundraising During A Crisis 2.0

Q&A

Thank you to all of those who joined us for Fundraising During A Crisis 2.0. We are honored to bring together this panel and provide a resource to you in these uncertain times.

The webinar's Q&A session was extremely active. We've transcribed the session to expand the valuable resources our panelists provided. Many thanks to our amazing panel.

If you are seeking additional resources from the webinar follow these links:

  • WEBINAR RECORDING
  • WEBINAR SLIDES
  • WEBINAR SURVEY

    **Please note: we received a number of questions about the impact of the CARES Act on nonprofit organizations. We're actively working to bring you a separate webinar with an expert in that area. Stay tuned.**

Fundraising During A Crisis 2.0 Panelist

Questions from the webinar

Question: What are the first three things the frontline fundraisers should be doing or the three things the frontline fundraisers should be doing as we deal with communication in this crisis?

John Brodeur, Chairman, Brodeur PartnersAnswer: It's probably more than three, but I'll go really quickly. Shoot straight. Don't embellish. Don't make it worse. Don't make it better. Just shoot straight. Everyone at the organization has to sing from the same song book. There has to be a consistency and flow of communication but on messaging so that the whole organization from the president all the way through every fundraising person has to be saying the same thing. Monitoring of what's going on in the marketplace, especially with your donors, and how they're feeling and doing. Listening a lot on phone calls and doing webinars with them is critically important. Getting that feedback mechanism so that you aren't guessing what they're thinking and plugging that into solicitations so you can understand where they're coming from and what's going to help you the most. Give them continuous updates, not to the point where you're clogging them and their emails with too much, but they need updates. I think if you do most of those or three out of five, you go win.

– John Brodeur, Chairman, Brodeur Partners

Question: How should organizations deal with cancelled or reneged major gifts that have either been committed or are being asked for in solicitation right now?

Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, AccordantAnswer: How did we deal with it, in the previous crisis, when pledges were canceled? We were people-centered first. So make sure that you're adjusting your goals and having realistic goals. You're in constant communication with your leadership about what philanthropy can do and can't do, and you're being true to your donors. So treating them with respect, having them give through us and having flexibility with that may mean building something gets postponed because all the donors for the capital gift are not going to give. We call that campaign in calibration. You just have to remain in constant communication. I don't have the answers for everyone, but the answer is to communicate with your leadership and your donors, treat them respectfully, really understanding what's going on in the world right now as it looks different every single day.

– Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, Accordant

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: We all look back in 2008 and I didn't see gifts that went away. I saw gifts that got restructured. We needed to think about extending out the timeline, changing the asset that they were using to pay on that pledge. But conversations worked out the details for most people that their intention was still there, but their circumstances changed. Be very human and even work with your finance department and say "please don't write these folks off". Don't decide that they're not going to give, but let's just talk about  we're flexing it in terms of our receivables so we can work with donors to come to grips.

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant

Question: Board members and presidents: how can we keep them aligned during this crisis?

Bonnie Devlin, Principal & Co-Owner, Washburn & McGoldrickAnswer: I think that's the job of leadership and that's something that starts with the CEO. Sometimes that needs prompting from your CAOs those  working closely with those leaders to say it's really vital that we are aligned on this, and to be able to make sure that person's not giving it lip service, but that person actually really understand that seat. I always made it when I was a vice president, always made it a really a mission of mine to be very close to the CFO. And, and so sometimes the CFO and the chief development officer coming together to say, the president, here's the reality. Here's what we think this is. This is the best, the most flexible money that we could have right now. There has to be a component of trust to be able to do that. 

– Bonnie Devlin, Principal & Co-Owner, Washburn & McGoldrick

Question: How would you recommend reaching out to new prospects to your portfolio, who you haven't been able to talk to before?

Daniel Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, GraduwayAnswer: Consider how you could bring them value first before asking for anything.  If relevant, we have a free business directory we offer that will allow you to promote their businesses during these tough times.

– Daniel Cohen, CEO & Founder, Graduway

Question: Since I work for an arts organization, I'm feeling hesitant to fundraise when it's not supporting COVID related services. Should I still ask?

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: I believe there are arts organizations that are rocking this.  You do have to find a way to be relevant. Maybe you send out daily images from your collection or links to past performances or a chat with an artist.  We are all overwhelmed with news. Be a bright spot. Ask folks to remember the role you play in creating everyday joy. Keep going. However, going dark and being silent in my mind is not the course.  Look online for lots of examples of virtual concerts and such.

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant

Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, AccordantAnswer: Yes, you should still ask as long as you acknowledge where they are, if they are healthy, and well. Confirm their true north for what they care about. Work to align THEIR goals for philanthropy with your case need.  And don’t ignore COVID-19 reality. I anticipate this may add one or two additional touches, but it keeps you connected with their goals and your organization. Your relationship will be stronger because of it. The Arts still need to be preserved and shared.

– Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, Accordant

Question: How can we enable people either across campus, the hospital, or across a nonprofit organization to utilize the data to make sure that we're empowering folks that aren't just in the frontline fundraising office to build relationships with donors during this crisis?

Trent Beattie, VP of Strategic Alliances, iWaveAnswer: A great communication strategy requires that old picture and that old picture requires data from all kinds of different places. So getting the data in the hands of other people is critical. If you also shared that information with the overall communications team around the organization, depending on how they're structured, there may be different roles or maybe it's just a different hat that same person wears. But looking at the same information through a different lens, um, can definitely help tell a different story or shape a different stories.

– Trent Beattie, VP of Strategic Alliances, iWave

Question: Any insight on institutional (corporate, foundation) donors?

Chris Biehn, Senior Consultant & Interim VP of Advancement, Washburn & McGoldrickAnswer: In some communities, foundations are coming together and shifting to short term support for health care. However the best way to find out about this is to check in with the Foundations in your universe. As far as corporations, the CARES Act relief provides for an increase from 10% to 25% cap on deductions for contributions. Some corporations are struggling but some have had windfalls. Think about grocery and packaging companies as well as food prep and processing companies.

– Chris Biehn, Senior Consultant, Washburn & McGoldrick

Question: We are a public park. So we are not feeding starving children, or protecting against violence. what angle can we take to make and ask without seeming opportunistic or out of touch?

Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, AccordantAnswer: Parks have a platform for healing during physical distancing.  You may find it helpful to check out the National parks platform and messaging.  Talk about how COVID impacts your community and does that align at all with your case and mission.

– Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, Accordant

Question: We are in the middle of the quiet phase of a capital campaign. The majority of our first asks will be for large gifts ($100k+) which would need to be made in person (ideally). How do we proceed with asking for these large sums given the social distancing guidelines and uncertainty they may be experiencing in regards to their investments?

Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, AccordantAnswer: As you move forward with your pipeline, it is a great time to consider the strategy around your campaign.  Can you extend your silence? Look for a campaign calibration exercise. Also, if you do acknowledge how the donors are, the reality of your organization and the COVID update (that changes every day), reaffirm their interest and check with them on timing. You can proceed, but it will be on the donors timeline and not your campaign timeline.  You can continue in campaigns with re-evaluation.

– Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, Accordant

Question: Ramadan falls in April-May and we will likely still be unable to host community and Masjid events. What suggestions do you have for Muslim organizations that rely on giving during this time to support 50-100% of their operations?

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: I believe it is unlikely events will proceed until Fall. I would tell your donors what you are facing and how crucial they are now. They get it. Let them rise. At the same time, consider other ways to create community even if it a virtual event.   

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant

Question: How should I respectfully proceed when the event I'm fundraising for may be cancelled?

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: You tell your story.  Acknowledge the ambiguity.  Give them the option to get sponsorship and ticket money back or to give it to mission.

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant


Question: When you say "engage first and ask second", do you mean to create two-way conversation before making an ask?

Daniel Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, GraduwayAnswer: I think it's a parallel conversation.  We need to be bringing value to the lives of our donors and alumni.  In parallel, we can have another conversation giving the donor an opportunity to give.  We need both conversations.

– Daniel Cohen, CEO & Founder, Graduway

Question: The fundraising event we had, a Roundtable Discussion at the end of the month, was face to face and we had to cancel. How can I engage the sponsors and get their support?

Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, AccordantAnswer: Rethink the purpose of any event, big or small. What was the goal of that engagement?  If it was to gather their valuable feedback at the round table, let them know you need them know and you need their expertise. Ask if they can participate in a Zoom meeting to gather their feedback.

– Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, Accordant

Daniel Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, GraduwayAnswer: Absolutely.  I think you should also consider making this event a digital one.  For sponsors - I think you need to also think about what extra value you can bring them digitally.  

– Daniel Cohen, CEO & Founder, Graduway

Question: What is  the best way to cancel and event where a deposit was already paid?

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: First, see what the contract with the venue says. This would likely be considered an Act of God, which is often addressed in contracts. Second, see if you have insurance for the event. Third, I would have an honest conversation with your venue now and ask for the chance to reschedule to 2021 instead of cancelling.

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant

Question: We are an advocacy organization for charter schools. Separately, we have a c4 and PAC and, with elections happening this year, I am concerned about tapping out our existing pool of donors without the ability to prospect well.

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: I work exclusively in health care, so someone from another sector might answer differently.  However, I think if you were in health care, social services or another part of the continuum of care for COVID, it’s a great time to prospect. However, being outside that, you have a whole lot of noise to overcome. I would almost use this time to work on your database, sharpen your case, make plans and wait until June to really get out there. I just think it will be hard to break through the noise to reach people with no relationship to you now.  If you must proceed, I would leverage warm contacts through board members and other allies. You just need to ensure reaching out now does not seem tone deaf to all that is going on.

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant

Question: We are in the collegiate athletics sector and would be interested in some new ideas/suggestions of prospecting and identifying new prospects.

Daniel Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, GraduwayAnswer: One idea for you.  Have you thought of giving them the opportunity to promote their business with you?  Helps identify wealthier donors and brings them real value first before asking for anything. 

–Daniel Cohen, CEO & Founder, Graduway

Question: We do not have a strong donor base and even fewer email addresses. We are the nonprofit arm of a hospital. We've been struggling with whether or not to buy lists, when to do it, what to communicate right now, etc.

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: Being in health care, you have a lot of options now. If you can get someone in HIM to help you, you legally have access to patient data under HIPAA from the HITECH ruling of March 2013.  Most hospitals do collect email addresses. Legally, you have to ensure that we respect anyone who has “opted out” of fundraising information.  However, a crisis response to prospects now is very relevant…your hospital is positioning to care for them. You can also leverage putting something like a give now button on your hospital’s COVID page.  In short, you should boldly and quickly move forward. 

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant

Question: Any suggestions on a virtual event?

Daniel Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, GraduwayAnswer: Consider two types of virtual events.  1. Virtual Community - where your donors can help one another especially on business or 2.  Virtual Giving Day or Campaign. Both can be easily done with many vendors.

– Daniel Cohen, CEO & Founder, Graduway

Question: How do we compete with social and medical needs? A donor wants to support their community food bank or health care, how do we talk about our needs against that?

Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, AccordantAnswer: Great question, it is not your needs against theirs ideally.  The donor will decide. If you are their previous charity of choice, you have to share your case, and how COVID fits in, or not.  They may choose to support COVID immediate needs with an annual gift, but continue to work with you to accomplish their philanthropic goals with your organization.  Donors give through you, not to you, so if it is meaningful to them, and you give them the opportunity and not say “no for the donor” they will stay engaged.

– Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, Accordant

Question: What have you found to be the best method for approaching grant-making organizations about new funding opportunities related to the COVID-19 crisis?  Are they self-selecting or open to requests?

Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP, CEO AccordantAnswer: We have heard from a lot of clients that funders are suspending normal procedures and timelines to respond to this.  Therefore, I would not hesitate to ask. It may also be worth reaching out to grant makers in Health to see if they have a sense of who is doing rapid response grants

– Betsy Chapin Taylor, FAHP CEO, Accordant

Question: Any recommendations to nonprofits that are not serving needs that directly combat the crisis? I work for an Arts & Culture non-profit but need to fundraise just as much as everyone else.

Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, AccordantAnswer: Still check in on your donors.  How are they? healthy? impacted? Address and share how you are impacted by COVID19, membership? attendance? educational programming?  What are you doing to address that? then ask them what they most hope to see from your organization during this time. Is it work towards COVID19 impact, or is more support of your mission and vision? 

– Heather Wiley Starankovic, Principal Consultant, Accordant

Question: Any tips for mass fundraising through small gifts (under $250)?

Daniel Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, GraduwayAnswer: One obvious answer is to run a digital Giving Day event that properly engages wider community and gamifies the day.

– Daniel Cohen, CEO & Founder, Graduway

Question: How should frontline fundraisers be working with senior leaders to make sure that the frontline fundraisers are facilitating everything we need to put ourselves in the best position to be successful?

Chris Biehn, Senior Consultant & Interim VP of Advancement, Washburn & McGoldrickAnswer: There's an opportunity when you're remote to think about a channel and the most effectiveness of the channel. Remember text messages are for urgent things, email or Slack for an ongoing project, just thinking about the appropriate channel to communicate. But encourage them to over-communicate at this point. Having a few more eyes on the strategy at this point makes a lot of sense.

– Chris Biehn, Senior Consultant, Washburn & McGoldrick

Question: Any thoughts on virtual events or how to engage networks virtually, not just one to one, but one to many? How do we get these folks going?

Daniel Cohen, Co-Founder & CEO, GraduwayAnswer: I think it's about building community. We often think about engagement strategies as sort of institution versus that donor or the alumni, which has sort of one one faceted. I think what would be more empowering is if your donors and your alumni are actually networking with each other because of you. So it's not about necessarily being that relevant directly to your alumni or donors, but actually facilitating opportunities for them to network with each other or to get value from being in the same community. We need to redefine how we think of things as facilitators or enablers of a community as opposed to being the ones that have to do the direct engagement. 

– Daniel Cohen, CEO & Founder, Graduway

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