In this series, we take a look at the current news impacting the nonprofit sector, specifically fundraising. Our intention is not to be reactive, but to be proactive in our analysis of the news and consider how fundraising and philanthropic efforts can improve outcomes and adapt to meet the times.
This week: How COVID-19 Is Shifting the North-South Philanthropic Power Dynamic, For Local Newsrooms, Philanthropy Isn’t Charity—It’s Revenue, 7 In 10 Nonprofits Struggling With Pandemic-Forced Digital Fundraising Pivot, How The Pandemic Propelled Online Education For a World-Class Art Foundation, and Covid-Related Cyber Fraud Has Cost Americans $382 Million.
How COVID-19 Is Shifting the North-South Philanthropic Power Dynamic (Via Stanford Social Innovation Review)
Sociologist Erving Goffman suggested that the best time to understand social interaction is when it’s disrupted. This may also be true of philanthropy, and the field is certainly experiencing disruption today. The prolonged and increasingly devastating nature of the COVID-19 pandemic means that large foundations in the Global North—even those that didn’t originally focus on health issues—have diverted a significant proportion of their funding to the health sector to support pandemic relief. This shift has in many ways highlighted the historically unequal power dynamic that exists between philanthropic organizations in the Global South (including NGOs and social enterprises, grant makers and grant recipients) and resource-rich foundations of the Global North.
Analysis: Over the past year, we have focused on how much is being given philanthropically, but less attention has been given to where that money is going. As the world continues to recover from the pandemic, I'll be keeping my eye on how "crisis funding" trends. Once the pandemic is over, will we return the status quo? Or are we just now seeing the beginning of a shift in funding?
For Local Newsrooms, Philanthropy Isn’t Charity—It’s Revenue (Via Inside Philanthropy)
Across philanthropy there’s a growing recognition that local journalism has an important role to play in strengthening our communities, fighting polarization and misinformation, and helping communities more effectively address healthcare inequities, underperforming schools and other pressing problems. And philanthropists increasingly see that this critical information ecosystem is at risk. As the traditional local news models collapse, we need to build philanthropy into the mix if we are to have healthy, well-informed communities.
Analysis: Local journalism is a cornerstone for communities across the country. Many rely on the generosity of readers for revenue to make sure that local news is still being covered. In a time where funds are primarily being directed to COVID related causes, local newsrooms should be seen as part of the fight, bringing up to date and relevant information to their communities.
Ninety-seven percent of nonprofits affirmed the need to innovate in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a recent study published by CAF America. Asked about the innovations they implemented in 2020, the top response, at 73.94%, was ‘adapting programming to the digital realm.’ Nonprofits also said that was their most successful innovation — 62.84% said they were successful at this adaptation. Other innovations were deemed less successful by respondents: 57.42% said they created new fundraising strategies and campaigns, but only 31.42% described those efforts as successful.
Analysis: Historically, nonprofits have lagged behind in technological advances due to lack of accessibility to these tools. The shift to digital is something that many organizations understandably struggled with since a comprehensive strategy was absent prior to this shift. Even as the world returns to a relative normal, digital fundraising will continue to be an integral part of advancement and organizations will continue to see more success from these programs as they become more common.
As the one-year anniversary of the pandemic recently passed, the Barnes Foundation is leading the field in online art history education. Financially, the institution has tripled enrollment for its adult education classes, generating an unprecedented amount of revenue and boosting its robust need-based scholarship program. It has also succeeded in bringing its world-class collection of Impressionist, Postimpressionist, and early modern paintings to a much broader audience.
Analysis: It can be easy to forget about organizations that are not directly on the front lines of the fight against COVID and how they are impacted by shutdowns. Hearing stories like this is a good reminder that even in the face of adversity, shifting to digital strategies is possible. However the digital shift should not be limited to outward facing operations. As the above article shows, we still have some ways to go before claiming victory in the digital transition.
Fraud linked to the Covid pandemic has cost Americans $382 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Criminals have used multiple avenues to steal money from unsuspecting Americans, including crimes around financial relief like stimulus checks and unemployment benefits, fake treatments for Covid-19, and fraudulent charities.
Analysis: While cybercrime in general is on the rise, what concerns me most is the rise in fraudulent charities. This only reaffirms the importance of building personal relationships with donors to ensure that when asked to give a gift to help fight against the pandemic, that money is going to a real organization because the donor knows there is a real person on the other end of that email making that ask.
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