Since March of this year there has been no shortage of folks willing to provide advice and guidance on how fundraising professionals should be responding in the face of the pandemic or global social justice protests. Whether it’s through social media, virtual webinars and workshops, or other channels, most of the guidance shared has focused on the tactical, day-to-day decision-making aimed at helping development leaders survive the moment.
For instance, we’ve all seen information on the following:
- How to solicit gifts in a virtual environment, or;
- How we can (and should) go about inviting more diverse individuals onto our governing bodies, or;
- How donor stewardship can continue from a distance, or;
- How to work more effectively in remote work settings, or;
- How to transform your signature in-person event into an online powerhouse.
All important topics and tactical discussions, to be certain. And, in fact, our very own Gonser Gerber Institute has and continues to provide fantastic content on these and other relevant topics.
But such tactical and practical issues are not the only discussions we should be having today. Making it through these crises should not be our only goal. We also should be lifting our heads up from this moment of pain and disruption to begin planning for a future that promises more than what today offers.
Just as the crises we are living through strike at deeper, more core aspects of our humanity (i.e., our sociability and/or our care for each other as humans) so, too, do the crises offer up learnings and lessons that are more fundamental than simply the tactical. In many ways, our experiences over the last 6 months have reminded us of lessons about our work that we should always keep close to heart and mind. Here are 3 of those reminders to help us begin moving beyond our current circumstances and into a more promising future:
- Mission Matters Most – donors give generously because they believe in you and your mission. During non-crisis periods, we can forget this basic law of giving and focus instead on “soliciting donors for specific purposes.” In fact, we come up with all kinds of creative (but mostly inaccurate) reasons for why donors give generously. But look at any broad-based philanthropic research such as the High Net Worth Philanthropy studies by U.S. Trust, and you’ll find that even during non-crisis years, donors at all levels overwhelmingly make some of their largest gifts unrestricted. Simply put, development work has never been about creating specific, restricted projects so that donors can fund them. It has always been about communicating the goodness of your institution’s mission and engaging those donors who believe your mission is worthy of funding.
- Generosity Is Resilient – people want to help, especially during moments of crisis. Think back to the Great Recession when the broad financial markets dropped an incredible 50+% and total giving in the U.S. declined by only 11%. And today, we are seeing record fundraising happening throughout the nonprofit sector. According to our firm’s research with client institutions, from January – June 2020, over 66% of respondents reported raising at least as much money as they had in the same period of 2019. More broadly, as the pandemic began to shut down the world’s economy in April and May, 79% of donors surveyed by Fidelity Charitable stated that they would give in 2020 at least as much as they did in 2019. Simply put, the donors who cared for you and your misison in January and February of 2020 still care today. And, they still want to help.
- Inviting Others To Give Is An Honor – inviting people to be generous is not just your job, it is a privilege. Our work represents the best impulses of humanity: care, love, support, empathy, generosity. These are the instincts that, when acted upon, result in positive experiences for gift receivers as well as donors. Over the decades, our firm’s consultants have interviewed tens of thousands of major donors throughout North America. In conducting these personal interviews, one theme consistently emerges: donors, especially major donors, report feelings of joy, peace, and gratitude when they give. Far from being a burden or a chore, many donors are genuinely thankful for the opportunity to support worthy causes and institutions. Simply put, we should embrace the goodness of a work that calls us to help facilitate this giving process. And we should always appreciate the honor in doing it.
Our world will make it through our current season of crises. We will end up better because we have endured (and hopefully learned) from these experiences.
Even during the darkest, most depressing weeks and months, keeping in mind some of the more bedrock lessons of our good work should encourage you. And, hopefully, help you move from today’s crisis to confidence in tomorrow.
This article was originally published in our October 2020 Gonser Gerber E-Bulletin. To learn more about our Bulletin, or to subscribe to our mailing list, visit our website https://www.gonsergerber.com/services/institute/bulletin/.