As the worldwide pandemic changes the way we live and work, almost no sector has avoided the turmoil. Nonprofits have also shifted the way they operate. Facing hiring freezes and other disruptions, many have begun to outsource their development work. At the same time, some charities have recorded a surge in donations, and have refocused on donor relationships.
Emily Stiffman’s recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article discussed how these dynamics affect fundraising. She and I share remarkably similar viewpoints, which I discuss here.
Work environments have changed. Work environments look much different these days. Many groups are shifting workers to a part-time status or flexible hours in response to caregiving responsibilities. As a result, organizational expectations for employees have changed.
Other groups, facing layoffs or hiring freezes, fear that they could miss out on important opportunities due to simple lack of time and ability. Some have begun to outsource work at a record rate. Josh Birkholtz, CEO of the consultancy firm, BWF, reports he’s seen “… probably more (outsourcing) requests in the last eight months than I’ve seen in the last 16 years.”
For many, the goals have not changed. As one might suspect, fundraising goals have largely stayed the same. Charities continue to set and meet dollar goals, with a majority of them still performing at or close to their pre-pandemic levels.
Additionally, many groups have emphasized donor stewardship. As charities see a surge in new donations, they have quickly identified donors with capacity for major-gift potential. For example, the Greater Chicago Food Depository has increased its threshold for “major gifts” in order to encourage supporters to give as much as they can.
For some, the focus has shifted to donor retention. However, some charities have been forced to change their fundraising strategies. Rather than focusing on new outreach, they have shifted to longtime donor retention.
Understanding that many large donations will be delayed due to the pandemic, The American Technion Society of the Israel Institute of Technology has also shifted focus. The Society is now instructing gift officers to concentrate on their best prospects.
The YMCA of the USA still sets dollar goals, but also now sets goals to qualify new donors. More time needs to be devoted to nurturing those relationships.
New measures of success. The shift to “virtual meetings” can serve as a boon for fundraisers. Whereas before, a potential prospect must commit a significant amount of time and energy to an in-person meeting, now a 20-minute Zoom meeting might suffice. Some gift officers report that busy CEOs and other philanthropists are more likely than ever to agree to a quick “meeting”.
These changes, and more, have occurred in only a few months. It begs the question: Can we ever go back to “normal”? More to the point, should we? While some changes were undoubtedly unwelcome, others have been surprisingly positive. When, or if, the pandemic is declared “over”, do we really want to go back to the “old” way of doing things? Or can we – and should we – use this time of learning new ways of interfacing with donors and the community?
Call us at Mirenda & Associates for a free 30-minute consultation for guidance on which direction your path should take.