Fundraising in Uncertain Times | Sharpe Group
Posted April 2nd, 2020

Fundraising in Uncertain Times

Virtually every fundraising professional with whom I have been in contact recently would agree that it is not business—or philanthropy—as usual.

Since the emergence of a “flu-like” virus in China late last year developed into the COVID-19 coronavirus and a global pandemic, our personal and professional lives have been disrupted in ways that most of us had never predicted.

Social distancing, self-quarantines, shelter in place, vulnerable populations, toilet paper shortages, essential services, supply chain issues and investment and economic concerns are on everyone’s mind, including fundraisers’ and philanthropists’. At this point, most of us are working remotely, eliminating most individual donor visits, cancelling events and travel and trying to determine how best to proceed in this brave new world.

There are plenty of questions about what we should and should not be doing, but professional paralysis is not an answer. Find ways to stay close to your committed core of donors with all the lines of communication that are open to you. Recognize that while we may never have faced a health and economic challenge quite like this before, there have been challenges in the past:

  • Financial panic of 1908.
  • Spanish flu of 1918.
  • Great Depression spanning from 1929 to World War II.
  • Korean and Vietnam Wars.
  • Multiple recessions.
  • Tech boom and bust in the 1990s.
  • Y2K in 2000.
  • 9/11 terrorist attack and the longest war in American history in Afghanistan.
  • Real estate bubble.
  • Great Recession and Financial Crisis of 2009.

Now we have added a global pandemic. Throughout all of these events, Americans have continued to support charitable causes, and, in spite of periodic disruptions, charitable giving has grown over time.

Since 1963, Sharpe Group has seen many economic, health and social challenges that have impacted charitable giving, both positively and negatively. The one constant we have seen is that philanthropy has always prevailed. Evidence that this is and will be the case again is clear from some well-publicized larger gifts from major donors, corporations and foundations. Less publicized are the random acts of kindness and the regular donations to food banks, health and elder care facilities and programs for children. See Solidarity in Solitary.

These are just the early indications that the philanthropic spirit of America will prevail. In the meantime, keep the faith, and find ways to reach your constituents with timely information about what you are doing and how their gifts are impacting your work. And don’t forget to just check in on them, reminding them that we are all in this together.

Contact us at if you have any questions about keeping your gift planning program healthy and thriving, and follow our blog for tips and ideas to assist you and your organizations. Also, we want to hear your own good news and stay in touch with you to check in. Please share your own good news stories, and let us share them with others.

We wish good health for you and your loved ones.

By Barlow Mann


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