Navigating Times of Change: Part IV – Mindfulness | Sharpe Group blog
Posted May 3rd, 2020

Navigating Times of Change: Part IV – Mindfulness

Little things I should have said and done
I just never took the time
You were always on my mind (you were always on my mind)
You were always on my mind
Willie Nelson (Always on My Mind)

This is part four of our series of navigating in these times of great change. In the first three, we discussed kindness, togetherness and thoughtfulness. Now, we’ll focus on being mindful in the future.

Development for the long term

You may be a development team of one, or you may have a department with more than 100 staff members. It doesn’t matter. In both cases, you should ask the same two questions:

  • What will the fundraising world look like now?
  • What should I be doing now?

Often it is essential to dive right into the details and get those right the first time. It’s precisely what was needed to coordinate the logistics of working from home so we could get down to business quickly. Action takers took the bull by the horns and quickly established home offices and networks.

Now it’s time to step back for a bit to look at the big picture while pondering some vital fundraising questions that will set the tone of your organization’s future success. Allow me to recommend three action steps that you should be taking now:

  1. Communicate, listen and show you care.

    Development should be focusing on ramping up their communication efforts with their constituents. Newsletters, emails, social media and the all-important phone calls are critical to staying in touch with your family of donors. You care about them, and now is an excellent time to reach out to see how they are weathering the storm and how they might be hurting. The tone of your communication is critical. Now is likely not the time for the hard ask. How you communicate will be remembered for a long time. Show you care.

  2. Think strategically about your gift portfolio.

    Most nonprofits have the following types of philanthropy. Below is a list of the estimated frequency of these gift structures and the impact that COVID may have on these types of gifts.

    The gifts listed above include their impact today on organizations, but the current environment suggests there will be long-term implications on giving as a result of this crisis. A COO of a large nonprofit told us their expectation on the impact of giving is similar to what we experienced during the Great Depression, which will most likely be measured in years, not weeks or months.

    (The philanthropy model above does not indicate how nonprofits are utilizing their development resources or how they plan to use these gifts.)

    The graph below shows the varying nature of philanthropy measured on a percentage basis at a group of nonprofits whose names have been removed. It should give the reader a good sense of the demographics of the different types of philanthropy.

  3. Utilize your development resources.

    Measuring and benchmarking development investments are incredibly difficult due, in part, to the varying nature of how nonprofits invest and measure them. It is easy to get bogged down into the details of measurement. Here is some practical advice for allocating your time on development:

    • Develop or review your understanding of your donor base and its demographics.
    • Determine whether your mission can reach other demographics’ desire to give.
    • Invest time and resources in all areas of giving. Events are useful tools for today, and planned gifts could have a monumental impact on your organization’s mission in the future.
    • Think of development as a “donor lifecycle” where you want to communicate and invest in your donor for a lifetime of giving.
    • To ensure balanced success, remember not to ignore any part of your development resources.

Part five of our series will put everything together.

By Bob Mims, Sharpe Group CFO, and Tom Grimm, Sharpe Group Senior Consultant

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