As people and businesses across the country adjust to the difficult circumstances of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, nonprofits are balancing addressing the needs of their donors while trying to ensure the financial well-being of their organization. Five Sharpe Group clients share their experiences and lessons learned while fundraising in unprecedented times.
Donors continue to display positivity and gratitude.
“Our planned giving donors have been incredibly positive, especially about St. Bonaventure. Some donors have been through tough times like the Depression, World War II and other events throughout their lifetime. They remind us that we will be a stronger institution coming out of this.” —Robert F. Keenan, Associate Director of Planned Giving, St. Bonaventure University
“I’ve been really impressed with our donors’ responses. Not only are they appreciative of our calling to see how they are doing, they have reached out to check on our staff, faculty and, of course, our students. They have been incredibly thoughtful.” —Meg Riner, Senior Director of Development, Bridgewater College
“Our donors have expressed an immense amount of gratitude that we are reaching out and that we treat them as individuals—not just addresses.” —Sean Twomey, Director of Planned Giving, The Wilderness Society
Current challenges allow for new opportunities.
“Our mission is to share the experience of Mount Vernon with the public. However, being closed to our supporters and legacy donors is not so distant from reality for us. Most planned giving donors have a cherished memory of visiting Mount Vernon at some point in their lifetime but are unable to interact with Mount Vernon regularly. The pandemic has driven our organization to invest in and provide opportunities for people to enjoy Mount Vernon experiences from the comfort of their own home. An 80-year-old in Kansas who has a fond memory of their seventh-grade field trip to Mount Vernon but has not been able to return can now engage in virtual programs. Supporters can listen to book talks and podcasts, take a virtual tour or even have tea with Martha Washington right in their living room. I think this will enhance our offerings and ability to fulfill our mission, not only during this crisis but moving forward.” —Carolina Camargo, Senior Director of Development, George Washington’s Mount Vernon
This is an opportunity to connect through a commitment to our mission.
“One of St. Bonaventure University’s older alumni, a microbiologist who will be 82 this year, reached out to ask how members of the senior class are doing. He felt bad about their final semester being interrupted. While the pandemic keeps us physically distant for now, the bonds of Bonaventure keep us connected.” —Robert F. Keenan
“Even though there is massive uncertainty surrounding this crisis, many nonprofits are doing a great job of fostering relationships, building connections to their donors and showing how much charitable giving has the ability to enrich someone’s life. That is what matters to donors and influences giving.” —Sean Twomey
There’s a continued interest in planned giving.
“We’ve uncovered some planned giving prospects through donor outreach. People have shared that they’ve included Bridgewater College in their estate plans, and we’ve seen an increase in people updating their plans in support of the charities that matter to them.” —Meg Riner
“It’s fairly reasonable to say that major gift fundraising could be a little slower in the coming months and maybe years. Deferred giving plans may be a better option for many donors. As fundraisers, we are going to have to be creative in offering blended gift opportunities that satisfy our donors’ needs and the organization’s need for immediate gifts.” —Garry Sloan, Director of Individual Philanthropy, Lake Forest Academy
Editor’s note: We want to know how all our nonprofit partners are doing. Send us a note to info@SHARPEnet.com with “Our COVID experience” in the subject line, and we’ll share your experiences and lessons learned with others on our blog. ■