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Fundraising in the Time of COVID-19

There is nothing like a global pandemic to create a bit of uncertainty in the minds of EVERYONE! Uncertainty is the mortal enemy of stock traders and investors. Security in having appreciated stock may become a relic of days gone by. Workers who live on an hourly wage and not a salary are fearful of dramatic hourly cuts as employers have to cut expenses and change work methods to respond to dramatic decline in business. Your staff may be among them.

And then we have conflicting messages emanating from the “hunch” of the president and the data-based recommendations from leading epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists. Air travel is now a crapshoot. I’m visiting a client in Charlotte, NC at the moment and my travel through the airports and on the plane included light weight gloves, disinfectant wipes and being on guard of coughing and sneezing travelers.

We must change our ways

This is the time for advancement officers and offices to change some of the ways we have conducted business and consider the new limitations by which we must abide. Some of the the workarounds we can use include:

Meeting a donor in a restaurant can be replaced with a meeting at their home or office, and you bring the take-out.

House salon gatherings may need to be smaller affairs that you can spin as being more exclusive.

Board meetings may need to be video (Zoom, Skype) meetings, or conference calls (I hate them but…) If a board member does not know how to do this or does not have a webcam, get one for them and teach them how to communicate this way.

Staff meetings may need to be by Zoom or Skype. And if your institution’s firewall security does not allow for this, get the IT people to change it.

Direct mail acquisition and donor renewal might include a gift of disinfectant wipes to let your stakeholders know you are thinking about their health and wellbeing.

Galas – forget it. Do a non-event via mail with a nice invitation and a request for a contribution so your would-be attendee can remain healthy and safe and they can continue to support your mission.

Donor recognition events – forget it. Create a video about the honoree and send everyone a link to it (perhaps through the nice gala invitation above) with language that you are thinking of the health and wellbeing of our stakeholders.

Handshakes are out. Elbow bump and hands-together bow will soon be the norm even after the pandemic.

Air travel to see donors. I now wear light weight gloves in the airport and plane, and use disinfect to wipe down my seat and areas around it.

The long-term question is how much of this change will remain the norm after the pandemic passes or can be controlled with a vaccine? As my colleague shared with me during this writing “I hope this pandemic helps people realize their vulnerabilities and to be aware that microbes can crash the mighty.” We need to be prepared for many of these eventualities.

Be safe and healthy.







  1. Elena Brandt

    I have been waiting to read some articles about how COVID-19 will affect our industry. Thanks for taking the lead on this, Larry.

  2. Pingback:[DIGEST] Essential COVID-19 / Financial Crisis Fundraising Advice

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