March 18, 2020
Securing funding for your work is arguably more urgent and important than ever during periods of uncertainty, though we realize the way forward may feel unclear. As such, we’ve put together our best advice for continuing to fundraise effectively, even when ‘normalcy’ has been disrupted:
So far, we’ve seen a few deadlines shift, but not many. We recommend monitoring funders, updates, and deadlines closely, with a presumption that they’re still accepting and awarding grants.
For example, the Greater Washington Community Foundation is working alongside the DC region’s largest philanthropists to establish an emergency fund and distribute rapid response funding to the organizations meeting the needs of communities most impacted by this virus — families who have lost needed childcare, low-wage, hourly workers, people experiencing homelessness, direct service workers, and senior citizens or people with underlying health conditions.
Our colleagues at Your Part-Time Controller and 20 Degrees both highlight the importance of understanding the short- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on your “financial runway.” Ask your finance staff or consultants for more frequent financial reports, updated modeling for various contingencies, and even advice revising your annual organizational and program budgets. If you’re using our guidance on predicting grant revenue, consider adjusting your grant projections to reflect reduced likelihood of funding from prospective grantmakers to better understand how this will impact your grant revenue.
The experts at Chronicle for Philanthropy note that global crises that affect all members of society can motivate significant philanthropic giving. However, the people motivated to give often don’t know where their giving will have the most impact. Clarify for your staunchest donors how COVID-19 is impacting your organization, staff, and stakeholders so that they know the value of their past and future contributions.
While all organizations should remain in contact with your key philanthropic stakeholders, your approach should be tailored to the larger community context:
We’ve seen remarkable ingenuity around the country regarding donor engagement that has historically happened face-to-face. Organizations are converting in-person fundraising events to virtual celebrations, holding performances via Facebook Live, or even phone banking to thank organizational supporters for their past gifts. Remember that the important part of any fundraising event is to connect with your donors and you do not necessarily need a venue or catering to do that.
Finally, times of uncertainty like this remind us that a diversified fundraising strategy is a pillar of organizational sustainability. Elevate has consistently found grant programs to be more stable than other forms of revenue in times of sudden change or economic downturn. We’re seeing foundations step up to fill some of the voids that appear from canceled events or individual donors who may be less able to give in an unstable market.
Elevate is committed to being a resource for nonprofits at this time.