Fox Advancement Chief Culture Officer Erika Schwichtenberg
Interviewed by one of our preferred vendors: Do Good Events
What trends are you seeing in fundraising during this era of Covid-19?
We’ve been Zooming with fundraising professionals around the country to learn how nonprofits are managing amid the pandemic, and what we hear consistently is:
“We’re in need of planning.”
Past experience with economic downturns, such as the recession of 2008-2009, has shown us that a community stakeholder visioning process is the best litmus test to guide an organization’s response. We strongly recommend taking the time to engage in a planning process that involves organizational leadership, donors, volunteers, and other key community stakeholders. A process like this can help identify fundraising tactics that will best meet emerging needs, including individual, foundation, and corporate support.
Further, organizations like Fidelity Charitable are doing a great job of recording fundraising trends amid COVID-19. According to Fidelity, about a quarter of donors are planning to increase their donations, and more than half are planning to maintain their giving levels. Donor-advised fund (DAF) holders are more likely to ramp up giving in response to the pandemic, and DAFs are considered a “recession resilient” giving tool. Our experience working with donors at Fox Advancement aligns with these reported trends.
Fidelity also found that most donors do not plan to shift their giving to different organizations in light of the pandemic; they will stay the course by continuing to support their favorite nonprofits. Donors are most concerned about the way that COVID-19 could impact the ability of health- and human services-related nonprofits to do their work, but concern is high for organizations in all charitable sectors.
Donors are less likely to commit to a 3-5 year pledge but will entertain short-term (1-2 year) pledges. Now more than ever, donors want to know how their dollars are making a difference.
How should nonprofits be adjusting their budgets for the rest of this year and for 2021?
We’re seeing a great need for budget projecting in intervals of 3, 6, 9 and 12 months, with worst to best case scenarios for each, so that the gaps are identified and decisions made accordingly that allow for the organization to continue serving as many people as possible given each scenario.
Many clients are expressing concern over asking for donations or sponsorships during this time, what advice would you give?
Effective, informative, and timely communication is key. We recommend that organizations consider a message from leadership once monthly to inform donors and community stakeholders about the organization’s programming amid COVID-19. Messages should focus on the positive impact the organization is having, how they effectively partner with other organizations to avoid resource duplication, how they have responded to new funding or shortfalls, and their focus for the current month. This invites stakeholders to share in the organization’s journey. We also recommend a higher touch social media strategy, with posts once a day when possible and appropriate. Consider hashtags to help spread the word.
What do you forecast for end of year giving this year?
We’re seeing lots of changes! In terms of the annual events, we’re observing both pre-recorded and live Zoom events, where more stakeholders can attend because there are no barriers to attendance such as venue space, number of tables, distance and accessibility. Donors by and large are accepting the “couch gala.” We’re also seeing elevated annual fund strategies for those who are not currently engaged in a major fundraising campaign. These are like mini-campaigns with their own branding strategy. We’ve developed a new product called the Accelerated Campaign Fund, which is designed to raise between $1-2M in general operating and unrestricted funding over the course of 12-24 months. This was developed to support those organizations who were setting out on a longer-term fundraising journey just as the pandemic hit. The Accelerated Fund is a rapid infusion of support for organizational needs that suddenly emerged with the increased stressors of the pandemic and social unrest in our community.
Can you share a success story of fundraising innovation you have seen the past few months?
Success stories are our favorite! We work with so many clients who are incredibly innovative and inspiring. One of our food shelf clients has done such a fabulous job in communicating with their donors and stakeholders and responding to their community’s needs. They have over 800 new donors in the first half of the year, which is truly remarkable as they had about 200 total new donors in all of 2019. They have also leaned into their donor-advised fund strategy, and doubled that yearly goal in the first half of the year. They’ve maximized their social media presence and secured several media engagements that highlighted their work and the partnerships they have in the community. They are the perfect example of a nimble, innovative, adaptable, gritty organization in the midst of the most challenging times. They are an inspiration!