This year marks my thirtieth year in fundraising. It hasn’t always been smooth sailing. Across three decades I have raised money through three recessions, the attacks of 9/11, and a half-dozen market crashes, including one major financial meltdown. Through it all, one thing stands out. Giving is always resilient. Yes, giving usually does tick down during crisis. But only incrementally. Even during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, which cut deep across every sector of our society, year-over-year giving only declined five or six percentage points for a couple years.
To me, that is one of the greatest testaments to the character of the American people. No matter how bad things get, we keep giving.
Today’s COVID-19 crisis is unlike any other we’ve experienced, but in one way it won’t be any different. People will keep giving. Don’t just take my word for it. A newly released study by Fidelity Charitable indicates that 80% of major donors plan to give the same or more than they did last year, even in the face of this crisis. Further, the study indicated 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. As an added bonus, the recently passed CARES Act also expands tax deductions for charitable giving this year, providing many major donors with a powerful incentive to give more.
Your donors – particularly major donors – are prepared to keep giving through this crisis. Some will give even more than they ever have before. All you need do is ask.
But now a word of caution. Not every nonprofit is going to have the same experience. Even though total year-over-year giving fell less than 6% during the 2008–2009 financial crisis, some nonprofits experienced decimating declines, while others thrived. How you manage your fundraising through this crisis is going to be critically important. Your case must be carefully crafted, the tone you strike in your donor communications must be donor-centric, and – most importantly – you must be artful in making your asks. And this is all made even more complicated because we are in a context where we can’t host events/gatherings or visit with major donors in person.
So what is the best way to raise major donations right now?
Here is one solution that might be just what you need right now. Our team at DickersonBakker has created a special COVID-19 Emergency Response Campaign program designed to help nonprofits raise major emergency funding. These campaigns are modeled after the highly successful integrated major donor campaign program that we typically conduct for clients at calendar year-end. We recommend conducting a campaign like this during the summer, once the acute phase of this crisis is starting to abate and the financial markets and economy are beginning to normalize. This will help bridge the gap between now and the fall, when hopefully we will be in full recovery.
Anyone can raise money when times are good. In times like this, however, it helps to have an experienced guide at your side. If you are interested in having one of our experienced fundraising consultants come alongside you to help coach you through your fundraising during these challenging times, or if you want to learn more about raising emergency major funding through our COVID-19 Emergency Response Campaign program, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team stands ready to serve.