Can you fundraise during the COVID-19 crisis?


“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural address

Nearly 90 years later, these words should again serve to comfort and inspire Americans. Just as the Great Depression caused distress for our nation, so too has the deadly COVID-19 virus. The economic effects of the pandemic have some nonprofits questioning their fundraising efforts, including capital campaigns. How should we proceed? Is this the right time to ask for support? Should we wait for a return to normalcy?

As nonprofit leaders wrestle with those questions, they may draw inspiration from a pair of Steier Group clients. Holy Trinity Parish in El Dorado Hills, California, and St. Martha Catholic Church of Kingwood, Texas, were in the middle of capital campaigns when the country reached its current critical status. However, each refused to succumb to fear. Instead of stopping, bolstered by faith and courage, they continued their efforts aimed for success.

“I see it as a resolve to be faithful to the mission that Christ gave to his church.,” said Fr. Lawrence Beck of Holy Trinity, where pausing the campaign was never an option. “I don’t see it about fundraising, but about the mission and that continues beyond the hardships and difficulties of life. We are inviting people to participate.”

And his people continue to accept that invitation. Since mid-March, the campaign has raised nearly $500,000 in gifts and pledges, pushing the fundraising total over $1.4 million.

“The campaign is about the long-term stability and vitality of the parish,” Fr. Beck said. “That remains independent of the coronavirus. The work of our Lord has to continue more than ever through these very difficult times. Not less, but more.”

With social distancing now the norm, leadership provided volunteers with strategies to work around that detour, such as encouraging visits over the phone. They placed additional campaign information on the website, increased the focus on electronic giving, and maintained contact with parishioners via emails and personal phone calls.

“I’m focused on fidelity to achieve what we can, and the rest is in God’s hands,” Fr. Beck said.

At St. Martha Catholic Church, Fr. T.J. Dolce, like Fr. Beck, didn’t consider stopping the Sharing is Caring Capital Campaign. He too realizes the benefits of persevering during these challenging times extend beyond the nearly $300,000 raised in the past two weeks, which pushed the campaign total past $3.4 million.

“Continuing has given us a chance to stay connected to our parishioners,” Fr. Dolce said. “The system that has been set up to connect to our parishioners has allowed us to stay in contact with them and make sure they are okay in the midst of this.”

That connection – the relationship between a nonprofit and its supporters – is at the core of fundraising. It remains ever so important during times like these. Donors will adjust what they give, and perhaps to whom, but they continue to give in gratitude for and in proportion to what they’ve received. Thus, it’s incumbent for a charitable organization that truly values its mission to ask for support without apology – even now.

“Remind yourself what the mission and purpose of Christ’s church is and remind yourself that you are offering an invitation to them to advance that mission,” Fr. Beck said. “Use prudence in how you ask, who you ask and timing of the ask, but it shouldn’t be transmitted to timidity or inaction or fear.”

During this stressful time, the Steier Group is here to help. Our COVID-19 Toolkit can serve as a resource guide for fundraising and supporting your supporters during this crisis. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me. We are happy to help be a resource as you consider the best way to fundraise through the current situation.

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