Live forum: What are major donors thinking during the COVID-19 crisis?


Major donors are the lifeblood of many nonprofit organizations. Will the pandemic and its economic fallout change their focus or level of support? Is it appropriate to ask them for support right now? The Steier Group assembled a panel of major philanthropists and foundation leaders to answer your questions.

Watch the discussion here:

Ask. Be thoughtful in your request, but ask.

This is not the time to stop asking for support, especially when your organization is serving those impacted by COVID-19. And it is not the time to stop asking when your organization is struggling to survive this crisis.

This was a reoccurring theme of a recent forum, hosted by the Steier Group, that focused on the question whether it is appropriate to ask for support during the pandemic. Representatives from a family foundation and a community one were joined by two philanthropists joined the discussion.

Other themes that emerged from the forum included:

  • Philanthropists seemed to be committed to give during this crisis, but already are looking to 2021. Giving in 2021 may be impacted because people’s financial portfolios may take time to rebound.
  • Communicate with your donors. Now is not the time to stop the dialogue. “If we’re not hearing from you, that’s a huge red flag,” said Erin Swanson Russell, who presents the Heider Family Foundation. Reach out do donors in a personal way.
  • It’s OK to ask for support by telephone call. It may be the only way to reach a donor at this time.
  • Start to evaluate the support you receive through fundraising events. Organizations that have had to cancel in-person events and focus on online auctions have done well. Don’t assume that people, in the coming months and years, will want to attend in-person events because of the ongoing health scare.

Bottom line, according to the panelists, ask in the right way, realizing that not everyone can give at this time. But ask.

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