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RECAP: Raising Philanthropic Capital in Uncertain Times-Timeless Principles for Fundraising


Vaughn Sayers
May 11, 2020
Event Summaries, Resources + Recommendations, Upcoming Events

The pandemic has required organizations to adapt quickly to serve their respective communities effectively. However, with the ever-evolving realities of COVID-19, how can leaders find the capital necessary to sustain their social enterprises and support both internal and external stakeholders? To answer this question, the Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS) and CCS Fundraising launched “Raising Philanthropic Capital in Uncertain Times,” a three-part interactive webinar series. The kick-off webinar, on Wednesday, April 29, featured the first installment in the series: Timeless Principles for Fundraising

The event began with a moment of quiet reflection and deep breathing, emphasizing compassion for one’s self and organizational stakeholders. The 100+ participants on the call chimed in beforehand to offer their own hopes for the webinar: 

  • Tangible strategies for fundraising amidst a global crisis;
  • Tools to keep donors meaningfully connected;
  • Realistic views of practitioner experience;
  • Overview of how the philanthropic community is responding and adapting to COVID-19 to find innovative ways of securing funding.

The team at CCS Fundraising offered expertise around the historical landscape of philanthropy, and an overview of the encouraging philanthropic response to the pandemic. Currently corporate, individual philanthropists, foundations, and new collaborative initiatives have provided over 8 billion in revenue and continue to fund programs and areas that were previously not high priorities (e.g food for hospital workers, personal protective equipment, support for nonprofit employees etc). CCS presenters on the call included Greg Hagin (Managing Director),  Elizabeth Abel (Vice President), Jordana Cohen (Executive Director), Casey May (Associate Director), Carolyn McLaughlin (Assistant Vice President), and Chloe Singer (Senior Director). With an understanding of previous trends and the current environment, CCS emphasized a need for adaptability in order to pivot fundraising strategies successfully. 

To remain nimble, CCS outlined how organizational leaders can adapt the nine timeless principles for fundraising amidst COVID-19: 

  1. Increase Communication;
  2. Avoid Wholesale Cancellation of Fundraising Plans;
  3. Reaffirm Your Mission and Impact;
  4. Develop a Short-Term Action Plan;
  5. Leverage Technology;
  6. Motivate Stakeholders;
  7. Share Philanthropic Information;
  8. Consider Special Briefings; and
  9. Show Empathy and Concern.

After an overview of each principle, the webinar concluded with a thought-provoking period of Q & A. Here are a few highlight questions and responses:

Q: What are best practices and recommendations for approaching conversations asking donors to switch prior gifts or funds from restricted to unrestricted?

A (CCS): It is important to lead with your mission and reaffirm your impact. If you’re truly opening with empathy and caring concern (e.g. How is your family doing? How’s your business doing, how are these times for you?) you allow a donor on a case by case basis to express what is happening in their world and in their lives. Oftentimes that invites a response from them asking about you as leaders and fundraisers of the organization; what are your finances like? Are you losing money? How has this impacted your employees? How can I help? Leading with a genuine concern creates a dynamic conducive to understanding and empathy, and is therefore important when approaching these conversations .

Q: How can an organization turn a planned fundraiser into a virtual one when so many of the participants are themselves experiencing economic hardship?

A (CCS): It is important to ensure events are not insincere given the current environment. How do we make an event relevant? Can COVID-19 funding opportunities be woven into an event? As you answer these questions it is important to lead with empathy and concern. Organizations must acknowledge the impact the pandemic is having worldwide and speak to the larger issue at hand. Remain genuine, as giving is a two-way street; donors want to know that you value them and are concerned about their wellbeing.

To learn more about the Timeless Principles for Fundraising, check out the recording of the webinar and the slides provided by CSIS and CCS.

Join us on May 13 for the next webinar Raising Philanthropic Capital in Uncertain Times: Mission Meaning Moments