Fundraising in the COVID-19 Crisis – Part I By Ron Frey
COVID-19: Fundraising in Crisis – Part I
Someone recently asked: “Is this a blizzard, the onset of a long hard winter, or the beginning of an Ice Age?”
How do you describe these times?
Life disrupted? Yes, that’s an apt description, but it’s a lot more than that. The foundation of our economy shaken? Absolutely.
Fear of the unknown? True.
With schools closed, skyrocketing unemployment, and a stock market crash … our generation has never seen anything quite like this. But we’ve apparently only just begun to see the fallout of this pandemic.
This is truly a generationally defining event—the defining story of our time. In just a few short weeks the foundational assumptions of our personal, political, and economic lives have not just been significantly altered or disrupted – they’ve been dismantled.
How are your donors holding up?
What happens when they are unemployed, become economically insecure, or worse yet, begin to see family members succumb to the virus? It can easily feel as if a dark shadow has fallen over the nonprofit world. Nonprofit leaders are shocked by the rapid changes and insecurities that have overtaken our lives. They are asking: How will we survive?
Build Your House on the Rock
This is the time to double down on first principles—to go back to fundamentals: In whom is our trust?
We were always promised that winds would blow and the waters rise. Now is the time when the foundations on which our lives rest are revealed. This crisis reveals our core commitments and idols. It helps us clarify and heighten our priorities. It should shepherd us back to God.
“Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice,” Jesus warns, “is like a wise man who built his house on a rock.” (Matthew 7:24)
This crisis is a healthy reminder to reassess our first things, and first loves, the foundations on which we are building our lives, lest our lives fall with “a great crash.”
Maintain an Eternal Perspective in Giving
What is happening externally in the economy is not nearly as important as what is happening internally in our hearts.
Now is the time in the ministry of donor development to help our givers embrace an eternal perspective for giving. Donors should focus on how to put their assets under the Lordship of Christ. Practicing generosity in times of economic uncertainty and crisis is an opportunity to align ourselves again to Jesus and His kingdom.
Asking for gifts at this crisis moment need not be manipulative or opportunistic. As Elisha asked the widow of Zarephath (I Kings 17:7-16) for a gift of food in her most dire hour, her obedience unlocked the door for God’s provision. For some donors, giving now may be a significant step of faith, but it will deepen their spiritual maturity and result in God’s blessing.
Giving should not be based on the whims of the economy, but on putting all of our assets to work for the gospel now. Now is the time to practice radical generosity in the ways of Jesus. We need to remind donors that the Lord Jesus Christ is also the Lord of our finances.
There will be significant economic disruption and inevitable loss for many people. But as long as the foundations of our economy remain strong, the thought that it will rebound when the pandemic lessens is not a naive hope. There is still good reason for optimism but we must be prudent.
Major donors will continue to give major gifts, especially to organizations they strongly believe in and have a personal relationship with. Even in bad times, donors have always come through, but it may take a bit longer than you would have otherwise seen. If a donor can normally give $10,000, it may be split into two gifts of $5,000. If a donor normally gives a single gift of $1,000, ask them to give $100 a month. If there is a compelling cause and strong personal relationships, eventually their temporary losses and yours will return.
Keep a close eye on your organization’s financial condition during this time and don’t panic. Let donors know that during this time of economic uncertainty, you need their help now more than ever. They’ll understand and respond.
Difficult times bring out the best in all of us, especially the desire to help others in need.
Ron Frey is president of Frey Resource Group, helping nonprofit organizations achieve success in leadership, governance and fundraising.
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