Times of Major Transition Equals Fundraising Opportunity – Don’t Miss It!

by Elliot Levin, PRG President & Founder

Tran-si-tion: the process or a period of changing from one state to another. 

We’ve all been through mega-transitions in the last two years: the pandemic, wildfire, drought, power shut offs, a newly remote workforce, and a wave of nonprofit professional retirements. And yet, charitable giving in the US and especially in the Bay Area has never been greater. This phenomenon debunks traditional notions that donors gravitate to stability and certainty. Rather, donors are newly motivated by a sense of urgency, well-articulated needs, and new possibilities. 

At PRG we’ve seen 5 key strategies adopted by clients hit by immense transition that have resulted in high-performing fundraising.

  1. Steady communications about people. Donors want to hear real stories, frequently told about how your organization’s transition response has impacted lives. It’s not about your agency woes. It is about who you serve.
  2. Listen. People and organizations in every corner of our communities have faced huge challenges. Things have not been easy nor pretty. Ask your supporters to share their challenges and concerns, and new priorities that may have arisen from great change. 
  3. Candor. Be honest about your organizational challenges and those you serve. Your willingness to be vulnerable will give your stakeholders permission to really open up to you. 
  4. Get out from behind the curtain. Transition is a time to tell your stories directly. Donors want to hear from you – and not (only) by mail, email, and social media. Pick up the phone and talk. Better still, go visit now that we can come together safely.
  5. By all means, it is time to retool. With all the change we have faced over the last two years, now is a great time to revisit fundraising strategies and systems that support them. Successful organizations are creating a new, post-pandemic fundraising strategic framework. What better time is there than one of great external change and internal transition to pause, assess, identify new opportunities, and then retool. Fundraising counsel like PRG can help and be a reliable sounding board and change agent. 

Look no further than our clients at Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa, who were in the middle of a $27 million capital campaign when everything shut down. But by showcasing how the pandemic impacted the lives of adults and families living on the streets, they sustained fundraising momentum and blew way past their campaign goal, ensuring that the Caritas Center would be built on its original schedule! 

Consider the efforts of the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts in Richmond. In the last 24 months they were forced to shut down programs serving nearly 4,000 young people in schools and at their center. Their founding executive director of 30+ years retired. They sang and danced via Zoom for months. And their fundraising soared.

The PRG team possesses backgrounds in executive leadership, social work, board development, strategic and business planning, and – of course – fundraising. We can help your organization recognize and then leverage all the opportunities that transition actually offers. You can’t stop transition. You can come out the other side even stronger. Email us or give us a call!

Photo Cred: Dan Meyers/Unsplash

So, You’re Almost at Year’s End and Your Appeal is Out. Now What?

by Melissa Irish, PRG Managing Associate

A few tips on making your year-end appeal even more successful!

  • Make sure you inform your donors that they can make gifts of appreciated stock. (And make sure you have a broker that can receive such gifts!). With so much growth in the markets, there are huge advantages to the donor. Bottom line- you can save on taxes! When you donate your appreciated assets, you avoid paying capital gains tax. If you itemize deductions, you can also take a charitable deduction for the entire donation amount.
  • Required Minimum Distributions (RMD’s) from IRAs are great ways to give. Donors 70 ½ and over are required to take an RMD. Using one’s RMD as the source of the gift has a triple advantage – it reduces the donor’s taxable income, the donor reaps the full charitable deduction, and for some not taking their RMD reduces their Medicare income. Make sure your donors know that this tax provision is back in 2021!
  • The Subject Line in email appeals and reminders is critical. Research shows the open rate of emails is tied directly to what appears in the subject line. “Help Us” isn’t nearly as effective and “You Can Make a Difference.” Put “you” in every subject line!
  • With fewer donors itemizing their tax returns, giving AFTER December 31 is alive and well. Don’t assume that everyone will rush to give before 2022. January & February giving is up so keep going into early 2022. Plus, January and February are ideal times to gather your Board and volunteers to personally acknowledge your donors. Thank you phone calls still work magic!
Photo Cred: Hasan Albari from Pexels

Important Lessons from the Front Lines of a Capital Campaign

by Elliot Levin, PRG President & Founder

PRG recently served as capital campaign counsel to the largest, successful campaign in recent Sonoma County history – the $48 million Caritas Center, developed by Catholic Charities of Santa Rosa – that brings hope and a new start to homeless families and individuals through a comprehensive mix of services that all lead to stable, permanent housing.

What is to be learned from this successful initiative that found itself in full campaign mode during a pandemic? There are many lessons, some new, others tried and true.

Here are 4 lessons for your campaign:

  1. Focus on great community leadership. While professional expertise is invaluable, nothing replaces the power of respected community leaders who fearlessly give and ask. Identifying, cultivating, recruiting, training, and deploying leaders remains the single key ingredient to campaign success. Yes, the mission must be important and relevant, but someone has to carry that message into action. The professional’s main job is to help get the right leaders to come on board, give them the tools to succeed, and support their efforts every step of the way. The Caritas Center followed these principles and became blessed with a cadre of respected leaders, many of whom had never been part of campaign leadership before.
  2. Be frank about the challenges, especially in turbulent times. Leaders and donor prospects expect transparency and honesty about what’s working or not. Candor reinforces your integrity. Costs rising beyond original estimates? Speak truth and explain where you may have to make cuts. Suffer disappointing responses from donors you hoped for? Report that to leadership and then move on. Are your clients experiencing tough times because of a service gap your project will remedy? That’s hugely relevant to donors too! The Caritas Center always took the high road whether it was neighborhood opposition, gift requests that fell short, or severe cost escalation of building materials.
  3. All systems go. Accurate, up-to-date data is the backbone of any successful campaign. Each individual or institutional donor is truly its own “mini-campaign.” Multiply that by scores of prospects and there is a mountain of information to manage and track. A successful campaign must have a reliable information management system. There are plenty of good CRM systems available, but the key is to invest in staffing and support that knows what to put in and how to get it out. Catholic Charities made that investment and it paid off.
  4. Build and Publicize Your “A-Team.” Any capital project, large or small, requires diverse expertise to be successful. Investors want to know not only who the public-faces like your CEO and campaign chair are but who else is behind the scenes. Your architect, project manager, contractor, campaign consultant, financial advisor, and attorney represent a team of experts that tell donors you’re serious and capable. Catholic Charities made these folks available to interact with donors when the time was right and so should you.

Reach out to PRG if you would like to speak with us about a capital campaign, feasibility assessments and getting started.

A Planned Giving Program is More Relevant Than Ever

by Andy Eber, PRG Senior Associate

Many nonprofits are just beginning a new fiscal year. Agency leaders are navigating the ever-changing COVID landscape and having survived the worst (we hope) of the pandemic, everyone is acutely aware of the need for financial reserves and revenue stability.

It may seem counterintuitive that, in the midst of such change, we at PRG believe that August 2021 may be the BEST time to reactivate or launch your Planned Gifts program. In fact, we suggest that there have been few other moments in the past fifty years when a Planned Giving program had a greater chance of success than now. Here’s why:

  • Donor conversations

When it became apparent in March 2020 that sheltering in place would not be a passing phenomenon, PRG urged our clients to double-down on contacts with their donors. Folks were stuck at home, contemplative, lonely and wondering how the charities they supported were coping and continuing to serve through those dark months. It proved to be a perfect time to talk to key supporters and those conversations, according to our post-COVID survey (insert link), yielded a significant increase in Major Gifts among 66 of the 88 respondents. Your donor relationships may have never been as strong or as personal as they are today and a deep relationship is the basis of sound gift planning.

  • Getting one’s affairs in order

Anxiety, spurred by the pandemic caused many to confront one’s mortality and take stock of estate arrangements. Estate Planning attorneys report that since March of 2020, calls from their clients to create or revise wills have increased by 50-80% over previous periods. Your donors may be more focused on changing their wills or creating new estate plans now than in any time in the past. Since 90+% of Planned Gifts you’ll receive will be bequests, having your organization front-of-mind when your donor is creating or amending their estate plan is key to being included in those plans.

  • Inflated net worth

While many suffered financial hardships during the past 18 months, other have experienced a phenomenal increase in their portfolios. From July 2018 to July 2021, the Dow Jones average grew by nearly 43%. This growth in assets has spurred some to explore gift planning strategies as a means of decreasing their tax obligations. A Planned Giving program with provisions for deferred (“Legacy”) gifts, provides your donors with attractive ways to contribute now AND in the future.

  • Massive wealth transfer

Each year an increasing number of the baby boomers are passing away, resulting in what a recent study by Boston College described as a record $59 trillion dollar wealth transfer to their heirs. At the nexus of this wealth transition is Planned Giving that enables donors to give much more than they ever could during their lifetime, now with added tax advantages. Because most wealth transfer occurs at the time of death, a robust Planned Giving program is the smartest way to put your organization in position to benefit from this phenomenon.

The best time to have begun a Planned Giving program was 25 years ago but the second-best time is now. Whether you’re starting from scratch or simply reactivating a stalled or informal Planned Gifts effort, PRG’s handy 7 Step Guide to Successful Planned Giving can allow you to take advantage of these trends and begin to build a substantial and predictable revenue stream from these often-overlooked gifts.

Contact PRG at info@partnershipresourcesgroup.com for the Guide and Consultation on getting started with Planned Giving. We look forward to connecting with you.

Photo Cred by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

Hungry, humble and hopeful – an ode to the fundraisers of 2020

Contributed by Melissa Irish, PRG Managing Associate

Most of us, especially those over 35, became fundraisers by accident. We may have worked for human rights causes in college marching in the streets with signs of protest, served abroad in third world countries administering basic health care, or led inner city youth on outdoor adventures to share our love of nature. By some strange and unplanned twist of fate, we realized that we could harness our passions for good and raise the necessary resources to help them thrive! Asking for money didn’t scare us, we loved working in teams and didn’t mind the pressure of an impossible goal. Rather we thrived on it. We got a dizzy thrill when hitting our targets, we liked networking and throwing parties. A fundraiser was born.

And what would we do without fundraisers? The fuel for our fires would wane, the resources needed to fight the good fight would go untapped and the abundance of wealth in the world would not be channeled for the greater good. In short, our collective dreams and vision for a better world would have no lift.

It is because of this, our final article of the year is an ode to development professionals, a special breed of smart, scrappy, lightening quick heroes. This year in particular, our courageous fundraising leaders faced unprecedented challenges and stood tirelessly to meet them. The world literally crashed around them, their organizations were thrown into disarray and the need for the missions became ever more essential or worse, put on the back burner while the attention of donors shifted to fight the pandemic.

Development teams and fundraisers had to figure out how to stay relevant, continue to be the consummate cheerleader, define and disseminate the ever-changing messages of their organizations as they responded to the awful realities of 2020. They had to reach out and listen to their donors, paying (virtual) pastoral visits again and again, absorbing supporters’ concerns and heart aches. They pivoted, pivoted and pivoted again, feeling like a twirling ballerina on steroids planning for virtual events, online major donor meetings, and ways to keep their staff motivated, productive and focused. This often while becoming full-time parents and teachers.

So THANK YOU to the hundreds of thousands of fundraising soldiers, the hungry, humble and hopeful warriors who kept our beloved institutions open for business- our homeless shelters, food banks, museums, schools, health care clinics, legal aid organizations and more – and provided the fuel to keep the fires of justice burning.

For this we applaud you, we are forever grateful to serve you at PRG and look forward to walking by your side in 2021 to make sense of this all, ruminate on lessons learned, and say good riddance to what we hope to never have to do again.

Fundraisers are amazing.

Photo by Samuel Regan-Asante on Unsplash

DEI – What is the Measure?

Contributed by Amira (Mira) Barger, MBA,CVA,CFRE, PRG Associate – Philanthropy & DEI 

“In the years I have been here, nice has not translated into upward mobility, pay equity, or new opportunities.”

We are the “nice” sector. Nice nonprofits, made up of nice people, doing nice things and putting nice into the world. I’m sorry to be the one to tell you, but “nice” simply isn’t enough. It doesn’t move us towards the change we need. There is no accountability in nice. It is not the measure.

Incremental change is nice. It is gentle and slow. But incremental change by nice people, no matter how well-intentioned, will not overcome the deliberate harm and exclusion wrought on the communities that we as a sector exist to serve – and even the harm being done within our own organizations. I am saddened, though not surprised, by the number of conversations that I have had of late regarding experiences that people are having where nice is not getting the job done. A few examples from my network across the nonprofit sector:

  • My boss is nice and says nice things about me. But…In the years I have been here, nice has not translated into upward mobility, pay equity, or new opportunities.
  • My advocacy group has fought for the rights of Black residents in our city and encountered opposition from nice folks who deem our efforts to be futile and divisive. They did not shout or call names, because we are a nice city. But…nice has not translated into safety for Black residents, a seat on city council, or opportunity to be in “the room where it happens”.
  • I had a nice board member ask how I managed to make my way into my current role. They were nice in their tone and mannerisms, nice enough to not stir a reaction from others in the room who heard it. But…nice has not translated into action from our board on crafted DEI programs, intentional understanding of the communities we serve, or any ounce of belief that someone young, gifted and Black could have actually earned their way.

Here are some steps we can each take to work towards our organizations being more than nice – and truly accountable. I’ve borrowed some phases commonly used in design-thinking to help create a framework for us to think through and serve as guide posts:

5 Tips on How to Create Accountability

  1. Start with preparation As a leadership team, utilize experts in the field of DEI and Anti-racism (they are not the same!) to chart a path that reflects the goals and priorities of your organization. Put together measurable steps that address DEI as you move toward your goals.
  2. Discover In collaboration with your employees, your board, your partners – and with those you serve! – look at your organization from different perspectives to gather insights and seek out opportunity areas for growth.
  3. Define – Agree to a problem statement as a collective of stakeholders, and then work to organize your priorities. Which matters most? Which should we act on first? What is feasible short-term vs long-term? The goal here is to develop a clear direction that frames the fundamental challenges and opportunities and highlights intersections.
  4. Develop – Now that you’ve identified your priorities, conceptualize a solution, develop a prototype of that solution, and then test and retest continuously. DEI and Anti-racism are practices – things you do daily, over-and-over. Accept that trial and error is a necessary part of the process. It helps us to improve and refine ideas to make sure we are actually addressing the issues at hand and are moving forward to create the radical change we need.
  5. Deliver — As you move through this process we are working towards a resulting plan that will be finalized, produced, and launched. The plan should have clear milestones, objectives and checkpoints that keep stakeholders aware of consequences, accountable to progress and radical change.

It’s true, our sector is a nice place to work, with nice people, and we want to take steps to make sure that everyone is able to enjoy what it has to offer. Through being intentional in action and held accountable by one another, we can build a sector that ensures an equity-centric approach to our work and reflects the priority of our sector – to move and act in service to those communities most impacted by the systemic inequities in our nation.

We have the opportunity to be an example of what a sector that takes anti-racism, diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously can look like, and can be a leader in saying and showing that “nice” is not good enough.

Read our previous two blog posts (So What?) (4 Key Questions to Ask) in this three-part series on anti-racism and DEI in the nonprofit sector.

Your homework:

Photo by Robert Katzki on Unsplash

Action Changes Things (ACT) written on set stickers with clip hanging on a rope on black background.

DEI – So what?

Contributed by Amira (Mira) Barger, MBA,CVA,CFRE,  PRG Associate Consultant – Philanthropy & DEI 

Making nonprofit commitments and crafting ongoing actions towards diversity, equity and inclusion.

“When you believe niceness disproves the presence of racism, it’s easy to start believing bigotry is rare, and that the label racist should be applied only to mean-spirited, intentional acts of discrimination. The problem with this framework—besides being a gross misunderstanding of how racism operates in systems and structures enabled by nice people—is that it obligates me to be nice in return, rather than truthful. I am expected to come closer to the racists. Be nicer to them. Coddle them.”
Austin Channing Brown, I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness


It feels too quiet and back to normal (whatever “normal” is supposed to mean right now). It’s been exactly 88 days since May 25th, 2020. On that day, the world received a wake-up call to racial injustice as many watched the murder of George Floyd. The video circulated in the midst of conversations already being had regarding the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, and suddenly America became acutely aware of the pain and outrage that many of us (Black people, Indigenous people, People of Color = BIPOC) have shouldered for lifetimes – our lived experience. Because the sad realization is, George Floyd is one of many. The question becomes – so what?

  • So what? You posted the words “Black Lives Matter” and other heartfelt messages.
  • So what? Your board members matched employees’ donations to orgs fighting racism.
  • So what? You held a town hall to discuss racial injustice.
  • So what? You even hired a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion consultant and/or staff role.


With all due respect: So what?


Not with an indifferent or dismissive tone, but, rather, so, what NOW? One might argue that it is even more vital for us (the nonprofit sector) to find the answers to this question. Many of our organizations exist by virtue of the failed systems, policies, practices, behaviors, and beliefs that disproportionately impact BIPOC. The nonprofit sector serves to fill the gap for communities left behind – for those marginalized, underrepresented, and vulnerable due to the racism and upheld inequities rampant in our culture.

The last time I had your attention (Part 1 in this series), I noted that performance art was not welcome in the fight against racial injustice. There are no Emmys, Oscars, or Tony awards handed out around here. I provided you with a series of questions that nonprofit organizations must be asking of themselves and the sector as a whole. Inquisition, of course, must then be coupled with active listening and followed by ongoing commitment to change. A long-held truth of individual and institutional behavior is – you change what you measure, and you measure what you incentivize.

African businesswoman manager give whiteboard presentation at office meeting, female business coach presenter point on flip chart explain corporate strategy training diverse team at company workshop

If you as a leader, a board member, staff member, donor, or volunteer are ready to take sustained action, a prudent starting place looks like this:

  • Listening Tour
    • Take this time to conduct structured individual or small group conversations with all staff. Use the concerns, needs, and information you gather to guide how you update or build your DEI strategy.
    • The history of racism in this country must inform our strategy. Commit to listening and learning from anti-racism educators. Then work with those educators to formalize anti-racism as part of your training. From top to bottom, in staff onboarding, volunteer orientation, and even board member recruitment, anti-racism must permeate the entire culture of the organization.
  • Specific Commitments
    • Share your data. What does the gender, race/ethnicity, seniority representation look like within your organization? Don’t be shy or hide it in a corner on a dusty old desk. Pull the data and share it with all stakeholders. Then communicate the ways you will immediately work to address the deficiencies.
    • Increase BIPOC representation on your Board of Directors, your Executive Leadership, and at ALL talent levels. Representation at every opportunity matters and focusing on your glaring gaps will help to gain momentum toward sustained efforts in service to equity.
  • Accountability Body
    • Sharing your data is one step towards accountability. It provides measurable proof of your commitment to impacting the equity challenges found across the nonprofit sector as a whole. It will take our collective action to dismantle the broken systems and reconstruct them in a way that reflects our promise to change moving forward.
    • Where we place our investments will tell the world what we value. Provide your DEI and ERG groups with people resources, financial resources, and access to every level of leadership and power. No table, seat, or decision is off limits to them – if you are serious.

The truth is that the path towards justice and equity for all is messy and requires consistent dedication. In due diligence you’ll set a plan, read a book, have a meeting, and vote(!). More than anything else, we need you to dig deep, stand tall, and stay ready for a fight – because we cannot simply hope for niceness to drive racism away. It is too deeply embedded. We have to demand it as if our own lives were at stake, calling out to our mothers as we gasp for our last breath.


So…what NOW?


Your homework until next time:

Read: Managing Unconscious Bias

Read: Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture

Watch: Verna Myer Ted Talk

Watch the New York Times 1619 Project: https://www.nytimes.com/column/1619-project

Take this free test from Harvard University and learn more about your personal levels of unconscious bias: Implicit Association Test




Fundraising planning


We, at Partnership Resources Group, have talked with countless organizations over the last several months. There is widespread concern about how to maintain the quality of your services, meet the needs of your clients and communicate effectively with your donors, all while keeping your fundraising work moving forward.

By sharing what PRG learned, we hope these 10 Elements for Fundraising Planning will help to spark your imagination and give you ideas for a fundraising plan in the face of uncertainty.

Download our e-book version of 10 Elements of Fundraising Planning 2020-21 or read on…

1. Revised Case For Support (So Much has Changed)


Case Statement image

How you are staying connected to your mission and your clients is essential.

  • What have you done to pivot programs and staff during the crisis and how has that impacted your budget?
  • What are your current priority services, how have they changed (or not)? Always tie programs and services to human (client, patient) impact.
  • If you’re not a front-line service provider how do your programs fill in the gaps in your clients’ lives (e.g., parks for exercise and mental health; children’s museum offering virtual activities to support home-bound kids; etc.)? Your mission is still relevant.

What are your plans for re-opening and what will that look like—less staff, re-activating volunteers, some staff still working remotely, new ways to provide services?

Remember that your donors invested in you because they supported your mission and believed that you would fulfill that mission. Tell them why they should re-invest in you now. What will you need in financial support as you re-position the agency in the post-pandemic time?

Keep in mind that the need for your services in these times may be clear and more-self-evident than ever, but you must revise your Case to link those services to the critical need for funding. As always, the Case should inspire and motivate the reader to take action.


2. Fundraising Forecasts with Multiple Scenarios (Best to Worst Case)



Now is a crucial time to plan for a series of fundraising scenarios – at least 3, best case to worse case. Hopefully, new or renewed donors who have given to an organization’s COVID response can be part of next year’s giving picture.

There’s a useful tool that has been created by the Nonprofit Finance Fund to help with your forecast and a video that explains how to use it. https://nff.org/blog/covid-19-and-npo-start-with-these-assessment-steps


3. Focus On Stewardship (Across All Organizational Lines)



Stewardship word cloud image with hi-res rendered artwork that could be used for any graphic design.

During the ’08 recession PRG observed many donors who could not afford to continue to support all of their charities and had to curtail their giving to some. Your objective, with all of your stewardship moves is to keep your organization on your donors’ short lists. And the way to ensure that continued engagement is through frequent, personalized communication focused on how you change lives.

  • Every one of your donors deserves appropriate acknowledgment, recognition and engagement, but by segmenting your donors you can prioritize and target your stewardship efforts and use your time and organizational resources wisely.
  • PRG recommends the ‘Portfolio’ approach to involving your Board in stewardship. By assigning each of your Board members a portfolio of donors now, you’ll extend your stewardship reach exponentially. And with many donors sheltering with time on their hands, this is a unique opportunity to tell your story and reinforce the importance of their continuing investment.


4. Update And Organize Your Data



A silver lining to sheltering-in-place, away from the office day to day may be newly found time to take a look at and reorganize your donor data. As we know, well-managed donor information is the backbone of any sound Development program.

Segmenting your donor information is critical, especially now. Consider the inputs necessary to properly segment, then finding the right patterns – giving longevity, increases or decreases, method of contacts, stewardship moves, a donor’s social network. Use your imagination!


5. Promoting Multiple Giving Vehicles (planned/sustaining/matching gifts)


Some donors who have committed a Planned Gift may not be donors to the Annual Fund. Part of the stewardship process with these donors is to ‘cross-sell’ them on the importance and value of making an annual donation.

The best prospects for a Planned Gift may be found among your donors (at all levels) who have given regularly, year after year; who began giving many years ago; or who elected to periodically increase the amount of their gift. For these donors, the strongest argument to consider a Planned Gift may be the opportunity to maintain their charitable support after they’ve passed on—for perpetuity.

Donors may support your mission and be impressed with the work you’ve done during the pandemic. They’d like to make a significant donation but are uneasy about their finances. A sustaining gift may be the best way to meet their objectives, and to help you. For example: they wanted to contribute $200. but feel, realistically they can only afford $100 right now. But by committing to $100 now and $100 a year for the next 3 years, their net gift is $400. They are proud to have doubled what they were hoping to contribute and you can count that $100 in your annual budget projections. With the right stewardship and an improving economy, you may-well inspire them to double or triple that amount.

The many donor studies we’ve done over the years indicate that the impact of a matching gift will inspire a donor to give, or to give more, about fifty percent of the time. In other words, offering a match will motivate about 1 out of every 2 donors. Factors that often increase the impact of a match include:

  • The timing of the match.
  • A match to close the final portion of a capital campaign or your fiscal year will frequently generate more response.
  • The identity of the donor. A match offered by a well-known and respected leader of your agency will likely spark more donations than a match by a wealthy community member.
  • The size of the match can be a factor; a two-for-one match acts as a stronger incentive than a dollar-for-dollar option.


6. Events (Is there Sufficient ROI and What is the Model?)

 Check out PRG’s Event  a checklist for agencies considering converting in-person events to a virtual platform as well as links to experts who can assist with the conversion.



7. Appeals (Purpose and Cadence)


As we emerge from the pandemic, many agencies are struggling financially and may be reaching out to their donors more frequently than normal. This, coupled with the usual saturation of year-end appeals beginning in early November, suggests several strategies for those planning direct appeals for the balance of 2020.


Typically, most nonprofits have not considered the summer vacation months to be a good time to send out appeals. No one knows when travel may be possible again or even when domestic airline travel may be considered safe. For that reason, and the fact that many donors may still be spending more time at home, at least into the Fall, special appeals between June and October might be particularly effective this year. There is no reason to hesitate. Research during the first 10 weeks of the pandemic clearly indicates that current donors are giving—many at higher levels than normally.

Connect conversationally

Make your appeal a conversation with each donor about someone you serve, someone who is depending on you to be there for them. These days we are inundated by appeals for money, stats about the coronavirus and details about sheltering; what your donors want to hear are stories about real people that will be helped with their gift, maybe someone like them who has suddenly lost a job, health insurance and child care and is living in frightening and completely unexpected circumstances.

Segment your message to your audience

For your major investors or those donors who have been with you for years—treat them as confidants. Help them FEEL what it’s like to be serving your clients with remote staff and uncertain revenues. For those giving just below your major donor level, invite them to give to a specific fund that will elevate them into your Major Donor Club. And for those who have recently lapsed (12-36 mos.) invite them back into ‘the family’ at a time when you need everyone on-board to help those in need.


8. Digital Strategy (Even if You Don’t Have On, Yet!)



Now is the time to advance your digital prowess and presence on social media – more and more that’s where donors, regardless of generation, are spending their time. Is your donation page optimized for mobile? Are you making every effort to gather and curate email addresses of every donor and stakeholder? Is your Facebook page current and are your organization’s fans promoting you on their pages?

DNL Omni Media has put together clear 7-Steps to Creating a Nonprofit Digital Strategy – it’s a great place to start!  https://www.dnlomnimedia.com/blog/nonprofit-digital-strategy-steps/


9. Build Resiliency Through Fiscal Reserves

Every disaster reminds us that the agencies that have created a Reserve Fund—usually through the proceeds of an active Planned Gifts program, have a far-greater margin of survival than those who don’t. Because of the likely depth and length of the recession created by this pandemic, the value of having a reserve will become even more dramatic.

We saw, in the ’08 recession that nonprofits who had invested their reserves solely or substantially in a traditional Endowment Fund were unable to access the principal in that Fund at a time when they needed money to maintain services and keep their doors open. Some donors, for various reasons, will still insist that their Planned Gift be invested through an Endowment. It’s wise to offer those donors the option of an Endowment Fund, but for donors who want the organization to have maximum flexibility in using their gift during times of crisis, a Board Designated Reserve Fund (BDRF) should be a second option. In fact, since 2008 many donors, especially younger folks, insist that their gift be deposited in a BDRF. Of course, a BDRF must be governed by Board policies that clearly define how, and under what circumstances, the principal may be used.

While fiscal reserves are almost-always funded with the proceeds of Planned Gifts (most often testamentary gifts), an agency could elect, by Board policy and for a limited period to deposit a small percentage of each, undesignated donation into the Reserve Fund. This approach will help to ‘prime’ the Reserve Fund until money from ‘fulfilled’ testamentary gifts begin to arrive in a predictable amount.


10. Opportunities for Synergy Beyond Your Organizational Borders

Let’s face it, the pandemic and the recession demand more working together to tackle unprecedented problems. There are countless examples of mission-aligned organizations joining forces to respond to the crisis. If you’re one of those, make that part of your story. If you’re not, look for opportunities to collaborate and start that discussion. Donors expect that their gifts will be used to maximum efficiency.

While we simply can’t know what the post-COVID era will bring, we do know that the community fabric will change and with it, a change to our nonprofit agency fabric. Those organizations that are closely linked to others in their sectors are more likely to adapt to the “new normals” and successfully compete for funds.

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DEI – 4 Key Questions to Ask

Contributed by Amira (Mira) Barger, MBA,CVA,CFRE,  PRG Associate Consultant – Philanthropy & DEI 

The questions organizations can be asking themselves right now to advance their own commitment and actions to diversity, equity and inclusion.

In the wake of recent and ongoing protest across the nation, many nonprofit organizations are seeking ways to address racial injustice. Time has been focused on posting statements on social media, rapid-fire dialing to the closest available implicit bias trainer, and hours spent at book clubs trying to digest the most recent anti-racism book. While taking these steps is admirable, they are only effective when enacted as part of a larger and deeply intentional strategy. Organizations have a responsibility to do more than make performative statements. Though we may be able to buy public goodwill for the time being, trust is earned through a sustained, long-term body of work.

The path towards true justice and equity for all is ongoing, but it begins with asking questions. What are those things that we as individuals and institutions need to unlearn, relearn, and repattern? How do we as nonprofit organizations best serve not only our employees, but also those community members entrusted to our care, in tangible, identifiable ways? Inquisition, of course, must be coupled by active listening and commitment to change. And, in order to get started (RIGHT NOW!), here are a series of questions nonprofit organizations must be asking themselves:

  1. What is the goal you seek?Explore why becoming anti-racist is vital to you (individually/organizationally) as the first step. This will be the driving force that will help to sustain momentum when the public fanfare dies down. We must continuously keep working towards change, and understanding your ‘why’ is vital.
  2. What is the current reality for your staff and neighbors/clients?Equity is all about meeting people where they are, providing for their specific and unique needs. How are we showing up for those most impacted by the decisions we make? This moves us toward ensuring they are not only in the room, but are represented at the table and have a voice in decision-making.
  3. What are the options for you to create lasting change?Based on your organization’s mission and population served, what lane you will occupy may vary. For some, it is an effort to ensure that language is equitable – for example saying “the unhoused” vs “the homeless”. For others it is re-tooling programs so that community engagement is included as a part of implementation. This will take more time, but creates more equitable outcomes.
  4. How will you wrap up this exploration?As you ask yourself these questions, making sure your goals are measurable will keep you accountable. Know your staff and the population you serve, and make sure they are they represented. Does your organization have a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion taskforce? It should.