Further Guidance on Philanthropy and COVID-19

I was on NBC4 Day Time Columbus to discuss how the nonprofit sector is responding to the threat of COVID-19.

Click here to watch the interview, and read on to learn how your nonprofit can emerge from this situation stronger than ever.

  1. Stay involved and engaged in the philanthropic life of donors and the community
    • Tell your donors and friends to give only to trusted charities. There will be scammers
    • For example, use some of those great photos you’ve got stored away of your organization in action and make them into postcards using Vistaprint or another inexpensive service. Send these postcards to donors and check in on how they’re doing. Or, you can use the images digitally for your social media outreach.
    • If you have to cancel an event and you’ve already paid for the food or space, consider donating that food to a homeless shelter or donating that space to a nonprofit hospital in need. If you arrange this, make sure your stakeholders are aware of the donation. Paying it forward will be important.
  2. Calibrate requests and appeals based on the immediate environment;
    • Did you have a solicitation visit scheduled for March or April? Keep it if possible, and let the donor know that you understand this is a trying time and are happy to work with them through whatever challenges arise.
  3. Be transparent with information and communication
    • Assign a single point of contact within your organization to communicate with your community. It’s important to speak from one voice during a crisis to ensure consistent messaging. The lead person should be the CEO/Executive Director. Regular email blasts and individual phone calls should be coordinated as appropriate to Board members, staff, donors, and prospects. You should be communicating with stakeholders now more than ever.
  4. Maintain relationships, activities, and everything else that demonstrates you are viable today and will be viable tomorrow
    • In this time of social distancing, do not cancel Board meetings. Zoom and other video platforms make virtual communications easier than ever, and it is important to demonstrate that your organization is not closing its doors. Though this is not business as usual, it is still business.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be thinking about making your next ask.

I have worked through crisis management with clients for decades. This is the third unprecedented situation I have witnessed. Through these, I have observed organizations who stay still during tumultuous times, and know that these are among those who do not fare well when a crisis ends (and, I assure you, this will end). Now is the time for nonprofits to prioritize flexibility, creativity, and responsiveness to those who will assist them most in pursuit of their mission.

Russ Hodge