Tag Archives: COVID-19

Fundraising during the Pandemic – Looking at 6+ Recent Reports

Fundraising During the Pandemic Image

Recently, I have seen an uptick in studies and data about fundraising during the pandemic. In general, there is consistency to the data. But the details tell the real story.

Nonprofits that were strong fundraisers continued to do well when fundraising during the pandemic. Nonprofits who were afraid of fundraising before the pandemic, often opted not to ask donors and funders during the the first part of the year. And what were tiny cracks in their development program and fundraising processes opened in to huge gaps.

These public studies about fundraising during the pandemic (all written within the past few months) highlight the highs and lows of events, arts organizations, hybrid fundraising, higher education, individual giving, and religious organizations. And while this is much longer than our usual blog post, I hope you will settle in and take a look at where we stand, a year into the pandemic.

If you know of others, please pass them along. I will add them to the list.

Pivot to Virtual Events Helps Nonprofits Sustain 2020 Fundraising Goals  (The Giving Institute)


  • Overall, 56% of nonprofits report that they raised less than budgeted, one-third are raised what they had projected, and 11% raised more than their original goal.
  • This year 48% of nonprofits had to cancel and 40% postponed at least one event.
  • Those that converted to a virtual or hybrid event were 10% more likely to raise more than those that cancelled events.

The Future Is Hybrid: Preparing for the Next Evolution of Fundraising (NonProfit Pro)


  • As the importance of online fundraising has grown particularly during the past year, many organizations struggled to optimize the digital giving experience when fundraising during the pandemic. Half of those organizations surveyed felt they could be doing better with online giving.  Only 16% said they were very successful in 2020.
  • The giving experience should connect donors to your mission and build affinity through a frictionless process — much in the same way that online consumer experiences enhance our connection to brands.
  • Overall, the pivot to peer-to-peer endurance events was successful for many nonprofits. 64% reported their virtual run/walk/ride in 2020 as either very or somewhat successful.
  • Challenge your organization to reexamine donor experiences, identifying opportunities to simplify and infuse new engagement touchpoints. Pandemic fundraising is not the same.

Pandemic deals a blow to college fundraising: report (Higher Ed Dive)


  • Fundraising revenue at one in four colleges fell by more than 30% during the first half of fiscal 2021 from the same period the year before.
  • Just over half of the 104 advancement teams surveyed said the value of new gifts and pledges at their institution fell, a trend largely driven by a decrease in the number of major gifts.
  • Smaller gifts and fewer donors during the first half of fiscal 2021 underscored concerns about the pandemic’s long-term impact on colleges’ financials.
  • In a completely separate but related article there was record fundraising and more individual donors to two-year Community Colleges which many attribute to the drive to support less-expensive and more accessible education options.

A Year Into the Pandemic, Long-Term Financial Impact Weighs Heavily on Many Americans (Pew Research Center)

While this is not directly related to fundraising during the pandemic, there is no doubt that decreases in income and fear of financial security will impact fundraising. We can also hope that those that have fared better will increase giving.


  • Roughly half of non-retired adults say the economic consequences of the coronavirus outbreak will make it harder for them to achieve their financial goals.
  • Lower-income adults, as well as Hispanic and Asian-Americans and adults younger than 30, are among the most likely to say they or someone in their household has lost a job or taken a pay cut since the outbreak began in February 2020.1
  • Adults with upper incomes have fared better. About four-in-ten (39%) say their family’s financial situation has improved compared with a year ago.

Philanthropy and COVID-19 – Measuring one year of giving (Jewish Funders Network*)

*In addition this report there is an incredibly deep “Reports from the Field” section about fundraising during the pandemic that relates to many sectors.


  • There has been more than $20 billion awarded for COVID-19 globally in 2020.
  • Corporations accounted for 44 percent of the funding during the pandemic.
  • Community foundations awarded more grants—mostly from Donor-Advised Funds—towards pandemic fundraising than any other type (54 percent of total awards).
  • Of U.S. COVID-19 philanthropy to specified recipients, 35 percent of dollars was explicitly designated for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, (and) People of Color)
  • communities.

What Keeps U.S. Art Museums Running—and How Might the Pandemic Change That? (ArtNews)


  • Those museums that had free admission may be faring better than other models. In a recent report by the American Alliance of Museums, it was suggested that as many as one-third of the country’s museums could close permanently because of the pandemic.
  • This is a time of self-reflection for museums. Institutions are struggling with the loss of revenue from having to close, the canceling of memberships, the losses from canceled fundraising galas, and fewer donor gifts overall…. Add to that a cultural reckoning over long-standing systemic racism and inequity, and museum leaders are caught in a perfect storm of cultural and financial crisis.
  • For most museums, one legacy of the pandemic will be a growing focus on digital experiences.

As with much of the pandemic, the flood of information is overwhelming. In future weeks, we use this blog to help consider next steps for your nonprofit. No matter what nonprofit sector you are in.

And, if you know of additional resources, or want specific questions answered, email me.

Do You Need to Increase Resources for Your Nonprofit but Can’t/Won’t/Are Afraid to Hire?

Organizations are trying their best to make do with less resources. Maybe you noticed your own reductions in:  

Need to Increase Resources
  • Funding 
  • Staff 
  • Volunteers 
  • Time without their families around 
  • Clothing that fits 

Even if you are making do with less, the need for your services has not decreased. We all want to help as many people as possible through the pandemic whether it’s providing food, arts/entertainment, or spiritual comfort.  You may even know that you need to increase resources for your nonprofit, but you can’t/won’t/are afraid to hire.  

Fundraising is essential 

Fundraising cannot hold off until herd immunity is a reality. Bottom line is that to raise more money, your need to increase resources for your nonprofit. Particularly staff to do the work. Whether you are holding off on hiring based on budgetary cuts, furloughs, or unfilled positions, nonprofits are more under-staffed than usual. But organizations have options. 

Staffing options to help you increase resources for your nonprofit 

We can, of course, help with an executive search. But, if hiring in this current environment is too overwhelming financially, mentally, or time-wise, consider interim placement from Mersky, Jaffe & Associates. 

We can bridge the gap to help you: 

  • Keep your fundraising on track until you decide your next hire (or until that person is hired) 
  • Create a development or stewardship plan for 2021  
  • Execute your existing fundraising and stewardship plan 
  • Help oversee and deploy volunteers to keep them engaged and motivated to strengthen your nonprofit  
  • Analyze your current fundraising strengths and weaknesses and help you develop a model to move forward 
  • Be the leader, support, and/or hands your nonprofit needs to raise the necessary funds during the pandemic 

We understand that it’s hard to determine your staffing needs when you don’t know what the world will look like in six months. That is why interim staff helps fulfill your needs on a contract basis without added costs of employing someone and increasing your long-term expense. Let’s set up a time to talk about how we can help you raise more money in 2021.  

Read more on Interim Placement

Interim Placement (also known as Fractional Employment)

Strong Leaders Help You Fundraise During a Pandemic

A Tale of Two Case Studies – Part 1*

Strong leaders help you fundraise during a pandemic - Be strong

The pandemic has changed fundraising and development for 2020 (and, perhaps, beyond). Most annual, capital and endowment campaigns have been halted. We have developed a love/hate relationship with Zoom. And, fear has so profoundly infected nonprofits that many may not recover. But what hasn’t changed? Strong leaders are still essential and can help you succeed in almost any circumstance. And, strong leaders help you fundraise during a pandemic.

Want proof? Here are case studies from two very different congregations that are working towards multi-million-dollar campaigns and finding success because of their leadership. Well, here is the first one. Check back next week for number two!

Organization 1 – The Scene: 

A suburb of a small city. A small congregation (fewer than 300 family units). Turnover of the most senior staff – including all clergy within the past two years. Passionate leaders who understood that without a capital and endowment campaign, there would be an annual deficit. And that an annual deficit for the foreseeable future was unacceptable.  

The Questions: 

A feasibility study was done to test interest before the pandemic. Would their members still support the effort? Could their prospects still give at pre-pandemic levels? Were members ready to have the conversations about five- and six-figure donations?  

The Campaign to Date: 

The campaign committee is leading by example. And others are following. Is it easy? No. Is there fear, changing circumstances of prospects, and sometimes people who can no longer give what they would/could have given a year ago? Yes, yes, and yes. But the campaign leadership are moving forward. They are raising money for their endowment and some capital needs, one gift at a time. Three months in, they are more than 20% to their goal. And that doesn’t include the fact that they have increased their annual giving for this year, with additional annual commitments secured for four more years. The simultaneous dual ask, one for endowment/capital and one for annual has proven incredibly successful. 

Bottom Line: 

They are systematically reducing their annual deficit with both increased annual gifts and substantial, five-year endowment commitments. And they are expanding their campaign committee to help broaden their fundraising efforts. Proving, strong leaders help you fundraise during a pandemic. 

*Part 2 has been postponed. Stay tuned….

Did You Know That Volunteers Are Twice as Likely to Donate as Non-volunteers?

It’s true. Volunteers are twice as likely to donate as non-volunteers. Now, months into the pandemic, how do you define a volunteer?  

Volunteers Are Twice as Likely to Donate as Non-volunteers

In pre-pandemic times, your list of volunteers was obvious. They were the people contributing their time and skills. That could have been serving as a Greeter to anyone who walked through your doors, stocking shelves at your food pantry, helping create a magical event, mentoring young members, or serving on your board or a committee.  

But now, mentoring depends on internet connections, many of your volunteers may be considered “high risk” and can’t or won’t come into your organization’s facility.  And your needs and opportunities may have shifted dramatically. Add to that reduced staffing, work from home scenarios that vary, and a host of safety restrictions. Many people who were at your organization weekly in February, may have barely heard from you since March.  

Now, let’s go back to my original premise

Volunteers are twice as likely to donate as non-volunteers. It’s time to re-engage these folks. Making volunteer retention a priority is another aspect of donor retention. Volunteers have the potential to become your most engaged donors. But they have to be asked.  

Today is the day to write, call and email your volunteers. And show them the love and appreciation you felt while they were walking through your doors. And, hopefully, the feelings will be mutual.  

In A World That Feels Out Of Control – What Can You Control?

What can you control?

What you cannot control:

  1. Board and leadership decisions
  2. Your donors’ income or asset changes
  3. Other people’s fears
  4. Unavoidable organizational changes
  5. General economic instability
  6. Deadlines
  7. The Pandemic
  8. Child-care/school situations
  9. Shifts in funding priorities

What can you control?

  1. How you spend each day
  2. If you are making decisions strategically vs. – reactively
  3. How you prioritize your responsibilities
  4. Whether you obtain approvals before you move forward to make sure things are in line
  5. If you ask for help from fellow staff, board members or volunteers
  6. Your fears (this does take a bit of work)
  7. Whether you are currently fundraising and stewarding donors
  8. If you are looking for creative solutions to the myriad problems that arise each day
  9. Your television

Nonprofit organizations who are standing still, afraid of fundraising, and/or think they can put off planning until things settle down will go out of business. It is a harsh reality, but that does not make it any less true. I do not know of any nonprofits who can hold off fundraising for a year and hope to come back with any stable footing.

Major donors will not carry your organization for years just because they believe in your mission statement. They want to sustain organizations which are working to fulfill their mission and achieve their vision. Even now. So, what can you control? Figure it out fast. And get out there and fundraise!

As always, if you want help with any part of the process – from prioritization to creative solutions, set up a time to speak with one of us at Mersky, Jaffe & Associates. 

How Do You Raise Money If You Are Not Providing COVID 19-Related Services?

Raise Money If You Are Not Providing COVID 19-Related Services

Are you asking yourself how you can raise funds at a time of pandemic, economic dislocation, and social unrest when your organization’s mission is not related to any of those issues?

Many of our clients have been raising this concern with us in the past few months. Recently, Michael Jaffe facilitated a program for the staff of a national communal organization that recently utilized our executive search services. 

The goal was to get everyone in the room to answer the question:

“How do nonprofits raise money if you are not providing COVID 19-related services?” 

A question so many organizations face. And Mersky, Jaffe & Associates wants to help you answer. (Click here if you would like to talk to one of us about how we can provide a one-hour brainstorming session for your organization.)

What did this nonprofit learn about raising money if you are not providing COVID 19-related services?

  • Whether or not to relate your organization to current issues depends on the donor. 
  • Fundraisers must be sensitive to their donors as well as transparent, passionate, and sincere when making the case and asking for a commitment. 
  • It is critical, now more than ever, to stay in touch with donors by all and any means of communication that the donor employs. Another national organization, has made 30,000 phone calls to its donors since late March. Organizations should reach out to every donor in their data base in a prioritized, systematic way to create a caring community. The purpose of the call can be to check in, say thank you, and ask questions to engage donors.
  • Stewardship is essential. Everyone, including staff, is dealing with the effects of COVID 19 and the social unrest, but it is critical that staff relate to donors.
  • Virtual solicitations work. Utilize Zoom to engage donors. It is the best option now. Giving is as emotional as it is financial. People are giving, so do not be reluctant to solicit donors now.
  • Many people are looking at their estate plans. Now is a good time to focus on planned giving efforts.
  • Look at donors who give through Donor Advised Funds. They still have money to give away since it has already been set aside for this exact purpose.

Your organization has an important message.  Now is not the time to pull back on fundraising.  If you want to hold a motivating, inspiring program for your staff and/or volunteer leadership, email me or click here to set an appointment to talk about what Mersky, Jaffe & Associates can do for you and your mission.

Would You Rather Solicit A Major Gift Over Zoom or With a Live Chicken

Would You Rather Solicit A Major Gift Over Zoom or With a Live Chicken

What has changed for you during the pandemic? Your employment? Or at least the way you work? Your family life? Or the time you spend with your family? Your eating? Or where you eat most of your meals? The essentials of life, food, family, work, and so much more look very different than they did months ago. For most of us, we didn’t have a choice, we adapted to the curve in the road.

Fundraising and solicitations also need to adapt. And I am here to tell you that it can work.

You can solicit a major gift over Zoom

I would take a sizable bet that if, even six months ago, I had suggested you solicit a major gift over Zoom you would have had a very strong reaction. Probably you would have laughed, then deleted my email, then unsubscribed from my blog. It would have been like suggesting you bring a live chicken to your donor meetings. I guess it could be done, but it would only reduce your chances of success and eliminate donor confidence.    

Back to July 2020 and I am here to say Zoom solicitations can be done successfully.

Our clients who have continued to work on their capital campaigns during the pandemic are finding that process looks different than expected, but the outcome can be the same. Or even better than anticipated.

Organizations who have taken time over the past few months to organize and plan their campaign in the current climate will find that things have normalized to a point where donors are ready to talk. These organizations have checked in and connected with donors, members and volunteers. They probably utilized their volunteers to keep them engaged and deepen the relationships. And, similar to other types of stewardship, these “touches” have kept prospects engaged, primed, and ready to be asked for a donation.

At MJA, the pandemic has changed our business too

We do not visit facilities or attend meetings in person. We do continue to teach volunteers and professionals how to make a game plan for each prospect, how to get the appointment, and, of course, how to solicit. We make sure the solicitor has the appropriate documents, that the staff and volunteers understand each step of the follow up and acknowledgement process, and we have sat in as a box, and participant, on Zoom solicitations. And while we were all a bit nervous to start, it works.

Donors still feel passionately about organizations, particularly those they have previously supported. Some donors have had to change their financial plans due to COVID-19-related issues, but many don’t. There is significant philanthropic capacity looking for meaningful opportunities.  And if you have been stewarding those who have it, they will still be ready to give if you make the compelling case you have always needed to make:

  • Why give?
  • Why to this organization?
  • Why to this organization right now?

So, it may feel strange, like holding a bird, to solicit a major gift over Zoom but it’s time to adapt and try new things. Unless you are one of the many people who decided to adopt chickens during the pandemic. And then, you might be able to hold your chicken while on a zoom call and still be successful. Life certainly has changed.  

If you would like to learn from our experience so you can plan and execute your capital campaign or annual fund major gifts program, please click here to schedule a free consultation.

Can You Ask For A Donation Right Now For Your Nonprofit?

This past week my daughter asked if it was inappropriate to put a birthday post up on Instagram. She wants to support the Black Lives Matter protests and activism, but she is a teenager with a best friend who was turning 17. In a lot of ways, it is the same question we hear from nonprofits. “With the world on fire, how can I ask for a donation right now for my nonprofit?”

It all boils down to, how can we do what we want/need to do without distracting from the important funds directly supporting critical social justice issues like Black Lives Matter or essential services for COVID-19-related relief.

There are a few factors to consider before you ask for a donation right now for an annual fund, capital fund or special project:

  1. Check in with everyone. If your major donors have been affected by the Coronavirus, riots/looting, or job loss/furlough, they will appreciate the fact that you want to stay in touch – even when they can’t give. This shows you care about them, and not just their money.
  2. Your major donors might not have been directly affected. While there are many people who have been sick, lost their jobs, and/or shifted all of their philanthropy towards worthwhile Black Lives Matter related causes, many of your major donors still can give. It has been proven that wealthy people are more likely to have been able to
    1.  ride out the stock market losses and gains (read: they still have wealth)
    1. been able to transfer their work to their homes (read: they are less likely to lose their jobs in layoffs and less likely to get sick from having to go into their jobs)
    1. and in better health (meaning they are more likely to survive COVID-19 if they were to get sick)
  3. People still want to give. Most people I know who have been able to retain their jobs and are healthy are acutely aware of how lucky they are. I include myself in this category. They/we want to help support nonprofits now more than ever. They/we want to donate to organizations that address current issues, but also the organizations we love. They/we know how important it is to step up right now because we can afford to do so.
  4. Supporters of your organization probably know that your fiscal year is ending. If they have been with you for years, this shouldn’t be a surprise. What they don’t know is how you ended this year, and what you expect for next year.
    • Are you planning for reduced income in some or all areas?
    • Are you considering how to keep your staff working at close to full capacity?
    • Will other costs like cleaning or transportation increase as things open?
    • How is all of this effecting your budget?
    • And what can your donors do to help?
  5. Be aware of the timing but don’t use that as an excuse to stop asking at all. When quarantine first began, people were hesitant to ask for non-COVID-19-related donations and that was wise. It was a time to check in with people. But weeks went by and we found new routines for working from home, home schooling, and asking for donations. In fact, many organizations have been extremely successful in fundraising this spring. Fundraisers not involved in the Black Lives Matter movement have paused again. You can even use your social media to encourage people to support the movement. And then consider how you ask your supporters to donate your nonprofit. *Remember that in times like these, you are not asking for the piece of the giving “pie” that would have gone to shift policing policies. History has shown us that the total “pie” (or total annual giving) actually grows in challenging times.
  6. Many fundraising rules remain the same. People still want transparency, a reason to give to your organization, and a reason to give right now.
  7. If you are not asking them, someone else is. This is something I always tell people. You may feel uncomfortable or shy about asking, but the nonprofit next door may not and that is why they are still raising money. While an article in a newspaper or social media burst may increase new donations from people you don’t know, the general rule is still you don’t get donations if you don’t ask for them.

This is not an easy time. The asks will not be in person over coffee or lunch. You will hear a lot of stories that will make you laugh, cry, and scream. You will hear about the people that can’t give. But you will also hear how resilient your donors are and how they still love your organization. All that stewardship – and showing them the love – will be returned. But you have to ask for a donation right now, to get a donation.

Nonprofit Hiring in the Time of Layoffs, Furloughs and Unpaid Leave

We are living in a brave new world, the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. While remote work is certainly not a new phenomenon, the Coronavirus outbreak has forced nonprofits to transition without preparation. This sudden change has put a strain an organization’s ability to perform the basics of nonprofit hiring and recruit new employees.

What makes the current situation especially daunting and difficult for organizations and executive search firms like ours? Simply, most nonprofit hiring programs have been heavily reliant on face-to-face interactions. How could you get a good read on the personality and motivation of a candidate if you were not sitting directly in front of him or her?

Now, we are all more keenly aware of the importance of agility and digitization of recruitment and onboarding processes. Nonprofit hiring is changing, and we, as a sector, need to catch up.

For all too many organizations, this pandemic has led to layoffs, furloughs, and unpaid leave to stay lean and minimize losses. This creates an advantage to the bold enterprise which seeks new talent.  But full-time remote work has become, and is likely to remain, the new normal.  The question is are you ready and equipped to pivot your recruitment process to go fully virtual?

Best Practices

In a virtual world, candidates encounter their new employers through a process that is regrettably often confusing and disorganized. To make the recruitment process the most effective it can be—both for the organization as well as from the candidate’s point of view, we recommend the following best practices:

  • Engage a search firm, like Mersky, Jaffe & Associates with years of demonstrated experience in recruiting and hiring in a virtual environment.
  • Conduct an Organizational and Development Assessment. Additionally, interview key stakeholders about the job and ask them to help define the characteristics of the successful new hire.
  • Create a clear, results-oriented position description.
  • Identify and train the hiring officer who will screen the initial candidates and select two to advance to the second level.
  • Determine who else from the staff needs to meet the two semi-finalist candidates, one-on-one—members of the team, supervisors, or senior management.
  • Select volunteer leaders for a third round of one-on-one interviews to interact with the potential new hire.
  • Create an on-line feed-back form to gather reactions from all those who have met with the candidates. (Connect with me by clicking here if you would like a sample form for feedback that you can employ.)
  • The hiring officer then collates all the responses from the feedback forms and decides on the finalist.
  • Confirm that the finalist will accept a satisfactory offer if it is made, subject to reference checks and a one-on-one meeting with the CEO and Chair of the Board.
  • Check references,
  • Negotiate final terms and conditions.

If organizations continue to be reactive and employ antiquated nonprofit hiring practices, it will have devastating consequences if the future of work continues as full-time remote work.  Schedule a time to speak with me about your executive search needs in this new world by clicking here.

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MJA Executive Search in the current environment

Last winter, we announced that we would be listing compensation in our job postings to increase transparency and, in our small way, address the issue of gender inequity in salaries in the nonprofit world.  But, as I have noted above, the world of work and recruiting has changed.  In some cases, we are seeking new executives in organizations that are experiencing lay-offs, furloughs, and job elimination.  It is indeed a different world.  As such, we have suspended this practice until we return to a time of greater equilibrium.

See the current Executive Search Opportunities by clicking here

Stewardship in the time of COVID-19

Stewardship in the time of COVID-19

Different nonprofits have handled the coronavirus pandemic in different ways. In addition to having most, if not all staff, working from home, many have had to furlough, reduce salaries and/or shift around job descriptions among the people who are still working. Times are tough and it is unclear when things will return to any semblance of normal.

But we are weeks into the pandemic and if fundraising is still on the back burner, it is time to move things around. Otherwise it will be impossible to get up and running once things turn around. And stewardship in the time of COVID-19 is a place to start.

We must acknowledge that the news is horrific. People are sick, losing their jobs, and going stir-crazy. And that doesn’t include the issues of gaining weight and drinking too much while somehow overwalking our dogs. How could a nonprofit ask for non-emergency money? Many funders are honoring their commitments. Non-galas will be all the rage this spring. And asking exactly how your major donors are faring during this time will be more important than any prospect research from the past.

In other words, nonprofits will have to find a way to connect with volunteers, members, and donors if they ever want to reopen their doors. And whether you are asking for donations or not, stewardship in the time of COVID-19 should be a priority at every organization.

What are other nonprofits doing for stewardship in the time of COVID-19?

Not counting healthcare or human services organizations and others that provide emergency services, I have seen:

  • religious organizations offer virtual spirituality, classes, and community
  • arts organizations provide access to recordings and articles, lunches with famous actors, playwrights, novelists, etc., and creative connections
  • athletic nonprofits offer classes, book groups, and workouts
  • business associations offer ways to learn from peers and virtual classes
  • other organizations offer resources such as virtual book clubs, virtual coffees and podcasts

What is the one thing they have in common?

They are reminding their supporters that they serve a purpose in our world. There are donate buttons on most emails.

Even if no one clicks through now, these organizations are making the case for their intrinsic value and are asking for support. Organizations which are afraid to remain in touch with their volunteers and donors and only resurface months from now to ask for money will not survive. Nonprofits need to maintain contact all along the #StayHome way, stewarding donors – while providing us all with a combination of programs and learning opportunities to demonstrate their value.

We will remember the plays we watched or the class we took and think of the organizations which shared them with us with a smile. And, we will want to donate to them, if and when our funds allow. Because, when we emerge from this chaos, we will need connections, and nonprofits, more than ever.