Tag Archives: Pandemic

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.  

Should Your Nonprofit Spend Endowment Principal to Cover Budgetary Shortfalls?

For those looking for a five-minute escape, grab a friend and play MJALibs! Fill in the blanks to play. Or just jump down to the next headline to read the rest of the article.

The endowment dream – an MJALibs fill in the blank game

MJALibs to help with budgetary shortfalls

Raising an Endowment

When thinking about an endowment, the possibilities seem endless. Will you have an additional $50,000, $120,000 or even $200,000 every year? Will you be able to cover budgetary shortfalls or expand your services and/or the number of people you serve? Will monetary stress disappear from staff and board meetings?

The Realities of Having an Endowment

For many organizations, having an endowment – whether inherited by the nonprofit’s current staff and board or raised in recent memory – is essential. Most of the time it does what it is supposed to. It helps the budget by providing operating revenue to be used on an annual basis. But, when the organization has a budgetary shortfall – like organizations may be experiencing or expecting during this pandemic – it can be tempting to take principal from the corpus of the endowment. Consider this a warning, it is a slippery slope.

Well, from an MJA new business perspective, it’s a great idea! Organizations often engage us to raise money after they have reduced or depleted their endowments. But, we also give advice to our clients to prevent this from happening. In fact, this is blog post based on an exchange I had with a client just this week.

The Slippery Slope

It starts with an unusual need. A new roof or, let’s say, a pandemic. You need to cover $100,000 one time.  So while it feels wrong to take out principal, it may be urgently necessary. But, once you start taking out principal for the annual budget, it is then easier to go to the well again and again for capital needs and budgetary problems. It is much simpler to get board approval to take out more money than spend time and/or money on a real self-examination. That would require looking at the organization, it’s mission, the current needs of the community, reducing expenses, the annual fundraising, etc.

The reduced endowment is a future problem when the lack of annual funding is current problem.

Before long, instead of $75,000 a year towards the budget it is $40,000 – causing a larger annual deficit/budgetary shortfall every year. And then you must spend money to engage us to help you raise funds to increase your endowment. It’s a vicious cycle we are committed to assisting you to avoid.

If you do decide to take out principal, “just this once,” make sure there is a Finance policy in place. To ensure this does not happen again.

So, if you are confronting financial challenges that have you looking at the balance in your endowment as an easy answer, what do you do? It may seem hard to fundraise in this climate. It is different – but not impossible. (Here is a webinar that will give you some tips). Consider a self-examination (we offer a special Organization and Development Assessment to our clients which we can tailor to your needs).

Want Your Own Endowment?

And of course, if you want to raise an endowment, click here to schedule a time to talk. Yes, we are still raising endowments during the pandemic. Our world still needs nonprofits. Nonprofits still need funding. And donors, still have money to donate – maybe not all donors – but many still can, and want, to give.

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.