When the Covid-19 pandemic took our country by storm in spring 2020, most of our clients were thrown into a world of the unknown. How do we continue to raise money in a pandemic? What do we say to donors? Do we cancel events? What can we do online?

Those were just a few of the questions that Creative Fundraising Advisors began to tackle. Our firm does its best to stay on top of trends and issues and to share our knowledge freely with our clients. We spent hours listening, discussing, reading and watching to better understand the situation at hand and ahead.

We met quickly with current and pro bono clients to help individuals and organizations make plans and to adhere to long-held and emerging best practices.

A few weeks into our country’s quarantine due to Covid-19, we partnered with two other fundraising consultants to create a helpful webinar and platform for discussion. Five client partners presented their plans and took questions in a webinar that has now been viewed by thousands. Our goal was to help provide direction to manage through the next few months. Watch the webinar here.

We also partnered with the strategic planning and communications firm of Parenteau Graves to conduct a webinar training and discussion for Artspace’s Immersion Cohort. Again, the goal was to help individuals and small arts organizations develop best practices for donor relations in the time of a pandemic.

As our clients emerge from quarantine and begin to make plans to re-open — with uncertainty still a guarantee — and as our country grapples with oppressive, system racism, we are committed to working in partnership, to sharing what we know and to listening to one another.

To our friends and colleagues, 

The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers in broad daylight on Memorial Day and the remarkable response to this event in the past two weeks has made painfully visible a longstanding dynamic in American history: the depraved indifference to black lives and the widespread invalidation of the struggles and lived experiences of Black Americans. 

As mass unrest sweeps the country, we are hearing voices—long unheard—crying out for a platform. We mourn the pain and destruction our communities of color are experiencing especially.

Beyond the tumult of the past two weeks, we do not want to lose sight of the primary issue at hand: the gaping inequality in the legal, economic, medical, educational, and social treatment afforded white people versus people of color. 

George Floyd’s death was tragic, but not random — it provoked unrest sufficient to open a nationwide conversation about continued racial disparity. 

We believe the best way we can honor the memory of George Floyd is to listen intently to our community and work to help create positive, enduring change. Ultimately, whether his senseless death was meaningless will depend on the individual choices of each person — did we let it pass or work to make a lasting change? 

His legacy, in many ways, is yet to be decided. The ultimate difference that the death of George Floyd makes in American history will be decided by our collective action now. 

Above all the dissenting voices we hear most clearly an ultimatum. To do nothing is to side with the dominant momentum, to keep the status quo alive. To not speak out at all is to take a side that is complicit in continued mistreatment. In order to be against racism, we must proactively strive for equality. 

Words are not enough. Challenging systemic racism is a task that requires more than outspoken verbal solidarity from allies. Making change in our society involves the expenditure of both labor and resources, and we at Creative Fundraising Advisors are committed to a holistic program of action. 

In the past few days, we’ve begun a dialogue with colleagues and fellow nonprofit professionals to offer our services in a pro bono capacity to local organizations whose missions foster equity and equal opportunities, and who are prominent voices for people of color within our community.

We are also financially supporting local organizations that are a vital resource for underserved communities and that represent healing and progress: Hiawatha Academies, We Love St. Paul, African Economic Development Solutions MN, The Link, and the Minnesota Healing Justice Network

Finally, while we hope our donations will provide some temporary relief, our sights are set on creating a lasting and sustainable change. We realize the work we’re doing can’t be an ephemeral, token, one-time offering in response to an issue that has spanned generations. Our efforts in the coming months will be one small part of the very beginning of change—the adoption of a new model of representation. 


The Creative Fundraising Advisors Team

The disorienting effect of Covid-19 has illuminated the healing role the arts play in our mental and emotional lives and inspired a new awareness amongst major donors.

In a post-coronavirus milieu, arts nonprofits have an opportunity to reassert their relevance to our individual resiliency and societal cohesion.

How have you seen the healing effect of art, in your own life or in your organization? Can you articulate those feelings into a clear statement?

These questions are more important now than ever.  In this compelling article from Inside Philanthropy, Mike Scutari illustrates how arts and arts education nonprofits are increasingly able to make the case for their status as a societal necessity, and not a luxury.

In the wake of Covid-19 a number of major gift donors have dedicated themselves to bolstering the arts and cultural institutions . In New York, a range of funders including Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Ford Foundation pledged to contribute to the $75 million NYC Covid-19 Response and Impact Fund  intended for cultural and social services.

As recently as March 20th, the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund joined the group as well. Tisch, a former co-chair of the Whitney Museum’s board of trustees — among other prestigious positions — has been a major donor in arts and arts education for over a decade.

Her recent move to contribute to a struggling arts sector during the international pandemic is symptomatic of a larger phenomenon — major donors are seeing the healing and stimulating value of arts and cultural institutions during times of crisis.

It’s important for art, art education, and cultural nonprofits to reflect on the ways their value is, in fact, tangible — and be able to express that in clear language to the public, the donor base, and future potential benefactors.

Never-Miss Fundraising Steps to Donor Fulfillment

Have you ever had the sinking feeling that you could have done more to thank a donor and share with them the impact of their gift? Do you ever get to your internal deadline—the end of year or the public phase of a major campaign—and wonder why you haven’t heard from a tried-and-true donor?

If a donor disappeared, maybe it’s because you haven’t made stewardship a priority in your weekly tasks. It’s understandable. Your development shop is busy and there’s always that goal to reach. Plus, it’s not like donors go away mad. They simply go away.

Today’s donors are more savvy philanthropists and they want to make a difference. So, when you begin to “expect” regular gifts without investing in the relationship, some of your donors may move you down their charitable giving priority list.

Being lackadaisical about what a donor thinks, wants and needs can especially backfire if your organization has a crisis — your mission is called under question or your Board Chair makes a public misstep. And let’s face it, it smarts when you see a donor stretch to make a sizeable gift to another local organization. It could have been your organization getting that big gift instead!

Follow Your Heart but Use Your Head

You’re probably not in this business because the job selling real estate wasn’t available. Development and Advancement professionals are salespeople: we “sell” mission and passion for changing the world for good.

Here are a few never-miss steps to jumpstart your stewardship efforts:

  1. Set time aside in your week for stewardship tasks. Make stewardship as active a part of your workweek as donor research and annual fund mailings.
  2. Host a thank you event, and resist the pull to ask for more support.
  3. Lift donors up as examples. Profile giving in your newsletters and annual reports.
  4. Thank your donors via social media. Add a space on your donor forms to collect social media handles for platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn.
  5. Pen a personal thank you note.
  6. Use the phone and visit! Make time for human interaction. What’s their life perspective, how’s their family, what are their hopes and dreams as a benefactor? Don’t miss a career change or big event in someone’s life because you are overly-focused on meeting your deadline.
  7. Use your calendar and other tools to monitor interactions and remind you when it’s time for you, your director or a Board member to reach out.
  8. Recognize generosity through print, online, signage and at events. Get creative. Perhaps you can monitor how many years they have been giving and remind them how thankful you are for their impact over time.
  9. Say thanks again. Let them know their philanthropy makes a difference in the world. And, if you missed the first opportunity to say it, know it’s never too late to say “thank you.”

The gift is the beginning. Not the end.

Your job is donor fulfillment. After all, you connect donors with their dreams.

Donors invest where they see impact. You can leave a bad taste in the mouth, or even money on the table, when you don’t invest time back in your donors.

So, what’s the wait? Get started today. You’ll be glad you invested in stewardship this time next year.