Is your 2020 story real or a fantasy?

As we write this to you and for you, we don’t know what the election results will be and how our country will respond. What we do know is that as a nonprofit leader you will need to continue to focus on securing the resources you need. This piece is written to help you think through how you will talk with your major donors during year end solicitations. In spite of how you are impacted by the election, we urge you to stay focused on the business of fundraising. Your community needs you.


Is your 2020 story real or a fantasy?This has been a year most of us will never forget. It has been a time of great despair and also a time of recommitting – more powerfully than ever – to who we believe we can be as a people, a community, a nation, and globally. The despair and recommitment are part of fundraising too.

We recently participated in the virtual 2020 Nonprofit Storytelling Conference. We were invited to share our experience of 2020, focusing on how to include the realities of COVID-19 and the movement for racial justice into major gift solicitations. The following summarizes what we shared: we hope it will help you and your nonprofit as you engage in conversations with major donors over the next few months.

Prepare for Your Conversation. Consider how your organization has changed and responded to COVID-19 and the movement for Black Lives. How have these impacted where and how you provide services, teach, and advocate? Have they changed who you serve, teach, and advocate for? Have they impacted how you interact with each other and who is represented within your nonprofit? Have community needs increased, decreased, or changed in other ways? What has been your change process, and how is that evolving? Do you have new partners you work with? Importantly, do you have the capacity and infrastructure to respond to your community? You want to be able to both ask for what you need and communicate how your are using your capacity to meet community needs, including those you may not have addressed before.

Is your 2020 story real or a fantasy?Know who you are talking to. As you prepare to talk with a major donor, reflect on prior conversations and interactions. Review their giving history: how much have they given in the past, and what have they given to? Take a moment to look for publicly available information that may reveal your donor’s priorities and values so that you can speak directly to these.

Tell an honest story. Major gift conversations and solicitations need to be grounded in the truth of your organization and its work. Major donors need and want to know the truth; a relationship with a nonprofit is grounded in honesty and trust.

Is your 2020 story real or a fantasy?What should your story include? We recommend including accurate facts and figures – don’t run from the numbers! But also share the human side: share stories and profiles of people and families you serve and those who work within your organization. Share specific examples of how your organization has responded to community needs, including examples of how your budget has changed. Most importantly, make sure you know the specific request you want to make during your conversation: how exactly can a donor be part of your organization’s journey? What will you ask for? Money? Time? Resources? Board services? All of these? If you think this sounds like a case for support – you are right!

Remember to Ask and Listen. Every conversation takes at least two people. Don’t do all the talking! Ask your major donors how these events have impacted them. Ask how they are responding to COVID-19 and the movement for Black Lives? Ask what’s important to them. And listen. Your donors want you to succeed – invite them into the conversation.


Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you find your way through this unknown time. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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