Fundraising in the time of COVID: Stay focused on your donors

Part Two of Two

“As a medical college, Meharry is on the front line of COVID19. We have been doing the work for years but haven’t been given the recognition until now. Our president and CEO, @Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D., has a long history with infectious diseases and is being called on by our mayor as well as national television networks and other media. His leadership and visibility help demonstrate the value of our institution and this is a fundraising opportunity for us. When something comes out in the news where Meharry is highlighted, I have a list of people who I immediately sent it to in order to engage them.” – @Linda R. Witt, Meharry Medical College, Senior Associate Vice President for Development

Fundraising in the time of COVID-19 – Stay focused on your donors.

While the needs of nonprofits and higher education are great, especially now, it can be challenging to remember that fundraising is donor focused. It’s about connecting with current and potential donors, and building and sustaining relationships.

As we continue with part two of our conversation with Witt and @Robert “Bob” Poole we start first with four key points from Witt who has more than 23 years at Meharry. She has been instrumental in building warm, meaningful and lasting donor relationships. Her practices have helped Meharry generate millions of dollars from loyal donors.

Linda R. Witt, Senior Associate Vice President for Development, Meharry Medical College

Witt: Four things to remember:

  1. You have to show genuine concern for your donors.
  2. It is all about relationships.
  3. It is important to work and communicate as a team.
  4. Be aware of changing donor priorities.

Poole: Think about what’s going on with your donors.  For example, small business owners, including professionals such as dentists and physicians, may be experiencing significant declines in revenue. Be mindful therefore that their focus now is on the well-being of their family and business.

Following initial conversation concerning donors’ well-being, feel free to provide information on how the organization is faring including achievements and difficulties such as logistical and financial challenges, students not able to complete courses of study, etc. If appropriate, any requests should be well defined to meet a specific need aligned with the donor’s interest.

Witt: We are trying to provide support by sharing information that may help our donors, especially alumni. Last month the state director for U.S. Small Business Administration gave a special presentation for Meharry alumni via ZOOM regarding financial support from the federal government. She was joined by financial executives, sharing specific information on the process of receiving funding. We will keep it donor focused during Giving Tuesday as well. We know some of our donors may have giving fatigue, so we are sending messages thanking them for all they have done now and over the years. The focus is on thanking, followed by a soft ask through a link to the donate page at the end.

Robert “Bob” Poole, Senior Philanthropy Advisor, Saad&Shaw

Robert “Bob” Poole, Senior Philanthropy Advisor, Saad&Shaw

Poole: It’s also important to remember that donor priorities may be shifting. For example, the Chronicle of Philanthropy shows increases in giving to healthcare, hospitals, and social services, and less to education and the environment. But others are doubling down on organizations they have supported over the years.

Witt: I am a big relationship person. That is how I have been able to be successful in developing these ongoing relationships. When you have developed these relationships a lot of times you will know when to approach them about making a gift. And you would know when it would not be a good time to approach them. And they will let you know when they are ready to give. If they believe in the institution they will want to give.

One of our donors had made a commitment to reach $100,000 in giving by the end of this fiscal year. He called to say he was apologetic that he could not meet this goal right now. He wanted to know what it would take to finalize the gift. Even though this is a challenging time, he wanted to meet his commitment. And he did. He and his wife got creative: she is lending him the money to fulfill his commitment, and he will pay her back. This was their way of making sure they could honor his commitment.

Poole: The rapport that you have with donors is remarkable and that is a great part of your success. That allows you to talk straight with people and for them to confide in you.

Witt: The Lord has blessed me to have that gift. I try to impart that with my team members.

Poole: You’ve got the gift you better use it!

These are unprecedented times – we are all learning about COVID-19 every day and we are learning more effective ways of fundraising.

Learn more about @Meharry Medical College. Reach out to @Bob Poole and @Linda R. Witt.

Read Part 1 of this interview

VIDEO – Fundraising in the Time of COVID-19 — Talk to Your Donors 


Don’t forget:


Copyright 2020 – Mel and Pearl Shaw

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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1 comment on “Fundraising in the time of COVID: Stay focused on your donors”

  1. Pingback: Fundraising in the time of COVID-19 – Talk to your donors. | Saad&Shaw

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