Let the Donor Decide: Don’t Assume Giving is Off the Table During a Crisis | npENGAGE

Let the Donor Decide: Don’t Assume Giving is Off the Table During a Crisis

By on Mar 25, 2020


Engaging healthcare donors during times of crisis

“Humanitarian crises, natural disasters, disease outbreaks – the needs today as pressing as ever,” stated Martha C. White in a TIME Magazine article in 2018. At that time, COVID-19 was not on the tip of everyone’s tongue.

She reflected that the way we give is evolving impacted by tax law and technology along with changing consciousness and shifting social mores. Today we add economic challenges as well.

In conversations this week with several healthcare foundation CEOs, I heard vastly different stories: one is moving forward with a $1 billion campaign in which they have already raised $600M and they plan to keep going. Another released a plea for the community to make and donate face masks for clinical staff. Another is using this time to build the foundation’s infrastructure to launch the largest campaign ever held in their region.

I suspect that those considered most vulnerable both to a financial hit to their nest eggs as well as most fearful of the virus are those over the age of 55, also known as Baby Boomers. According to The Next Generation of American Healthcare Giving Reportthese are the most generous of the generations to all nonprofits and specifically to healthcare. For those who are retired and quarantined, the hours are likely long. So now is the time to talk with them.

Every community will want their hospital to have respirators, good telemedicine and yes, for heavens sake, face masks! Let’s not make giving decisions for the donor. Let them decide.

Here are six tips for dealing with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with your donors:

  1. Build an authentic story.
    You don’t need this story to run a campaign. You need it to share how the hospital is handling the crisis. Boomer donors want to be affiliated with those they admire. Give them reason to do that.
  1. Select the top 25 donors for each gift officer.
    Segment the principle, major, and annual gift officers’ portfolio. Each gift officer on the team should start with no more than 25 current donors with whom to work virtually over the next six months. The segmentation should fit the gift capacity, just like always. But now, plan a minimum of six conversations with each. Start with the first conversation (remember the discovery call?) and each officer will build a plan of communication from there. During this call, the gift officer can share their mobile phone number and suggest donors call if they need anything or just want to talk. The remainder of your donor list can have virtual communications plan.

Get tips for communicating with donors during uncertain times.

  1. Have your technology ready.
    Face-to-face visits are off for the foreseeable future. Boomers are using technology and social media. Just one look at your old Facebook account will show the feed is full of grandchildren, trips and more (at least it was). Fidelity Charitable’s The Future of Philanthropy Report states that 27% of donors say their approach to giving has changed due to technological advances that provide convenient tools for funding and communicating with nonprofits they support. Open FaceTime, grab a cup of coffee in comfortable chair and have a conversation!
  1. Be completely transparent.
    Now more than ever, a donor must be confident that if they give to you, they will see the result you agreed upon. Forty-one percent of donors have changed their giving due to increased knowledge about the nonprofit’s effectiveness. Be prepared to be specific and tangible.
  1. Uncover what your donor cares about.
    In the Fidelity Charitable report, Boomers state that the top three challenges they care about are hunger and access to nutritious food (42%), developing treatment or cures for a disease (40%) and access to basic health services (33%). The percentages from Fidelity Charitable are all high net worth donors so very pertinent to healthcare and philanthropy.

See other ways to target specific donor personas.

  1. Understand what motivates Boomer donors.
    On the whole, donors are almost as likely to say they give because of an intrinsic motivator, such as values or peace of mind, as they are to donate for an external reason, such as making a difference or because there is a great need. During this time, less emphasis should be on acquisition. All attention should be on retention. To that end, 49% say giving is part of my values or my family’s values. Another reason to focus on donors you know now.


In summary, please don’t make the decision for the donor, ever. Your communications must be authentic and caring. However, everyone needs to hear someone optimistic. Not pie in the sky giddy, but thinking forward. Be armed with meaningful potentials for funding if your donor seems open to that. If they are not, be a good friend during a time of hardship. Conversations with friends are so important now.


June Bradham, CFRE, Blackbaud Healthcare Solutions, uses her experience as a thought leader to refine products and build bridges with healthcare leadership, physicians and development offices across the world. In addition, June is the President and founder of Corporate DevelopMint founded in 1987, an organizational development and fundraising consulting firm having served hundreds of clients since its founding. Under her leadership, Corporate DevelopMint has served over 200 non-profits across the US. International clients from Australia, Turkey, United Kingdom and Eastern Europe. She and the team she leads have directed campaigns of $2 million to over $1 billion. But more importantly, they have succeeded at organizational turnaround resulting in a shared view of philanthropy.

Recognized for her expertise in strategic planning, innovative fundraising and board dynamics, June is an internationally sought after speaker whose recent engagements have included plenary and keynote addresses at such prestigious conferences as AFP – International, AHP, CASE, CASE Europe and Blackbaud’s Conference for Nonprofits. In addition to the numerous articles in national publications she contributes to each year, June was the author of a monthly column for the Charleston Regional Business Journal and was named the Journal’s “Most Influential Woman CEO” and was their recent keynote speaker. June’s groundbreaking and insightful book on board dynamics, The Truth about What Nonprofit Boards Want: The Nine Little Things that Matter Most, was published by Wiley and is fast becoming one the industry’s most talked about books.

June and her team have worked with Higher Education, Independent Schools, Healthcare Systems and Community Organizations.

June’s deep commitment to the growth and success of non-profit organizations is underscored by her years of volunteer experience, including service to a number of healthcare and education boards, community organization boards like the Spoleto Festival and the Community Foundation as well as Chambers of Commerce and boards of industry associations. She is the past president of the board of the South Carolina Association of Nonprofit Organizations as well as AFP – International and the University of South Carolina’s Moore School of Business, a top ranked business school.  Her most recent interest in pro-bono work among professionals and companies is evidenced in being selected to join the International Board of CreateAthon™ known for serving nonprofits through pro bono professional work. She joins fellow board members from companies such as BMW, Hewlett Packard, Netscape and others showing her ability to stay in front of the curve of trends.

June holds a Bachelors degree from Columbia College and a CFRE and has completed the Harvard University Governance Education program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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