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COVID-19 Concerns in Donor Management: Session 1 (April 1st, 2020)

On April 1st, we had our Coffee Talk: Covid-19 Concerns in Donor Management to share resources, experiences, and creative solutions. We plan to continue this conversation through additional Coffee Talks through the coming weeks. For now, see what our community had to say:

(These comments were pulled directly from the session’s live audio and chat feeds. Find the full recording of this Coffee Talk here.)

Donor Care Through Social Distancing

Chris Lehecka, Greater Salina Community Foundation - We send out a lot of thank you’s, that's one way we are reaching out to as many people is with thank you's. We also have started working on forwarded phone calls from the office so we could let people know we are still open and available even though we are not at the office. We are still working the best we can. 

Joscelyn Rowe, Quad Cities Community Foundation - We're calling everyone in our Legacy Society first, as they tend to be elderly and often live alone. They love hearing a human voice. They are looking for a way to help - people want to have a feeling of control during this out-of-control pandemic. 

Missy Belles, Whatcom Community Foundation - Personal phone calls, emails, enews blasts.

Kitty Friedman, Park City Community Foundation - We launched a Community Response Fund to address the critical needs of our community members. We have workforce needs as well as residential needs. We launched a Community Response Fund to ensure our nonprofits partners on the front lines have resources available. Not only has that been a success and a lovely response but it has allowed us to talk about the impact on the ground right now. That's been really helpful. We have been doing that through social and individual donor outreach. 
TIP: Thursday we are hosting our first donor webinar to update and ask questions that they are thinking about at this time. We are also having donors step up with matches so we can broadcast needs. We’re hearing timing is the issue right now... with the uncertainty of how long we will be operating under these circumstances.

Rachael Watkins, Truman Heartland Community Foundation - We are also calling to our legacy society/older donors.

Joscelyn Rowe, Quad Cities Community Foundation - Some of the things we are doing to engage our donors while also engaging the public is we launched a Disaster Fund. We opened up our granting through that fund, about 2 million dollars in grant requests and we have $300,000 out the door and we are trying to make those dollars go out faster. What we are finding as we are reaching out to our donors is that people are so eager to help because they feel so powerless and they want to be there for their neighbors so we are seeing a tremendous amount of generosity. TIP: We have also contracted with which is an online service that you can use to request and send out videos and then you can share that through email. 

Teri Spartz, Dekalb County Community Foundation - This has me thinking about the idea with the donor webinars, could you do a Zoom meeting with the donor and the recipient with the foundation as the moderator and get them to virtually meet?

Joscelyn Rowe, Quad Cities Community Foundation - We're using Zoom to engage our scholarship committees for decisions, but we haven't tried it with donors.

Rachael Watkins, Truman Heartland Community Foundation - One thing we have been doing is taking information from our nonprofit community about what increased needs they are facing and we created a new page on our website to post all of those. We created a form the nonprofits can fill out and tell us about what kind of urgent needs they are facing so our donor advisors fundholders have really current information about what needs are in our community and how they can help. 
TIP: Creating a form for nonprofits to speak to immediate needs they are facing:

Unengaged Donors

LeAnne Moss, Renton Community Foundation - I don't mean to be a debbie downer here but I have had the opposite. I have sent some emails back and am not hearing from people. I am hearing from others like people in the community who will show up. So I wonder if there is anyone else out there who is facing that? Thinking of the future, how to engage donors? Donors are not responding? Anyone else?

Kathy Smith, Community Foundation of South Lake - We did reengage our disaster relief fund and are trying to get some traction there. We're finding the same thing. When we have engaged this disaster relief fund before we got an immediate response, so I am a little concerned but I also realize that we are trending in new territory and I think a lot of people are frightened. We were lucky enough to put a grant into a private foundation, so we are going to get that out by next week, but again we have had so many requests for funding to take care of immediate needs, it's overwhelming when you have so many people asking and such limited resources.   

Lauren Parda, The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut - We are getting gifts, but I am finding that donor advisors are waiting to see if the need becomes greater rather than make recommendations now.

Joscelyn Rowe, Quad Cities Community Foundation - We've had a lot of luck asking DAF fundholders to make leadership gifts to our disaster fund and then sharing the story of their generosity on social media. They inspire others to gift.

United Way

Jennifer Brambley, Peninsula Community Foundation of Virginia - Question for the foundations who have created the disaster fund, do you have a local United Way organization in your area doing the same thing? If you do, do you find it may conflict with what the United Way is doing? Or have you successfully partnered with them? 

Sara Judson, Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana - We are indeed working in conjunction with our United Way. What we found was that when we had two separate relief funds, some people were either more comfortable giving to another community foundation or people who had stronger relationships and especially larger industry with United Way. It was valuable because it brought more funds to our community. We realize that this time around it is neighbors helping neighbors because the whole world is affected but we have partnered and are saying that if you can help in any way that giving to one fund we will get it out to have the biggest impact in the region. 

Jan Rodman, Guelph Community Foundation - Guelph Community Foundation has partnered with United Way.

Lauren Parda, The Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut- Eastern CT Community Foundation has also partnered with UW.

Michael Jones, Stonewall Community Foundation - That would depend on whether your mission aligns with the UW.  We fund LGBTQ+ organizations, which need support on their own.

Jessica Hoerter, Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin, Inc.  - CF of Central Wisconsin partnered with the local United Way and many surrounding areas in Wisconsin have done that.

Megan Martini, Community Foundation of Orange & Sullivan - We are here at the Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan in NY (Hudson Valley). We have created a Response Fund to provide grants to funds like United Way and help them in need. We do not feel we are competing with them, it is giving going all the way around. Both of our sponsors help us and others.

Laurel Shulman, Triangle Community Foundation - We (Triangle Community Foundation, Durham NC) had a United Way Rapid Response Fund occur and we've been directing our DAFs to them if our donors want to invest in rapid response. (We have partnered with them in the past, however, they mobilized very quickly to create this.) We see our role as a long term recovery response, which we are working to organize with other NC funders through weekly calls.

Greg Probst, Community Foundation of Fox River Valley - CF Fox River Valley partnered with four other funders to create a combined fund, including the UW.  The UW created their own fund to accept gifts directed toward them for the purpose but will be sent to the CF's combined fund.

Lisa Lynde, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation - Chautauqua Region and Northern Chautauqua CF are partnering with our county's two United Ways, private foundations and receiving gifts from individuals online.

Karen Buchheit, Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation - Cattaraugus Region Community Foundation has partnered with our county UW and a small private foundation to create a centralized fund. This collaborative approach is working well.

Jenna Weix, Community Foundation of North Central Wisconsin - Those that are partnering with their United Ways - how are you balancing communicating to your donor base, but honoring the relationship with the UW?

Jane Higgins, Blue Grass Community Foundation - The United Way when this first started reached out to us so we partnered to have one fund. So it is serving our region and we have a joining committee making the grants and getting money out the door. 

Kris Kamann, Idaho Community Foundation - We too partnered with the United Way in Boise Idaho, there are about 8 or 9 United Ways in Idaho. We quickly realized we needed to rebrand and include all the United Ways. The charitable fund is being hosted with us at the community foundation. We are engaging with donors and we aren't getting a 100% response so we are focusing on those who do respond. We are doubling down and focusing on flexible donor-advised funds, we have actually uncovered some hidden gems and those have been presenting a good opportunity for us.

Anonymous - The Idaho Community Foundation has partnered with the United Ways of Idaho (about 8 different UWs throughout Idaho), as well as the Idaho Nonprofit Center.  We created the fund in our foundation, but the UW is using their basic grant application.  We've found we are getting in front of many nonprofits.

Lexi Oestreich, Fargo-Moorhead Area Foundation - A fund list "audit" is what we call it. We go fund by fund to see who has available $$ and/or who haven't granted in several years or are below the Fund Balance Requirement threshold.  This can sometimes open up some other dollars!

Sandy Ferrell, Steuben County Community Foundation - Steuben County Community Foundation in Indiana, we have partnered with our local United Way.  Just curious how the UW's grant application is going to be used by our non-profits, and how well it will be received.  We already had a Disaster Response Fund, but our Board infused it with a large grant and we have received quite a few gifts from our DAF's and from some board members.

Judy Altenberg, Rose Community Foundation - We are a part of a United Way fund, there are several community foundations and others involved. I wanted to go back to donors being slow to respond. We have spoken to some of our donors and some have jumped on immediate needs and others are feeling we are in this for the long term. You can't get discouraged because we are thinking of it in three parts: immediate response, pandemic, and then post post pandemic and what the economy will look like. Donors may be looking at things as a long term focus. 

Kris Kaaman,  Idaho Community Foundation - I agree!  We have asked to confirm if we can "publicize" or name their DAF in social media or news releases about the fund.  We hope this will encourage or motivate other DAFs to support our fund support nonprofits in their specific community.

Volunteer Engagement

Beth Nuttall, Community Foundation of Virgin Islands - We already had a partnership with I would encourage everyone to check them out.
TIP:  Anyone who wants to volunteer their time with specific skills can sign up to volunteer and can actually support nonprofits all over the globe. So our foundation paid for a specific amount of the local nonprofits to have access to this portal. But we are sharing that anyone can sign up to volunteer their time.

Kris Kaaman, Idaho Community Foundation - We have grant panelists that volunteer to help us with grant distribution and grant decisions. We have strategically reached out to those that have connections to the medical field or other nonprofits to be on this grant panel for the specific grantmaking that will come out of this fund. That's one way we are using volunteers. 

Sheff Webb, Coastal Community Foundation - We created a Relief Fund which in a week has over $500K raised so far. Unlike Hurricane Relief, where there are a start and an end to the disaster, this is nothing we've faced before. People don't know if they'll have jobs or can pay bills. So we're not getting the $50-$500 donations from individuals. It's coming from corporate partnerships and major fundholders. We sent out personalized emails to all DAF holders, about 700 funds, following up with phone calls just to be checking in, not a hard ask.  And also sent out an e-mail blast to 500 professional advisors.

Niki Litzel, Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa - We cover 20 counties in our area and a lot of what we have been doing is reaching out to committees and setting up Emergency Disaster Funds but also having them be the boots on the ground and letting us know where the needs are and communicating to the local nonprofits to bring awareness to the fund. Another organization reached out asking volunteers to sew masks, reaching out to the community at large.

Kathleen Sayce, South Pacific County Community Foundation - Call all quilters—they are making 100s of masks for our community.

Missy Belles, Whatcom Community Foundation - We are working collectively with our County, City & Local Food Banks on food security. We are helping convene and using the partners to help recruit volunteers, etc. 

Communicating with Donors about COVID-19

Kathleen Saybe, South Pacific County Community Foundation - Regular blogs, promoting on social media, making local to local link, stepped up payouts to monthly-biweekly.

Kitty Friedman, Park City Community Foundation - We have already made several grants, we have been asking grant recipients, nonprofits to make a short video that we can then share back to donors or put out on our various platforms. We are also maintaining a page on our website where we are trying to show cumulative impact. We also had our ED do a video as well. We are also being thoughtful about our newsletter strategy. 

Missy Belles, Whatcom Community Foundation - We are fundraising via enews and using video within the newsletter on our response to COVID-19 and making an ask for our response fund, also doing super quick turnaround on grantmaking and letting our donors know this.

Laurel Shulman, Triangle Community Foundation - We're a 20 person organization. Our Marketing Team has done a great job at sending us a weekly update of our weekly themes of what we are sending out to our constituents. Our social media is a really strong way to share, give, get more involved. We have been directing people to direct response that is already happening in our community. We decided we didn't want to duplicate efforts and looked at ourselves as more of a long term recovery resource for the community. 

Jessica Horder, Community Foundation of Central Wisconsin - We started working from home and communicated that out to the public right away but that we are still on and making it a point to answer emails as soon as possible. We are also working really well with our United Way. We split marketing efforts. Instead of people getting it from the United Way and us... they are getting it from one source. I am trying to make sure we are only posting once a day to ensure we are not overwhelming people.

Portia Portugal, Wichita Community Foundation - We're doing zoom calls with our CEO and inviting our fundholders to participate. We talk about our internal response, the funds we've created as a response and giving them investment updates.


LeAnn Moss, Renton Community Foundation - What about communicating with donors about how the CARES act, etc. affects their giving?

Greg Probst, Community Foundation of Fox River Valley - Haven't sent anything yet, but have reached out to our money managers to send us high-level bullet points that we're going to include in an upcoming e-blast.

Laurel Shulman, Triangle Community Foundation - Our primary themes for communications to our constituents this week included a handful of nuances of the CARES act. How gifts to donor-advised funds aren't included in the deduction incentive but gifts to our branded philanthropy program are. So we are trying to use that to encourage giving for inter-fund transfers and for donors who want to give to something that is long term that doesn't necessarily have a fund with us. 

Davette Swiney, Central Kentucky Community Foundation - We haven't yet, but have it in the plans for next week.

Sally Cross, Community Foundations of Hudson Valley - We plan to communicate to fundholders and to professional advisors, probably next week.

Jane Higgins, Blue Grass Community Foundation - Yes, we just sent out a Facebook post on CARES act today and sending out to fundholders.

Amy Weisbrod, Stark Community Foundation - Yes, we have information on our website and advocate that our NPO utilize our regional SCORE organization that we support financially.

Kitty Friedman, Park City Community Foundation - RE CARES ACT: We are in the process of trying to figure out what the impact will be for us and drafting something to push out to our nonprofit partners. We are trying to share info from other organizations that have a higher level of expertise/reputable sources.

Community Partnerships 

Vibha Agrawal, The Montgomery County Foundation - We launched a response fund and partnered with several local funders, including family, corporate foundations, etc. We actually collaborated to set up this fund that helped us not duplicate funds but launch a fund that could be countywide. There are similar funds in our area, we have a couple of regional funds rather than just foundation funds. 

Angela Farnquist, Community Foundation of Western North Carolina - We are being mindful with our language to donors so as not to "compete" with our nonprofits partners. Saying things like "in addition to giving directly to your favorite organizations, please consider an additional gift to the emergency response fund." Also, we've been partnering with private foundations and hospital foundations to pool resources. We received a grant from Wells Fargo.

LeAnne Moss, Renton Community Foundation - We were approached about our local chamber about supporting small businesses. They wanted to do grants, and the chamber opened a fund with us as a field of interest fund so we could help them with that. 

Kathleen Sayve, South Pacific County Community Foundation - Would like to know more about how working with chambers and field of interest funds to make grants to small business would work.

Beth Nuttall, Community Foundation of Virgin Islands - We haven't necessarily worked with our chamber yet but we have recently been in contact with our VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) group. They have been quite helpful because they are trying to pull together all the local efforts or needs and they have weekly or bi-weekly phone calls that they go over all that's available, what they need, etc. We created a spreadsheet of any urgent needs or materials that they have available. 

Katrin Braddell, Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands - Any suggestions on internally tracking all the good things you are involved in?

Jackie Reis, Greater White Bear Lake Community Foundation - We are just beginning to work with the chamber and city to talk about potential small business grants and other assistance.

LeAnne Moss, Renton Community Foundation - Hi - yes, for small businesses BUT there are some very specific parameters around that - has to be for a charitable cause. Council of Foundations has info. If you send me your email I can forward to you.

Jennifer Brambley, Peninsula Community Foundation of Virginia - We manage employee hardship funds for four different companies in our area and we have looked into trying to form one for restaurant and small business workers who have financial losses. 

About the Author

For more than a decade, Foundant Technologies has specialized exclusively in making philanthropy easier and more impactful through intuitive technology solutions. All of our cloud-based solutions focus on grantmaker, grantseeker, scholarship provider and community foundation needs with the goal to make day-to-day tasks streamlined and help maximize the impact of the philanthropic community.

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