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Donor Management Amidst Disaster Response: A Path to Resilient Philanthropy

Our world has been turned upside down and every sector is looking for ways to tackle new challenges and opportunities, or rethinking how to approach the same issues with a different lense and more limited resources. If ever there was a time to collaborate and knowledge share - now is it.

Foundant’s Coffee Talk series connects peers in philanthropy through an online discussion format to facilitate real conversations that give insight into the various functions across the sector. Over the past year, we’ve been fortunate to leverage this platform to better understand how donor management in particular has shifted in the midst of a pandemic.

By examining real experiences in donor communication, donor care, partnerships with United Way, as well as partnerships in our communities, we gain insight into how relationships between community foundations and donors have evolved this past year and hints and what is needed to ensure resilient philanthropy. 

Below is a sampling of these conversations and the experiences shared by Foundant clients, partners, and friends in the industry.


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 also had our executive director do a video and we are being thoughtful about our newsletter strategy for donors.

Kitty Friedman, Park City Community Foundation

Common Themes:

  • Provide updates about new grants and collaborations
  • Increase communication with donors, but keep it lighter, so it feels more like a friendship than a business deal
  • Communicate appreciation for their dollars and highlight the impact created
  • Connect financial advisors and donors to discuss how funds are being allocated

Communication is a key component to any relationship, especially between foundations and donors. Many foundations have learned that donors find it helpful to be kept up to date with relevant information, such as new grants or collaborations. This allows donors to see where their funds are going as things might change within the organization. In addition to updating donors on funding information, it has been important to keep conversations uplifting and casual, so it feels more like a friendship as opposed to a business deal. 

Donors, especially long-term donors, want to ensure that their dollars are being placed into the hands of people and communities who need it most. Knowing this, foundations have been utilizing their accountants and financial advisors to work directly with donors to discuss where funds are being allocated. By doing this, communication between donors and foundations have  become stronger because there are more touch points between dollars and recipients. 


How about 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?

Teri Spartz, Dekalb County Community Foundation


As we reach out to donors, we’re finding that people are eager to help because they feel powerless and they want to be there for their neighbors. We are seeing a tremendous amount of generosity.

Joscelyn Rowe, Quad Cities Community Foundation

Common Themes:

  • Experiment with new ways to find donors 
  • Find new ways to share impact - donors are eager to know that their funds are making a difference
  • Build and maintain connections between donors and recipients to foster trust and long-lasting relationships
  • Foundations are seeing an increase in donations and new donors since the pandemic started

Foundations have been finding new and improved ways to increase their donor care, especially during a time when donors are eager to do anything they can to help recipients. The increase in donors in the past year has been growing, and is not expected to slow down. New donors are consistently coming to the surface and are more eager than ever to support their own communities, and foundation executives are finding new donors through local businesses who want to help increase the amount of funds being raised. 


We found that when we had two separate disaster relief funds and donors from other parts of the country, some people were either more comfortable giving to another community foundation and others had stronger relationships with United Way. It was valuable because it brought more funds to our community. We realize that this time around with the pandemic, it is neighbors helping neighbors because the whole world is affected. So, we have partnered in our messaging and are promoting that, ‘by working together we will make the donations have the biggest impact in the region.

Sara Judson, Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana

Common Themes:

  • When foundations work with the local United Way, it only brings MORE funds to the community
  • Diversify donation options to help donors feel comfortable and connected
  • United Way allows a discreet way to donate as much or as little as someone wishes

Partnering with relief organizations such as United Way has been a great resource for community foundations to increase donations into their communities. Because United Way is a well-known and larger organization, members of the communities are more likely to donate as little or as much as they would like and feel secure that funds are going back into their own neighborhoods. 


"What types of gifts have you seen increase over the past year?” 
“How do you use technology to support development and stewardship efforts?”
“Do you have an existing stewardship plan? Are you making modifications?”

In the past year, businesses have had to learn to adapt and continue their work by transitioning to online workplaces and leveraging new and existing technology to reach more people in their communities. As foundations have seen a significant increase in donors and gifts this year, technology has been imperative to tracking these activities. 

Foundations have been more open than ever to introducing new technologies into their businesses for community events, enabling new giving strategies, and having a streamlined way to see all of their donors in one place. In a recent Coffee Talk about this subject, multiple clients spoke to their foundation's use of CommunitySuite and how it has helped them and their employees develop new opportunities to see a complete list of donors. They have also utilized the profile type tags to further condense the list so they can find donors to contact for specific situations. Events like Foundant’s Coffee Talks allow foundation executives to share ideas, collaborate, and learn from each other from a technology perspective. 

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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