News & Press: Institute News

Message from the Chair: COVID-19

Wednesday, March 18, 2020  

Dear Members,

Our meeting this past Thursday and Friday in Columbus, Ohio may set a record for timeliness. While we were there, the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States grew suddenly apparent. Our members in attendance adjusted the meeting's agenda in order to discuss what this national health emergency means for their clients and for themselves. I write to you now to share the main ideas that came out of these sessions and what we can do in response to this crisis.

The word "unprecedented" has justifiably been used a lot recently regarding this crisis. It's hard to find a situation that compares to what is happening right now, though it may be most akin to the months following September 11 or the 2008-2009 recession. We know there is great uncertainty for our clients and their donors, and they will need our counsel now more than ever. One of the key lessons we've learned in previous eras ruled by uncertainty and fear is that lines of communication must remain open among colleagues, between our member firms and their clients, and between our clients and their donors.

Our members who provide technological support, information and strategic counsel know they must stay in touch with their clients to respond to changing and dynamic client situations. Data and the knowledge which comes from it will be valuable in relation to its timeliness and interpretation. This is a significant moment in the Institute's history when the diversity of services we all offer can so strongly benefit the entire nonprofit sector.

While there may be times that are better suited to solicitation, now is the time for simple human connection. Encourage your clients to reach out to their donors, supporters, and friends to let them know they are valued and appreciated. Take into account the fact that sectors like arts and culture, human services, and healthcare are all being affected differently. The more specific these communications are, the more valuable they will be. 

Additionally, while your clients may not be undertaking any new studies or projects, this may be an opportunity for them to do work that prepares them for the future. Even if what they had planned isn't the next step, help them think of new next steps to take or ways to be creative and adaptive. 

For more information, the vice chair of Giving USA Foundation, Laura MacDonald of Benefactor Group, recently spoke to The Chronicle of Philanthropy about what fundraisers can learn from past crises and how to apply it to our current situation. She discussed the need for specific, frequent communication and the potential long-term implications of this pandemic. You can find the full interview here. 

As this pandemic and our national response evolves in coming weeks, we will communicate with you further and provide resources that may be helpful to you. It serves as an important reminder of our core purpose as an organization: "shared intelligence for the greater good." We face difficult challenges in the coming months, but we will be stronger and we'll learn more facing them together. 

Stay in touch and be well,

Ted Grossnickle
Chair, The Giving Institute


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