Assess Donor Funding

How Do We Assess our Funding Needs Post-Pandemic?

We have hosted five zoom panel discussions here at The Timothy Group since early April. Each one included four panelists, representing Christian colleges, schools, rescue missions, camps and other non-profit organizations, sharing what they have learned about donor relations during this recent COVID-19 pandemic and how they have responded to it. We have gained a lot of valuable ideas and insights and I hope you have been a part of these stimulating learning sessions. If not, you can view any or all of these zoom panels by clicking here.

As we emerge from this pandemic and welcome the relaxing of shut-down orders and restrictions, we are faced with this question, “Will things ever be as they once were in our non-profit?” The feeling from most experts is that things will not return to normal, at least anytime soon, and we must adapt and change to a “new normal.” 

So, how do we assess our funding needs going forward? 

We already know our mission will not change due to COVID-19. That is critical. On the other hand, our message may need to change to better articulate and communicate our mission. And, of course, our methods and strategies will need to pivot and adjust to the new norm, whatever that may look like. 

Several Christian schools we serve will be assessing their Fall needs in light of enrollment, the demand for additional financial assistance to help their existing families, and their ability to take on potential new families in light of less dollars to give out. Emphasis on capital projects may be outweighed by the need for tuition assistance, but I believe that is a good choice. Donors will generally respond to the need for families to keep their kids in the school. 

Rescue missions have been hit especially hard during the COVID-19 pandemic with shortages of food, medical assistance, lack of transportation, and job losses in their clients. In their case, additional dollars may be needed to address these basic needs, while training programs take a back seat for a time. Capital projects, unless absolutely necessary, may need to wait and that is OK. As you assess where “the rubber meets the road,” your donors will support you if that is clearly communicated. 

One of our recent panelists, Jay Riemersma, Senior Director of Advancement at Family Research Council, talked about “What do football & Fundraising have in Common?” Jay shared how, in his NFL football career, they would often go into games where the scouting report wasn’t enough to win. He also talked about the need to adjust strategies and alter the plan during the game. “Going back to the fundamentals: running good routes, opening holes for running backs, good blocking schemes and finishing good tackles. It’s all about the basics; back to the fundamentals of the game.” 

In a game time situation, it may not be smart to try that “trick play” that you have been planning and better to stick to the basics. Just like in football, we don’t really have a “scouting report” for what post COVID will look like. I would encourage you to use this same principle as you assess your funding needs. “Keep it Simple.” What is at the core of your mission? Always seek that funding first. Donors will respond favorably when you do. 

Article submitted by Kent Vanderwood, Vice President for The Timothy Group. Kent currently resides as a board member for the West Michigan chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Through his work as Development Director for The Potter’s House, Gospel Communications International, and Mel Trotter Ministries, Kent brings a wealth of experience in fundraising and development. His passion for seeing Christian stewardship principles applied in a systematic way helps the non-profit organization or ministry be successful in fulfilling its mission.

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