It’s easy to feel excluded from grantmaking opportunities during a time of crisis. Perhaps you feel that your mission doesn’t align with the prevailing narrative. Or perhaps you’re worried that you will alienate donors with an ask. Either way, hesitation is causing many nonprofits to miss out.
Don’t let hesitation inhibit your pursuit of grants. Whether you are hemorrhaging revenue or responding to emergency needs, you most likely need large, more flexible grants now more than ever before. However, you can’t approach grants the same way you did before the pandemic. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.
Our clients have raised funds during this crisis because they approached donors in a new way. With our guidance, they have combined a vision for going forward and expertise in their fields to instill trust and confidence. This has yielded magnificent results.
While the urgency of the pandemic and the specific health need resonated with major donors, the technique we used will also address existential crises faced by other nonprofit organizations in this unprecedented time.
Here are the steps we took together when asking for major gifts:
- Build a list of prospects using our expert research capacity and track every touch point with them.
- Motivate board members and senior staff to pick up the phone and speak honestly about the needs.
- Put the donor in front of an expert.
- Follow up every touch point with a concise and well-developed proposal.
- Understand the numbers and create a budget that reflects today’s reality. (It could change tomorrow.)
- Celebrate the donor’s vision and speed.
We worked with the Israel Healthcare Foundation to raise funds for COVID-19 relief in Israel. (The IHF supports Clalit, Israel’s largest health service organization.) We were up against competing claims for local support. Some donors objected to funding a program that (they believed) was a governmental responsibility. And the funds needed dwarfed what anyone thought was possible.
- We drafted a list of prospects who could give $100,000 or more. Each one had some connection to the IHF, even if remote. We created a tracking chart and made sure to note every contact we had with each.
- We trained and encouraged IHF leadership to pick up the phone and call most prospects on the list. We also initiated calls. All callers followed a similar protocol: (1) Ask how the prospect are doing, (2) Locate IHF in the crisis, (3) Share the statistics (even if they are constantly evolving, share what you have today), (4) Establish an open line of communication (ask if you can share a brief summary of the need with them following the call).
- We organized a COVID-19 relief briefing via Zoom with a senior epidemiologist in Israel for a select group of very high capacity donors and foundation leaders. Attendees could ask questions directly and engage with other donors during the call. Clalit senior staff was always up to date with the latest statistics. They were able to give honest appraisals about the need and response.
- We sent a concise, personalized one-page proposal with a specific ask as a follow up to the personal calls and the briefing.
- Two funders responded to this appeal – each with $5 million directed to Clalit hospitals. They were moved by the trust that IHF and Clalit had built, Clalit’s expertise with medical crises, and its plan to treat thousands of COVID-19 patients. These gifts were used to purchase critical equipment, including ventilators, and outfit certain wards of hospitals to prevent cross-infection.
- We celebrated the funders in a newsletter and communications in the news media and in other philanthropic networks, hoping their leadership would inspire other gifts.
We believe that a bold approach works. We’ve also seen that asking doesn’t hurt relationships – if it’s done gently and respectfully. You will be proving to your prospects and donors that you are present and eager to move your mission forward during a crisis that debilitates many nonprofits.
If you’re battling hesitation and don’t know where to start with major gift fundraising for COVID-19 relief, we are here for you. Feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to chat with you and figure out how we can help you achieve your goals for grants in this season and the next.