The top headline on the news for the past several weeks has been Coronavirus (COVID-19). It seems to be affecting every aspect of human life nearly everywhere in the world. Schools are being shut down, cruise ships are being quarantined, and the government is advising that you do not travel or even leave your house unless you have to.
So what is the projected effect of the virus on philanthropy? Here we try to break down what the experts are saying about the effect of coronavirus on charitable giving this year and what you can do about it.
The Stock Market Is Crashing! Donors Stop Giving, Right?
Even if it just perceived that the stock market is falling in any way, charities panic. They worry their big donors will give less. The reality is a bit more complex.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy published an article in 2019 that discusses the correlation of the stock market to giving. Big donors (the top 1%) do indeed give less as they perceive their net worth will drop. So do foundations and charitable trusts that rely on the size of their investment income from endowments.
Usually, however, these donors will not stop giving to the charities and causes to which they have already committed. However, they will likely not expand their funding to new organizations.
So what this means for you is you might do well to focus on donor retention and donor cultivation. You need to make sure you are sending in all your grant reports and meeting new deadlines for proposals. Talk to your major donors and share an open dialogue with them. Basically, you should just make sure you are practicing good donor relationship management, across the board. This is not a time for mistakes!
Public Events Are Being Cancelled! Who Will Go to Our Gala?
Likely less people will go to your galas and your public events. The Red Cross has been reporting a dramatic decrease in donated blood. People do not want to gather with others and expose themselves.
What you might do is think about what events you could have online. You could even take advantage of the fact that people are quarantining themselves indoors. Just some ideas of indoor, at home, online, or self-directed fundraisers include the following:
- Host an online auction. Online auctions can be either interactive or silent. Dozens of firms are available to help you host them as well, which could even help make your life easier! (About mobile bidding.)
- Host a Facebook event. Instead of getting a bunch of donor prospects together for a cocktail party, think about asking them to tune in for an hour and chat on Facebook. You can still give a short speech. This approach has the added benefit of dozens of more people gaining access through social media links. (See our article on how to set up an account and fundraise with Facebook.)
- Ask people to get involved with a virtual marathon. Basically, participants can track their miles and invite friends and family to donate to your cause through their campaign. You don’t need to have a public event.
People Are Giving to Coronavirus Relief, so They Won’t Give to Us This Year!
Yes, this may be true. Some funding might get diverted to coronavirus relief. This concern is a general anxiety that is not particularly based in reality, however. People do tend to give to relief efforts when a big disaster strikes. What is interesting is that they just give more that year. They still give to their main charities, but they also fund relief efforts.
If you are worried, you can do something about it. Link up with a local coronavirus effort yourselves!
- In your annual appeal letter or campaign, let people know that a portion of the funding you collect will go towards coronavirus relief. Tell them that you know they are worried about it and that’s why you cut down on your programming by 10% and want to direct resources to the cause.
- Another option is to partner directly with a relief effort in your area. Donate a community center on your property as a quarantine site (if needed). Set up donation boxes in your office for families affected by the disease. Show the community that you care.
These are 3 tactics that all charities can apply if you are nervous about coronavirus affecting your bottom line. Remember, however, as you worry, that disasters and diseases trouble the Earth every year. The only consistent trend is that people rally together when they must to find solutions!
A study by The Conversation found that Americans especially are super generous regarding disasters. Three quarters of Americans donated something for relief efforts after 9/11, and half after Hurricane Katrina.
The amazing statistic is not the quantity of people that help, but the size of the donor. The average donations were from medium-income households. The average gift was $50. What that really means is that people find more ways to give and give more – they go without something as a family to make sure that those in need have help. They are not redirecting funding, but just giving more.
If you are interested in donating to coronavirus relief, Global Giving has organized campaigns for support.