Things are difficult right now in countless ways — for us as individuals, and for countless organizations. But in the midst of COVID-19, there are bright spots: neighbors are checking in on neighbors and delivering groceries; organizations are shifting quickly to meet their community’s needs; pollution has declined while wildlife is flourishing … and the list goes on.

Today I want to celebrate those bright spots in philanthropy, because donors and fundraisers are stepping up in countless ways.

Relationships are more authentic. Did you reach out to your donors when COVID-19 began? So many of the fundraisers I talk with wisely did just that: they picked up the phone (and keep picking up the phone … as data is already showing a much greater number of donors and prospects are taking our calls than before the pandemic) to connect with their donors. Many of these conversations are markedly different than those in the past— talking more openly, taking more time, sharing more personal stories. We’re being more vulnerable and getting to know each other in different, deeper ways, building relationships with more depth than ever before. And yes, these relationships will often lead to additional generosity, but they also bring additional joy and meaning to those participating in them.

Mentorship is changing. Mentorship has a common pattern: a more experienced professional advises a newer professional. But with social distancing has come greater reliance on technology, which means greater reliance on colleagues who are more comfortable navigating technology. As newer professionals provide guidance to their more experienced colleagues about using tools like Zoom (both technically and to build personal connection), our understanding of what a “mentor” looks like is changing, and we are developing new, valuable skills. Every opportunity to expand our tool kit is important, and a greater understanding of the new tools needed for continued success is critical to our professional growth.

Donors have increased interest in our organizations. As our world becomes more uncertain, those who care deeply about our organizations want to know how we’ll face this uncertainty, and what we need to do it. Donors are asking about those needs and how they can help, leading to a deeper exploration of our organizations’ priorities and our donors’ interests.

And, our supporters are giving. Right now, the future is uncertain. It would be so easy for our supporters to play it safe and cut back, or even halt their giving preemptively. But so many are doing the exact opposite. Many of those who have the ability are giving, and giving generously — reinforcing the most foundational, important reality of philanthropy: donors give because they care, and because it feels good.

At some point in the future, the incredible challenges we face will fade. As they do, let’s make sure we don’t lose these bright spots at the same time.

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