The events of 2020 have forced those of us who work in the non-profit sector to apply the fundamentals of good practice in new ways. At the ANU, where I work, every week my team and I ponder new ways to build and cultivate relationships at a time when we cannot meet in groups or even face to face.
The good news is that we have tools like Zoom, email, and Microsoft Teams to augment phone calls and snail mail. These help, but are not satisfying. People want to meet and they want to help. They desire to express their values through philanthropy. Donors seek to partner with institutions whose values are in line with their own to address the needs our world.
Our work as relationship builders is even more important this year. The need for a clear, compelling mission and vision is heightened. Actively and respectfully listening to volunteers and prospective donors to understand their interests and passions is critical to engaging their hearts. Attracting and building relationships with partners who share a passion for our mission multiplies the joy of giving.
Over the past year, Sandra and I have been anxiously awaiting for our book, and its joy of giving theme, to be printed. The wait is over and we are pleased to announce that The Art and Science of Donor Bliss will be ready to ship in November.
If you are a fan of e-books – your copy is now available on Amazon Kindle. You can find it here:
Last Sunday, I spent some time on LinkedIn looking for blogs or articles about how to respond as a leader, or non-profit to the COVID-19 Pandemic. There was so much about “uncertainty,” including messages from firms reassuring me that they still wanted my business. I only found one post from my friend Jennifer Harris on “Love in the time of Corona.”
Inspired, I started writing my thoughts and wrote about Certainty and how there are many things that remain certain in these times. This led to a list of Ten Things We Can Do to build relationships and community when we cannot meet physically.
A week later, a similar review of LinkedIn offered many great articles and blogs related to generous responses to COVID-19. For #example, my friend Jim Langley provides a timeless perspective about focusing on relationships. He advocates a long-term point of view to best enable an organization to deliver on its mission.
Now we see inspiring stories of national, global and local responses undertaken by individuals, organizations and even governments. Around the world, celebrities are pledging millions of dollars to addressing need. Motivated by a deep desire to help, not to make money, these responses represent the creative, instinctual, multifaceted and organic ways that philanthropy grows.
Big companies are shifting production to better meet needs for materials, ventilators, food, and other essentials. They are donating millions of dollars’ worth of product where the need is great and where what they have can help. In Singapore, the Ministry of Manpower staff worked around the clock for days to secure accommodation and defrayed costs for 10,000 foreign workers after they were stranded following a lockdown of borders with Malaysia.
Universities are focusing research to better understand COVID-19, its causes and effective treatments. They are developing and processing tests for better and faster diagnoses. Higher education has put course-work on line. University medical centres are on the front lines of treatment, diagnosis and research that can slow the spread, flatten the curve and keep more of us safe. These institutions are examples of decision making based on evidence and expert knowledge. Research on public and economic policy, and technology advancements will serve society as we emerge from this pandemic.
Community foundations are offering funding and grants to local non-profits who are caring for the most vulnerable in their communities. The community groups in small towns capture my heart for their efforts, and I want to provide a shout out to The Cass County Community Foundationand the work they are doing. This work is replicated in hundreds of communities around the world. I encourage you to find one in your community and support their efforts.
Arts organizations are responding by providing on-line content for free. It is possible to take on-line tours of many of the great museums of the world. Music organizations are providing free streaming of concerts since large gatherings are not allowed. One of my favourite examples is the Richmond Symphony Orchestra in Richmond, IN, whose leadership is finding new ways to deliver their mission.
People are looking out for one another. Freely streamed yoga sessions help with the stress of uncertainty and working from home; on-line music lessons keep children on track; and YouTube church services are ubiquitous. Those with sewing skills are sewing “designer masks” for care givers to use. A friend in Chicago has a number of elderly neighbours put together and delivered “care packages” with essentials, including toilet paper, to help them through this time.
Not all giving involves funding, but all giving is an expression of love, kindness, and encouragement. This is what Philanthropy (love of humankind) is all about. This is Charity (expressing unconditional love for others) at its best. It is thousands and millions of people recognizing our common humanity, doing what we can, with what we have, where we are. The needs of our world, our communities, and each person’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being are met by an outpouring of love.
Some donors will be recognized and praised for what they do. Their gifts will have a direct impact and will inspire others to act and to give with their example. Most donors will be unsung. Either way, the reward is the joy of making a positive difference. Together we are making our world a better place with our expressions of love for one another.
It is exciting to see the sheer breadth and depth of generosity in action. The creativity, the myriad of needs addressed in ways that are bespoke to the need. This is the democratic nature of philanthropy, where each donor gets to choose where they want to give.
“There are those who give little of the much which they have…And there are those who have little and give it all. These are the believers in life and the bounty of life, and their coffer is never empty…There are those who give with joy…And there are those who give…as in yonder valley the myrtle breathes its fragrance into space….And to the open-handed the search for one who shall receive is joy greater than giving.”
In my first post, I listed seven certainties that are true in these times of uncertainty. Today, I list ten ideas for actions that we can all undertake to build relationships and communities. These are not meant to be comprehensive; I imagine those who read this can add several more to the list. If you can, please share them. The following are ten ideas for relationship and community building that can take us through the next 6 – 12 months of COVID-19.
Focus on building relationships and community. Don’t worry about raising money. These relationships will generate far more resources in the mid-to-long term than any short-term transactional approach can.
Stay in touch. Communicate both broadly and personally. My friend, Jennifer Harris, calls these personal communications “love letters.” Let’s send love letters to our partners and supporters.
Be strategic and purposeful. Focus on what is most important. The more we can focus, the more impact we will have. Make the hard decisions about what we will and will not be doing… and stick to them.
Get together on-line. Brainstorm about problem solving, host workshops, webinars and talks by experts who are addressing the critical issues and challenges of our day. Share the recordings with alumni and constituents. Post these sessions on our websites and in social media.
Get good at Zoom. We all will be participating in lots of video meetings in the coming months. Learn to use its functionality and how to be effective communicators in this format. If you can, invest in learning about Zoom functionality to take communications to another level.
6.Be responsive. Answer and send texts, emails, messages, calls, blog comments, etc.
7. Set the tone. Make your own gift first. We are working to attract others to give of their time and resources. We will be more credible and more effective if we model the behaviour we are asking of others.
8. Be open and authentic. Share not only successes and inspiration, but also challenges and disappointments. Be positive and affirming. Ask for advice. Our constituents can help us address the challenges we face. Not only can they help to solve problems, this is an excellent way to keep them engaged. Nature may abhor a vacuum but the rumour mill loves it. Frequently communicate the facts in your own voice.
9. Send “Virtual Hugs”. Tell staff and constituents how much we appreciate and love them. We can say it in words, and in our actions (responsiveness).
10. Invite others to join us. As we get to know our constituents, it is natural to invite them to join our communities. Don’t assume they will ask to join, invite them. An authentic, sincere, humble, “We need you. Please join us in changing the world,” is a compelling invitation and a great way to get more partners in our cause.
Our work is noble and important. In difficult, challenging, uncertain times, we can provide encouragement, community, relationship and ways for people to make a difference. This is our time. Let’s embrace the moment.
We are pleased to announce that we submitted the manuscript of our book, The Art and Science of Donor Bliss, to our publisher. It has been a 20-month journey of meeting many wonderful people and hearing their giving stories, many of which are featured in the book. Our thanks to everyone who has supported us, helped us and told their stories about the Joy of Giving.
Please celebrate this major step with us. We anticipate a release date sometime this summer and will let everyone know when the book is available.
Magnifying Impact: Making Donor Bliss an Institutional Priority
Eric Billman, Principal Consultant at Donor Bliss Consulting, partnered with USTrust Philanthropic Solutions Group to record the webinar titled Magnifying Impact: Making Donor Bliss an Institutional Priority on 20 September. We look forward to sharing the link to the finalized presentation soon. Contact us to be notified as soon as the webinar is released.