Posts tagged ‘COVID-19’

November 17, 2020

Amy Coney Barrett Knows Something You Need to Know

This post has nothing to do with politics or judicial philosophy. Instead, I want to share an important story I heard during the US Senate hearings for Amy Coney Barrett. The hearings ultimately led to her confirmation as Associate Justice to the US Supreme Court with the support of a majority of Americans. That story can help you ensure the happiness of your donors, which could result in better retention and upgraded support.

Amy Coney Barrett being sworn in before the US Senate Judiciary Committee.

Laura Wolk, a former student of Barrett’s at the University of Notre Dame, testified during the final day of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings. Wolk, who is blind, said that she uses adaptive technology and alerted the law school of her needs in advance of her attendance. Unfortunately, the University did not provide the needed accommodations, and Wolk’s own computer was failing. As she struggled to keep up, she grew increasingly frustrated. Not knowing where to turn, she approached Barrett, one of her professors, to ask for assistance navigating the University’s system.

A retinal disease in her infancy caused Wolk’s blindness. By the time she went to law school, she was certainly accustomed to having to be her own advocate. She didn’t expect much from Barrett, but any help would ease her burden. Wolk described Barrett during their meeting:

She sat silently, listening with deep attention as I explained my situation. She exuded calm and compassion, giving me the freedom to let down my guard and come apart.”

Wolk shared what happened when she finished explaining her situation:

‘Laura’, she said, ‘this is no longer your problem. It’s my problem.’” (3:00 minute mark)

Wolk said she expected to be directed to bureaucratic channels. Instead, Barrett made her feel comfortable to share all of her challenges and, then, she solved the problems. Wolk went on to graduate law school, clerked for Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, and now has a successful practice.

So, what does this story have to do with fundraising? Plenty!

If a donor comes to you with a question or problem, resist thinking of it as an interruption to your day. Instead, of passing them off to someone else or quickly brushing them aside, take the time to really listen. Don’t offer an automatic, institutional response. As an alternative, offer a warm, compassionate response. If it’s within your power, take on the donor’s issue as your own.

What might this look like?

Imagine you’re at your desk working on the final touches of your fundraising report to the board as your deadline draws near. Your phone rings. You answer, and are greeted by a donor. The donor wants to know how to make a gift of appreciated stock to your organization before the end of the year. Here are some courses of action you could take:

  1. You can put the donor on hold and transfer her to your assistant.
  2. You can direct the donor to your organization’s website where the instructions exist.
  3. You can thank the donor, commiserate about the somewhat complex process, explain the process to the donor and, then, offer to email a summary of the instructions to the donor, perhaps with a link to the appropriate web page as well.

While Option 1 would let you get back to your board report more quickly, which option would make the donor feel most loved? I believe the best course of action is Option 3.

If your donor feels you truly care about him, he will be more likely to care about your organization. He’ll be more likely to renew and upgrade support. Yes, loving your donors takes more time and effort, but it will yield powerful results.

What should you do?

When someone approaches you with a question, challenge, or problem, follow these five steps:

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October 27, 2020

So, Wake Me Up When It’s All Over

There’s a line in the well-known Avicci song that goes, “So, wake me up when it’s all over.” It nicely sums up my feelings about 2020. It’s been a stressful year for us all in so many ways. Yet, despite the strain, I keep seeing articles and webinars full of unfounded optimism, particularly as they relate to fundraising in the post-COVID-19 world. Here are just a small number of the titles I’ve come across:

  • Rebooting and Managing After COVID-19
  • How to Keep Your Donors Once the Crisis Ends
  • Fundraising Predictions for After COVID-19
  • Fundraising Post-COVID-19
  • How Nonprofits Should Approach Grant Makers Post-Covid-19
  • After the Pandemic Fundraising

So, when is this post-COVID-19 time supposed to arrive?

No one knows. However, we do know it’s not going to arrive anytime soon. As I write this, the USA, and much of the world, is experiencing a coronavirus pandemic resurgence following efforts to reopen economies. We still don’t have a vaccine. While there might be a viable vaccine by the end of this year, experts say broad distribution will not be possible until probably the middle of 2021, at best. In the meantime, we still do not have solid, reliable therapeutics to treat the disease.

Even once people are vaccinated and the pandemic is brought under control, economists tell us it will take months, if not years, for the economy to recover. The Federal Reserve says that the jobless rate will remain elevated through 2022. The Congressional Budget Office believes it will take two years for the economy to recover to a pre-pandemic level. Even once things do return to “normal,” we do not know what that new normal will look like. For example, “about 2 in 5 Americans in a nationwide Bankrate survey from May, for instance, said they expect to shop less at traditional in-person retailers.”

While it will take time for the overall economy to recover, it will also take time for individuals to recover from financial as well as other physical and mental health issues made worse during the pandemic. For example, the percentage of individuals experiencing depression doubled even during the early months of the pandemic, according to the US Census Bureau.

So, if the lovely post-COVID-19 world is not going to arrive anytime soon, what should you really be focusing on over the next several months or longer? Here are just a handful of ideas:

May 20, 2020

Your Charity’s Greatest Opportunity is the Rising Need of Donors to Connect

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has presented fundraising professionals with a large number of significant difficulties. One of those challenges is trying to figure out where to get solid, actionable information to help nonprofit organizations raise much-needed funds.

Now, Prof. Jen Shang, Co-Director of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, comes to our rescue. On Friday, May 22, 2020, she will be presenting a special webinar: “How to Love Your Donors During COVID-19.” I recently received an email from Prof. Shang, along with three tips, that she is kindly allowing me to share with you.

Prof. Shang, the world’s only philanthropic psychologist, has found that the pandemic is causing donors to feel a lack of wellbeing. This is due in large part to a decrease in the sense of connection that people feel during the lockdown. Interestingly, this presents an opportunity for your charity.

When you help your donors feel a sense of real connection, you will help them feel a greater sense of wellbeing. When they associate that greater sense of wellbeing with your nonprofit organization, they will be more likely to renew and increase their support now and well into the future. In other words, by taking care of your donors, you will be taking care of your charity.

One of the things that will make this webinar a valuable experience for you is that it is based on scientific research rather than simply relying on war stories or opinion. In other words, the many bright ideas you’ll learn will be solid and safely actionable. As someone who has taken Prof. Shang’s Philanthropic Psychology course, I can personally assure you that you will get meaningful information that will help you enhance your fundraising efforts.

Here is Prof. Shang’s message:

 

COVID-19 has created such uncertainty in our lives that many are wondering how and when life will ever get back to normal and how we will survive it all in the meantime.

At the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, we have not stopped collecting data since the first country locked down at the beginning of this pandemic. And we have been collecting data on how good people feel every other week since.

This [post] will give you a first sneak peak of the findings, and three tips on what to do NOW that you’ll find at the end.

We will release the full results of these studies in a webinar that we will host twice this Friday, May 22 at 6:00 am UK time and again at 3:00 pm UK time.

We studied over 4,000 adults in the US and other countries.

We measured about 30 feelings that people experienced on a daily basis. We found that people’s feelings significantly worsened during the first six weeks of the pandemic. As the lockdown continued, people felt progressively worse.

Specifically, people felt less connected to others.

Psychologists have known for decades that feeling connected to others is one of the three most fundamental needs we have as humans. Our need to have this fulfilled cannot be changed. It is as certain as our life exists. Our sense of connectedness declines when we are isolated in lockdown, when we cannot physically see anyone or talk to anyone, and when we cannot hug anyone or kiss anyone. We have seen our connectedness score declining for over six weeks now.

There is no uncertainty in any of it. When humans are locked down, their need to connect rises. With data, we also know what they need and in what quantity.

read more »

April 28, 2020

Warning Signs You Need to Know About

While the nonprofit sector continues to raise massive amounts of money, danger lies ahead for fundraising professionals as the coronavirus health crisis leads us further into an economic calamity.

As the COVID-19 pandemic gained traction, individuals, corporations, and foundations have responded with robust giving. For example, individual giving revenue through direct mail, processed by Merkle RMG, has increased 5.8 percent year-over-year even while the volume of donations dropped by 15.5 percent, according to Merkle RMG’s Impact Report, COVID-19: How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Impacting Direct Mail Fundraising (transactions through April 19, 2020).

The initial philanthropic response to the pandemic is not surprising for those who have experienced major challenges in the past. Giving lags changes in economic conditions. For instance, during the Great Recession (2007-09), we also saw a similar philanthropic pattern with revenue initially increasing while the number of donors declined. The following graph from Target Analytics, a Blackbaud company, illustrates the point:

Now, let me just mention that no one has a crystal ball or time machine. Therefore, no one, including me, can precisely predict what will happen and when it will happen. Nevertheless, we do know that during past crises, we saw that charitable giving fell after an initial surge.

The overall economy has a profound effect on philanthropic giving. We know that overall philanthropy correlates with Gross Domestic Product at the rate of about two percent. Furthermore, historical data shows that individual giving correlates with personal income at the rate of roughly two percent. In other words, when the economy is strong, giving will be strong; when the economy falters, giving will slow.

Because the coronavirus pandemic has caused a major global economic disruption, we can anticipate that this will eventually have a negative effect on philanthropic giving. Consider these warning signs:

As corporations see profits eroded, as foundations see investments decimated, as individuals see personal income slashed, charitable giving will likely decrease. However, there are some mitigating factors in play:

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April 22, 2020

Do You Want to Take a Walk on the Wild Side?

This post is a bit unusual. Okay, it’s a lot unusual.

I recently discovered that some of my most viewed tweets are pictures of flowers. That’s right. Not puppies. Not kittens. Not a pizza-eating groundhog. Flowers!

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, most of us are living under stay-at-home orders due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. We don’t get outside nearly as much as we normally would during springtime. Furthermore, we’re inundated with non-stop, doom-and-gloom news coverage. Even the nonprofit and fundraising media have been reporting extensively about the impact of coronavirus. You’ve certainly read a number of such posts here.

So, after thinking about all of this, I realized that, like me, you could probably use a bit of a break. A break from the scary news. A break from a stressful life. A break from being mostly trapped indoors.

Because self-care is so important if we’re going to remain able to help others, I thought I’d give you a short escape. Experiencing nature is said to make us feel happier. It also improves our health in a number of ways, including boosting the immune system. That’s why I decided to share some simple snapshots I’ve taken with my cell phone while out on walks with my wife. I took most of the photos at our neighborhood garden at Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation’s first hospital. I’m also sharing a daffodil photo from the historic Hill-Physick House, and cherry blossom pictures from in front of my home.

I hope you enjoy this walk on the wild side:

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April 21, 2020

Free Help to Protect Children During a Crisis

Almost every April, I devote one blog post to stopping child sexual abuse. It’s a significant departure from the nonprofit and fundraising topics I typically write about. So, let me tell you why I do it.

First, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and I want to support that initiative.

Second, many years ago, I served on a jury that heard a child sex abuse case involving a little boy and his step-grandfather. I’ll spare you the horrifying, nightmarish details. Suffice it to say, we found the step-grandfather guilty. When my jury service was completed, what I had heard continued to haunt me.

Before the trial, I assumed that child molesters and rapists were either priests or trench-coat wearing guys in vans. I also believed that incidents of such abuse were relatively rare. The news media coverage at the time would lead most people to a similar belief. However, during the trial, I learned differently:

  • 1 in 10 children will be sexually abused before turning 18;
  • 1 in 7 girls, and 1 in 25 boys are sexually abused before turning 18;
  • 20 percent of sexually abused children are under age 8;
  • 90 percent of children know their abuser (in other words, the abuser is not a stranger);
  • 50 percent of sexually abused children under the age of 6 were abused by a family member (the younger the child the more likely the abuser is a member of the family).

As I continued to process my jury experience, I researched the organizations that were addressing the issue. As a result, I became closely involved with the work of the Philadelphia Children’s Alliance, a regional child advocacy center. PCA does fantastic work bringing justice and healing to sexually abused children.

I also became acquainted with Darkness to Light®, which provides superb training programs and funds scholarly research related to the issue of child sexual abuse. Now, I want to make you aware of one particular FREE, 30-minute online training that D2L is offering: Protecting Children During a Crisis.

As the D2L website says:

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April 14, 2020

10 Fundraising Strategies for Complex & Major Gifts During COVID-19

The following guest blog post is from philanthropy researcher Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP®. He originally posted it on LinkedIn, and I’m reposting it here with Russell’s kind permission. I’m reposting the piece because of the enormous importance of the subject and the valuable information it contains.

Engaging donors in planned-giving conversations is still possible during the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, Russell and I shared our FREE whitepaper “Legacy Giving: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?” Now, I want to share Russell’s 10 charitable planning strategies you should keep in mind when seeking complex and major gifts during these challenging times:

 

The market went down. A lot. The economy is temporarily frozen. Unemployment may increase dramatically. In the past, all of these things have been bad for charitable giving. We can’t control that. So, what can we control? What strategies make sense for fundraising, in particular for complex and major gifts?

Here are ten charitable planning concepts to keep in mind.

1.    Crisis is the time to show support

A social/friendship/family relationship encourages sharing. A transactional/market/exchange relationship does not. We see this in fundraising experiments where family language (simple words and stories) consistently outperforms formal language (technical words and contract language). One of the defining moments that identifies a friendship relationship, rather than a transactional relationship, is during a crisis.

In our personal lives, we know this. When you might be in trouble, a good friend is one who reaches out to help. A friend visits you in the hospital. A friend comes to the funeral with you. A friend listens whenever trouble strikes. In time of crisis, reaching out with concern, help, or even a relevant gift reinforces this social/friendship/family type of relationship.

Ideally, the first contact with donors in a time such as this should begin with concern. Are you OK? Do you need anything? Can we help? Later, we can return to the typical donor-charity dynamic. (If you represent a cause related to public health or COVID-related assistance, that return may happen more quickly.) But, first we want to show friendship-like support during a time of crisis.

2.    The first giving conversations should be with DAF-holders

Requests made to donors with funded Donor Advised Funds will be successful earlier than requests made to others. During times of downturn and uncertainty, people are more likely to hold tightly to their wealth. This drives down charitable giving. But distributing funds already in a DAF doesn’t affect personal financial security.

During the last major economic downturn, many private foundations temporarily increased their distributions to help soften the blow for their grantees. The same reasoning can apply to individual donors who have already funded their DAFs. Due to tax planning strategies, many may have placed multiple years’ worth of future expected donations into a DAF. Given the current crisis, it makes sense to consider this as a time to empty those accounts earlier than originally planned.

3.    One-time special requests work, but be careful with a crisis

In fundraising experiments, people are more willing to donate in response to a special, one-time need than for ongoing needs. An appeal for one-time needs that arise as a result of the current turbulence may be particularly effective. In experiments, people respond more to appeals during a time of crisis. We are all sharing this experience together. We can work together to help overcome the effects of this hit.

However, it is important in such appeals to identify the crisis as a crisis for beneficiaries or for the cause, but not an organizational crisis. Projecting organizational instability might help get the $50 gift today, but it will come at the cost of the major donation later down the road. Major philanthropic investments don’t go to unstable organizations.

4.    Use planned gifts as your “Plan B”

During times of downturn and uncertainty, people are more likely to hold tightly to their wealth. Planned giving opportunities can help “lean into” this uncertainty.

Estate gifts take place only after the donor no longer needs the money personally. They can also be revocable. They can be a percentage of the estate, and thus can vary in size with financial ups and downs. These percentage gifts are actually much better for charities because they usually end up being much larger. (Fixed dollar gifts tend not to get updated for inflation.)

Irrevocable planned gifts can also help with financial uncertainty. These typically give the donor lifetime income or lifetime use of the donated property. Thus, the gift can be made while still protecting the financial security of the donor.

If a donor needs to back away from a commitment or feels that a future ask is too daunting, consider planned gifts as a “Plan B”. A response to such a refusal might include revocable or irrevocable planned gift options.

I certainly understand your concerns. I know others in your same situation who have decided to move their commitment into an estate gift instead. This provides flexibility with no upfront cost. There are even ways to do it that provide tax benefits. Would you be interested in learning more about these options?”

[This is followed by discussion of: 1) Gift in a will. 2) Beneficiary designation on an IRA/401(k), avoiding income taxes that heirs would otherwise have to pay. 3) Retained life estate, creating an immediate income tax deduction, discussed below.]

I certainly understand your concerns. I know others like you who have decided instead to make a gift that gives them lifetime income. With interest rates being so low and the market being so volatile, many people like the fixed payments coming from a charitable gift annuity. Would you like to learn more about this?”

5.    A charitable gift annuity as a two-stage gift

For those representing stable institutions offering Charitable Gift Annuities (CGAs), this may become a particularly attractive gift. A CGA usually trades a gift for annual lifetime payments to the donor (or donor and spouse). During times of uncertainty, the guarantee of fixed payments from a stable institution can be attractive. Following the last dramatic drop in the market in 2008, some large, stable organizations reported receiving exceptionally large CGAs. These very large gifts would normally have been structured as a Charitable Remainder Trust. But during extreme volatility, donors instead preferred the certainty and stability of payments guaranteed by the organization rather than payments tied to investment returns.

A charitable gift annuity can sometimes be presented as a two-stage alternative when uncertainty prevents a normal gift from being made.

I certainly understand your concerns. Another donor like you was in your same situation and she decided to protect against all this volatility by making the gift in two stages. First, she made a gift that gave her annual payments for life. If things go downhill, she has that income. But, if everything turns around and she ends up not needing the extra money, then she can donate those future payments as a second gift.”

Section II: Wonky Charitable Tax Planning Opportunities

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April 10, 2020

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Over the past couple of weeks, social media, the blogosphere, and countless webinars have pondered the question: Is this the best or worst of times for legacy fundraising? Unfortunately, despite the high volume of opinions circulating, a view grounded in science has yet to emerge. So, philanthropy researcher Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and I teamed up to prepare a special white paper for you that analyzes the current legacy-giving environment and reveals to you a path forward that we base on fact rather than emotional whim.

This blog post provides you with the full paper, nearly 5,000 words, with all of its insights and tips. In addition, you can download the PDF version for FREE. You may want to share the white paper PDF with your CEO, CFO, and board leadership.

Because of the unusual length of this post, I won’t offer any additional introductory comments other than to say that Russell and I are available for speaking engagements, training sessions, consultation, and interviews to address this and other relevant subjects. For more information, please contact me.

Now, here is the complete white paper:

 

Legacy Fundraising: The Best of Times or the Worst of Times?

Russell N. James III, JD, PhD, CFP® and Michael J. Rosen

The death media currently inundate us with panic-inducing news. Ubiquitous reports about the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Daily death tolls. Images of people in masks or complete hazmat suits. Talk of overwhelmed hospitals. News of quarantined regions and nations.

What should a legacy fundraiser do in the midst of a societal crisis? Stop communicating altogether? Make a last-minute push to get into a donor’s Will before it’s too late? Something in between? All of the above?

To get some guidance, it helps to start with a bit of social-science theory, a look at recent financial history, and early empirical data.

Social-Science Theory

We start with social-science theory because it’s actually quite useful to first understand what we know about how people react to reminders of death.

An entire field of experimental psychology focuses on this very topic. Scientists call it Terror Management Theory. This field has produced many hundreds of experimental results. Therefore, we know quite a lot about what happens when you remind people that they are going to die.

There are many technical books and papers on the subject. Google Scholar lists 12,500 of them. Here’s a quick summary. Death is a problem. People use two solutions:  1) ignore the problem, or 2) live on after death. Allow us to explain.

The Two Defenses to Death Reminders

People respond to death reminders with two stages of defense. The first stage (proximal) defense is avoidance. Avoidance comes from a desire to suppress the reminder. This suppression can be expressed in many ways. For example, it might involve physically moving away from the reminder (e.g., avoiding strolling past a hospital or cemetery when taking a walk). It might involve denigrating a mortality reminder’s validity or personal applicability (e.g., it can’t happen to me). It might be dismissing the subject with humor (e.g., the film Death at a Funeral).

The second stage (distal) defense is pursuit of symbolic immortality or lasting social impact. When avoidance doesn’t work, then we must somehow deal with our own earthly impermanence. We deal with this by latching on to those things that will remain after we are gone. In other words, I may disappear, but some part of my identity – my family, my values, my in-group, my people, my story, my causes – will remain.

People don’t treat personal death reminders in the same way they treat other pieces of objective information. In legacy fundraising, it has always been important to understand this. These two underlying defensive responses help to explain how people will respond.

Death Just Got Way More Offensive

In experiments, personal death reminders ramp up avoidance responses. The more death reminders, the more avoidance people will exhibit. Right now, COVID-19 news engulfs our audiences in personal death reminders. For many people, this will make any death-related communications aversive.

(Interestingly, people will gladly read the latest news headlines as a means of pursuing avoidance. People hunger for details on how to avoid the death risk. They will support strong action that promises the same. Others may even pursue avoidance by putting unwarranted faith in untested treatments or unproven protocols.)

In addition to people living in an environment that stimulates greater levels of death avoidance, current conditions cause individuals to feel less of an emotional sense of wellbeing.

Dr. Jen Shang, a philanthropic psychologist and co-founder of the Institute for Sustainable Philanthropy, among other social scientists, believes that wellbeing involves three essential characteristics:

  • autonomy – a sense of control
  • connectedness – the quantity and quality of relationships
  • competence – effectiveness

The more autonomous, connected, and competent people feel, the greater sense of personal wellbeing they will feel. Conversely, when people feel those qualities eroding, they will feel a decline in wellbeing.

In addition to the physical health risks associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic, people are experiencing psychological stress. Many individuals feel that current events are overwhelming them, knocking them out of their routines, and causing them to lose control of their professional and personal lives. With the uncertainty of the near-term, it’s not surprising that people would feel they have lost a great deal of control over their lives.

As the pandemic leads government officials to suggest or order people to stay at home, practice social distancing, and limit even essential activities such as grocery shopping, people are losing their sense of connection to other people including neighbors, extended family members, friends, colleagues, and more.

During the coronavirus pandemic, people are grappling with their feeling of competency when facing new conditions. Many have set-up a home workspace for the first time. Others are learning new technologies to communicate more effectively with others.

People want to have a sense of wellbeing. The more autonomy, connectedness, and competency they feel, the better they will feel. Generally, people will seek to engage in behaviors that enhance their sense of wellbeing. Furthermore, they will appreciate individuals and organizations that help them obtain greater wellbeing.

So, what does all of this mean for legacy fundraising (i.e., a key type of planned giving)? To begin, it means the following:

  1. Legacy fundraising communications that “lead with death” need to be shelved.

Many fundraising professionals are accustomed to being direct. Being blunt. Making the ask. Making it early and often. That may be fine for some types of fundraising. While this type of approach was often less than ideal for legacy fundraising prior to the pandemic, this is even more true right now. This is not the time to lead with death. In normal times, this will create some pushback. In these times, expect it to create massive pushback.

Yes, you should absolutely communicate with your organization’s supporters. Moreover, those communications should be about delivering value to the donor. Through your outreach, you should strive to enhance each individual donor’s sense of wellbeing.

  1. Now is the time to be “top of mind.”

Most people tend to put off estate planning in normal times. For example, in the U.S., most adults over 50 have no Will or Trust documents. From what we know about avoidance, such delay is no surprise. But, from a massive longitudinal study in the U.S., we also know when those plans are made and changed. The typical triggers for planning fall into one of two camps, family structure changes or “death becomes real.” Family structure changes include marriage, divorce, birth of first child, birth of a first grandchild, and widowhood. “Death becomes real” includes diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, stroke, moving to a nursing home, or actually approaching death (measured retrospectively).

Right now, many people are living the “death becomes real” experience. Consequently, there is a major upsurge in Will document completions – particularly online. Some sites are reporting greater than 100 percent week-over-week increases in completed documents.1 The Remember a Charity website, which promotes legacy giving for the U.K. charity sector, has experienced twice as many people visiting its “Making A Will” page as would do so normally.2

As “death becomes real,” people are also increasingly expressing interest in life insurance.3 One online life insurance agency saw the most ever monthly applications and sales in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic gained traction. Another online life insurance agency saw an increase in applications of more than 50 percent since February.

We know from experimental research that the charitable component of an estate plan is, for many people, highly fluid. In one experiment with British solicitors (lawyers), simply asking the question, “Would you like to leave any money to charity?” more than doubled the share of people including charitable gifts in their Will documents. Even small alterations in the wording used to describe such gifts results in dramatic changes in both charitable intentions and actual document contents.

For a charity, being “top of mind” at the moment in which people are actually planning is absolutely critical. More people are planning right now than in any normal time. Clearly, this is the ideal time for your charity to be communicating about gifts in Wills and even beneficiary designations. However, the language of how you communicate is most critical.

When viewed through the social scientist’s lens of individual wellbeing, the enhanced interest in estate planning is not surprising. Drafting a Will or purchasing a life insurance policy is a way for someone to feel a sense of autonomy or control over the current situation. Through these actions, they can enhance the feeling of attachment from relationships with those they love as they make plans to take care of these people. When successfully achieving their estate planning objectives, including supporting values and causes that have been important in their lives, individuals will feel an elevated sense of competency. In other words, a major reason we now see a spike in interest in Wills and life insurance is that it gives people an enhanced sense of wellbeing.

If communications from charities also enhance a donor’s sense of wellbeing, organizations may find that their donors will have greater interest in supporting them with a commitment in a Will or through a life insurance beneficiary designation. In other words, helping a donor feel better may ultimately benefit the charity.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

Is this the best time or the worst time to be communicating about legacy gifts? Actually, it is both.

People are planning like never before because they seek to take care of their families, usually the first priority of those doing estate planning even in the best of times. The challenge for charities is that we need to be at the top of their minds when people are ready to make their plans. It’s definitely the best time for legacy fundraising. Furthermore, by engaging people, fundraisers have an opportunity, like never before, to perform a real service by helping donors enhance their feeling of wellbeing.

On the other hand, talking about legacy planning can be offensive like never before. People are emotionally-poised to lash out strongly against such death reminders. Take one step in that direction and the risk-averse herd animal known as your executive director will be ready to end your career. It can very-well seem like the worst time for legacy fundraising, particularly when done the wrong way.

We’re not talking about opposing camps. Instead, individual donors are experiencing both of these paradoxical orientations to one degree or another.

The Direct Route is Closed. Now What?

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April 1, 2020

Stress Relief for Fundraisers: A Special Webinar for You

Help is on the way!

In the best of times, we all experience occasional stress. Sometimes, it’s personal stress. Sometimes, it’s professional stress. Sometimes, it’s both. Now, with the coronavirus pandemic, we are all dealing with a massive, new level of tension.

Most of us are working from home, many for the first time. We don’t go out much. We have personal financial concerns. We have loved ones we worry about and care for. We have anxiety about our own health.

Fundraising professionals are also concerned about continuing to raise the vital resources to help nonprofit organizations fulfill their missions, now more important than ever. As you know, we shoulder a tremendous burden.

If giving into stress were helpful, that would be fine. Unfortunately, stress itself is corrosive. It drains our energy. It erodes our immune system. Stress causes physiological and psychological damage. It makes us less pleasant to be around. It makes us less able to care for others.

To help you cope more effectively with the stress in your life, I’m hosting a special webinar for fundraising and nonprofit professionals:

Stress Relief for Fundraisers

Date: Monday, April 6, 2020, 4:00-5:00 pm (EDT)

Expert Instructor: Michelle Stortz, C-IAYT, ERYT500, MFA

Requested Donation: This is a donation-based webinar. Any contribution amount from $1 to $100 will grant you access. The suggested amount is $20. Your donation will help Michelle to continue to provide services for people living with cancer and chronic diseases at little to no cost.

Platform: This class will happen via Zoom. The link for joining will be sent 15 minutes before the session. Registration will end 15 minutes before the session.

You’ll Learn: Discover practices for managing stress in difficult times:

        • Learn simple breathing techniques to ward off anxiety
        • Get grounded in your body through simple movements
        • Quiet your mind with concentration practices
        • Cultivate a framework for seeing what’s really here

Register Now: Click here to register for this webinar at Eventbrite.

Despite the challenges we face, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and grow. Let’s start by integrating some helpful practices for managing stress. Join me in this one-hour class on stress reduction. When you take some time to take better care of yourself, you’ll be in a much better position to take care of others.

While the webinar will provide a number of techniques for coping with stress, I want to give you one simple technique right now.

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March 20, 2020

Free Webinar: Get Fundraising Tips in the Time of COVID-19

[GOOD NEWS UPDATE (March 21, 2020): If you attempted to register for my free webinar with the AFP Greater Philadelphia Chapter, you may not have been able to do so as the program was immediately over-subscribed. However, AFP-GPC has increased capacity to accommodate more participants. Please try to register now by clicking here. I apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.]

[UPDATE (March 20, 2020): Based on how quickly my free webinar became over-subscribed, I realize that there is a massive need for information about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the nonprofit sector and what we can do about it. If your charity or professional association wants to deliver an online training program on this, or any other subject, please contact me. Together, we’ll get through this.]

Join me for a free webinar hosted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals – Greater Philadelphia Chapter and sponsored by Merkle Response Management Group. During the program, I’ll outline 12 ways coronavirus (COVID-19) will affect your nonprofit organization. I’ll also share powerful, practical tips for coping with the current fundraising environment. In addition, you’ll get 10 useful survival tips to keep you, your colleagues, and your loved ones safe during this challenging time.

The webinar is free of charge and open to fundraising professionals and nonprofit managers and senior volunteer leadership everywhere. Here’s what you need to know:

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Ways It Will Affect You and Your Fundraising Efforts

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM (EDT)

You’ll Get:

      • Insights about key ways fundraising efforts will be affected by COVID-19.
      • Tips for keeping yourself, colleagues, and loved ones safe.
      • Bonus materials.

Click here to register now.

Each day, you and I are confronted by new information concerning the spread of the coronavirus and the related implications. It’s a lot to keep up with. Yet, we must for ourselves, our loved ones, and our organizations upon which so many depend. We try to stay on top of the story, but it’s an incredibly fluid situation. Then, there are the nagging questions we ask ourselves or the CEO asks or a board member asks, including:

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