President's Perspective Blog

Moving Forward in the Age of COVID-19

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You’ve probably seen a lot of advice and guidance already about how to approach your donors and supporters in these challenging and uncertain times. (In fact, check out our list of resources and articles on fundraising during the age of COVID-19.) There are lots of great ideas—don’t pull back on your fundraising in a time of crisis (yes!), start using more videos and video conferencing (good!), and reassess and examine new ideas and strategies now that you have more time since you’re not traveling (excellent!).

I don’t want to repeat ideas that have already been said, so my advice for getting through this time boils down to two things:

One, find and engage with your community. Seriously. The chances for isolation and feeling disconnected run high as we start to work from home for a while, a situation many of us don’t know much about or ever had to do for an extended period of time. When we’re isolated, we suffer from stale thinking and from a lack of inspiration and the sense of camaraderie that can inspire and invigorate us.

As president and CEO of AFP, I of course hope you’re a member of the AFP community. Reach out to your AFP colleagues—they’re going through the same challenges you are. Ask for help and be ready to offer your assistance, even to members you may not know well—yet. And part of this is self-care; let’s be sure to not only take care of others, but ourselves as well.

Our chapters are the heart of our community, and I know many of them are looking at ways to hold online events instead of their regular chapter meetings. We’ve done the same thing with AFP ICON—we’ve switched to a completely online event with AFP ICON VIRTUAL, March 29 – 31, and you can register for it here. Online is likely going to be the new normal for a lot of things we do, so it’s time for all of us to get used to engaging virtually.

But whatever your community is, even if it’s not AFP, use it. Participate in it. Lean on it. We can learn so much from each other and help each other in ways we didn’t think possible.

Two, remember that in the absence of information, people assume the worst. If we don’t know anything about a situation or a problem, we tend to panic. We don’t think things through. And we don’t often give people or organizations the benefit of the doubt.

Now is the time to press forward with our communications. Let people know that you are still out there, working on the issues that they care about. Explain to them how even with the coronavirus spreading, people still need access to housing, or education, or the arts, or whatever your cause is.

Most importantly, let them know how they can help. Many people will be stuck at home for a long period of time and looking for things to do. Whether it’s supporting an organization on social media, emailing a member of Congress or Parliament, providing expertise and knowledge from home or simply reading something online, people can contribute to causes in a wide variety of ways. And of course, give. People can always give online too—if they’re asked.

The truth is, you probably already have a good sense of what your organization needs to do. You have the skills and training, and the knowledge and expertise, that your cause needs to overcome the challenges we face today (and if you don’t, AFP can provide them!).

But you can’t be afraid or panic, and you can’t operate in isolation or in a vacuum. That means reaching out, which is something that all fundraisers know how to do. After all, that’s the heart of what we do as fundraisers: reaching out. We have to reach out to our colleagues for community, and we need to reach out to donors for understanding and support.

If we don’t do these two things, we’re bound to fail. But if we do, we stand a good chance of not only getting through these challenging times but prospering as well.


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