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Attaining corporate and philanthropic support during COVID-19

By Common Impact | May 7, 2020

Attaining corporate and philanthropic support during COVID-19

By Molly Weinstein, Common Impact; Supriya Kumar, Candid; Kaitlin FitzGerald, Good360

Common Impact, Candid and Good360 came together during a webinar on April 29, 2020 to provide advice on how nonprofits can leverage corporate and philanthropic relationships to access monetary donations, external expertise and in-kind gifts. This post rounds up some key points, audience questions and resources from that webinar.

The COVID-19 crisis is a perfect storm for the nonprofit sector. The global public health crisis and its financial consequences are disproportionately affecting populations who were already facing discrimination, lack of access to services and economic hardship long before the pandemic began. The needs of these populations—as well as those of the general public—are intensifying, resulting in a surge in demand for critical nonprofit services at a time when organizations’ operating models, volunteer supplies and funding streams have been disrupted or depleted. Meanwhile, other organizations have needed to halt programming entirely, causing non-recoupable losses in revenue and staff. For many nonprofits that—in the best of times—maintain a lean operation, the one-two punch of the virus and its economic shadow threatens their ability to meet their constituents’ ongoing or escalating needs and, in some cases, to survive as an organization.

In this environment, the nonprofit sector is calling upon philanthropic and corporate actors for support. Many organizations are reaching out to familiar partners to adjust or increase their typical gifts, while others are trying to forge new partnerships that address the most critical resource gap they are facing.

These initial steps are important, practical and understandable, but the urgency and complexity of the situation creates an opportunity—perhaps even a mandate—for organizations to explore and build more collaborative, robust and transformative cross-sector partnerships that draw from the full suite of assets companies and foundations have to offer, including funds, products and skilled volunteers.

The COVID-19 Funding Landscape, presented by Candid

Candid, a global hub for nonprofit and philanthropic insights and data, framed the conversation with an overview of the state of giving. The vast majority of disaster giving has historically focused on disaster response and relief, as opposed to pre-emptive preparedness and mitigation. Candid underscored that nonprofits and communities are, at present, contending with a gap in their preparedness for crises such as the novel coronavirus. That said, to date, over $8.3 billion of funding has been contributed to COVID-19 response efforts, primarily from foundations, corporations and notable donors.

Audience question: If my organization is not a frontline responder, how do I make the case for funders to invest in my mission right now?

Preliminary data has been mixed on the degree to which donors are redirecting funds away from non-frontline organizations, but we know that many of these nonprofits will feel some degree of financial stress in the months and years to come. Organizations are best served by looking inward at their existing network of supporters and deepening ties with current institutional and individual donors. Focus on storytelling to explain why your organization is critical to the long-term recovery of your community and ask your long-time supporters if they can augment their giving with additional financial investments or donations of goods or services. Nonprofits can also utilize Candid’s database to find donors providing funds for specific causes, such as the environment, education or the arts.

Key Tools

  • Candid offers a comprehensive list of coronavirus relief funds that organizations can search by geographic area and keywords to access relevant funding options.
  • Organizations can track past and current disaster giving through Candid’s free disaster funding map, a visual database created in collaboration with the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Skills-Based Volunteering to Build Disaster Resiliency, presented by Common Impact

Common Impact is a national nonprofit that powers social change organizations by connecting them with the business expertise and perspectives of corporate employees. Common Impact highlighted that one of the most valuable resources companies can provide to the nonprofit sector during an emergency is the expertise that they have built up internally in arenas such as risk management, financial scenario planning, continuity planning and crisis communications. Skills-based volunteering may be a particularly impactful option now as nonprofits are facing budget and staffing shortfalls while contending with new, unforeseen needs that require specialized knowledge or skills.

Audience question: How would I work with skilled volunteers at this time?

Skills-based volunteering translates easily to a virtual environment. Organizations with acute needs and limited bandwidth should consider “quick hit” support models, such as calling up an expert to talk through a challenge. Nonprofits that are focused on planning for a post-COVID reality might consider addressing core infrastructure needs, such as strategic planning, program digitization or fundraising strategies, through a longer capacity-building project.

Key Tools

In-Kind Giving in a Crisis, presented by Good360

Good360, a global leader in product philanthropy and in-kind giving, partners community organizations with corporate donors to secure needed products at discounted costs. Good360 reported that, with the decline in shopping and sales resulting in excess inventory, retailers have been increasing their product donations significantly. Good360 spotlighted how through their program, organizations can receive hard-to-access, critical products such as paper supplies or personal protective equipment, while also encouraging nonprofits to advocate for direct product donations through their own corporate networks.

Audience question: How do I make an “ask” of donors during this unusual time?

Nonprofits are most likely to have success with pre-existing partners that are already invested in their mission and organization. Approach conversations with these partners with sensitivity as well as direction. Be transparent about what you need and discuss all the resources that could be helpful across funding, expertise and product. If your organization is approaching a new funder, prioritize those with a vested philanthropic interest in your region or mission.

Key Tools