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As fundraisers, we thrive on asking the big questions. In recent days, however, we find ourselves on the receiving end of questions equally significant. What may be the effects of COVID-19, the upcoming election, and market fluctuations on the nonprofit sector and the communities we serve? How do we continue to approach donors during this time? And, perhaps most glaring, should we approach donors at all?

These are the right questions to ask. It is our job as fundraisers to consider the concerns, needs, and perspectives of donors and to shape our asks accordingly. It is equally our responsibility to frame our response with the appropriate level of sensitivity, transparency, and boldness that cultivates trust and nurtures relationships. Four fundraising truths inform this most important work of deepening connection and honoring mission during times of uncertainty

1. We have been here before.

In addition to concerns for health and safety, part of current speculation is the potential effect of a pandemic on the global economy, and as a result, on philanthropic giving. Albeit with a different cause, our industry faced and emerged from this threat during the Great Recession just over a decade ago.

Historically, while significant market downturns do impact philanthropic giving to some extent, the losses in philanthropic dollars are never as dramatic as the market downturns that drive them. For instance, the recession of 2008 resulted in a decrease in giving of 7%, considerably less than the 38% decrease the S&P experienced that same year.

And yet, though giving did decline, experience tells us that the decline was at least in part due to a pause in asks. Had fundraisers continued to ask with the confidence and clarity with which they were asking before the market downturn, the nonprofit sector would have seen even less of a decline in giving.

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2. Our missions do not pause.

No matter the external forces at play, need does not cease during times of uncertainty. If anything, the needs of those served by the 1.5 million hospitals, universities, schools, social service organizations, and religious communities nationwide only intensify during times of crisis. When the national mood oscillates between the unpredictable at best and the frenzied at worst, nonprofits continue to serve. The richness of the nonprofit sector in the U.S. knows no day off. In fact, humanity depends on it.