Philanthropy & Crisis – 3 Keys to Navigating Challenging Times

Philanthropy & Crisis – 3 Keys to Navigating Challenging Times

by:  Melpo Murdakes


1. Understand the relative impact.

As of today, the Coronavirus economic effect shows the Dow dropping -20% from its all-time high.

Since 1950, philanthropy has grown every year with two exceptions:

  • The Tax Law Change in 1987
  • The Great Recession of 2008–2009
    • As a result of the Great Recession:
      • The Dow dropped – 53.78%
      • The S&P dropped – 56.78%

By comparison in 4 days of trading post 9/11 the S&P lost -11.6%.

With the exception of oil prices, all or most of the present economic indicators (unlike 2008) are positive. These include: employment, Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation, consumer activity, retail spending, housing markets, investor activity, Producer Price Index (PPI).

Recent commentary from Bloomberg, CNBC, Fox Business News, have somewhat differing comments about market volatility. Everything from 19,000 being the ultimate low to some thinking the market is already oversold and the recovery will begin shortly.


2. Stay connected with your constituents.

Understanding the potential impact on and concerns of those connected to your organization is essential. Work together to address how limitations, restrictions, and precautions are affecting your constituents’ capacity to participate and your institution’s ability to execute core functions.

  • Are there specific issues that can be addressed?
  • How can you engage your constituents to help craft solutions?

While the Coronavirus is impeding opportunities to meet and gather, leverage virtual opportunities to stay connected.

Recognize the value of sustained/monthly giving platforms. If these are not in place for your organization, consider the potential to ensure ongoing support when other direct appeal opportunities are limited.


3. Clarify your communication.

Clear, consistent messaging during times of crisis can assure donors and prospects of your understanding of direct and indirect implications on your institution.

Stay true to your authentic voice and your story. Offer support, concern, and empathy. Do not appear to capitalize on a crisis. Demonstrate your consistent commitment to mission and continue to show the value and impact of your work and their support.

Express appreciation for the ongoing support of your volunteers, leaders, donors, and staff, and tell stories of impact (i.e. student scholarship, family fed by the soup kitchen, etc.).

While no one can fully predict the future, historically, philanthropy has weathered most economic storms very well.