Friday Roundup: Major Gifts and Remote Recruitment

by Victoria Jones

Posted April 10, 2020

Our weekly round-up of how the pandemic is impacting nonprofit management, fundraising, and recruitment – and what your organization can do in response…



1. What your major gifts team should be focused on now

Many of our clients have been asking how to effectively deploy their major gifts fundraisers who have some available capacity now that they have paused asks. We recommend they focus on the following priorities:

  1. Pitch in for the annual fund or COVID-19 emergency initiatives in any way possible, as we know they will do.
  2. Stay in touch with major donors. They want to know what you are doing, and you can learn a lot from them right now. Communications should be measured and authentic; share how your organization is remaining strong during the pandemic and how staff are doing, ask them to participate in a timely survey, relay stories of meaningful impact, etc. Share videos, and host small groups of donors on Zoom. Ask them for non-monetary help; they have good connections, good ideas, and maybe good and highly needed resources at their fingertips (think delivery trucks, technology solutions, etc.).
  3. Use this time for planning. Anticipate a more “normal” donor cultivation/stewardship environment by mid-summer or early fall (e.g. small gatherings, travel, etc.), and plan (even schedule) ahead to be sure you are ready to resume more personal interactions as soon as it is safe to do so.
  4. Go to your backlogged list of projects and tackle them now. Think: prospect research, create prospect profiles to support campaign visits, rebalance staff portfolios, revise your pitch deck or other collateral materials, retool practices and systems in need of updating, etc

2. How to interview candidates effectively—and safely—with Zoom

Thankfully, through video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, conducting remote interviews is easier than ever. Our clients have found great success using Zoom by following these guidelines:

  1. When joining the meeting, turn your own video on and set to gallery view so you can see all video attendees on your screen. Make sure to mute yourself when you are not speaking.
  2. Use a headset to minimize background noise and be sure to conduct meetings in a controlled, quiet, and well-lit environment (test sitting in different places to make sure that you can be seen; this will matter to candidates).
  3. Close out of all open documents/apps on your computer prior to calling in. This can increase speed and bandwidth, and help you avoid frozen views and voice delays.
  4. For group interviews:
    • Choose a Facilitator to conduct the meeting and guide discussion and a Technical Assistant to manage sharing documents onscreen and provide support to any participants experiencing technical issues.
    • Intentionally plan for the interview. Determine with your colleagues beforehand who will ask the candidate which questions. Log these decisions in a document that everyone can have on hand and easily refer to during the video interview.

And perhaps, most importantly, beware of the security risks that Zoom poses (see this recent NPR article about ‘zoombombing,’ in which intruders are entering Zoom meetings and harassing participants) and how you can combat them. Make sure you select “use a password” when setting up a Zoom meeting, and never post the link to your meeting online. See Zoom’s guide for more tips.

3. How donors are giving during COVID-19

Last week, Paul Sullivan’s New York Times article “How Philanthropists Are Helping During the Crisis” outlined the strategies donors are currently employing to maximize the effectiveness of their giving. In case you missed it, we’ve summarized these important reminders here:

  1. Major donors trust and lean on community foundations to vet areas of greatest need, particularly in a crisis.
  2. During times of difficulty, donors often will double down on charities they care about most.
  3. Philanthropy often serves as a bridge for government aid; in an emergency, that role (and responsibility) looms large.
  4. If donors had been planning to make a large gift, they may be even more motivated to do so now when their impact can be greater.
  5. Major philanthropists are looking for ways to support you beyond money; more than ever, they’re willing to use their social and professional networks to advocate for support. Ask them.

And relatedly, philanthropists aren’t the only ones looking to maximize their impact. Already more than 400 foundations have signed a pledge to make their grantmaking more grantee-friendly. Learn more in the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Nonprofit Spotlight

Highlighting the tenacity and creativity of nonprofits in unprecedented times…


family-aidFamilyAid Boston is one of the city’s leading agencies providing prevention, emergency shelter and permanent housing to unstably housed and homeless children and their parents. In the wake of coronavirus, the organization quickly and successfully expanded its services to provide humanitarian relief to their 1,200 clients, and raised several hundred thousand dollars in three weeks. FamilyAid has used these funds to deliver more than 3 tons of food and supplies to families who have lost everything: their jobs, daycare, school and after school services, and basic food security.
In addition, Mayor Marty Walsh announced last week that the Boston Housing Authority and the Boston Public Schools (BPS) have forged a new partnership to secure housing for up to 1,000 families with BPS students at risk of displacement. With newly-secured contracts with the BPS and new, private funding in hand, FamilyAid Boston is playing a key role in launching the program. Learn more about the partnership here.


For more information, visit our COVID-19 Resources page.

All of us here at Development Guild recognize the critical role our friends and clients are playing in supporting the most vulnerable among us during this crisis. As we face these uncertain times together, it is our top priority to support you. Reach out with questions. Call if you want to brainstorm an idea. We are here.